Life according to Batfish
Living in Phuket since 1999
Ooh! India, USA, Canda, Mexico, Central America, South America, half of Europe, about 15 countries in Africa from Morocco to South Africa...
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Abduls Roti Shop in Old Phuket Town
Published 4:04 am, 4 Mar 2014
I've been meaning to blog about this place for some time, and there's a lot more on the "things to blog when I have time" list. Abdul's roti shop is a bit of a Phuket legend, located on Thalang Road in the old town and it's been there, I don't know, forever I suppose. The eastern end of Thalang Road just to the west of the junction with Phuket Road has lots of Muslim shops, mostly selling fabrics and clothes - there are at least half a dozen of the fabric shops - see photo below. There are also 2 restaurants which sell roti with curry, and if you ask me this is a "must eat" if you are in town. The 2 restaurants are only a couple of doors from each other. I've eaten at Abdul's several times before. The photo below was taken in January 2012 during the Old Town Festival.
Thalang Road for me is the heart of the "real" Phuket. Lots of history, lots of old shops and family businesses, and plenty of pride shown by the local people. I am glad to see more of the old town getting restored, especially with the removal of overhead cables... every year another section of town is made cable-free. I also love the mix of people, culture and religion in Phuket, in Phuket Town and if you want to see this all on the same street, have a look at Thalang Road. On one small road are Thai-Chinese people, Muslim people, a small Chinese shrine, a Christian Assembly... I hate to get all "flower power" but here everyone seems to get along just fine no matter what they believe, no matter what they wear or what they look like. I have mentioned it before, but to repeat - many visitors to Phuket don't know that Phuket is about 30% Muslim. The belief is that Thailand is a Buddhist country. I like the mixture. And without the Muslims, we'd not have the roti shops! I tend to think about food before religion...
So, with the Phuket blog in mind, I headed to Old Phuket Town to try some traditional roti for breakfast. The idea was to try both of the roti shops, but the other was closed, only Abdul's was open (though there was no sign of Abdul himself). A sign on the wall says Roti made by Abdul 74 Years Old 7th Generation. You can get Roti with chicken, beef or fish. Don't ask for pork. Or a beer! I asked for roti with masaman chicken curry.
The roti are cooked at the front of the shop right by the street, a lump of dough is bashed, flattened, folded, flattened again, shown no mercy and put on an oiled hotplate. And then when it's slightly crispy, it's slapped about to break it up, ready to eat...
My bowl of Masaman curry with a leg of chicken came first ... and a wait of a few minutes for a freshly cooked roti. Anyone disagree? This looks GOOD!
I am not sure how one is "supposed" to eat this. Is there a traditional technique? I spooned up curry and pieces of tender chicken onto the roti. Very tasty, fairly spicy. I could have eaten another one, this is good eating! I feel an addiction coming on. Going to be back here on my next day off! As with many little shops and restaurants in Thailand you get the feeling you're in someone's house ... that's because you are! Family come and go, grandma comes out to say hello, I often see into shops after closing time, and the restaurant is now the living room. Just behind my table a young boy was watching TV ...
The roti with curry was good, but I also wanted some dessert - a nice plain roti with condensed milk. Same kind of roti you get with the curry but this one is sweet!
Roti with curry plus the sweet roti and 2 iced coffees. 105 Baht. Did I hear someone say "Phuket is expensive"? Phuket can be expensive if you want. I just saw a post from someone on Facebook showing a frankly very ordinary burger at the very plush "Joe's Downstairs" restaurant in Patong. Price for the burger with some equally ordinary looking fries : 705 Baht. Unreal. Phuket is like that. You can spend as much as you want, please don't complain that Phuket is expensive. Not the real Phuket. After eating, back on Thalang Road I noticed that the roti shop is right next door to a fabric shop. Thalang Road is a gem, hope it remains that way.
