The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has an office in Phuket Town at 191 Thalang Rd. (tel. 07621-2213), but, in general, hotel concierge or independent tour desks offer more up-to-date information. There are lots of free maps on offer (all are full of advertisements); for driving around the island, pick up the very detailed Map of Phuket (Periplus Editions) at bookstores. Restaurants and hotel lobbies are good places to pick up any of a number of free local publications: What's On has some useful information on Phuket, Ko Phi Phi, and Krabi. Also look online at www.thephuketnews.com for current events.
Special EventsIf you are on Phuket around October/November and have a strong stomach, don’t miss the Vegetarian Festival. The name is misleading—it is not about animal rights or being health conscious, but a Thai-Chinese tradition on Phuket (and now celebrated widely throughout southern Thailand) that corresponds with the Buddhist Lent. Celebrated during the first nine days of the ninth lunar month, not only do devotees refrain from eating meat and dairy or drinking alcohol, but many also submit to violent public acts of self-mutilation through piercing their bodies with long skewers, swords, knives or odd items like tree branches, lamps, and shovels. The human skewers are often mediums temporarily possessed by spirits of the nine deities invoked during the festivals. Lay people inflict pain by walking over hot coals. The festival began as an act of penance to the spirits to help early inhabitants ward off malaria, but these days, the rituals are more for young men to prove themselves and for gaining merit and good luck. Early-morning processions flow through the streets of Phuket Town with floats, music, and children in costume parading to the major temples around the island, with onlookers clad in white for the occasion. Shop owners construct makeshift alters outside their stores with offerings of nine cups of tea, candles, incense, fruit, and firecrackers. If you still have an appetite after all that stomach-churning gore (it can get a little bloody), you can also on terrific vegetarian buffets at many restaurants on the island. See www.phuketvegetarian.com for exact dates and more info.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.