Travelfish contributions by Batfish
The first number represents the total number of published reviews by Batfish. The bracketed figure is submitted reviews -- reviews may not be published for editorial reasons or may be removed because the property concerned has been delisted from Travelfish or has closed.
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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Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2014 Schedule
Published 3:19 am, 19 Nov 2014
The 2014 Phuket Vegetarian Festival took place from September 23rd - 3rd October 2014. The dates vary every year (2013 was 4 - 14 October), as it's based on the Chinese lunar calendar. It's my favourite Phuket event / festival and I always take too many photos! I expect the same again this year ... only I sold my camera a while back, so really do need to buy a new camera soon :) There is a lot to this festival, it took me a few years to understand, and there are still parts of the festival I have not seen like the last night procession in Phuket Town (Update! - I was there on the final night October 2nd 2014!). Most of the events happen far away from the main beach areas, mostly in and around Phuket Town, or at the various Chinese shrines around the island. If you are here during the festival, do try to see something ...
NOTE - There is a second vegetarian festival this year, something to do with lunar months. It's from September 23rd - October 3rd. I hear that there will be ONE big street parade on Friday 31st in the morning from Kathu shrine to Phuket Town (and back).
Recent Vegetarian Festival Blog Posts
• 2014 Phuket Vegetarian Festival Part 1
• 2014 Phuket Vegetarian Festival Part 2
• 2014 Phuket Vegetarian Festival Part 3
• Vegetarian Festival 2013 Part 1
• Vegetarian Festival 2013 Part 2
• Food at the Phuket Vegetarian Festival
• Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2012
I have written loads about the vegetarian festival on the blog in the past and there are hundreds of photos on the blog and on Flickr. For general information about Phuket's most bizarre / interesting festival start here:
• Phuket Vegetarian Festival - My Favourite Event in Phuket or
• The Amazing Phuket Vegetarian Festival
Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2014 - Schedule 23rd September - 3rd October
The start of the 2014 festival will be Tuesday 23rd September in the late afternoon when the "lantern poles" are raised at all the participating shrines. The Emperor Gods are said to descend down the poles into the shrines at midnight. I normally attend Kathu shrine (my local) as I did in 2011 : Photos of Pole Raising and Midnight Ceremony. Not too much happens for the next couple of days, but the Chinese shrines are always interesting to visit any evening or any time during the festival really. The first big street procession will be on the 26th September ... or actually the 25th - a few years ago the "Naka" shrine joined as a newcomer in the festival and will likely be the first to have a procession. All the main processions pass through the old Phuket town area, all of them start early (around 7am or earlier), all finish either at Sapan Hin (south end of town) or back at their home shrines if the shrine is in Phuket Town.
Tuesday September 23rd
At all the Chinese shrines, sometime between 4 - 6pm - raising of the Go Teng pole. Events at the shrines will go on all evening. The lanterns are hung from the pole at midnight, signifying the start of the festival. There will be plenty of firecrackers and fireworks too. In 2011, I went back to the shrine just before midnight expecting some bizarre ceremonies, but it was far more hushed and reverential and kind of spooky. Did not leave the shrine until 1am and people were still gathered there saying prayers.
24th - 25th September - there are no big events on the first 2 days of the festival except for maybe a small procession from Naka shrine on the 25th, but people can visit any shrine at any time, and the Jae (เจ) food is to be found all over the island but mostly around the shrines and especially in Phuket Town. The festival has many aspects and the food is one part of it. I will try to stick to the strict diet during the festival. No meat, no alcohol. Not just "no meat" - the food is specially prepared with clean utensils and certain other ingredients like garlic and onions are not allowed due to the strong flavour. Don't worry if you are not vegetarian, almost all restaurants are open as normal in tourist areas. In fact, it can be hard to find the festival food near the beaches.