Abdul's Roti Shop - Thalang Road - Location Map
View Abdul's Roti Shop on Thalang Road in a larger map
Holidays in Khao Lak
Published 1:31 am, 4 Mar 2014
Khao Lak seems to still be relatively unknown. Everyone has heard of Phuket, but Khao Lak still remains very quiet and I am surprised how often visitors to Phuket have not heard of it. Khao Lak was hardly there 15 years ago and was really just getting to be an important destination in 2004 when the tsunami caused massive damage in the area. Many think of Khao Lak as an extension to Phuket as the main entry point is Phuket airport, but Khao Lak is actually in Phang Nga province and over the years has tried to find it's own identity with nice beaches and a mix of resorts and smaller lower budget bungalow operations, stretched out along about 20km of coastline with the southern end of Khao Lak being about 70-75km from Phuket airport. From our house near Phuket Town, it's less than 2 hours easy drive up the main road, past the airport, over the bridge and about another 60km from there directly North. I had always thought of Khao Lak as having little interest and had not really thought of staying there until earlier this year. There were a few trips we wanted to do and places to visit in the Khao Lak area so we booked a couple of nights, plus a night at Khao Sok National Park, which is about an hours drive from Khao Lak. A week later we had another 2 nights and we've been again recently.
First thing to sort out .... a hotel! I normally use and recommend Agoda (see link above) and I spent some time looking at hotels in Khao Lak, identified a few at the right price, then contacted a friend who lives in Khao Lak to get a local opinion. He then recommended a totally different hotel that can't be booked on the major online booking sites - Nangthong Bay Resort - we called them, cheekily asked for low season rate although it was still April. They agreed, so we booked - a family room with 2 bedrooms at 1500 Baht per night. And when we arrived, we liked it right away. Took the kids just a few minutes to find the pool ...
We were into relaxation mode in no time at all! This hotel, like many in Khao Lak, is right by the beach. And even those not right by the beach are normally maximum 10 minutes walk away. Khao Lak is essentially a series of small built-up areas along the main road, with side roads down to the beach. In the past we have drive through and thought "is that it?" .. and in a way that is true - there's not much in Khao Lak save for hotels, restaurants (and not an enormous choice of them, especially in low season), dive shops (which also mostly close down in low season since the main destination, the Similan Islands, is closed), tour agents and shops. It's quiet, and that's nice for a couple of days! We ended up heading back the next week for another couple of nights.
(above) The beach close to Nangthong Bay Resort - kids playing and I am taking photos from my seat at the bar :)
So, what did we get up to during our little holidays in Khao Lak? Apart from just splashing in the pool, walking on the beach, hunting for shells and enjoying sunset beers at the hotel - is there time for other things?! Yes, of course and I have actually blogged about what we have done already, but this blog post ties it all together into a mini Khao Lak guide, though I admit that I don't know Khao Lak so well! One of the reasons we planned a couple of nights there was to visit Koh Tachai Island. I knew the island for diving, and have been there maybe 40 times, but never set foot on the beach, only dived there. Over the last couple of years Tachai has been more visited by day trippers, especially Thai tourists, as an alternative to the better known Similan islands. So we booked up a day trip through my friends at Easy Day Thailand.
(above) Koh Tachai - Kids loved it! More about this day on the blog : Day Trip to Koh Tachai.
Another reason for stopping in Khao Lak was to take a step back in time. My son is now 8 1/2 years old. He was born 2 weeks after "the" tsunami. I won't dwell on my thoughts on this page, but have written about it before (see Tsunami Memories). Khao Lak was hit much harder than Phuket. While about 300 people died in Phuket, the tsunami killed at least 3,000 people in the Khao Lak area including tourists, many locals, a grandson of the King too. The area just north of Khao Lak at a village called Ban Nam Khem was especially bad. A tsunami memorial has been built here which I wanted to visit, and we also wanted to stop at the police boat - it was carried more than 1km inland and has been kept there as a memorial - and now a larger memorial and museum is under construction around it. Well, we wanted to stop and pay our respects.
(above) Tsunami memorial. The wall is embedded with names, and some photos too. People who died. Our kids know about the tsunami. I think this place made them think for a while. More information on the blog : Khao Lak Tsunami Memorials.
