My Favorite Phuket Beach: Nai Harn

Phuket is one of Thailand’s biggest tourist destinations. Every year, millions of tourists arrive and usually head straight in one direction: to one of the island’s ultra-popular west coast beaches like Patong, Kata or Karon.

The beaches on Phuket’s western coastline are popular for a reason: they’re really nice (with the exception of Patong, which is just too developed at this point to be a nice place to relax). But while they’re easy to access and extremely popular, they’re far from the best beaches on the island.

Ask the average Phuket expat which beaches are the island’s best and they’ll point you towards one of the amazingly beautiful beaches in the north. Mai Khao Beach, Kamala and other spots north of Patong are admittedly nice, but they’re a little bit boring if you’re aged under 50 and want to enjoy Phuket as both a beautiful and exciting destination.

A good alternative to the west coast beaches is Nai Harn — a smaller beach on the south coast of Phuket famous for its rough waves. Nai Harn is Phuket’s equivalent of a surf beach — which is to say that it’s a surf beach with small to mid-sized waves. It’s also a really beautiful beach that’s mostly undeveloped and only attracts a fraction as many tourists as the ultra-popular Patong and Kata to the north.

Getting to Nai Harn Beach is pretty simple. You can either take a tuk-tuk from almost anywhere on the island (be prepared to pay 500+ baht from Patong) or rent a scooter and make your way there on your own. It’s an exciting ride from Patong, with lots of sweeping bends and beautiful sea views. If you’re an experienced motorcyclist, it can be a lot of fun — if you’re not, if can be a little scary.

A better option, especially if you want a quiet vacation, is to just stay on Nai Harn Beach in the first place. There are plenty of nice resorts and hotels around the beach with high-end suites and cheap rooms alike available. Since Nai Harn is less popular than Patong and Kata, it’s also a much cheaper part of the island to stay in.

So — that’s it! If you’re searching for a nice beach on Phuket and want to avoid the usual suspects (Patong, Karon and Kata) then visiting Nai Harn is a great way to see Phuket as it was 10-20 years ago, before it developed into the massively overvisited tourist destination it is in many ways today.

Kanchanaburi: A Quiet, Peaceful Escape Close to Bangkok

Immortalized in the movie The Bridge Over the River Kwai, Kanchanaburi is a small city about three hours from Bangkok by road that’s one of the best weekend trips in Thailand for people based in Bangkok.

No, there’s no beach. There aren’t any beautiful mountains either (other than a few small hills). But there is a great relaxing atmosphere and some of the best WWII sites in all of Thailand.

Lots of people forget that Thailand was part of World War II, since we mostly think of Germany and Japan (and occasionally Italy, who gave up a little early) as being the Axis. But Thailand was also on the same side, and had several large work camps for Allied prisoners who were tasked with building railroads and other infrastructure for the Japanese.

Kanchanaburi was the center of this, with several camps and the infamous Death Railway now part of the city’s history. While it might have a dark recent history, the Kanchanaburi of today is a peaceful, relaxing city that’s a nice place to visit from Bangkok for the weekend.

Our writer stayed at U Inchantree — a beautiful resort near the River Kwai that’s amazingly relaxing. Although the area around the hotel is mostly made up of tourist restaurants and attractions, it’s still a fun place to spend the day and a nice change to the endless noise and crowds of Bangkok.

Not far from Kanchanaburi, there’s the Hellfire Pass Museum — a moving memorial and museum to the numerous prisoners of war that died during the construction of the Burma Railway. Kanchanaburi is an interesting mix of serene and sad, with WWII sites scattered around what would otherwise be a fairly typical Thai town.

If you’d like to escape from Bangkok for the weekend and like WWII history, visiting Kanchanaburi is a great idea. Even if the idea of war museums isn’t your thing, the city’s chilled out atmosphere, relaxing riverside area, increasing number of nice resorts and good mix of Thai restaurants still give it plenty of appeal.