Friday September 26th
Street procession starting 7am for Sapam Shrine - this shrine is a few km north of Phuket Town (about a 10km walk from the shrine to Sapan Hin). To see piercing taking place at any shrine you have to be there before 7am. Try 6am. In the evening, around 7pm (better get there earlier), there will be another procession around Kathu village for the Birth and Death Gods (Lam Tao and Pak Tao). I was there last 2 years for this very noisy procession! A similar procession also takes place at several other shrines on the same evening. I imagine there is a big one at Jui Tui Shrine.
Below - Birth / Death Gods Procession at Kathu Shrine in 2011
Saturday September 27th
Today's big street procession is from Sam Kong Shrine. Procession goes from the shrine in the north of town (not far from Tesco Lotus), past the Bangkok-Phuket Hospital and through the old section of Phuket town. The shrine is not far from my house. There's a link at the top of the page to 2012 photos from this shrine - they have some pretty gory face piercing! The Sam Kong area is also a good area for food hunting, there are stalls all along the street here for half a kilometer.
Sunday September 28th
The street procession today is from Tha Ruea shrine which is in the Thalang area of Phuket in the center of the island - this used to be the main town in Phuket a couple of hundred years ago and there are several historic temples in the area and the annual Heroines Festival celebrating an important date in the history of Phuket - the Heroines predate the Vegetarian Festival by several decades.
Monday September 29th
Lots of things going on today... In the morning (7am), a huge street procession in Phuket Town for the Bang Neow Shrine, which is in the south of the town on Phuket Road, one of the biggest and most important shrines participating in the festival. Expect big crowds on this day. I have been in town the last few years for the Bang Neow procession. There is also a smaller procession starting 7am from Cherng Talay Shrine which takes place in Thalang district in the Cherng Talay area. A good one to see if your hotel is in Kamala, Surin or Bang Tao beaches and you don't want to head to town.
And then ... Fire Walking at several locations including Sapam Shrine, Sapan Hin (participants from Jui Tui shrine), Baan Tha Reua Shrine and Sui Boon Tong shrine (just west of the market and not far from Jui Tui shrine in Phuket Town). Fire walking kicks off around 8pm. I did go and see some firewalking a couple of years ago at Kathu. Was crowded and hard to get any photos! Maybe try again this year....
Below - Phuket Town Procession Photos - Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2012
Tuesday September 30th
Street procession starting at Jui Tui shrine, which is probably the biggest shrine in town - just west of the main market in Phuket Town. I went to see the procession in 2009 and 2013 - it was very crowded but I got lots of photos! It was hard to get into the shrine early morning, better to find a spot just outside or along the procession route - the route is always easy to find - just follow the people and the little shrines that people set up outside their houses - that means the procession is coming this way! The area around Jui Tui and along the street from the market is always busy during the festival.
Later in the day, there are lots of events on the schedule at various shrines including bladed ladder climbing at Sam Kong and Bang Neow shrines and "nail bridge crossing" at Sapam Shrine. Not sure what that is! We did go to watch bladed ladder climbing last year at Sam Kong, I did not take a camera as it was a bit rainy outside, the weather can be a concern at this time of year, but usually not too bad and sometimes darn hot! The bladed ladder climbing did not seem too dramatic. Can't say I saw any bleeding feet!
Wednesday October 1st
Street procession from Kathu shrine to Phuket Town. It's a long walk this one, about 10km from Kathu Shrine all the way to town, around the old town and ending at Sapan Hin. Kathu is my "local" shrine. The shrine is only about a mile from my house. I have been there early (6 - 6:30am) the last 3 years to watch piercing rituals. Should try to get there even earlier. 6:30am is a bit too late really. Must make an extra effort! I think 5:30am is better. Things happen early in the morning that are mysterious. The piercing may freak people out the first time they see it. I am now just looking for better camera angles and want to get some video too.
Below - Kathu Shrine Piercing and Firecrackers - Phuket Vegetarian Festival
Later in the evening on the 1st - fire walking at Bang Neow, Cherng Talay and Sam Kong shrines. Got to be worth a look!