(above) The police patrol boat that was carried inland by the tsunami
Restaurants - Well, we tried a few different places. There are quite a lot of restaurants up on the main road, but Khao Lak is so spread out, it's good to have transport to check out different eateries. We had cheap Thai food and noodles a few times at a place on the main road. We have been twice to a pizzeria called La Piccola Maria - good pizza. It was closed on our most recent low season visit in July. And we at a couple of times at the hotel (Nangthong Bay Resort) - breakfasts were OK and Thai food for dinner decent too. Also went to a place which as I recall was called Jumbo Steak, which was good (on the main road in the Bang Niang area of Khao Lak).
(above) Cheap local place to eat in Khao Lak on the main road in the Nangthong area
(above) View from the Nangthong Bay Resort restaurant. When the weather was still good at the end of high season we could eat there right by the sea. In low season when wind and waves can be an issue, this part of the restaurant is not open. Great spot for a few sunset beers! The beach at this point (Nangthong Beach) is a bit rocky) - further north at Bang Niang it's not rocky. Myself, I like it this way - and the kids liked to go looking in rock pools and looking for shells.
(above) The kids checking rockpools at Nangthong Beach
So, yeh, some of our time there was spent relaxing, by the beach, preferably with a cold beer in hand. But we did other stuff too! In the Khao Lak area there are several waterfalls, some we have not seen yet. The most impressive was at Ton Prai Waterfall, especially on our visit in July after some rain had fallen. Ton Prai is about 30km south of Khao Lak so we stopped on the way home to Phuket. There's a parking area and a 700m walk through the jungle to the waterfall.
(above) Ton Prai Waterfall
About 1 hour drive North of Khao Lak is a National Park that seems to get few visitors - Sri Phang Nga National Park is jungle, rivers and waterfalls. We had been before, and have been twice this year as a little trip from Khao Lak. Still need to go again, as the park has several waterfalls and I want to see more of them. The best waterfall is called Tamnang, about a 500m walk from a small car park. There's a pool of water full of fish under the waterfall. You can feed them or swim with them. And there's a good, cheap Thai restaurant at the park headquarters.
(above) Tamnang Waterfall - more information on the blog - see Sri Phang Nga National Park.
Now, all of the above can also be done as trips from Phuket, though some of them are long trips! Khao Lak is (I think) worth a few days mixed in with a stay in Phuket. You can also do trips from Khao Lak to Phang Nga Bay and Khao Lak is easily close enough for a day trip to Khao Sok National Park, which we have visited a number of times. On our visit to Khao Lak at the end of April, we had 2 nights at Khao Lak, and 1 night at the Cliff and River Resort in Khao Sok.
(above) Double rainbow as seen from our room at the Cliff and River in Khao Sok. Very relaxing place to stay.
And there's another place I recommend visiting. North of Khao Lak is the town of Takua Pa, and a few km from the main town is the old town of Takua Pa (also called Sri Takua Pa). Can be a place to stop between Khao Lak and Khao Sok. It looks like the old part of Phuket Town, but it's really quiet. Old shophouses built around the turn of the 20th century, just like old Phuket. The similarity is because there were tin mines here just like in Phuket. Interesting place....
(above) Hardware shop owner in Old Takua Pa
I think we'll have some more short Khao Lak trips! Not a long drive from Phuket, a place we can go and relax for a couple of days. I'm not saying that Phuket is stressful, but you know, we have a "normal life" in Phuket with work and a home to look after and school .. so a couple of days of pool, beach, waterfalls is sometimes needed ... Let's go kids, dinner time!
Khao Lak - More Information
Khao Lak Hotels at Agoda.com
Dive Trips to the Similan Islands
Tour Booking - Easy Day Thailand
Khao Lak Area - Location Map
View Khao Lak (and surrounding area) in a larger map
10 Best Phuket Hotels 2014
Published 8:19 am, 23 Feb 2014
Time for an update - this is a new Top 10 / Best Phuket Hotels list which I have again based on TripAdvisor rankings as they were in February 2014. For each hotel there are links for checking online rates and availability - I suggest using Agoda.com if you want to book a hotel in Phuket. There are also review links - also mostly from Agoda where possible - only people who have booked the hotels through Agoda can make a review (I've left some reviews myself), and if you check the reviews, they tend to be very honest reviews, with plus points and minus points and you can be pretty sure they were left by actual guests. Hotels get average scores out of 10 on Agoda, so you can easily compare. but Agoda does not have any ranking lists, so the top 10 here has to be based on TripAdvisor. Here we go ... the 2014 version of the Top 10 Phuket hotels.
