Mai Khao Beach is the famous plane spotter beach on Phuket. The beach is right at the threshold of runway 09, so when the wind is right, you’ll have the planes flying right above your head for landing.
The runway numbers are based on the direction of the runway. You just add a 0 at the end to get the direction on a 360° scale. Each runway is therefore assigned two numbers, depending on which direction you’re approaching from. In Phuket, when approaching from east, you are using runway 27, while if you’re approaching from west, it’s runway 09.
During the summer and early fall, Phuket primarily has the wind coming from west, and because airplanes take off and land into the wind (or with a crosswind), runway 27 is the predominant runway at this time of the year. During the winter, the winds are mostly from the north, and runway 09 is in use, so this is the time to go and snap those awesome photos, with low-passing airplanes about to land. Of course there can be day-to-day variations, and sometimes, the wind is so calm that both runways can be used.
The day we visited Mai Khao Beach, there was a strong wind from the west, so the planes were departing in the direction away from the shore. Because the planes usually only use a smaller stretch of the runway to take off, they’ll be airborne long before they reach the end and thus, at a higher altitude at the threshold. The departure photos from Mai Khao Beach therefore aren’t as up, close and personal, as when the airplanes are coming in to land. This explains why the planes in the photos we clicked seem so small:)
Mai Khao Beach is a very nice place, and it’s a popular spot for locals to go and enjoy the sunset and watch the planes. The beach is beautiful, but as is sadly the case for a lot of beaches in Thailand, there’s litter all over the place, so you have to be careful not to hurt your feet. We took a taxi from our hotel, but if you’re staying in Nai Yang, it’s also possible to walk along the beach to get there.