Phuket travel guide
Author: Lara Dunston
Photography: Terence Carter
Point Yamu by Como
At Cape Yamu and overlooking Phang Nga Bay, this resort opened late last year in a striking concrete shell with playful interiors by Italian designer Paola Navone. Inspired by traditional Buddhist motifs and contemporary Thai culture, her work can be seen in the lobby's pagoda bells, kitsch garden statues and tin monk's bowls filled with flowers. Traditional artisanal techniques have been used throughout. 225 Moo 7, Paklok, Talang.
The futuristic design of these white, light-filled villas and lofts on a rocky peninsula at Kata Beach was inspired by the shape of super-yachts, which drop anchor in the bay. Opened in March, the 34 villas have private pools and state-of-the-art kitchens, although there's a poolside restaurant and bar overseen by Australian chef Steve Baker. 86/22 Koktanode Rd, Karon, Muang.
Many of Phuket Old Town's lovely mid-19th to early 20th-century Sino-Portuguese and Sino-colonial buildings are getting candy-coloured makeovers, and new galleries, cafés and bars are popping up. Check into the recently renovated 1920s gem The Memory at On On or the charming boutique Casa Blanca for full immersion in the Old Town.
A raft of new resorts have in-house cooking schools; among the best is Spice Spoons in the restaurant Dee Plee at the new Anantara Phuket Layan Resort & Spa. Classes at established resorts such as Trisara and The Surin have revamped their class menus with an emphasis on Phuket specialties. And the Andara offers in-villa lessons, as well as in its Silk Restaurant.
The most anticipated newcomer on the beach club scene is Zazada with a scarlet-tiled swimming pool. Fresh from Ibiza, Nikki Beach will feature a line-up of international DJs. Re Ká Ta remains a favourite, with floating beanbags, a surf school and sunset aperitivi with Thai canapés.
A new outlet of the funky Chiang Mai-based boutique Ginger at The Plaza, Surin stocks covetable fashion, accessories, home décor and kitchenware; it's hard to resist bags and cushions of idiosyncratic hill-tribe textiles embroidered with modern motifs or adorned with cute plastic charms. Bundles of colourful chopsticks pack well.
The district of Natai, over Sarasin Bridge connecting Phuket to the mainland, is an emerging culinary hotspot. A newcomer here is The Edge, the sleek beachfront restaurant in Aleenta resort headed by chef Alex Bitterling, formerly of Brisbane's Alchemy. Highlights include the eight-course tasting menu. The Edge, 3006 Tambon Khok Kloi, Phang Nga.
Highly regarded Basque chef Eneko Atxa has chosen Iniala Beach House in Natai as the site for his first restaurant abroad. He has three tasting menus at Aziamendi, including Tribute, a retrospective of dishes from the chef's three-starred restaurant near Bilbao. Aziamendi, 40/14 Moo 6 Baan Natai.
Daniel Moran, a one-time Rockpool chef, heads the kitchens at Point Yamu by Como, including the highly regarded Nahmyaa. Order specialties such as the signature curry of blue crab and coconut. Nahmyaa, 225 Moo 7, Paklok, Talang.
Phuket has distinctive dishes featuring dried spices (the laksa-like curry mee fun) and chillies (gang som goong, a fiery prawn curry), and they're found in Phuket Old Town's markets and restaurants. Tell cooks you want it "spicy, Phuket-style".
On "Flavours of the Andaman", a daytrip focused on Phuket's food and run by tour company Exotissimo, sip kopi (coffee), enjoy Chinese pastries, visit a shrimp farm, a pineapple farm and cashew factory, and taste a variety of local dishes.
Jetstar flies direct to Phuket from Sydney and Melbourne. Virgin Australia-Singapore Airlines flies to Phuket via Singapore.