1. BYD Lofts (Patong Beach)
Up from 3rd place last year, BYD Lofts is not really a hotel, as it offers serviced apartments, with a "view over beautiful Patong" rooftop pool, near the center of Patong Beach. There are 1 / 2 bedroom apartments of various sizes. A good place to stay if you like to be near the center of all the action (that's Patong) but need a quietish place to retire to. I tend to avoid Patong, but for sure it's convenient as a visitor to have a lot of restaurants, shops and tour counters near you. And bars and nightlife.
• BYD Lofts at Agoda.com
• BYD Lofts Reviews
2. Rising Sun Residence (Chalong)
Up from 3 to 2 ... Not a beach hotel, Rising Sun Residence has 12 villas in the hills in the Chalong area near Chalong Temple. There are seven three-bedroom villas, four of these have a private pool and jacuzzi, kitchen and large living room. The five one-bedroom villas are built around a large pool with sun deck and jacuzzi. Long way from the beach, so would suit people who want to explore Phuket (it would be a very good idea to have your own transport if you stay here) and "come home" in the evening. Jamie's Phuket kind of people!
• Rising Sun Residence at HotelsCombined.com
• Rising Sun Residence Reviews
3. Trisara Resort Villas
Trisara was 4th last year, and I'd say .. If I have the money it might be my choice. Trisara offers private pool villas on a private beach just north of Bang Tao beach in the north of Phuket. Trisara is a "secluded, luxury, amazing views, forget-your-worries" style hotels. Only 39 villas, lots of space, no crowds. Villas from 2 - 6 bedrooms, so can be ideal for families or big groups, or weddings. Or just for a relaxing trip for a couple. And yes, it's miles from any busy areas, so don't complain that you have to get taxis everywhere :)
• Trisara at Agoda.com
• Trisara Reviews
4. Andara Resort and Villas (Kamala Beach)
A 5 star resort, on the hillside near Kamala Beach with luxury villas. It was rated number 1 on the top 10 family hotel list, providing relaxation in comfort for the whole family, and since it's individual villas with private pools, will suit families as well as couples. I'd happily stay here, thanks! Andara resort is not right on the beach - it's on the hillside. Many of the villas have great sea views. See there really is a trend of non-beachfront luxury these days ...
• Andara Resort & Villas on Agoda.com
• Andara Resort & Villas at HotelsCombined.com
• Andara Resort Reviews
5. The Baray Villa by Sawasdee Village (Kata Beach)
The Baray Villa has just 14 luxury villas, which are run by the Sawasdee Village Resort, and yet separate from the resort. Villas are 2 floor with huge rooms, jacuzzi, direct pool access, set in tropical gardens, with a spa available. Reviews make the villas sound fantastic! It was also number 1 in 2012. Yes, please!
• The Baray Villa at Agoda.com
• Baray Villa Reviews
6. The Shore at Katathani (Kata Noi Beach)
Katathani has been around for many years on Kata Noi beach. The Shore is their newer luxury "pool villa" development, opened in 2010. And it sure looks good! Pool villas, some with seaview (note: the view does vary from villa to villa), all with private pools. As I said, this "private villa" thing seems to be the trend in the last few years. A great hotel for couples. I see lots of honeymoon reviews.
• The Shore at Katathani at Agoda.com
• The Shore Reviews
7. Mom Tri's Villa Royale (Kata Noi Beach)
Up from 10 to 7 this year ... The Villa Royale was built by the same original owner of the Boathouse on Kata beach (Mom Tri) on land which used to be the location of his home, on the headland overlooking Kata Noi beach (just south of Kata beach). Steps from the hotel takes you down to the beach. Great views from the rooms and from the restaurant too. It's got a touch of class and olde Thai style, and is often fully booked even in low season!
