Getting there There are two ways to get to Phuket, you can either fly direct with Thai Airways ( www.thaiair.com ) or via Bangkok with Dragonair ( www.dragonair.com ). Accommodation The Sheraton Grande Laguna Phuket is one of five hotels in the Laguna Resort and guests there can use the facilities in all of them. There's a complimentary shuttle bus between them and we were able to enjoy massages and treatments at the Banyan Tree Spa and play at the Banyan Tree Golf Club. The staff were friendly and the standard of service and facilities available were faultless. We didn't want to leave (Bang Tao Bay, Phuket, 83110. Tel:  76 324 101; sheraton.phuket.com). There are many resorts and hotels in Phuket and your experience will very much depend on where you decide to stay. The first time I went, I stayed at the Kata Beach Resort on Kata Beach and although the beach was nice the resort was not. Not only were the staff unfriendly, the level of service was poor and the rooms were dirty and ridden with mosquitoes. However, staying on Kata Beach was cheap - you can eat out for less than 300 baht (HK$56). Activities The Phi Phi Islands are gorgeous. Phi Phi Don and the smaller Phi Phi Le to the south are easily reached by boat from Phuket Town or Chalong. Unfortunately, hundreds of other tourists think so too and crowd this tiny place to snorkel in the clear waters, explore the reefs and caves or just lie around soaking up the sun. It's a whole-day outing, easily arranged by most hotel staff or local tourist agencies. Costs vary considerably depending on the type of craft and the activities included. Phang Nga Bay, with the (in)famous James Bond Island which starred in The Man With The Golden Gun, is breathtaking. The area is dotted with dozens of huge, uniquely shaped limestone islands with ragged, jutting cliffs, rising from the impossibly blue waters. The best approach is to board a junk (run by East West Siam; tel:  76 340 912, www.east-west.com ) and sail through the islands at a leisurely pace, and explore the cliffs and sea caves at close range in easy-to-manage canoes. A buffet lunch is served on-board the junk but picnic hampers can be arranged if maximum island and cave exploration is the agenda. Prices for tours to the outlying islands (such as Phi Phi) vary wildly, particularly between hotel tour desks and the kiosks lining the street. Be sure to compare sailing vessels and journey times carefully, and check whether extras such as snorkelling gear are included in the cost. I found the in-town independent kiosks more reliable and better value than the ones in hotels serving the captive tourist market. For a different holiday and maybe even a career-enhancing or changing experience, try one of the 'Learning Vacation' programmes operated by Creative Phuket. The staff have come up with several courses including Thai massage, cooking and dance (tel:  1892 2419; www.phuket.net ). Most casual travellers stay in or near Patong Beach but it's worth spending at least one morning or afternoon in Phuket Town, specifically wandering through the market. Taking a bus from Patong to Phuket is easy - just get on and take it to the end of the line, in either direction ( www.phuket-town.com ). Shopping Canal Village in the middle of the Laguna Resort ( www.lagunaphuket.com/shopping/canal_village.htm ) provides a shaded shopping environment where you can exchange foreign currency at local bank rates, book tours, purchase the forgotten pair of flip-flops or basic toiletries and even have a suit made. Prices are on the high side but then convenience does come with a price tag. Skip the usual Thai arts and crafts, silk and leather goods as they cost a lot more in Phuket than elsewhere in Thailand. Instead, check out the cashew nuts, a real bargain even at retail prices. The factories and sales rooms such as Methee Cashew Nut Factory in Phuket Town (9/1-2 Tilok Uthit 2 Road, A Muang. Tel:  76 219 622) and Sri Supphaluck (51/9 Moo 5 Thep-Kasattri Road, T. Sri Soonthorn, A Talang. Tel:  76 272 915) offer everything from sweet to curried cashews that can be packed in a variety of ways to suit the visitor. Although retail cashews can be found elsewhere, the factories offer the added bonus of a brief but informative tour and explanation of the life of the not-so-humble cashew and the extraction process. The tourist-funded 'wholesale outlets' for cashews can be terrible rip-offs. Compare prices and weights first and consider how important it is that the cashews all be in one piece. As with the rest of Thailand, pharmacies in Phuket sell many medications that are available 'by prescription only' in other countries. Assuming you go to a reputable outlet, such as Boots, the medicine will not be counterfeit and will always be cheaper than anywhere outside Thailand. Dining I highly recommend two restaurants in Phuket that are also the most romantic on the island. The Boathouse opens out on to Kata Beach with breathtaking views at sunset and serves European fare (tel:  76 330 015; www.theboathousephuket.com ). Baan Rim Pa serves traditional Thai cuisine perched above the north end of Patong Beach with views all the way to Kalim Bay (100/7 Kalim Beach Road, Patong. Tel:  76 340 789; www.baanrimpa.com ). Both restaurants have their own distinct character, but you won't go wrong with either if you're looking for somewhere to propose or just a romantic venue. Do make reservations in advance, however, as both restaurants are popular. Nightlife The Simon Cabaret transvestite extravaganza is good. The VIP ticket is only 100 to 150 baht more expensive than a normal ticket, but includes transport and much better seating, so is worth the extra money. Best to book at least a day in advance although tour operators can call at the last minute and pretend to get a 'special favour' from a friend (at the cost of an extra tip) in order to secure a booking. Alternatively, it's easy to go to the theatre and book directly at the ticket office (8 Sirirach Road, Patong Beach. www.phuket-simoncabaret.com . Tel:  76 342 011).