I spent a couple months in Phuket and wouldn’t recommend it. I don’t know what Krabi is like but I found Phuket to be scam central, overpriced and way too touristy. Oh and its filled with trash, polluted, the laws change constantly, traffic is terrible in many areas and transportation is very overpriced (say hi to the Tuk Tuk & taxi mafia) compared to the rest of SE Asia.
Absolutely avoid Patong unless you want the kind of experience you’d get in the heart of the backpacker area in District 1 Saigon. Other areas aren’t as bad but transport between them can be a paid. Mai Kao beach is the only beach that is undeveloped and untouched. If you go there you’ll pretty much be the only ones there.
Most of the beaches are packed, especially with umbrellas and mats setup by local vendors who take over and try to push you to rent them. The local government tried to crack down on the rentals of beach chairs (they’re now banned) and instead began allowing the umbrellas and mats. It’s all very poorly enforced so things are just a mess regardless.
That being said, I can speak highly of Sugar Palm Residence on the edge of Phuket town as a place to stay (except the internet wasn’t properly setup yet and thus no signal in most of the place and it was poor when you had it). They told me they were waiting on the IT company to come outfit the building with wifi but it wasn’t due until a few weeks after I left. The site is http://www.sugarpalmresidence.com/, it’s a fairly new place, residence style. Bit of a pain to get anywhere without transport though.
Hey, thanks for your help, denispitcher I’ve heard these things about Phuket also- and so I was definitely planning to avoid the whole Patong area. But do you think that up the coast a good distance- like around Kamala beach- is better? Or on the East side coast of the island?
I didn’t check out very much of the East side of the island so I can’t speak to it.
Kamala is better, though can still be quite busy as all of the Beaches near Patong can be. The good thing is that it is still close enough to Patong that if you want to go there for an activity, shopping or dinner its an easy trip (except during rush hour).
What are you aiming for? What kind of budget, what kind of activities? Also what time of year? From what I understood the on season vs. off season are quite different so that could be a huge opinion shifter on where would be good.
The further north you go the quieter it gets. The northern end of Bang Tao is alot quieter but harder to get to and tends to be more high end. The very northern part up near Nikki Beach club can be a great quietier spot good for a larger group. Be warned that “commercial activities” are theoretically banned in the entire Cherang Talay area so if you do work with any sort of a local planner, they may be bribing (or taking a risk on a fine) their way to organizing anything. The southern end of Bang Tao may have a pollution/sewage problem. The river at the very bottom did not smell or look pleasant at all and it was flowing right into the ocean.
Surin Beach is nice, but small and still was quite busy. It also had pollution problems (much of Phuket has open sewage and it grew far too fast for the infrastructure to keep up so you could encounter pollution/sewage at many of the beaches). They were busy working on a treatment plant back when I was there, it was due to be finished months ago but hadn’t been completed when I was there.
If you want to be closer to Patong (it is where all the action is on the island and the majority of nightlife/restaurants are there) I liked the look of Karon and Kata but I only really drove through there and stopped briefly to have a look. I stopped at Kata Noi for a few hours, very nice but very small.
Chalong/Rawai beaches seemed rather narrow and often packed with boats but could be reasonable.
Island wise, a friend of mine who went to Ko Phi Phi a few months before warned that its a huge tourist trap, filled with trash and not a very pleasant experience. I skipped it but my wife and her visiting friends went and they had much the same feedback.
Photographers I worked with spoke very highly of Ko Racha but I didn’t get the chance to go see it as we ran out of time. It sounded like a great spot and far less well known and touristy than Phi Phi. The way they described it, there are two sides and people always flock to one or the other depending on the season so if you cross to the opposite side where the people are it’d be a bit quieter.
For 100 people you’ll have alot of logistics to figure out, unfortunately I can’t help there.
Thank you again for your thoughtful answer!
I was wondering if Kamala wasn’t exactly far enough away to avoid the crowds…but it seems like there are resorts that are in our range (around $50 or so per night/per person) up the coast in that direction, and I assume they would provide a bit more privacy from the hectic world that many people associate with Phuket.
And our retreat will be in October, which I originally thought could be in the rainy season, but advice has convinced us that it shouldn’t be pouring at this time! You think?
And thanks- that’s great to know about how the activities would be very difficult to arrange, as well as to acknowledge this potential sewage issue to avoid! That’s definitely important!
Agreed on the Phi Phi reaction, unfortunately. I mean, it had it’s unique moments, like the short hike to the viewpoint where you can take that iconic pic of the strip of land connecting the parts of Phi Phi island. But yes, overall, I felt like I was in an actual tourist trap…it just wasn’t very comfortable or pleasant.
I haven’t looked in to Ko Racha, but thanks for the idea…However, if it is smaller, maybe they won’t have a large enough hotel/resort that also has a presentation/meeting room for over 100 people. Lot of logistics, yes, haha. I’m thinking that maybe I’ll look into Krabi Ao Nang or maybe Koh Lanta (as another poster mentioned) a little more. But your input on Phuket has really helped.
You should think about Koh Lanta, just down from Krabi. Its got a great coworking space, plenty of cafes, some great spots to bulk book rooms, and plenty of activities + glorious beaches. Well worth a look.
Thanks– you wouldn’t happen to know a resort kind of hotel (that is definitely large, to book over 100 people), would you?
Try Pimalai (100 rooms) or Crown Lanta (80 rooms)
@kelliel would be glad to help, have been living here for 6 years, know the island inside out… email me [email protected]
@thetwopct we may have over 120 people, so we need even bigger : / But thanks!
@James yes I will email you!