Thursday October 2nd
The last full day of the vegetarian festival. There is a street procession for Sui Boon Tong shrine in town early in the morning, then events such as firewalking at Kathu shrine in the afternoon - I went in 2010 - too crowded! I did take some photos, but the firewalking seems to draw big crowds. Maybe I'll try again this year at one of the shrines. Maybe come with a stepladder to shoot photos over everyone's heads! Or a GoPro camera on a stick might work!
And then in the evening/night of the last day (2nd) there is a huge procession around Phuket Town, with people carrying statues of the gods to Sapan Hin. Millions of firecrackers and fireworks. It looks absolutely mad. I have seen it on TV - it's always live on TV in Phuket. I am not sure if I wish to attend and will almost certainly not take a camera, there will be so much smoke and dust and so many firecrackers, also I hear it's advisable to wear something more than flip flops or you'll get burnt feet! Need to wear a cloth over your face too, to avoid too much smoke inhalation! And earplugs. A friend had a firecracker land in his pocket and melt his iPod!
What we did do in 2011 on the last night was visit Kathu shrine for the "Bridge Crossing for Purification" - an evening I enjoyed very much. Everyone in white, lots of smiles, no blood, seemed like the whole village was there!
Below - Crossing the Bridge for Purification - Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2011
Friday October 3rd
At about 5pm the lantern poles (Go Teng poles) are lowered at the shrines marking the very end of the 2014 Phuket vegetarian festival.
See you there?
Where are the shrines? Location Map - Chinese Shrines in Phuket
View Phuket Vegetarian Festival Chinese Shrines in a larger map
And here's the Tourism Authority of Thailand brochure online for you - a lot of information here ...
Top 10 Phuket Hotels 2014
Published 9:00 am, 18 Nov 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's the 2014 version of the Top 10 Phuket hotels.
1. Trisara Resort Villas
Trisara was 4th last year, and I'd say .. If I have the money it would 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 - Online Booking
• Trisara Reviews
2. 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 - Online Booking
• BYD Lofts Reviews
3. Rising Sun Residence (Chalong)
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 - Online Booking
• Rising Sun Residence Reviews
4. 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 number 1 in 2012. Yes, please!
• The Baray Villa - Online Booking
• Baray Villa Reviews
5. 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 - Online Booking
• The Shore Reviews
6. 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 - Online Booking
• Andara Resort & Villas at HotelsCombined.com
• Andara Resort 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 - Online Booking
• 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 - Online Booking
• Renaissance Resort Reviews
9. 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 - Online Booking
• Pen Villa Reviews
10. 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 - Online Booking
• Twin Palms Reviews
That's the Top 10 best hotels in Phuket as of March 2014. Maybe you have booked a hotel that's not listed, but you think it should be? 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 on the Jamie's Phuket Facebook Page.
Top 10 Romantic Hotels in Phuket
Published 8:26 am, 18 Nov 2014
This page is for all you loving couples out there. Phuket can be great for a family holiday, a diving holiday, a luxury getaway or a party holiday ... There's lots to do, lots to see, you know that already. Phuket also has some very nice resorts, most of them with private villas, that are great for couples, great for a honeymoon or a romantic holiday. The list below is based on the top 10 from TripAdvisor, so it may not be perfect, but it's a good start! Feel the love in Phuket ...
Top 10 Phuket Romantic Hotels1. The Shore at Katathani (Kata Noi Beach)
The Katathani Resort has been open for many years. The Shore is the newer luxury pool villa wing, which opened in 2010 on quiet Kata Noi beach. And it looks wonderful! Pool villas, many have sea view but the view does vary, all villas with private pools of course. Very popular with couples. Check the reviews below - most are from couples.
• The Shore - More Information and Online Booking
• The Shore Reviews
2. Paresa (Kamala Beach)
Not really at Kamala beach - like many of the luxury villa developments in Phuket, Paresa is seaview, but not beachfront - amazing views from the headland between Kamala and Patong. Nightlife within easy reach, but if you were staying at Paresa for a romantic holiday, I can't see why you'd go to Patong for more than 10 minutes! Paresa has less than 50 villas, many with pools, great place for a honeymoon stay.
