The Simon Cabaret show theatre in Patong this is real live show time and the flash and flesh are pure Vegas except for one thing – the 'girls' on stage are actually men. Since 1991 Simon Cabaret has been entertaining visitors with its mélange of camp, glitter and cornball and it still is one of the island's biggest draws.
Simon is all about clever choreography and fabulous costumes, rapid set changes and superb background sets. Some of the performers have been working the boards here for years but that doesn't take anything away from the show.
The transgender and transvestite entertainers are remarkably skilled and half of the fun at Simon is to glance around at the audience's entranced faces as they take the spectacle in.
Still, halfway through the second number – a Supremes sound alike – there's a Janet Jackson moment as 'Diana Ross' jerks her head back and almost loses her wig.
Whether it is intentionally done or not doesn't seem to matter much – it's fun anyway. It all seems so effortless but about five numbers into the show the truth suddenly dawns that Simon caters to almost everyone. There are songs in Thai, English, Japanese and Korean
This is not a sex show and the children peppered throughout the audience attest to that fact. You'll have to go to the Paradise Complex in Patong for transgender onstage titillation – no, Simon's dazzling set changes and brilliant colours are entertainment enough and reach out to the multicultural audience of all ages in the cleverest way possible.
The comic relief segment is slightly predictable but is well appreciated nonetheless and 'Tina Turner' (surely every transvestite's dream celebrity to spoof) packs a punch, getting the audience going. With top of-the-range, lighting, sound system, costumes, choreography and facilities, Simon Cabaret deserves its high place in Phuket's must-see list. After the 70-minute show the performers pose outside with members of the audience for a fee.
Phuket FantaSea is the island's biggest show. With trapeze artists, a cast of hundreds, performing elephants and other animals and an exotic storyline that blends tradition with fantasy you'll have a wonderful evening out here. But the extravaganza doesn't stop there as FantaSea also hosts one of the biggest buffets in Asia and is set in a theme park that offers carnival-like games, lots of shopping opportunities, a Palace of the Elephants, a Similan Adventure Centre several other food oulets. It's spectacular, it's extravagent, it's impressive and great entertainment value for all.
With building designs that are occasionally wacky, over-the-top costumes, and elephants milling about, Phuket FantaSea has all the subtlety of a mouthful of Thai chillies. But it can’t be avoided; everyone should go once.
Phuket FantaSea bills itself as “the ultimate cultural theme park”, and it’s tough to come up with a better description. The evening peaks with a stage show, but that’s not the only excitement. There’s a village with an assortment of shopping choices – from t-shirts to beachwear to jewellery – as well as carnival games, elephant rides, and restaurants. Everything is big, bright, ornate, and made to impress.
Operations at Phuket FantaSea are slick. Should you let them (and you should), they’ll make sure you’re picked up, fed, entertained, and returned safely to your hotel – all without missing a beat. Transitions from Point A to Point B to Point Care seamless, and there’s always plenty of staff around to keep you heading in the right direction. The size of this well-oiled machine is astounding, and makes its flawless execution that much more impressive.
The Golden Kinnaree Buffet Restaurant is a perfect example of the park’s grand scale. It cavernous hall seats 4,000 hungry diners, and does so effortlessly. Two long buffet counters serve a mix of Thai and international food, while a changing selection of special dishes get their own kiosks at the front of the room. Wrap up the meal with coffee and a plate of scrumptious bite-sized desserts.
The Golden Kinnaree’s golden exterior, with an intricate peaked Thai-style roof and several statues, is a favourite backdrop for an untold number of pictures annually. But it’s not the only photo op. The Palace of the Elephants, a theatre made to look like a majestic, centuries-old palace – think Angkor Wat – is even more impressive. The luxury boutique is clad in shimmering mirrors and brilliant whites. However, nothing causes shutters to click like the koi pond at the park’s entrance, where a writhing mass of orange, yellow, and white battle for food (available for purchase).
There’s no shortage of ways to pass the time before the show starts. Jump aboard an elephant for a trip around the Songbird Luminarie. Head to Similan Adventure Center, a sea-themed arcade full of games the kids are sure to love. Watch the bartender spin, flip, and toss bottles while dancing a techno-jig at the open-air bar. Shop for that perfect memento; there’s a store (or stall) for every taste and budget. Or visit the photo studio and dress the family in traditional Thai costumes for a unique keepsake.
The theatre opens at 20:30 and guests start filing through security. Cameras aren’t allowed inside, and they take it very seriously. Video cameras, digital cameras, camera phones – basically, everything short of pen and paper that can create an image – must be checked in. The process is quick and painless, and two minutes later you’re in a large hall full of costumed staff, baby elephants, and young tigers, all of which will pose for a photograph with you – for a fee.
The show kicks off in grand style at 21:00. The stage is huge, but the performance space is even bigger. Aisles, ceiling, audience – every part of the theatre is used. While the eye is treated to modern effects like smoke, explosions, lasers, rain, soaring people, the brain gets insights into Thai culture in the form of traditional dances from different regions of the country, shadow puppets, and a fascinating wardrobe. It’s not tough to believe elephants can become accomplished actors, but this show also employs goats, roosters, water buffalo, and doves in supporting roles.
The story isn’t easy to follow, and it doesn’t matter. Loud and funny moments interrupted by quiet, beautiful interludes do a great job conveying the emotion. The end result is a display that’s as dazzling as the sights outside the theatre. Young children, old children, and adult children all enjoy the show.
Siam Niramit Phuket
Siam Niramit Phuket is a tastefully done cultural extravaganza that adds variety and vitality to the island’s entertainment scene. Perfectly located just off the By-Pass Road in the outskirts of Phuket Town, it is set in prime lakeside land. The show features songs, dance routines and traditional martial arts.
Just like its sister theatre in Siam Niramit Bangkok, the Phuket show is very well put together by a professional and inspiring team; just sit back, relax and enjoy the historical perspectives of Thai arts and culture throughout this fantastic 70-minute performance.
The show runs without intermission and is divided into three acts that are equally entertaining. International audiences might want to pay close attention to Act II which presents how Thais conceive the concept of heaven and hell. While heaven is so beautiful with divas and angels (literally) flying around, hell is quite scary indeed. Imagine drinkers forced to imbibe from a cauldron of boiling water and adulterers compelled to climb horribly spiky thorn trees!
The stage setup and special effects alone are spectacular and very realistic with amazing costumes and, as one reviewer puts it, “It was great to watch and enjoy, and it was also very educational.” Siam Niramit definitely has what it takes to become another successful and must-see show in Phuket.
Though the show starts at 20:30, it’s best to arrive early to enjoy the surrounding attractions and facilities. What not to miss here is the walk around the grounds where you’ll find traditional Thai-style houses, a floating market, souvenir shops and open-air performances. Kids (and everyone else) will enjoy feeding a pair of friendly elephants and the carnival-style games (where you can win stuffed animals.) The cost of a fruit or vegetable basket for the elephants, as well as the games, is minimal.
Food is also available from 18.00 to 20.15. Sit at the restaurant’s third floor to enjoy the impressive view of the lake and landscaping. Guests can conveniently view the open-air performances while dining from the balcony, too.
This venue is fit for viewers of all ages and is wheelchair-user friendly. Guests deposit their cameras before entering the theatre gate as they are not allowed inside but are very much encouraged to use them in the other parts of the grounds.
Siam Niramit Phuket invested about 2.5 billion baht in land, construction, special effects and recruitment. Its stage is certified by Guinness World Records as the highest in the world.