• Villa Royale at Agoda.com
• Villa Royale Reviews
8. Renaissance Resort and Spa (Mai Khao Beach)
7th last year, 8th this year. Mai Khao Beach is still one of Phuket's quiet places. It's about 10km long with maybe 10 plus a couple of small bungalow operations. Renaissance is one of the best in the area (as evidenced by it's high ratings), close to the airport (don't worry, there's no noise) and right on Mai Khao beach which is never, ever crowded. There's a variety of rooms - simple "deluxe" rooms up to pool villas with seaview. Mai Khao Beach is way up in the north of Phuket, it's over 40km from here to Patong, Karon and Kata. If you want solitude, it's ideal and why would you visit the busier beaches anyway?
• Renaissance Resort at Agoda.com
• Renaissance Resort Reviews
9. Twin Palms (Surin Beach)
Surin Beach, despite rampant hillside development manages to retain a laid back feel on the beachfront with small restaurants and bars although they tend to be a little expensive, and yet Surin is so so different to the big beaches it's nice to come here for a meal and drink sometimes. Twin Palms is not huge, under 100 rooms - the more luxury rooms are huge duplexes and penthouse suites. Twin Palms also has its own semi-private beach club (Catch Beach Club) right by the sea. Yeh, Surin is "beach club" country.
• Twin Palms Booking on Agoda.com
• Twin Palms Reviews
10. Pen Villa (Surin Beach)
6th last year and still in the top 10 ... Pen Villa. It's a newer, smaller hotel at Surin beach, and I'd really not heard of it before writing the 2013 Top 10. Only opened a couple of years ago, and looks like the kind of personal place which requests guests that they make reviews on TripAdvisor. Every year there are a couple of places that make me say "Where?". Power of the internet. I'm sure it is very nice though!
• Pen Villa at Agoda.com
• Pen Villa Reviews
That's the Top 10 best hotels in Phuket as of February 2014. Maybe you have booked a hotel that's not listed, but you think it should be? Please do add a comment below! Phuket has a very confusing mix of old and new resorts, big hotels and small guesthouses, villas for rent, hillside, beachfront, busy areas, quiet areas... There's something here for everyone, but some research does pay off especially with regards to location. There is a trend in recent years for new luxury resorts in more remote areas and for sea view hillside (not on the beach) villas. Land prices and rent are very high these days in Phuket, so it's hard to think about opening a small hotel or guesthouse. I'd say Phuket is slowly heading upmarket. Older tourist areas like Soi Bangla in Patong are being redeveloped. Out with the bars, in with aircon shopping centers and new resorts. And dotted around the coast, many new 5 star resorts have opened in the last 10 years.
Here's a few more Best / Top 10 hotel lists for families, luxury and romantic places to stay...
• Best Phuket Family Hotels
• Best Phuket Luxury Hotels
• Best Phuket Couples Hotels
I recommend you check Agoda.com for booking - it's what I use myself for holidays. On the subject of reviews, by all means read them, but do think also about actual hotel features - location, size, room type, price(!), suitability for kids etc.. one person's heaven may be another person's holiday nightmare! Some like it quiet and secluded, others want action. Some want great views from a hillside, some want beachfront.... Any questions about hotels, please do leave a comment or ask on my Jamie's Phuket Facebook Page.
Khao Sok - Fun and Relaxation
Published 12:36 am, 20 Feb 2014
If you live in a city and have a stressful job, it's nice to have a "getaway", a favourite place to relax and recharge your batteries for a couple of days, somewhere quiet and beautiful, not far from home but seemingly in another world. It may seem odd, but even living in Phuket it's nice to have a place nearby that suits us as a getaway. Sure, Phuket is beautiful anyway, but we're very lucky to have Khao Sok National Park on our doorstep. Over the years, we have enjoyed a number of short trips to Khao Sok, not for the hiking, kayaking, rafting and other adventure activities that are offered by tour companies, but just to relax. We have stayed at the same resort - Cliff and River Jungle Resort - many times and until our last trip, we ignored all tours and just relaxed by the amazing pool with the cliff towering overhead, enjoyed the good food in the restaurant and enjoyed listening to nature. Even enjoyed heavy afternoon rain showers!
