The Phuket FantaSea: Is the Fantasy Real?
Built over three years on an area of 140 acres, or approximately 57 hectares, the Phuket FantaSea was, at the time of its official opening in 1999, the first Thai culture and tradition theme park in the world, having largely maintained that position since. The name of the 3.5 billion baht establishment is, in the words of its creators, a combination between “Fantasy” and “Sea”, due to the park’s aim of being “a sea of fantasy”.
Despite its opulent Las Vegas style which initially risked turning the entire venue into a kitschy tourist trap, the Phuket FantaSea has managed to stay away from the disputable taste of many cultural parks and, among the state-of-the-art technologies and pyrotechnics employed during representations, offer its guests a valuable lesson in Thailand’s myths, legends, history and traditions.
The main attractions such as battle re-enactments, stories from times gone by, singing and dancing gigs and magic shows in which elephants are made to disappear are complemented by the numerous restaurants, handicrafts and shopping venues scattered across the park, all of which suggest a promising evening experience for anyone wishing to visit it between its opening hours of 17:30 and 23:30. The “Fantasy of a Kingdom” extravaganza, the 3,000-seat “Palace of the Elephants” theatre, the Viva Bangkok stage theatre, the Carnival shopping village and the 4,000-seat Golden Kinnaree Buffet Restaurant are only a few of the attractions that can be visited, with guests having the opportunity to embark on activities such as elephant riding and feeding, tiger and carp viewing and feeding, carnival games, Thai costume rental and photography, street shows, and cultural parades, or enjoy food and drink either at the buffet restaurant – if the ticket includes a meal (see the end for details on ticket prices) – or at the numerous other diners or bars across the park.
What to Do before the Show
As already stated, the theme park opens its gates at 17:30, with the buffet dinner commencing at 18:00 and the show starting at 21:00, although special evenings also have shows going on at 19:00 and 17:00. Transport to the venue can be either personal – there is a 20-minute drive from Patong and a 40-minute drive from Kata and Karon beaches – or via the park’s own transportation service, which operates between any hotel in Phuket and FantaSea at a cost of 300 baht per person for a round-trip for anyone aged above four.
After arriving, visitors can take a tour of the venue, as most of the shopping stalls are closed until about one and a half hours before the main representation, enjoying the carnival games, elephant rides and alternative restaurants, all serving Thai and international food. Most of the food stalls and souvenir shops are strategically placed around the main theatre and in the highly frequented areas, in order to tempt tourists to spend more than just the entrance fees during their visit, a tactic often employed by similar establishments. However, should anyone become lost, there are numerous employees waiting to point tourists in the right way.
The Main Show
Starting at 21:00, the main show lasts for about 75 minutes, ending around 22:15. The theatre opens 30 minutes prior to the start of the representation and guests are advised to arrive 20 minutes before the show in order to avoid missing anything due to the queues.
Filming or taking photos inside the theatre is forbidden, but cameras can be left behind at one of the checkpoints in the hallways and picked up once everything ends. The main attraction includes singing, dancing, pyrotechnics, smoke and flashing lights, as well as elephants performing various tricks, which represent the main reason behind most people attending.
Although the spectacular nature of the show is universally recognised, this part of the evening may be found exceedingly flashy and taking away part of the cultural appeal by resorting to Broadway-style effects and representations, or even inappropriate to small children, who may become either frightened by the loud and frequent noises or bored by the length.
How to End the Night
The park remains open for a further 75 minutes after the main show, until 23:30, making this the perfect time to shop for gifts, souvenirs and anything else one may be interested in at the shops which are now all open.
It is also a very good time to just wander around the park again and admire its unusual and highly extravagant, yet traditional style lit up by the many thousands of coloured lights placed on its buildings and streets. Some dining places and bars are also still open, for anyone wishing to have a final snack or drink before returning home – again either by personal means or via the park’s hotel links.
Is It Worth The Time?
Although reviews about the park are generally positive, there are also many sceptics doubting its value for money and actual cultural merit. Some find the food excellent, others find it exceedingly spicy and believe it represents a means to make visitors buy overpriced beverages, which may reach prices four times as high as outside shops. Additionally, there are some who question the appropriateness of the Las Vegas opulence and coloured lights in the context of its aim, as well as parents considering it too loud or too boring for their children – although not dangerous or insulting in any fashion. However, there is almost universal consensus that, despite all of its apparent setbacks, the park is definitely worth at least one visit, being the tackiest, most obvious tourist attraction in Phuket. That way, everyone can form their own opinion and decide whether it will be worth another shot in the future.
What: The Phuket FantaSea
When: Friday to Wednesday, 17:30-23:30. Closed on Thursdays.
Where: Phuket FantaSea
99 M3 Kamala Beach, Kathu, Phuket 83150
Adults: 1,900 baht show and buffet dinner; 1,500 baht show only; 800 baht dinner only.
Children 4-12 years old: 1,700 baht show and buffet dinner; 1,500 baht show only; 600 baht dinner only.
Children below 4 years old and 1 meter height are admitted free of charge, but are not offered seats.
Tel: (076) 385-111
Fax: (076) 385-222
E- mail: firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com