Things to do in Phuket, Thailand: One day three ways

PENNY PINCH

Amble down to the food carts that congregate outside the mosque at Bang Tao before 9am for a classic breakfast of lod chong (bright green pandan noodles with coconut milk and red sugar) and sweet tea with Carnation milk, served in a huge glass stein (THB40). Hitting the beach is now a cheaper proposition since the government has stopped daybed hires. Go early to nab a shady spot then call for a beachside massage (THB500). Lunch is  hokkien noodles at third-generation run Mee Ton Poe: order the fish curry in banana leaf, mee tom yum (tom yum soup with noodle) and mee hokkien. Arroy mak mak! (Yum! THB100) Tap into Phuket's Buddhist roots at the Big Buddha overlooking Chalong, then stop into the super-ornate Chalong temple (free) before winding down with a Singha beer and sunset over three beaches (Kata Noi, Kata and Karon) from the Karon View Point (THB80). Dinner is by the obliging women  who set up their food carts in Kalim Bay, till 9pm (THB100). Looking is free on crazy Bangla Road, with its ladyboy and girl-a-go-go bars. Thus dazzled, doss in one of the Old Town's gorgeous, tiny guesthouses – try Na Siam (171 Soi Soon Uthit, facebook.com/nasiamguesthouseandcafe, THB800/double). 

TOTAL THB 1620 ($64)

EASY DOES IT

Call for mango juice and house-made croissants at your digs, the four-star Swissotel Resort Phuket, but go easy before you line up for a quick Muay Thai session at the hotel (free). Hot enough for you? Cool down with a dip from a longtail boat, which you can hire off Kamala Beach and cruise to little Laem Singh beach (TBH1500). Lunch is a chance to rub shoulders with Thai starlets at One Chun restaurant: order the rich, creamy crab and coconut curry (48/1 Thepkrasattri Rd, Old Town, THB280), then unravel the cuisine's secrets through an afternoon at the Blue Elephant Cooking School, (THB 2800, 96 Krabi Rd, Phuket Town, blueelephant.com/phuket). After slaving in the kitchen, reward yourself with sunset drinks and dinner at BiMi on the swank strip of Surin Beach: don't go past the whole grilled snapper with spicy jim jaew sauce. Pair with a mojito made from local Cha Long Bay rum (THB820, bimibeachclub.com) or grab a Sly Thai vodka/limoncello/lime cocktail next door at Catch Beach Club (THB290), then it's sweet dreams at the nearby Swissotel, which has one, two and three-bed suites (From THB 4720 a night, one-bed deluxe suite with breakfast, swissotel.com). 

TOTAL THB 10410 ($413)

SPLASH OUT

Get the yacht to pick you up at Cape Panwa Marina for Thai-style breakfast aboard its five-hour cruise – leap off for a snorkel and kayak through the Andaman Sea (thailuxurycharters.com,THB130,000) then jump ship at Kalim Beach for lunch by the seaside at the modestly named Joe's Downstairs, where chef Aaron Hooper has been named Thailand's top chef. Order his Blue Crab Cake and/or Joe's Famous Burger (baanrimpa.com THB1500) but don't go overboard: this afternoon you're hanging from the treetops on a zipline eco-adventure, and the weight limit is 120kg (flyinghanuman.com, THB3250). Dust down and gloss up to rub shoulders with royalty and Rockefellers at sunset drinks at one of Phuket's best bars with a view, Baba Nest, in the luxe Sri Panwa hotel. For real, undumbed-down Thai food, take a table at the hotel's Baba Soul Food restaurant or order the luxe toro sushi and do a Phuket versus Canadian Maine lobster comparison at its new Japanese Baba Iki restaurant (THB5100) then call for champagne and party the night away in your private plunge pool (sripanwa.com, from THB22,400 a night, pool suite ocean view).

TOTAL 162250 ($6448) 

Belinda Jackson was a guest of Swissotel Resort Phuket and Sri Panwa. 

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