This latest trip was different. We had planned to stop in Khao Sok on the way back to Phuket from Chumphon, but the weather was wet and windy, so we headed straight home. No point checking in with the rain hammering down. From the Cliff and River it's about a 3 hour drive to our house. Just 2 days later the weather cleared up, and it just so happened that some friends were heading to Khao Sok on the same day. We had plans for relaxation, but also wanted to stay a night at some floating bungalows on the Chiew Lan reservoir, and our friends wanted to try some river-based activities. We were going to be kind of guinea pigs for some new Khao Sok tours which are now being offered by my friends at Easy Day Thailand.
We started at the reservoir. Chiew Lan is a huge man-made lake created by the building of the Rajaprapha Dam, which was completed in 1982. Probably looked a mess when it was being built. Looks beautiful now. The boat dock where you can hire boats and pay your national park fees is a busy place. No real need to book in advance if you have your own transport. You can just turn up and get a boat out onto the lake.
The plan was to cruise the lake for an hour or so, check out some of the floating bungalows and splash about in the water. The scenery in the lake is quite similar to Phang Nga Bay, only here you have fresh water. It's nice to have your "own boat" rather than be on a big group tour which dashes around on it's own schedule. We had no fixed schedule, I don't like to rush. The day was hot and sunny, and Khao Sok was looking great...
We stopped at some of the floating bungalows where a late breakfast was being prepared for our group (eggs and toast). We weren't planning to stay that night, but this quick stop gave us a chance to check out the accommodation. It's basic - bare rooms with a mattress on the floor and a cold shower. It was late morning and sunny, and the rooms were already hot inside. I wondered how they'd be for sleeping. But - ignoring the basic nature of the rooms .. here's the view:
And after a bite to eat, the kids were soon having fun in the water. Once you jump in, you can see the attraction of these bungalows. They had some kayaks too. As it turned out, we never did stay at the floating bungalows as the weather only stayed good for 2 days, so that means .. we'll be back! Boat rides and bungalows can be booked through Easy Day Thailand.
Oh, and the kids weren't the only ones jumping in the water. It was a hot day, so I jumped in too. Lovely. We splashed about in the sun with these great views long enough that the bungalow staff suggested we had lunch there too! They cooked up curry and fried fish and rice, and a couple of beers magically appeared :)
The boat took us back to the jetty, it was about a 30 minute ride back and then about a 45 minute drive from the reservoir to reach the Cliff and River resort to the west. The weather stayed great so we could have a splash about in the pool, a couple of beers and dinner in the restaurant. If you stay at the Cliff and River, and want to "eat out" the nearest alternative would be about 10km away to the west at the main national park entrance where there are many small bungalows and small restaurants. But we happen to like the restaurant at Cliff and River! We'd all had an early start at 6am, driving up from Phuket, plenty of sun, and an early night after a couple more beers was very welcome!
I like to wake up early in Khao Sok. Why? Here's why ...
The air is fresh and cool, the mist hangs over the hills, the insects chirp, the birds are not angry and the gibbons call through the jungle. This is our getaway! The mists slowly clear revealing the 1000 foot cliff that towers over the resort. We filled up on breakfast, the usual "Thai-American" breakfast with coffee, toast, eggs, ham .. or you can ask for Khao Tom (rice soup). The day ahead was to be a day of fun on the river. We drove out mid morning to the west (up river) - the Khao Sok river starts in the hills and winds it's way east joining up with a river that exits from the lake/reservoir and finally hits the ocean at Surat Thani. The section of river that runs near the Cliff and River resort is mostly tranquil with a few very small rapids. We had met our guide Tee the night before. He works for Easy Day Thailand, and lives just a few km from the resort - a real local! We'd been to his house for a few drinks, a BBQ and karaoke. A very nice guy, speaks excellent English, and his daughter and mine became instant friends!