• Paresa - More Information and Online Booking
• Paresa Reviews
3. Pavillions Phuket (Bang Tao Beach)
Close to Bang Tao beach, but again, not on the beach, Pavillions is on the hillside, great views, and lots of privacy. Villas have pools and some have their own private spa too. It's a 'no kids' resort, very popular with couples and honeymooners. Has several restaurants, and do note that it's a good idea to have transport when you stay at a more remote, quiet hotel. Bang Tao is quite a drive from any of the main beach centers or Phuket Town.
• Pavillions - More Information and Online Booking
• Pavillions Reviews
4. Centara Villas (Karon Beach)
Located right at the north end of Karon Beach, with about 70 villas on the hillside, with beach access down lots of steps! Nice to be close to Karon to have lots of eating options nearby and Patong is not far away too, but then one can retire to a pool villa over the ocean, and there are a couple of larger pools too. And it's quite a bit cheaper than some of the others on this page!
• Centara Villas - More Information and Online Booking
• Centara Villas Reviews
5. Cape Sienna Hotel and Villas (Kamala Beach)
Just off Kamala beach, Cape Sienna has a mix of studio rooms and big pool villas, jacuzzi villas and some 'penthouse suites' too. I'd go for one of the villas, again, great seaviews, got to be a good place for a sunset overlooking the Andaman sea, just the two of you.
• Cape Sienna - More Information and Online Booking
• Cape Sienna Reviews
6. Villa Zolitude (Chalong)
Villa Zolitude is "up in the hills" between Phuket Town and Chalong Bay. Not near any beaches - about 10km to Kata or Karon. Villa Zolitude is reached by driving up the road towards the top of Radar Hill (highest road in Phuket). Certainly quiet up there. Good idea to have some transport if you stay at this hotel. Don't book a remote romantic villa and then complain about it being too far from the nightlife!
• Villa Zolitude - More Information and Online Booking
• Villa Zolitude Reviews
7. Sawasdee Village (Kata Beach)
Seems to never lose it's popularity - very much an older Phuket hotel, Sawasdee Village opened in 1991, but seems they keep renovating and adding and it keeps getting good reviews. The simpler garden rooms are quite inexpensive, the pool villas more "pool villa" price. Big plus, you are close to Kata beach and close to many restaurants unlike all the more remote hillside villa resorts. But at Sawasdee village, no sea views.
• Sawasdee Village - More Information and Online Booking
• Sawasdee Village Reviews
8. Mom Tri's Villa Royale (Kata Noi Beach)
Mom Tri Devakul was one of Phuket's tourism originators. His Boathouse hotel opened many years ago on Kata Beach. Villa Royale was built later on the rocky headland overlooking Kata Noi beach. A stairway from the hotel takes you down to the beach. Great views from the rooms and from the restaurant too. It's got a certain touch of class, only 35 rooms and is often fully booked well in advance.
• Villa Royale - More Information and Online Booking
• Villa Royale Reviews
9. Ayara Hilltops (Surin Beach)
Ayara Hilltops - yes it's on a hillside with views over Surin Beach (between Kamala and Bang Tao). It's a 'no kids' resort, and has about 50 suites, some with their own private pool. As with most of the romantic resorts, it's a quiet location, but Surin has restaurants and some nightlife. It's quite a hike to some of the rooms on the hill, but there is a free buggy service which I reckon you will be using!
• Ayara Hilltops - More Information and Online Booking
• Ayara Hilltops Reviews
10. Anantara Phuket Villas (Mai Khao Beach)
Mai Khao Beach is actually Phuket's longest beach, about 10km from north to south starting from the airport and reaching up to the top of the island, and within that 10km there are only about 10 resorts. Beach is uncrowded and a resort like Anantara with it's private pool villas looks like just the place I'd like to have a romantic getaway .. or with the family, as this one allows kids :)
• Anantara - More Information and Online Booking
• Anantara Reviews
I am sure everyone has a favourite - if you stayed at a great romantic hotel, do let me know. For Phuket hotel bookings, I recommend using Agoda.com first - it's what I use. Any comments or questions about hotels or Phuket in general, please do leave a message on the Phuket Facebook Page.
