With its beautiful white-sand beaches, diverse collection of gay-friendly luxury hotels and nightlife that is world-renowned, Phuket is a must-visit destination for the discerning LGBT traveller looking for that perfect tropical beach break. And with Thailand's Ministry of Justice having recently announced plans to work on formally legalising gay rights for its out and proud LGBT community, there's never been a better time to head to this island paradise.
Where to stay
Our new favourite gay-friendly hotel is the Dream Phuket Hotel and Spa in the Laguna area on the Western coast of Phuket. This modern, design-conscious hotel combines Mediterranean-style luxury with tropical weather, Thai-inspired cuisine and the high standards of service that are renowned in this corner of South East Asia. The hotel has a fully-equipped gym, a beautiful rooftop pool overlooking the hotel and the surrounding tropical hills, a full spa offering a range of massage and beauty treatments and a wide scale of accommodation options, ranging from swim-up deluxe rooms to two bedroom suites with their own private pool. A short drive away is the Dream Beach Club, which is host to Phuket's most exclusive Sunday brunch, complete with resident house DJ. The Beach Club looks out onto the extensive and unspoilt Layan Beach, which has recently been subject to a crackdown of illegal beach huts and bars, so you'll have the beach pretty much to yourself every day.
Where to eat
Just a short walk away from Dream is the Project Artisan cooperative, where the Czech-born couple who set up the business exhibit crafts and paintings hand-made my local artists and serve an incredible menu inspired by the locals, with all the fresh, in-season ingredients having been sourced locally. Some of our favourite dishes were the BBQ ribs, the quinoa and pumpkin salad and the fried squid.
Where to go out
Patong is indisputably the nightlife capital of Phuket. Its main nightlife thoroughfare is the pedestrianised Bangla Road near the beach. Patong's gay area is called the Paradise Complex, and consists of a small grid of narrow streets just around the corner. The most famous bar is arguably ZAG, which hosts nightly drag shows and go-go dancers and is frequented by a fun mixed crowd of tourists, expats and locals. Other bars to check out nearby are the modern Boat Bar and the more relaxed Sundowners Bar. Fortunately, most bars compete for punters by putting on taster drag/dance performances on the street, so go with whoever impresses you the most!
Where to day trip
A 'must-do' is to head to the nearby Ao Pha-Ngang Marine National Park for an incredible day out with some breath-taking scenery. Consisting of hundreds of limestone karsts covered in thick lush vegetation, these tropical islets are scattered around the azure waters of the Andaman Sea off the Eastern coast of Phuket. You'll go kayaking through caves and lagoons, swim in breath-taking bays and enjoy a BBQ dinner on board as you watch the sun set on the horizon. For your culture fix, you could head into Phuket Old Town, with its Portuguese-inspired architecture, retro coffee houses and the famous Wat Putta Mongkon Buddhist Temple.
Where to Shop
Boat Avenue is an upmarket shopping district that is home to many luxury stores and artisan boutiques. The best time to go is on a Friday night, when you can hit the shops and then grab some authentic street food at the night market.
Where to Work Out
The recently-opened Sutai Muay Thai Boxing Academy is definitely worth a try if you're bored of the same old gym routine. Offering introductory classes that teach you all the basics in a 90-minute session, these guys really know their stuff and you'll learn in a relaxed and friendly environment - just don't expect them to go easy on you! You'll sweat more than you've ever sweated in your life but you'll come out with a great buzz and a real kick - and go home with a taste for more!
When to go
Phuket's peak season is from November to February, which is considered its dry season. However, if you head there in the low season, you can take advantage of fewer crowds and cheaper hotel prices - just be prepared for the odd tropical downpour once in a while! Another popular time to visit is in April for the annual TropOut Phuket, a luxury gay dance festival. April is also when Phuket hosts its annual gay pride parade, centred in Patong Beach.
If you'd like to find out more about the Dream Phuket, head over to our page here. Or check out our Holidays to Thailand page for some inspiration on how you can combine Phuket with other destinations in this beautiful diverse country.