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Phuket can be a wet place during the southwest monsoon from May through October. But as Thailand’s largest and most developed island, there are plenty of things to do and places to escape to on a rainy day when the beach is not an option.
Curling up in a dry spot with a good book is always a good rainy-day activity and in the old town area of Phuket Town there are two decent used book shops on Phang Nga Road, near the On On Hotel. South Wind Books has a better selection, and if you have any books you need to unload from your backpack, you can trade these in. Nearby are several cafes you could linger in with a latte.
Many people head to the malls when it rains, not only to shop but to dine, go to a movie, go bowling, get a haircut, even do a bit of karaoke.
The biggest indoor malls are along the bypass road that runs along the west end of Phuket Town. The snazziest shopping centre is Central Festival, which has a modern movie multiplex with regular seats, ‘VIP’ seats and now a 4D film experience. The mall is also home to an inexpensive food hall, dentist offices, hair salons, and massage and manicure shops.
Just north of Central is Big C, a good spot for kids with a large enclosed play park (30 baht for entry), video games and a bowling alley. The Tesco-Lotus hypermarket nearby also has a 30-baht play area and video games. If you’re in Patong there’s Jungceylon mall, which has a movie theatre, many restaurants, a souvenir market in its basement, plus several beauty and massage salons.
Treat yourself to a bad-weather binge with a Sunday brunch or roast, where for a fixed fee you could spend a whole wet afternoon gorging on food and wine. Shanti Lodge in Chalong puts on an excellent value Sunday roast through the rainy months. Other, pricier choices include the Hilton Phuket Arcadia resort in Karon beach, Oriental Spoon at Twinpalms Resort near Surin beach and Indigo Pearl Resort in Nai Yang.
Or you could learn how to make a Thai feast for yourself at one of Phuket’s Thai cooking schools. One of the most famous is at the Boathouse Wine & Grill in Kata beach while other options include the Phuket Thai Cookery School on Ko Siray and a cooking class at Suay Restaurant in Phuket Town.
Phuket has many spas to indulge in anything from a one-hour reflexology session to a half-day package that might include a body wrap, Thai massage, facial treatment, steam sauna, body scrub and more. Prices vary greatly: your choices range from a 200- to 300-baht session at a simple roadside shop to costly treatments of several thousand baht at the luxury Banyan Tree Phuket spa. Most Phuket resorts these days have spas attached to them.
Cultural sights that can be visited rain or shine include Wat Chalong, Sang Tham and other Chinese shrines in Phuket Town, museums including the Thalang National Museum, Thavorn Museum, the Phuket Mining Museum and the Thai Hua Museum. In the evening, Phuket FantaSea in Kamala beach and I am Niramit near Phuket Town each offer elaborate shows with cultural themes. In lieu of snorkelling, you could take the kids to the Phuket Aquarium.
Instead of moping around and gazing at the grey skies you could get yourself into fighting shape at one of the many Muay Thai training camps in Phuket. The largest and most popular is Tiger Muay Thai in Chalong, which offers other martial arts and fitness training.
Several fitness centres around the island offer drop-in rates for visitors, such as Club Asia Fitness at Royal Phuket City Hotel, which also has a good spa. Other healthy escapes from the rain include wellness centres like Atmanjai and Atsumi in Rawai for detox and yoga, or free meditation sessions at the Phuket Meditation Centre in Chalong, which also does longer retreats.
To see the monsoon rain in its full glory, find a waterfront restaurant and watch the raging sea and sky from a cosy covered perch while slurping up a curry or hot tea. Friendship Beach Resort in Rawai is a fine place to do this, as is Pan Yaah restaurant just north of Patong beach, which offers a panoramic view of the bay. Hunkering down for a lazy afternoon of armchair storm-watching is one of our favourite rainy-day activities in Phuket.
By Lana Willocks
Last updated on 18th September, 2014.