Related posts on Jamie's Phuket Blog
• Jamie's Suggested Phuket Hotels
• Top 10 Hotels in Phuket 2014
• Top 10 Family Hotels in Phuket
• Top 10 Luxury Hotels in Phuket
Uber Taxi App Now Available in Phuket
Published 9:20 am, 13 Nov 2014
I figure this is worth a mention, although from reading around the internet it seems that Uber and other app-based taxi services like GrabTaxi have their fans and haters too! These apps have been around a while - Uber started in the USA in 2011 and already started in Bangkok earlier this year. I know that in Europe there have been protests from established taxi services who claim these apps to be illegal, I am not sure 100% how they work in different countries, but in Phuket which has had all kinds of taxi problems for years, I would say anything that adds a new option has to be good, even if the prices don't go down yet. Phuket taxi fares tend to be quite high, especially for shorter trips. Doesn't really look like Uber is cheaper, but it's the way it works that might be useful for some people especially if you have used it before in other places.
Taxi choices for most visitors to Phuket currently extend to tuk tuks and normal taxis. There has been plenty of work done in the last year to take illegal taxis off the streets (like a car parked outside your hotel with a cardboard "taxi" sign on the roof). There was a big drive to make sure all local taxi drivers are registered and insured and have the proper licence. Official taxis should also have the drivers name on the door. There are also some meter taxis, mostly doing airport runs, but very few around the beach areas where "taxi mafia" groups have long controlled certain areas. Again earlier this year using military authority there was a big crackdown on the taxi gangs with quite a few arrests being made. The arrival of something like Uber seems good to me.
Uber is an app you can download to your phone/iPad or PC, but it needs to be able to read your location, as the app connects you do the taxi, so the driver knows exactly where you are and you can see where the driver is, plus you can check your location as you are driving, very useful in a new place! You can sign up online here (the link is https://get.uber.com/invite/uberjamiesphuket), which includes a special promo code for a 200 Baht discount on your first ride. If you download the app, enter the promo code uberjamiesphuket. I have checked out the app, but have no particular need to use it here in Phuket since I live here and have my own transport. Need a holiday now to another location where Uber is online so I can try it!
Here's a screenshot from my phone (below), what you see when you are using Uber. You can choose a pickup location and see where Uber registered vehicles are located. I have selected a location on the beach road in Patong and can see 3 different cars available.
You then set the pick up location and tells you the estimated time for pick up and you can get a fare estimate for where you want to get to or enter a promo code. Then you hit the Request Uber button (See below).
Seems very simple. When you sign up for Uber you select a payment option - credit card or Paypal are options. I chose PayPal. No cash needed. Apparently cash is not an option. Some people like that, some people still like cash! No need to tip either, although I guess that depends on you. If you check the Uber Phuket page, it says (in the small print) "No need to tip". There's a flat rate 950 Baht to the airport from anywhere which is cheaper than local taxis charge in Karon or Kata, so a tip might be OK!
Oh, so how does it work? I wondered that too, so I met Warren, the Uber representative for Phuket and had lunch and a chat. So it's not just any old taxis or "some guy with a car". Uber does not employ drivers. It's local taxi drivers who sign up for the app themselves to be drivers. Not all are accepted. Uber wants nice, friendly, well dressed divers with nice cars like a Toyota Camry or Fortuna or Honda Civic. They started with a few limo drivers and it seems word of mouth helps spread the word among the drivers. So you can be sure all drivers are legal. Uber is not their job, just another way for them to get customers, not just hanging around on a street corner or outside a hotel shouting "taxi!" at anyone passing by. I'm not quite clear how Uber makes much money out of this arrangement though! Surely the lions share of the fare goes to the driver?
