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Which is better Bangkok or Phuket?

Discussion in 'Thailand' started by VarunKumar, Oct 12, 2016.

  1. VarunKumar

    VarunKumar New Member

    I looking into take a trip to Thailand with my parents and as we need to choose one destination and can not decide from Bangkok or Phuket.
    I have read both the threads in the Thailand section about places to visit in Phuket and things to do in Bangkok and both of the places have so much to offer.

    I would like some help from members to let me know which is better Bangkok or Phuket, so I can start making some final plans.

  2. briannagodess

    briannagodess Well-Known Member

    Hi there, welcome to the forum!

    Two places with such contrasting features, one is a full blown city while the other is somewhat of a village. Yet these are two of the most visited destinations in Thailand and both offers a truly authentic experience that you cannot get elsewhere. How do you choose one over the other though? Well, let's begin by giving a brief overview of these two destinations.

    Bangkok - At a Glance
    • Trademark - Capital of Thailand
    • Region - Central
    • Climate - Tropical Savanna
    • Attractions - Temples, Historical Sites, Museums, Parks, Zoos and Floating Markets
    Bangkok is the bustling capital of the country and as such, lined with the most modern skyscrapers and buildings. The city is very much alive and lively, all day and all night. While it doesn't have much natural attractions, this is the best city to visit to understand the unique culture of the country. Lined with numerous high end establishments and at the same time, also lined with cheap establishments, you get the best of both worlds here. Take a deep breath before braving the streets of Bangkok and with an open mind, you'd learn to appreciate the sights before you.

    Phuket - At a Glance
    • Trademark - Pearl of Andaman
    • Region - Southern
    • Climate - Tropical Monsoon
    • Attractions - Temples, Historical Sites, View Points, Museums, Wildlife, Theme Parks, Beaches and Islands
    Located off the southern part of Thailand is Phuket, mainly a beach lover's destination. While it does have its fair share of modern establishments, it is nowhere as chaotic or as plenty like in Bangkok. Adventure lovers would have a blast in Phuket with the numerous water sports that they can indulge in here. For those in a honeymoon, Phuket also has secluded beaches best for them. If you're more into natural attractions like beaches and islands, then Phuket might be a more suitable destination for you.

    In-Depth Comparison of Bangkok and Phuket

    1. Ease of Access
    • Bangkok - Bangkok has two international airports, namely: the Suvarnabhumi Airport and the Don Mueang Airport. Both are located about 30 kilometres away from the city centre of Bangkok. The Suvarnabhumi Airport caters to foreign cities like Beijing, Macau, Hong Kong, London, Seoul and many more. It also has domestic flights to cities like Phuket, Chiang Mai and Krabi. On the other hand, the Don Meuang Airport caters to foreign cities like Kuala Lumpur, Muscat, Tokyo and Singapore. It also has flights to local cities like Phuket and Hatyai. Both airports also have direct connectivity to Bangkok via bus, taxi or train. But the best way to get to the city is either by train, to avoid the horrendous Bangkok traffic, or taxi, if you have plenty of luggage with you. If ever you're coming from other parts of Thailand, Bangkok is also well-connected by bus or train. There are three main bus terminals in Bangkok, with the Eastern Bus Terminal or Ekamai Bus Terminal being the main one. The Hua Lamphong Railway Station is the main train station of Bangkok, with direct connectivity to cities like Chiang Mai, Pattaya and others. It also has connectivity to other countries like Malaysia and Cambodia. And while Bangkok is connected by national highways to other cities, the traffic in the city is rampant so allow a few hours of allowance if going by road.
    Skytrain in Bangkok (Image Courtesy of Invest Vine)
    • Phuket - The Phuket International Airport is one of the busiest ones in Thailand. It has direct connectivity to foreign cities like Beijing, Chengdu, Manila, Moscow, Seoul, Shanghai and Singapore. It is also directly connected to local cities like Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Pattaya. The airport is about 30 minutes away from the city centre of Phuket. To reach the city centre though, your only options are buses or taxis since there is railway station in Phuket. There are two main bus terminals, one in the southern region and one in the northern region. You can also reach Phuket through the Surat Thani Railway Station, about five hours away from the former. Lastly, road journey is also good as Phuket is directly connected to mainland Thailand by the Thao Thepkasattri Bridge.
    *Note - Thailand has a visa free policy for over 50 countries. Indian nationals are entitled to a visa on arrival privilege, which guarantees a 15-day stay on the country. Both the airports above have immigration checkpoints for this visa on arrival facility.

