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Phuket in a long weekend

If you're staying elsewhere in Thailand but can't resist the urge to take in active Phuket, here's a guide to how to spend three fun-filled days on the island. As well as being known for its party atmosphere in Patong, the large island has lots to do for anyone who wants to explore or just chill out.

Day one

Heading up to the Big Buddha site at Chalong is a good way of surveying all that you're going to explore over the coming three days.

The views east take in Chalong Bay, Phuket Town and Cape Panwa, and west across to Karon and Kata beaches. But there's also someone looking over your shoulder here as towering 45 metres above you is a giant white marble Buddha statue.

After all that walking, you might like to head to the nearest beach. Nai Harn Beach on the south coast is a kilometre-long strip of white sand that's calm but has a few little beach huts and restaurants ready to serve you. Or head up towards Patong and stop at Tri Tra beach for the afternoon either to sunbathe and get a beachside massage or hire jet-skis and sea kayaks.

Once you're suitably chilled, it's off to sample one of Phuket's cultural theme parks and shows that kick off come evening. At FantaSea, just north of Patong, you get a buffet dinner before watching the shows, which include a theatrical safari complete with tigers and Fantasy of a Kingdom Thai cultural show. Or there's the option of nearby Siam Niramit, which has similar shows and a traditional Thai village with floating market.

Day two

If you've been inspired by the Thai culture, today you have the chance to take in some of Phuket's Buddhist Wats – or temples – and Chinese Taoist shrines. There are around 30 of each on the island but we recommend going to Wat Chalong, which is an ornate temple with a red-roofed grand pagoda and an air-conditioned exhibition of waxwork abbots, antique Thai furniture and porcelain.

For the afternoon, head to Splash Jungle, the main waterpark of Phuket, that's themed around different continents. As well as floating along the 335-metre lazy river, there's a six-level wave pool and aqua play for the kids. Or up the excitement factor by spinning around the super bowl in a rubber ring and whizzing down the tube slides.

Now it's time to sample the best nightlife on the island in Patong. You can start your night off with an exuberant show at the Las Vegas-style Simon Cabaret Show, running three times each night. Then get on your feet and dance over at one of Patong's pumping clubs – just take a walk down Bangla Road and see where takes your fancy.

Day three

It's super-easy to hop on a boat to see the renowned beauty of the Phi Phi islands from most places in Phuket, but leaving from the southeast coast will give you the shortest journey. Recognisable from the film The Beach, the must-see Maya Beach on Ko Phi Phi Lay is nestled between towering rocks. We suggest leaving early as it's extremely popular.

Heading back to Phuket, it'd be rude not to make the most of the water. Watersports are available all over but the south-eastern beach of Nai Yang allows you to try something a little different. The beach is a prime spot for the fast-growing sport of kitesurfing as its shallow water and gentle breezes allow you get some good air time.

After a busy few days on Phuket, you might like to take it easy tonight in a chilled out bar. Phuket's old town houses quite a few, from music joints to sports bars. Quip Sky Bar is set in a historic Sino-Portuguese building and has a relaxed rooftop space with city views. As well as a full drinks menu, they also specialise in lobster, meaning you can try Pad Thai with a twist.

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