Anyway, I hope I have a chance to try Uber myself sometime. There is one other important point - after taking a ride with an Uber taxi you can leave feedback and a rating for the driver. Warren told me that if drivers get a few bad ratings, they get removed from the app. That should ensure that only the nice polite drivers are available on Uber. Of course many Phuket taxi drivers are very nice. We have a nice guy outside our dive shop most days called Mr Teep. But people's experiences with taxis and tuk tuks in Phuket are mixed - I wrote about this earlier this year - see Phuket Taxis and Tuk Tuks - Your Opinions. I reckon Uber might well be used here by people who already use it and maybe if you have not tried it, give it a go! Just to repeat - you can sign up online here or if you download the app, enter the promo code uberjamiesphuket. Either way gets a 200 Baht discount on the first ride. Good luck to Uber. Something new is needed in Phuket. Ideally I'd like to see more buses, especially I'd like to see bus services between the beaches (there are not any right now), but anything that challenges the status quo will do!
Review of Uber vs Grabtaxi in Bangkok by Greg
Uber Phuket page on their website
New Viewpoint at Khao Rang Hill
Published 9:42 am, 5 Nov 2014
Something new and rather good has happened at Rang Hill on the north side of Phuket Town. A new viewpoint has been built! Maybe not a huge deal, since Rang Hill has always had a decent view, but it's been done very nicely and with a platform extending out to the south of the hill beyond the tree cover, so the view is now much better and you can see pretty much all of Phuket Town, plus all the way across to Chalong Bay and the hills to the west including the Big Buddha. We've been up Rang Hill countless times and it's been blogged several times, most recently in 2013 (see Rang Hill in Phuket Town). Not much had changed up there for many years. A twisty road heading up from town (actually several twisty roads from different directions) and the well known Tunk Ka Cafe which has been there for .. well, it's been there longer than I've been in Phuket. A new restaurant called Khao Rang Breeze was completed a few years ago (we've not eaten here) and now there are more monkeys than there used to be.
And now .. this new viewpoint is complete :
Nice! You walk under a white pavilion to reach this open area. When we saw the building going on we thought the pavilion would be like a view tower, but there's no steps to take you up to the upper levels, although it does have a balcony and looks totally like something to be ascended. Someone mix up the building plans somewhere?
(above) Tower / Pavilion at the Rang Hill Viewpoint. Photo by Dawn in Phuket.
Rang Hill is not exactly a tourist attraction. But it's easy to find and with the nice views and places to eat, worth a look if you are exploring around Phuket Town. We stopped at the weekend to check out the new viewpoint and it was all local people up there. And as my daughter noticed, most of them were taking selfies. It's well built and certainly adds to Rang Hill. We did not stop for food on this particular day. We have eaten at Tunk Ka Cafe many times and we also mean to try the Rang Hill View restaurant which is half way up the hill. The Breeze restaurant is a little pricier.
Previously, the view from Rang Hill was more limited looking southwest towards Chalong and the Big Buddha. There were snatches of views to the south from Tunk Ka, looking through the trees, but now with this viewing platform you get a view spanning more than 180 degrees and I think it looks great.
(above) View from Rang Hill. You can see a full size version here. It was just about possible to see Phi Phi in the distance (nearly 50km away to the southeast). Most of Phuket Town is visible, you can see south to Cape Panwa, southwest to Chalong and (visible on the right side of the top photo of the viewpoint) west to the hills including the Big Buddha and Radar Hill.
Now I need to visit again around sunset time! I think this viewpoint has been done really well. Good job, Phuket municipality! We were just in Hua Hin last month and they have built several viewpoints on top of the hill (Khao Hin Lek Fai) to the west of the town. This viewpoint at Rang Hill certainly rivals Hua Hin. I'll try to get up again soon for a sunset.
More Phuket Viewpoints
Khao Kad Viewpoint
The "3 Beaches" Viewpoint