    2. Transportation
    • Bangkok - Public transportation around Bangkok is massive. You have plenty of options from trains, buses, auto rickshaws and taxis. For trains, you can either utilise the Bangkok Skytrain or the Bangkok Metro. The Bangkok Skytrain is more extensive and also preferred by many tourists. On the other hand, the Bangkok Metro has limited connectivity, but has close stopovers near Chatuchak and Yaowarat. As mentioned before, there are three main bus terminals in Bangkok, with a choice of both government and privately operated buses. The famous auto rickshaws or tuk tuks of Bangkok are good for short distance travels within the city but make sure to negotiate a price before riding one. Taxis are your most expensive option but also the most comfortable, considering the humidity and heat in the city. Another good option is to ride a boat across the Chao Phraya River. You can avoid the traffic around Bangkok with a boat ride and also enjoy the scenic view around.
    • Phuket - Public transportation around Phuket has fewer options. You mainly have two choices, either buses or auto rickshaws. Buses in Phuket don't have fixed schedules and are open-air so can be a bit uncomfortable. You would recognise them by their bright blue colour. There are no designated bus stops around the city, expect for the southern and northern bus terminals, so you can stop the bus anytime, anywhere. Auto rickshaws or tuk tuks in Phuket are red and mainly have four wheels, almost like a tiny truck. You can use these tuk tuks for short distance travels. You can also ride the more expensive taxis, for long distance travels around the island. Lastly, for island hopping, you can also try riding a long tail boat.
    3. Accommodation
    • Bangkok - There are over 800 hotels in Bangkok, not yet including the smaller home stays and guest houses. Thus, you have plenty of choices for accommodations here. You can go for higher end ones like the Sheraton Grand and Mandarin Oriental. Both hotels have room rates between ฿ 10,000 to ฿ 15,000 per night. Riverside hotels like the Riva Surya and Chatrium won't set you back more than ฿ 4,000 per night. And even with a budget of ฿ 2,000 below, you can still enjoy high end facilities at hotels like Avani Atrium and Centra Central Station. As you can see, Bangkok has a variety of hotels and even the lower priced ones won't compromise when it comes to the quality of services and facilities.
    • Phuket - There are over 700 accommodation options in Bangkok, including resorts and hotels. Whether you'd like to indulge in higher end ones like Trisara or Andara Resort, both have room rates of ฿ 40,000 and below, you can do so. Or you can opt for mid-range hotels like JW Marriott and Renaissance Resort & Spa, both have world class facilities at just under ฿ 6,000 per night. There are also budget options around Phuket with the likes of hotels like The Frutta Boutique and Tanawan Hotel, both are under ฿ 1,000 per night. Their proximity to the Patong Beach is also a good feature of these hotels. While the higher end hotels in Phuket are priced higher, you would find that the budget ones are very suitable even for backpackers or families.
    Trisara Resort in Phuket

    4. Attractions
    • Bangkok - Attractions around Bangkok range from religious sites, historical sites to even recreational sites. There are plenty of temples around the city but the best-rated ones are the Wat Pho and the Wat Phra Kaew. The Wat Pho is home to the famous Reclining Buddha statue, giving it its other name, the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. The Wat Phra Kaew is home to the Emerald Buddha, which can only be touched by the king of Thailand. Near the western bank of the Chao Phraya River is the Wat Arun, distinct because of its central tower with high spire. It sparkles during day light due to the use of seashells and porcelains as decors for its tower. The Grand Palace is an important historical attraction and landmark in the city. It used to be the home of the royal family and even now, it is the venue for special ceremonial events like coronations. Several museums also line the city, with the Museum of Contemporary Art and Siriraj Medical Museum being the top-rated ones. Places that a whole family can enjoy would be the Safari World or even the several parks around the city like Lumpini Park and King Rama IX Park.
    Lumpini Park in Bangkok
    • Phuket - Phuket also has a number of attractions to keep one busy. The Big Buddha in Nakkerd Hills is a must visit, not only for its religious significance but also because of its grandeur. The statue was built only through the donations given by locals. The Wat Phra Thong is popular because of the half-buried Buddha statue located here. It is believed that even trying to dig the Buddha statue out can lead to a cursed life. A walk across Old Phuket Town can give a little glimpse of the once thriving tin mining industry in the region. The assortment of Sino-Portuguese establishments here transport you into the bygone era. Several view points around Phuket give you a commanding view of the scenery around the city, the best ones are the Phromthep Cape and Karon View Point. For spotting wildlife, you can try the Tiger Kingdom and the Kok Chang Safari, the former has tigers while the latter has elephants in their premises.
    5. Activities
    • Bangkok - When in Bangkok, you cannot pass up the opportunity to take a cruise around the Chao Phraya River. It's best done during night time though, with the skyline of Bangkok twinkling along with the stars. During day time, indulge in a boat ride around the different floating markets in Bangkok. The Damnoen Saduak Floating Market and Taling Chan Floating Market are good options, the former is more crowded and touristy while the latter is less crowded but also has lesser boats in its vicinity. You cannot leave Bangkok without shopping as well and of course, the most famous place for that is none other than the Chatuchak Market. It can be a bit chaotic and crowded though so make sure to only shop here during the early morning or late afternoon. There are also numerous shows around Bangkok that you can indulge in, whether you're into Muay Thai, cultural performances or even the notorious ladyboy performances. Whatever you choose, you're bound to enjoy each one of them as they are a great example of the unique heritage of the city. For the younger generation, Bangkok is a happening place for partying and you can find many bars along the different corners of the city.
    • Phuket - Being mainly a beach destination, you can try out numerous water sports around the different beaches of Phuket. Mainly, Patong Beach has the most number of water sports ranging from jet skiing, banana boat riding, paragliding, surfing and boating. Islands away from Phuket are perfect for snorkelling and scuba diving. There's also Surf House, if the waves in the beaches of Phuket are not enough for you. Here you can indulge in surfing any time of the year as the waves are artificially created. Another must do in Phuket is to watch a show in the famous Phuket Fantasea theme park. The Elephant Palace Theatre is as elaborately designed as the show itself. There are also numerous islands that you can explore around Phuket, perfect for island hopping like Coral Island or the further away, Phi Phi Island.
    Elephant Palace Theatre of Phuket Fantasea (Image Courtesy of Aneuk Cipuga)

