Phuket island is not only a watersports and adventure holiday paradise, it also offers tourists the best shopping in Thailand outside of Bangkok.
Although street-side markets and stalls can be found throughout the island, Phuket's main shopping destinations are Phuket City, situated on the island's south-eastern coast, and the town of Patong, which lies directly opposite Phuket City on the south-western coast.
Although several upscale shopping malls have taken root on Phuket, there are also countless street markets, bazaars and stalls for the tourist to rummage through. Lying squarely between the upscale mall and the street stall is the department store and small shopping center, of which there are several dotted all around the island.
Exactly where tourists will want to shop depends on what they want to buy and how much they enjoy haggling. Bargaining is expected at the markets, and can sometimes be used as a strategy for lowering prices at the smaller department stores but is not used at all at the upscale shopping malls.
Markets in Phuket will be divided between street markets and fresh markets: 'Talad Nat' being those that sell tourist-oriented objects like souvenirs, cheap clothing, pets and DVDs and 'Talad Sod', being those that sell fresh produce and ready made Thai dishes.
The best street markets to visit while touring Phuket will include Phuket Town's Chao Fah Variety market, which is situated opposite the Wat Nakha temple, and Phuket Square with its late trading hours.
Patong Beach Road is the main street market catering to tourists in Patong and offers electric goods and watches as well as the usual tourist souvenirs, and Bangla Road, where shopping is best in the evening, is also well worth a visit.
Of the fresh markets, Phuket City's Downtown Market is the most diverse and, as it dates back to the city's early days, is also the most interesting. Not all of these markets are open every day of the week so tourists should check the markets' schedules before planning any trips.
Phuket department stores either trade out of stand-alone retail premises, are the anchor tenants of the smaller shopping malls or are one of several tenants in the larger malls. Both local and international businesses are represented in the typical Phuket middle-market shopping center, and tourists can either choose to shop local at stores like the Tesco Lotus Supercenter, which is one of Patong's hypermarkets, or visit tried and true favorites like McDonald's and KFC. Those shopping centers and department stores in Phuket that are worth a visit include The Plaza Surin in Surin Beach and Robinsons.
Phuket is also home to two large upscale malls, Central Festival in Phuket City and Jungceylon in Patong, and it's these malls that elevate shopping on Phuket to the heights seen in other Thai centers like Bangkok.
Both malls, apart from offering visitors the best in designer and brand name stores for items like clothing and consumer electronics, also features food courts, international restaurants, cineplexes and entertainment complexes. Jungceylon is also home to the Carrefour hypermarket, which stocks everything from food to clothing to household appliances.
The height of convenience, however, must be the Millenium Resort, the five-star resort and hotel that is located within the Jungceylon shopping complex. The resort features, among other things, a health and fitness center and swimming pool, which are just minutes away from Jungceylon's myriad of shops and trendy SF Cinema City with its five state-of-the-art theaters, bowling alley and karaoke center.
Forget deep-sea fishing, diving or snorkeling in crystal clear waters: Phuket is now the place to be for first-class shopping.