We started with a little downhill walk to the river and climbed aboard our canoes. A box of beer was brought along for the ride. After an hour or so, my wife and I had the hang of canoeing and had stopped blaming each other for heading in the wrong direction or drifting sideways into overhanging trees. Fun for all the family, and our group had lots of kids in it, some as young as a year old.
The river was mostly very tranquil, with just a few very very small "rapids". There are places in Phang Nga with some more serious water, but this is suitable for everyone.
We stopped a few times on the river to jump in and swim in the cool water, and there was one spot with a rope swing too which many people enjoyed trying, and a few even managed not to look like a donkey :)
Tee's friends had prepared a "jungle lunch" at a secret riverside location (he knows every inch of this area). Just our group by the river with a little BBQ. And from there it was tubing downstream all the way to the Cliff and River. Tubing is fun, relaxing (except when you drift into overhanging branches) - next time I think I need a dry bag and a waterproof camera, and maybe a couple of cold beers :) I'm a pretty large person, so my tube seemed to be slower than some other people as most of it was under water! But there was no rush, no rush at all.
(above) Tubing in Khao Sok - that's me and my wife right in the background. Our kids loved it, a great family day and finishing the tubing right back at the resort was ideal, just a quick walk up to our room! Wanna do this again! Our friends left back to Phuket that afternoon, but we stayed another night at the Cliff and River. The weather had been so great for 2 days. Lots of red sunny faces in the family! We thought about heading back to the lake next day for an overnight stay, but the next morning was a little wet ....
Boo! Raining again! Well, it is rainforest. This area on average gets 40 - 50% more rain than Phuket. I like rain in the jungle, but it would not have been such a nice boat ride. So we headed back home instead. This trip was in early May 2012, and Easy Day Thailand now have regular Khao Sok tours including the resort, lake trip, river activities and/or staying on the lake - ask them! I'm often reminded how lucky we are to live in Phuket. Having Khao Sok on our doorstep is one of the many reasons we are happy to call Phuket home!
• You can contact Easy Day Thailand for Khao Sok Tours
• Hotels in the Khao Sok Area
Khao Sok National Park Map
View Khao Sok National Park in a larger map
The Siam Niramit Show in Phuket
Published 7:45 am, 19 Feb 2014
The Siam Niramit Phuket cultural show opened in December 2011, located just outside Phuket Town, and not too far from our house. I must have driven past it 200 times and thought "we should try it one day". but we generally tend to avoid the most obvious tourist attractions and find our own favourite things to do and places to visit in Phuket, so Siam Niramit went un-visited until now! I figured the show would be similar to Phuket Fantasea which opened about 15 years ago ... we finally visited in 2011! Siam Niramit I knew was a successful show in Bangkok and the company decided to open in Phuket too, obviously creating direct competition for Fantasea. I can anticipate people asking me "which one should I see?" - I think my answer is "both"! Phuket has a lot to do in the day time, but good quality evening entertainment is hard to find. Personally I can skip the ladyboy shows, but Fantasea and now Siam Niramit - this is top class entertainment and certainly worth doing. Well, it took only 2 years for us to visit Siam Niramit. And I think we'll go again as it's just a 10 minute drive from our house and our kids loved it (so did my wife and I, but you know amazing things are even more amazing for kids!).
And next time we will go earlier to have more time to look around the grounds. We got there at about 6:30pm, but the place opens at 5:30pm. As it turned out, at least another half hour would have been useful. We were still looking around the 'Thai Village' when staff came to find us and shepherd us off for dinner. Now we know the place, we can see more next time ... Next time! When we arrived, we could pose with some of the show's characters outside ...
Just inside the entrance is a selection of souvenir shops - first thing to see when you arrive, and last thing you see when you're heading home. Well, sure we bought a bunch of stuff for the kids :) Little souvenir items started at just 30 Baht, but there's also an antique shop with some very nice items that might catch someone's eye.
Past the shops is a wide open area featuring a giant Naga (a mythical serpent) in a pond. The way to the main stage is to the right and the 'Thai Village' is on the left. And there were elephants! Of course I bought some bananas for 30 Baht a bunch for the kids to feed the cute little ellies who (I think) would be part of the show later.
