Phuket, Thailand, travel guide and things to do: Nine highlights

THE ONE BEACH

Anyone who can't find their dream beach on Phuket is probably allergic to sand. The island's west coast has a 50 kilometre shoreline that stretches north to Mai Khao (White Wood) Beach, a seemingly infinite strand of shade trees, bare feet and quality resorts. It's also a national park and sea turtle zone. See phuket.net

THE ONE OLD TOWN

Phuket, Thailand - February 08, 2014: people walking down Thalang Road at The Old Phuket Town Festival on February, 08th 2014 in Phuket, Thailand satapr2phuket phuket thailand One & Only ; text by John Borthwick
cr: iStock (reuse permitted, no syndication) 

Photo: iStock

Phuket Old Town reminds us that history happened here, that Phuket Island wasn't always a tourist sand box. Its 19th century Sino-Portuguese shop-houses live on today as boutiques, restaurants and tea-shops. Stroll along Thalang Road walking street and investigate a temple or two, a bar, spa, everything. See whatsoninphuket.com

THE ONE MORE CUP OF COFFEE

On the corner of Old Town's Thalang and Yaowarad roads you'll find the Old Phuket Coffee shop. For 50 years it was the Great Hand Tailors shop but the family's next generation has taken it both retro, with classic, antique Chinese décor, and contemporary with good coffee, drinks and food. See whatsoninphuket.com

THE ONE MUSEUM

In north Phuket visit the beautifully restored 1936 Chinese Art Deco mansion, Baan Ah-Jor Home (Great-Grandparents Home). Now a private, non-profit museum, the three-storey house was built by a tin-mining businessman and has been lovingly restored by his descendants, revealing the lifestyle of a wealthy 1930's Thai-Chinese family. Don't miss its excellent restaurant, Red Table. See baanarjor.com

THE ONE TEMPLE

Wat Chalong In Phuket, Thailand satapr2phuket phuket thailand One & Only ; text by John Borthwick
cr: iStock (reuse permitted, no syndication) 

Photo: iStock

Nineteenth-century Wat Chalong, Phuket's largest and most visited temple features a 60m "chedi" tower housing a bone fragment said to be from the Buddha. Large murals illustrate his life story while Thai devotees attach offerings of tiny gold leaf to the numerous statues. Tip: Visit early in the day and dress conservatively. See renown-travel.com

THE ONE PARTY TOWN

Love it or leave it. Patong, the epicentre of Phuket partying is dense with stores, eateries and hotels. Just inland from its long, beautiful beach is Bangla Road, a neon-lit bar strip (in)famous for riotous nightlife. After that comes a serious shopping zone with large malls like Central Patong and Jungceylon. See phuket.net

THE ONE ATTRACTION

A serious reappraisal of elephant treatment in Thailand has led to the sidelining of rides, "trunk painting" and similar touristic stunts. "Look, don't touch" is the ethical deal at Phuket Elephant Sanctuary Park where, from an elevated 500m walkway you can observe 12 rescued elephants as they amble, forage and bathe. See phuketelephantsanctuary.org

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THE ONE EXCURSION

Phuket Marine National Park in the far north is an escape from the island's sometimes excessive success. And also home to its best, least-known thrill. To kayak along the dappled water trails of Thachatchai mangrove forest is a turn-back-time interlude. Buttressed mangrove roots line the channels and water crows watch as you paddle past. See thailandnationalparks.com

THE ONE HOTEL

Perched on an exclusive peninsula overlooking sublime Phang Nga Bay, Como Point Yamu is one of the island's finest resorts. Balcony views that span from sunrise to sunset, plus cuisine and decor that reflect Phuket's early Peranakan culture make this a very stately pleasure dome. See comohotels.com

ONE MORE THING

Phuket is your springboard to Phang Nga Bay where limestone islands rise like sleeping sea monsters — creation myths have them as a herd of elephants caught by the incoming tide. Explore this wondrous Jurassic parking lot and visit its twin Koh Yao islands to extend your Phuket stay. See phuket101.net

The writer was a guest of Como (comohotels.com) and Melia (melia.com) hotels and Thai Airways (thaiairways.com).

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