The Phuket Beach Clean-Up is the test-phase of a vast anti-corruption project planned to be applied later on to the entire country by the military who took power in May 2014. This project aims at giving back public land to the people by removing all private businesses that illegally built bars, restaurants, and any commercial activity right on the beach. According to the Building Control Act, no building is allowed up to 10 meters from the beach.
The project started right after army’s seizing of power, and the Phuket Beach Clean-Up did not take long to show results. As the project is still going on, this page will be steadily updated in a way to give you information as accurate as possible about what is happening (or already has happened) to the favourite beaches of Phuket and the venues they used to feature - or in some cases, still do. Buddhism says that nothing’s permanent; get ready to see Phuket beaches (almost) as they were 20 years ago.
The heart of Phuket’s tourism industry has been thoroughly 'cleaned' and not longer hosts the invading five rows of beach-chairs and umbrellas. All solid structures – bars, restaurants, boutiques – that used to stand on the beachfront have also been removed.
Nobody has yet talked about the three famous restaurants built on the rocks between Patong and Kalim, but White Box Restaurant, located at the northern end of Kalim Beach, has already been visited by officials. Only time will tell if this popular restaurant will be removed or not.
As for today, Karon Beach only had all the small beach bars, sun-loungers and umbrellas removed. Karon went through a clean-up ordered by the municipality in 2011, therefore the actual project had not much left to do.
The two restaurants - Ruen Thep Seafood and Beyond Resort’s – located toward the southern end of the beach are still operating.
Kata is one of the most popular beaches on Phuket’s west coast and here too, all sun-loungers that used to occupy five rows on the southern part of the beach have been removed. The few small beach bars settled all along the beach are also gone.
At the southern end of the beach, most of the cool Ska Bar - the part built on the rocks under the huge Banyan tree - has totally been removed; nothing but its front signboard and cement staircase remain of it.
In the same vein as all the other beaches of Phuket, Bangtao has been cleared of beach chairs all along its (approximate) seven kilometres length. The southern part retains its local feel, with long-tail boats moored along the beach. The restaurants and bars are still operating in this area – including the cool Blue Siam and Bliss beach clubs – due to their location off the beach limit.
The central part of the beach has seen the disappearance of all solidly-built restaurants and shops, including the popular, long-established Lotus Restaurant. The northern area of Bantao Beach – from Xana to Nikki beach clubs – has been completely cleared of all beach bars and restaurants. A few of them are still operating in temporary settlements – Beach Bar 2 for instance – yet in a very precarious way.
Surin is certainly the beach that has suffered most so far in the Phuket Beach Clean-up 2014. It was also the busiest one for beach clubbing and dining with your toes in the sand. All of the restaurants’ and beach clubs’ wooden decks have been removed from the beachfront under the trees.
Most restaurants and beach clubs – Catch, Bimi, Salt on Surin, Pla Beach & Restaurant, Taste and more – are still opened on the right-hand side of the beach road. One beach club completely closed down – Diamond Beach Club – and has been replaced with a new restaurant named Pradab. At the northern end of the beach, the latest addition to Phuket’s beach club scene – Zazada – offers a stylish way to enjoy sun-loungers on its terrace – with swimming pool – overlooking the beach.
Kamala Beach went through a serious clean-up, mostly in its northern part, making it even more attractive. The southern area of the beach – from Wat Kamala to the school - was already spared from commercial activities and only hosted the few long-tail boats belonging to local fishermen, so this area has not been modified at all.
The central and northern parts of the beach have been cleared off all sun loungers and umbrellas, yet all bars, restaurants, massage parlours, and beachwear shops located on the right-hand side of the beach path are still operating. A two-metre high fence blocks the direct access to the northern end of the beach from the main road. It nevertheless can be reached by following the beach path on foot.
Laem Singh Beach
Laem Singh Beach has seen all (or most of) the solid structures of the restaurants removed. Only a few concrete terraces remain (maybe it would have been too much work to get a rid of them). Beach chairs and umbrellas no longer exist here either, giving people frequenting Laem Singh a taste of what it looked like 20 years ago.
Despite all these changes, it is – fortunately – still possible to eat, drink or enjoy a beach massage at Laem Singh Beach. A few restaurants (including the famous Da Ali Restaurant), bars, and massage parlours are now settled at the foot of the cliff, under the shade of the tall pine trees fringing the beach. More good news for visitors is that the parking on the side of the coastal road is now free. A small stall selling cold drinks and gasoline (‘gas so lin’ according to their signboard) is still installed at the top of the stairs.
Nai Harn Beach
This popular beach of Phuket also went through a serious clean-up: all the restaurants and restaurant decks that used to be installed in the shade of the trees on the beachfront have been removed.
A dozen tiny restaurants are still open in the area between the trees and the backside of Rawai Temple and a sea view is still available while you lunch or dine.
Kata Noi is a small and charming beach occupied on mostly half of its length by the long-established Katathani Phuket Beach Resort.
The few bamboo and thatch beach bars and boutiques as well as all beach-loungers have been taken away.
Rawai remains exactly the same as it used to be. This rather quiet beach does not host any illegal-considered businesses so far. The popular Nikita’s restaurant to one side of the beach and the cool Baan Haad Rawai Restaurant to the other side are still open, yet the latter had to clear out its platforms & salas set up on the beach side of the little road.
Nai Yang Beach
The southern end of Nai Yang did not change that much at first sight. A few restaurant and bar terraces have been wiped out, the sun-loungers have been taken off, and a strict border has been set by the authorities to define the beach limit, yet most businesses (dive centres, shops, and others) are still operating as usual. The picturesque Thai and seafood restaurants originally installed under the trees – not far from the entrance of the national park – no longer exist.
The northern part of Nai Yang (towards and in front of Phuket International Airport) was not and is still not developed due to the fact it belongs to Sirinat National Park.
Naithon has always been a rather quiet beach and was not drastically perturbed by the Phuket Beach Cleanup 2014. Of course, here too, all sunbeds have been removed, yet the beach is still as attractive as it used to be due to the large plot of land covered with pine trees featured between the road and the beach.
Visitors can find a great choice of street food, fruits, drinks, and beachwear in small stalls installed all along the beach road before going to lie under the shade of the trees. On the opposite side of the beach road, restaurants and miscellaneous stores await potential customers. Naithon is indeed a great place to enjoy a day at the beach.
Mai Khao Beach
In Phuket, the further you go to the north, the less it is developed. Mai Khao is the longest beach of Phuket and, apart from a few opulent world-class resorts such JW Marriott, Holiday Inn, or Renaissance, the beach is mostly virgin of any small private businesses.
Phuket Beach Clean-up nevertheless saw a few local beach restaurants removed or simply deprived of their parts too obviously settled on the beach itself; for instance, the few local seafood restaurants located under the trees right before you reach Sarasin Bridge have been totally removed.
Ao Sane is a small beach accessible by passing through The Royal Phuket Yacht Club at the western end of Nai Harn. The restaurants and guesthouses set on the beachfront are still operating.
The owners of these relaxed venues told us that they have not (yet) been approached by the military concerning the legality of their venues.
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