(above) My boy and the elephant :)
At the entrance to the Thai Village are some sideshow stalls of the "olde style" which is very popular at local fairs in Thailand - things like "throw a ball at the cans and win a teddy if you knock them all over" or "throw a ball to try and knock the ladyboy in the water". My boy tried both .. needs to improve his aim!
The Thai Village is bigger than I thought, so we do have to go again! There are demonstrations of handicraft making, preparation of local snacks, typical old style houses, and more. The kids took a ride on a boat (20 Baht each), and fed a buffalo which would also be part of the show later. And then we had to dash off for the buffet dinner. Maybe next time we can skip dinner, tasty though it was, and have more time to enjoy things outside - we had to miss the Muay Thai demonstration, and my son wanted to see that (but he was hungry too, so we could not watch it all!). Yeh, so what I am saying is, you need to come twice :)
(above) Feeding a buffalo
(above) Muay Thai at Siam Niramit
(above) A little boat ride for the kids
(above) Posing with the Muay Thai fighter, but we did not see them fight, we had to dash off for the buffet dinner. Only just got a table, the restaurant was already all but full. We were in the VIP restaurant, as we'd been invited for a "press" evening along with local newsies like the team from The Phuket News and I saw a Thai couple I know who both work in the media. Speeches were being given as we found a seat and I was happy to find some cold beer available :) The food was good, some really tasty fish dishes, in fact way too many different options to try them all! My daughter tried Khao Soi for the first time, I stuffed myself with chicken and cashew nuts. There were curries and mussels and salads and fruits and all kind of things. At this point, I should say - get there as early as you can, see the Thai Village and then spend as much time as you can at the buffet. The buffet is optional, so if you skip that you have more time to enjoy entertainment outdoors. I read that while people eat there is also dancing and a "war elephant" display outside...
And then time for the SHOW! It's a walk of a couple of hundred meters to the theater. You cannot take cameras inside. Cameras can be deposited and you get a receipt before you enter. The pictures below are provided by Siam Niramit Phuket. The show has many scenes taking you through some of the history of Siam (the country was only called Thailand after 1939) starting with the ancient kingdoms of the north, then the south (Phuket!) where you see Chinese traders coming to trade with and marry the locals. There's a Khmer scene and then the old capital Ayutthaya. The scenes are impressive, with a huge stage and many performers / dancers and some animals too. Scene changes are cleverly done, performers are not only on stage, but appear around the theater, even overhead.
(above) The South .. my area! A Chinese Junk arrives to trade with the local people.
(above) Ayutthaya. Lots of fighting!
(above) Hell (Buddhist version) ... there's a temple in Phang Nga Town called Wat Tham Tapan which has some rather scary images of hell. Certainly not where you want to end up. So be good for goodness sake.
(above) Heaven - only nice things. Can I have a few beers in heaven?
(above) The mythical land of Himapan, a place where strange creatures dwell. It's in Buddhism and Hinduism.
As you might be able to see .. the stage show is pretty spectacular at times, my son was sitting next to me and was continually pointing and saying "Dad, look at that!" and "I can see the wires" ;) At one point during the show, I think a big set change was needed, so there was a little musical comedy involving a group of players with bamboo rattles that all played different notes. An audience member was chosen to join them .. my daughter :) She enjoyed that ... was a bit stage shocked afterwards "I've never been on a stage with so many people watching before!" and people were commenting when we left the theater "that's the girl who was on stage!". My girl :) But I don't have any photos as cameras are not allowed :(
Another view of Siam Niramit .. the team from The Phuket News made a little video on the same night ...
We had a great evening! The show was great, the kids loved everything, I can certainly recommend it. The Siam Niramit show is open every evening except Tuesday. More information on the Siam Niramit Website. Booking can be made through the website or you can book through my friends at Easy Day Thailand. Many thanks to Siam Niramit for inviting us!
Update 2014 - we went again on January 12th! My wife's parents were visiting so we went with them and everyone enjoyed the show :)
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