From LAX, connecting service (change of planes) to Phuket is available on Thai Airways, China Airlines and Malaysia Airlines. Restricted round-trip fares begin at $823.
To call the numbers below from the U.S., dial 011 (the international dialing code), 66 (country code for Thailand), 76 (code for Phuket) and the local number.
WHERE TO STAY:
JW Marriott Phuket Resort and Spa, 231 Moo 3, Mai Khao, Talang, Phuket, Thailand; 338-000, fax 348-379, www.marriott.com. This hotel, which opened in 2002, has two pools with stone elephants that spray water, a water slide and shallow sections for children, lush landscaping and an open-air lobby. Doubles from $150.
Sheraton Grande Laguna Phuket, 10 Moo 4, Srisoonthorn Road, Talang, Phuket, Thailand; 324-101, fax 324-108, www.sheraton.com. The hotel is on a lagoon, so its calm waters are handy for jet skis and boating. Large rooms have king beds, bamboo furnishings and Thai decorations. Doubles $120-$185.
Amari Coral Beach Resort, 104 Moo 4, Traitrang Beach, Talang, Phuket, Thailand; 340-106, fax 340-115, www.amari.com/coralbeach. A friend stayed here and loved the hotel and the service. It's on a secluded headland on Patong Beach. Doubles about $100-$200.
WHERE TO EAT:
Marriott's Sala Rim Talay, an open-air seafood restaurant on the beach. You choose your own seafood, displayed on ice or in tanks, and how you want it cooked. Entrees run $8-$17. My favorite appetizer, which I ordered nearly every day, was crispy duck spring rolls with a tangy, sweet-sour, slightly spicy dipping sauce with vinegar and chiles for $5.
Baan Rim Pa Restaurant, 100/7 Kalim Beach Road, Patong; 340-789. A hotel guest recommended this restaurant in Patong Beach because it overlooks the ocean from a rocky cliff and the food is gourmet Thai. Spicy beef salad, prawns with curry paste and any of the exotic soups were recommended. Entrees $7-$25.
Phuket Seafood, in Phuket Town. (Cabdrivers probably get a tip for taking foreigners here. There were many cabs in the parking lot and an abundance of tourists. No phone.) Restaurants outside hotels are cheap; the food everywhere was exotic, spicy and delicious. At Phuket Seafood we ordered steaming bowls of rich tom kha gai (chicken coconut soup) for $2 and fresh fish entrees for $4. Blended fruit drinks were 50 cents.
TO LEARN MORE:
Tourism Authority of Thailand, 611 N. Larchmont Blvd., 1st Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90004; (323) 461-9814, fax (323) 461-9834, www.tourismthailand.org.