November is the official start of the high season on Phuket and this year the island will be welcoming visitors from all over the world with a full schedule of events and some the most appealing holiday choices on offer in the South East Asia region. In the last few years, Phuket has enjoyed an impressive revival as a one of the world's top tourist destinations with international arrivals forecast to top four million in 2011.
In terms of accommodation choices for visitors, the island now offers an vast range of choices to suit every taste and budget. Luxury travellers in particular are once again choosing the island as their preferred tropical retreat, making the most of the top quality 5-Star services on offer, either staying at one of the extravagant resorts, many located on the salubrious west coast around Kamala, or renting one of the island's now numerous luxury villas, which pepper the coastal landscape and feature everything from cliffside private infinity pools to private cinema rooms.
Sailing enthusiasts also set a course for the island at this time of year, with luxury yacht charters an increasingly popular vacation choice. The island's full service marinas now also host an ever increasing number of superyachts. In October, Dockwise Yacht Transport (DYT)’s M.V. Combi Dock 1 arrived in Phuket to deliver an unprecedented five vessels over 30 metres in length, some of which will be available for charter in the months ahead, cruising to the unspoilt islands and crystal bays in the Andaman Sea.
A series of international boating events also take place on Phuket every year, beginning with the famous Phuket King's Cup from 3-10 December, Asia's biggest and most popular regatta, which was inaugurated in 1987 to celebrate the 60th birthday. Other major yachting events include the spectacular Asia Superyacht Rendezvous, which attracts some of the world's most magnificent yachts to the island on 16,17 and 18 December. Back on land, Phuket also offers visitors an appealing choice of activities and events to enjoy during a visit to the island.
The Laguna Phuket Triathlon on 27 November has become known as the region's s top destination triathlon and features a unique format that includes a 1.8 km swim, a 55 km bike race and a 12 km run through the tropical hinterland. The popular race has attracted thousands of athletes of all ages over the years, including triathlon stars like Mark Allen, Greg Welch, Craig Alexander and Paula Newby-Fraser.
A week later, on December 4, Laguna Phuket is once again the host for the Ironman 70.3 Asia-Pacific Championship and both events draw large crowds of spectators to cheer the athletes round the challenging courses.
Less strenuous, but equally entertaining, Phuket will this year celebrate HM The King’s 84th birthday with a free music festival in Phuket Town from December 2 – 5. Nightly performances will include music from some of Thailand's best pop artists and jazz groups, as well as musicians from far flung countries such as Israel and Morocco and a delicious local food market.
later in the month, the Phuket Carnival, arguably the island’s most colourful event, will run from December 15 to 20 in Patong, kicking off with with a glittering parade winding through the town's streets and along the beach front. The 6-day carnival also features concerts, food festivals and sporting events.
With such a wide choice of events, plus a wealth of fine restaurants, adventure activities and watersports, not to mention several championship golf courses and modern shopping malls, Thailand's favourite island has evolved to become one of the world's most appealing and multifarious resort destinations.
By Jules Kay