Phuket is a frequent tropical holiday destination with its plethora of beaches, resorts, and easy international access from Europe and Australia. In recent years it’s also become a beloved training destination for endurance athletes of the swim, bike, and run persuasion. It’s been the site of many an MX Endurance training camp, so we’re kicking off our City Guide series with it!
If you’re planning a training getaway at this island paradise, here are some tips from MX Endurance member Lucy Richardson who has made Phuket her home away from home for quite a number of winters.
Be prepared for hot and humid all year round. Winter for the Northern Hemisphere is the best time (late October to March) which sees less to no rain and slightly cooler temperatures, but this is also peak season so it is busier and prices are higher. Humidity and rain can really ramp up in summer time from June to August, but it is a lot quieter and cheaper.
Transport and Getting Around
Phuket is quite a large island; getting to parts of it (like the infamous Patong Beach) can take over an hour from the airport!
Renting a car is easy and cheap and can give you access to other parts of the island for great swimming off beaches, exploring, etc. Driving can be a little crazy there, so it can take some getting used to.
A lot of people rent scooters/motorbikes as that is the way most locals get around; this is perfect if you are staying local and have had experience on a motorcycle, but too many people think it's easy and then end up bandaged up a day later with road rash (the locals call it “the Thailand tattoo”) so please think carefully about that.
Waze and Google Maps are great resources for finding the best (and alternative) routes to arrive at your destination. As Phuket has become more built up, the roads can get congested during peak hours.
Location and Training
If you want good facilities, people to train with, food and accommodation close together, and a triathlon community, the best location is Cherngtalay, near the beaches of Bangtao, Surin, and Layan. It is where the Laguna group of resorts are located, as well as commercial/residential development Boat Avenue. The international airport is about 20 minutes from the area with good connections.
This is where Z Coaching (and coach Jurgen Zack) have set up their base. Z Coaching has twice-daily sessions you can drop in and out of, caters for all abilities and is very good if you want to train with others especially if you do not know the area.
In Cherngtalay itself there is a great pool at the sports centre (and very cheap), a field running track at the school, beautiful beaches for open water swimming, perfect roads for cycle training, and good areas on- and off- road for running.
It’s also not far from Thanyapura Resort where there is a huge complex with amazing training facilities -- but these will come at more of a cost and are more remote. Thanyapura does have a hotel attached to it with packages for health and wellbeing as well as sport, or you can simply purchase daily/monthly membership to access the facilities.
A new development that has opened, Blue Tree has a huge swimming lagoon where an open water-style swim session is held. You can then stay for the day and play on the slides, do SUP boarding, relax on their ‘beach’ and eat in the restaurants there. It also has running and exercise trails around the site in the rubber plantations free to use (just watch out for stray dogs!).
Training is very, very safe even if you want to do it alone (Lucy’s note: as a woman this is the one place I never have to worry about solo training). Cycling is good, but you do have to go on a busy main road if you want to get to some of the best cycling routes. It’s best to have some experience riding on Thai roads before you do this solo, as rules can be very different there with the lanes for bikes/motorbikes. Once you have ridden on the roads and familiarised yourself with them it is extremely safe to do so alone.
Running is great in this area. It is quiet and beautiful and there are lots of flat areas to do loops of next to the beach and resort areas. Also nearby is a dam area which has a wonderful rolling road around it and is good for hill training, also some trail running at different spots -- but those I would recommend going with a local!
Food and Accommodation
There’s a wide variety and price range for food. From market stalls costing next to nothing to luxury dining at a resort, there is a mix of everything so everyone is happy. There is a great Friday night market with food, live music and stalls for shopping.
If you’re inclined to do some cooking, you can get to a number of well-stocked groceries where you can find anything you need.
It is also the same variety for accommodation. There are a lot of long-stay apartments available, and it is becoming known as a sports training destination so you can get great deals on monthly stays. There are also many 5-star resorts (the aforementioned Laguna Phuket area has the Banyan Tree, Dusit Thani, and Outrigger resorts) if you are mixing a holiday with the family in with your training.
The famous Laguna Phuket Triathlon is big for racing; it also has other events around it and is a good weekend of fun. There are other running races staged in the area at different times of the year too (the Laguna Phuket Marathon is usually held in June), as well as cycling events and Oceanman swim events. There is always something going on!
Note: Phuket is set to accept vaccinated tourists without need for quarantine from 1 July 2021. With COVID-19 restrictions in flux around the world, please refer to the most recent Tourism Authority of Thailand advisories to help plan your trip.