    6. Dining
    • Bangkok - Bangkok is a delight for the foodies as there are plenty of restaurants and street food stalls around the city. Whether you're craving for Thai cuisine or international cuisine, you can have it all in Bangkok. Higher end restaurants like the Le Normandie at Mandarin Oriental and the Dine in the Dark, offer European cuisines to guests. But of course, you cannot miss authentic Thai restaurants like Peeps, Rock Restaurant & Bar and Bo Lan. If you're very adventurous when it comes to food, try out the food stalls at Victory Monument or around China Town. For in between meals, you can try out cafes like the Old Town Cafe and Rocket Coffee Bar.
    • Phuket - Because of its proximity to the coast line, Phuket is home to some of the most delicious seafood dishes in the country. There are numerous seafood restaurants around Phuket with the best ones like Laem Hin and Sam Chong. But if you'd like to sample international dishes, don't worry because Phuket also has a number of multi-cuisine restaurants. There's The Corner Restaurant, serving German, Asian and European cuisines to guests. Their rates are very affordable too despite the delicious food they serve. For authentic Thai cuisine, you can try out the Pad Thai Shop, which serves the best Pad Thai in the city.
    7. Best Time to Visit
    • Bangkok - Bangkok is known as one of the hottest cities in the world. Thus, the best time to visit the city is during the colder months of November to February. Temperatures during these months range between 26°C to 32°C. It is the best season for sightseeing and even engaging in cultural activities. Yet it does have its fair share of downsides as the rates for hotels during this time are higher. The crowds are also more and so is the traffic around the city. The months of March to June are the hottest with temperatures between 30°C to 40°C. It's best to avoid Bangkok during this time if you're not used to sweating like crazy. The good feature of this season is that there are not much crowds so you have the city all to yourself plus hotels are cheaper. The last remaining months are the monsoon season. It's a good season for backpackers but the humidity and rainfall can lead to delays and postponements for your schedules.
    • Phuket - Just like Bangkok, Phuket is best visited during the colder months of November to January. Temperatures range between 26°C to 30°C during this time as well. The beaches are relatively calm during this time, perfect for swimming or doing water sports. Sightseeing is also best done during this season. However, tourists throng to the region during this time so crowds are rampant and as a result, hotel rates are definitely higher. The months of February to May are the hottest months, so they are not suitable especially for families with small children. You can still enjoy the beaches but only do so with sunscreen and during early morning or late afternoon. The last season, monsoon, from June to October, receive moderate to heavy rainfalls. Hotels have the cheapest rates during this season though so you can enjoy huge discounts.
    8. Beaches
    • Bangkok - Bangkok doesn't have its own beaches per se but it is located quite close to beach destinations. Noteworthy of which is Pattaya, just about 150 kilometres away from Bangkok. The beaches in Pattaya are not the best in Thailand but since it is located quite close to Bangkok, you could find many tourists here. The crowded Pattaya Beach is the main attraction while the Jomtien Beach is more serene. Both has a wide variety of water sports that you can indulge in. Another good beach destination is Koh Samet, about three hours away from Bangkok and another hour ferry ride away. It is a paradise island, with its white sands and clear turquoise waters.
    • Phuket - Phuket, on the other hand, is home to plenty of beaches. The most popular of which is the Patong Beach, also very much commercialised. It has plenty of accommodation options and restaurants around it though. The Kata Noi Beach is one of the most beautiful in Phuket though, with its white sands and clear waters. Bang Tao Beach is yet another good option, it is secluded and doesn't have much activities in it. It has shades of palm trees around which add to the picturesque beauty of the place. The nearest island to Phuket, Coral Island, is also a must visit. You can indulge in snorkelling and scuba diving here. Other islands further away from Phuket are Koh Yao Yai & Koh Yao Yi, Koh Racha Yai and Phi Phi Island.
    Coral Island (Image Courtesy of Phuket)

    So there you go, a detailed comparison of both destinations. Bangkok is the place to be for enjoying the unique culture of Thailand. It is the best option for people who enjoy sightseeing and can tolerate the heat and humidity, even the pollution, of a city. If you have the time, excursions out of Bangkok can lead you to some beach destinations but they take around three hours to reach.

    Phuket is the place to be for enjoying the scenic beauty of Thailand. It is home to some of the best beaches in Asia. Patong Beach is lively and active while other beaches like Kata Noi Beach and Bang Tao are more secluded and serene. Whether you'd like to laze around the palm trees or engage in water sports, you can do so in Phuket.

    Good luck!:)