Holidays & Tours

A first-timer's guide to the electrifying neighbourhood of Patong, Phuket

The culture, the beaches and the people.

By Anita Lyons
There is something truly magical about travelling somewhere for the first time.
While you may have read about these places, even seeing your friends and family holiday there, of course it's never the same as experiencing it for yourself.
Heading into my mid-thirties, I had never been to Phuket in Thailand - in fact, while I've been fortunate enough to travel many places around the world, it was never on the bucket list.
It was never because I wasn't interested, it was more my severe peanut allergy and going to a place that serves peanuts in, well, everything, didn't sound like my (or my mum's) idea of fun.
But recently, I got to travel to Patong, Phuket (armed with an allergy card of course) - and as a first-timer to this incredible town, it was nothing like I could ever imagine.
Patong Beach, Phuket at sunset. (Source: Supplied/ Now to Love)
Patong is filled with a deeply rich culture, amazing food and a warm and inviting community of people who open their doors and hearts to the thousands of tourists who descend upon them each year.
And it's no wonder that they have banded together as a tight-knit community.
In 2004, the entire town was washed away by a devastating and deadly tsunami and it's only in recent years that it has begun to thrive again.
In fact, the incredible hotel that I stayed in, Hotel Indigo, Phuket, was just a vacant block of land until it opened at the end of 2018.
So what is so incredibly special about this place?
As a first-timer? Everything.
But if you've only got a few days to spend with your significant other or you're hanging with the ladies on a group vacay away, here are my top must-sees for a first-timer in Patong, Phuket.
Take me back! One of the stunning swimming pools at Hotel Indigo, Phuket. (Source: Supplied/Now to Love)

1. Making merit

If there's one thing that I highly recommend doing - it's going down to the streets of Patong and "making merit" with the Buddhist monks.
While you have to rise pretty early to be down the street at 6.30am, this was a definite highlight for me - particularly if you want to experience the spiritual culture of this incredible community.
"Making merit" or "bun tham" is one of the most common religious practices in the country and involves streams of monks walking from the local temples holding baskets to accept gifts of common household items, food and drink.
The monks strongly believe they must regularly make and gain merit which will bring them happiness, peaceful life and other good things - and actually, it just feels amazing to do it.
If you're lucky, like I was, you will also be given a prayer in return - and honestly, it is the most humbling experience.
WATCH NEXT: The Thai Buddhist monks making merit on the streets of Patong, Phuket. Post continues after video...

2. Beaches of Patong

Most people come to Thailand for the insanely beautiful beaches - and I would be lying if I wasn't one of them.
Patong beaches are clean, the water is clear and the sun shines brightly - and even though there are tourists everywhere, they are barely crowded.
Getting to some of the best beaches, like Banana Island, is a fast boat-trip away - but the scenery is breathtaking.
Once your back on dry land after a day in the sunshine, take a walk down to Patong Beach and visit the locals who have set up food stalls along the road.
And a hot tip? Try the roti with condensed milk. Yum!
WATCH NEXT: The beautiful beaches of Patong, Phuket. Post continues after video...

3. Simon Cabaret

Hey, everybody! If there's ONE thing you're going to HAVE to do while you're in Patong...it's THIS. The Simon Cabaret.
Holy dooley, this was a SPECTACLE!
This unique show is one of the most popular and glamorous nights of entertainment you will ever see. There's singing, there's dancing and there's a bucket load of sequins... what more gloriousness do you want from one night?
These people are seriously talented and if you were like me, you will be singing and dancing in your seat!
WATCH NEXT: Meet the colourful characters of the Simon Cabaret. Post continues after video...

4. Patong nightlife

This one won't be for everybody - but if you're on a kid-free holiday, you may just want to let your hair down.
Even if you're not one for partying though, the nightlife in Patong is not just about the (very) famous clubs on the strip.
It is actually the perfect opportunity to visit some of the locals - including the colourful Micro, the owner of one of the most famous tattoo parlours in Patong, Micro Tattoo.
This shop is unlike any other, and while I would never recommend you get a tattoo on holidays (unless you're Angelina and Brad who did just that before their split), just visiting is an experience on its own.
And being from Australia, you'd be following in the footsteps of thousands who have come before you - check out all the signs in the shop!
That's me sitting in a tattoo chair at Micro Tattoo, Patong. Just look at all of those signs! (Source: Supplied/Now to Love)
After visiting Micro (and sharing in a drink with him - JD and Coke is his preference), walk the strip. It's filled with clubs, bars and shops, all open until all-hours and there are people everywhere! I've never been so wide-eyed in my life!
And if you fancy a fun ride - you HAVE to get into one of the suped up Tuk-Tuk's! Traditional transport with a twist...and an epic 90s throwback!
Just this on its own is enough of a night-cap, but if you fancy a quick drink with your group (or three), you can visit one of the most famous nightclub's in the world - Illuzion.
Everything is lit up, there is dancing and the music is loud. Don't want to stay long? Pop your head in because it's worth going just to say you've been!
WATCH NEXT: A snippet of the nightlife of Phuket, Patong. Post continues after video...

5. Traditional kickboxing (Muay Thai)

If you're anything like me and want to experience the best of the culture, you can't go past a kickboxing demonstration.
In fact, if you stay at Hotel Indigo, they even have their OWN ring where you can book an instructor to learn a move or two!
Muay Thai is a unique style of kickboxing that allows elbows, knees, clinch fighting, throws, sweeps and low kicks - and while I have zero interest in participating - it was so incredible to watch!
You certainly don't have to be a lover of sport to get into it - because just the physical activity and the entertainment of it all will have ANYONE hooked!
WATCH NEXT: Kickboxing demonstration at Hotel Indigo, Phuket. Post continues after video...

About Hotel Indigo, Phuket

Blending contemporary elements with the vibrant colours and cultures of Patong, Hotel Indigo Phuket Patong is a must stay.
Located in North Patong, the hotel features 180 spacious guest rooms designed stylishly to mirror Patong's vibrant scene of tropical forests, bright neon lights and fishing village heritage.
And if you love a hotel swimming pool, just you wait until you see the view from here!
For more information on Hotel Indigo Phuket, Patong, click HERE.