Patong Beach is the most popular beach for tourists. This is where you will find narrow streets lined with tiny shops selling everything from clothing, to knock-off purses, to statutes and figurines. Besides Bangkok's night markets, Patong Beach is probably the cheapest place to find your tourist treasures. Don't be surprised if there is no fitting room. It is not uncommon for the proprietor of the store to live in a small area in the back of the store. It is generally acceptable to try on clothes over your swimsuit, and the owner is always eager to make a sale. There is a multitude of figurines and statutes for sale. Most are made out of a black material. I have been told by the Thai salesmen that it is dolphin bone, stone, and wood. However, after careful inspection, I believe it is resin. They are nice statutes, carefully made, and hold up well through the travels.
There are countless restaurants along the strip in Patong Beach. I am not sure that one really is better than the other, but we found ourselves frequenting Restaurant No. 42, just off the beach, on several occasions. The people were very friendly and the papaya salad was unrivaled. You will be doing yourself a great injustice if you don't have the papaya salad at least once! We also found a quaint little restaurant that doubles as a parking lot during the day. When evening comes, they start rolling in the cooking area, table, chairs, and fresh fish on ice. Try everything you can, but remember to take your Tums, as Thai food all tends to be a little spicy, even when you order it not spicy.
Bartering is a big part of the Thai shopping experience. The prices are marked up because the owner expects you to bargain. Generally, if you offer half the price, you can work out a deal of about 25 - 30% off. Additionally, the more you buy, the cheaper they get. So thinking of buying all of your souvineers at one store and at the same time.
Thailand is also well-known for it custom made suits. You won't be able to walk down the street without someone insisting that you need a new suit, made by them of course. If you are in the market for suits, go with a plan. Take either a suit that you already own, or a picture of the exact suit you want. If not, you will have to pick from catalouges of patterns or mens magazines that are very old and out dated. Additionally, I would suggest that you do not attempt to design your own suit or dress, unless of course this is your profession. I attempted to design a simple dress and it was a dress disaster. The dress was way too short, so small that I could not zip it, and overall unattractive. I would not choose Narry's Tailors (aka Baaz). Though they boast a world wide reputation in the suit industry, we received poor service and poor quality, at a price that was far above the other local tailors. Beware of Narry's!
Mai Khao Beach
If you are looking for a more secluded and less touristy beach, try staying at the JW Marriott. This is an amazing hotel with impeccable service. It is located on the private Mai Khao Beach with pristine white sand beaches. The JW is one of the only 5-star hotels on the island, and you can tell. The staff takes care of your every need and then some... from the bathroom towels folded as an elephant, to the walkie talkies they use to make sure all the pool-goers drinks are full. The rooms are very large and beautifully decorated and even include an area for meditation. They have 10 restaurants and bars, as well as an on-site spa. This hotel runs about 3-4 times the amount of staying at a small hotel in Patong, but if you are looking for a peaceful and relaxing stay, it is well worth it.
Remarkable JW Marriott Pool
Beautiful private white sand beach
While in Phuket, I would definitely recommend visiting Pi Pi Island. It is a short day trip, that offers you the opportunity to enjoy about an hour jet boat ride. Once there, you can explore Pi Pi Island (where The Island was filmed). Pi Pi Island actually consists of two islands, however most tours only go to Pi Pi Don, the larger of the two. If you like rock climbing, considering an extended stay at Pi Pi, because I hear the climbing is off the charts. Pi Pi Island was struck by the devastation of the tsunami but is mostly rebuilt to its original beauty. So keep in mind that visiting there also helps the locals with restoration.
Most tours offer a lunch included in the package. Our lunch was fantastic! On the way back to Phuket, you can stop at other small islands for a drink or just some time in the sun. Our tour guide took us by the area where bird's nests are cultivated for bird's nest soup. It was an amazing trip, but remember to take any medicine you may need, as there were no 7-Elevens on this trip. Our tour, including lunch, was about $30 a person. Tickets can be purchased at the kiosks along the beach for a cheaper rate. The tour lasted from 8am to 3pm.