Phuket by night
First published 9th May, 2011
When you've finished sunbathing and splashing about on the beaches of Phuket, you'll likely want to shower off the sand and see what else the island has to offer after dark. A lot of what's on offer is sleaze — though officials would deny this — but here's a selection of some of the better, family-friendly stuff on offer.
The glitzy spectacle of Simon's Caberet is performed entirely by ladyboys, or katoey. Patong has a fairly high ladyboy population — even by Thai standards — due in part to the large number of medical practitioners here offering gender reassignment surgery.
Running for just over an hour, the flamboyant show features singing, dancing and costumes even Elton John would consider keeping in the closet. Despite what you may perhaps think, the performances are not especially blue, so you shouldn't expect to have any uncomfortable conversations with the kids if they tag along. Homage is paid to the likes of everyone from Chicago to Lady Gaga, with the English singing and MC'ing lip synched all the way. The result is frequently hilarious, and the show on the whole does well to not take itself too seriously.
One thing they do take very seriously is people trying to take photos and videos inside the theatre, with ushers' eyes constantly scanning the audience for any kind of recording device. Photo ops with the cast are available outside after the performance, but be forewarned tips of 100 baht or more are expected.
It's a very flashy and entertaining way to spend the evening, at a fairly reasonable price. The difference in price between VIP and standard seats is negligible, so it's worth stumping up the extra few baht to sit in the front rows.
Note also there's no intermission, and you can't bring food and drinks inside. A small bottle of water is provided, but you might want to make sure you've eaten to avoid any mid-show tummy grumbles.
Muay Thai - Bangla boxing stadium
"You see muay Thai, you see Thailand!" ... or so say the squawk boxes affixed to the little trucks that drive all over Patong promoting it day and night. While there may be a bit more to the Land of Smiles than two people beating the hell out of each other, Thai boxing is certainly part of the national psyche and worth seeing at least once during your visit.
Of two boxing stadiums in Patong, Bangla is the newer and more accessible venue. Situated at the back of Jungceylon shopping mall, you can't miss it: just look for the giant plaster boxing figures menacing the street. Though the looped tape recordings broadcast from the stadium talk it up incessantly, promising a "Big Fight!" with "The champ of the champs!", the reality is there's a "Big Fight" at Bangla Boxing Stadium almost every other night.
Children, women and men square off against each other and yes, the fights are all real. On a typical night you'll see 10 fights starting with pint-sized punching 10-year-olds and working up all the way through fighters in their teens, 20s and 30s. Gambling is permitted inside muay Thai stadiums, so flag down the guy waving cash in the air if you're keen for a punt.
Beer and snacks are available inside, but you can easily smuggle in outside supplies in a backpack. Since the night's battles go on for three hours in total, starting at 21:00 and wrapping up around midnight, you'll want to have adequate sustenance to keep you going. If you just want to catch the highlights, we'd advise showing up at about the 22:30 mark since the whole thing can be pretty exhausting to sit through from start to finish — even if you're not personally in the ring. The whole shebang climaxes with the title fight commencing about 23:15, so make sure you're still energised enough to enjoy it.
Premium seats are available if you like to be up close to the action. Rest assured you can still see everything clearly from the standard seats also, where you can also stay clear of any wayward drops of sweat and blood.
Phuket Fantasea is all about elephants, and lots of them: elephant statues, elephant rides and of course, the elephant show — which takes place inside the Palace of the Elephants. Once through the gates you'll find what feels like a scaled-down combination of Vegas and Disneyland, with costumed dancers, games, shooting galleries, non-stop music piping over the PA and every colour in the fluorescent rainbow. This epilepsy-inducing fare bombards the senses and will no doubt be a huge hit with the kids. Of the three activities mentioned in this article, Fantasea is definitely the most appropriate to bring the ankle-biters along to.
Feel free to snap away with your camera outside the main theatre, but be forewarned all "recording devices" (ie smartphones) are required to be surrendered at the entrance to the Palace — should you decide to declare them, that is.
Unless you only have time for the main event which runs for 80 minutes, it's worthwhile arriving an hour or two before the scheduled show time to grab a bite to eat and take in everything the park outside has to offer.
The actual show involves performers regaling the audience with some near-incomprehensible tale about the "magical" elephant king of Kamala. They do this by using enough acrobatics, shadow puppetry and pyrotechnical displays to hold the attention of even the most ADD addled children, and adults would be hard pressed to pinpoint a dull moment also. It goes without saying that no one comes for the story so much as to see all the amazing animal antics, and in this area Fantasea delivers in elephantine proportions.
If you'd like to swell up to the size of a pachyderm, an all-you-can-eat buffet is available for an extra 400 baht per adult and 200 baht per child. The park is located in Kamala — about 10km north of Patong beach. Contact Phuket Fantasea if you'd like them to pick you up for an additional fee. Otherwise you could either rent a scooter and drive yourself or have a taxi/tuk tuk cart you over the hill at the usual scandalous inflated price (about 500-700 baht).
Show runs 19:30 and 21:30 every night.
Price: Regular 700 baht; VIP 800 baht. Children (under 130 cm) 500/600 baht respectively.
T: (076) 342 114-6
F: (076) 340 437
Friday, Sunday and Wednesday night: 21:00-00:00
Price: Regular 1,700 baht, VIP 2,000 baht. Children (0-10 years) 850/1,000 baht respectively.
T: (086) 940 5463; (084) 844 8575
Twice nightly: 19:00, 21:00
Price: 1,500 baht (same price for children). With buffet and show 1,900/1,700 baht (adult/child) Child: (age 4-12 or under 140cm height if you have no proof of age ID)
T: (076) 385 111
Story by Martin English
Related readingFifteen tips for a great holiday in Asia
Phuket for Kids
Cheap Phuket guesthouses & hotels
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