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 The bracketed figure is submitted reviews -- reviews may not be published for editorial reasons or may be removed because the property concerned has been delisted from Travelfish or has closed.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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Sunday Market in Old Takua Pa
Published 8:31 am, 30 Jan 2015
Last Sunday (25th January 2015) we had one of our exploring days. Sometimes we feel in the mood for a drive, sometimes we relax at home or don't go far when I have a day off and the kids are off school. Last Sunday we drove, as usual with no particular destination in mind, we'd see what we felt like on the way. I wanted to eat at a particular restaurant, but as things turned out we did not have time for that! We headed towards Phang Nga Town. We do like to explore Phang Nga Province to the north of Phuket which has a lot of great scenery. We thought about stopping at a viewpoint cafe near the town, but then we realised - it's Sunday! Well, I had heard of the Sunday market in old Takua Pa, but last time we passed through on a Sunday there was no market. That was in low season, and so I figured it only takes place in high season. We've stopped in Old Takua Pa several times before. It's a time warp. Built around the same time as old Phuket Town in the late 19th and early 20th century - a tin mining boom town with shophouse architecture and Chinese shrines, but when we first visited in about 2010 it was very, very quiet. Like a memory. I heard of the market a couple of years ago and it seems that old Takua Pa is being promoted on a small scale. If you stay in Khao Lak, certainly worth a visit. And especially on a high-season Sunday. I guess from November to April the market will be there.
We took the lovely jungly route from Phang Nga to old Takua Pa via Noppring (route 4090), took a long detour to Tone Pariwat waterfall which we'd never seen before (to be blogged!) and really enjoyed the drive on quiet country roads. Reached old Takua Pa around 3:30pm hoping to find the market and also feeling rather hungry! And yes, the market was happening along the main street in the town. It looks something like Thalang Road in Phuket, only the overhead wires have not been removed and there are less trendy cafes!
(above) Old Takua Pa main street with the Sunday market.
My first thought? It's much smaller than the Sunday market which started up in 2013 on Thalang Road in Phuket Town. I'm not going to suggest that Takua Pa is worth a special visit from Phuket, but if you are in Khao Lak, or exploring the area - yes! I was surprised actually to see so many foreign tourists walking around, and really this market did not have much in the way of souvenirs or handicrafts or things the average tourist might want to buy. But it does show that there is some promotion of the market. Our family wandered up the main street, mainly looking for something to eat! I wanted a place to sit down rather than just snacks, but there's plenty of food to but and nibble ...
(above) A bag of spicy fishcakes would have been just fine for a snack
(above) Or some spicy sausages!
There was not really a cafe or even a noodle shop open, but we did find a place with tables inside doing Kanom Jeen noodles and chicken satay. My wife loves kanom jeen, a real southern-Thai favourite. The kids like it too. Sorry to say I don't! But a dish of satay and an ice tea was just fine. We sat inside and I snapped a photo of a couple of fellow diners ...
This old town really is a step back in time. I want to explore a bit more around old Takua Pa. There is a huge Chinese shrine on the edge of town, as well as a couple of smaller ones in town. There are also some old city walls and I have read that a few of the older houses predate Phuket Town by a few decades.
Looked like the market was just getting going when we arrived, and I am sure it continues until well after dark. But we had to drive back home to Phuket a couple of hours away. I took a few more photos of the market as we headed back to the car. Really is a lovely place.
And I loved this door (below). There are quite a few tumble-down houses. Some of these places are well over 100 years old. Wish I had the cash to buy this place and fix it up!
I was happy to have been able to stop here again, a successful day out with the whole family! Yes the kids may moan "Not another drive! Can't we stay home?", but they love it really. A day out with the family is always nice for me. And this is a fair day out from Phuket. We drove about 300km altogether, but it was easy driving on roads with not too much traffic and plenty of scenery. An easy day out from Phuket really. And another day when I think we are lucky to live here!
Map showing Old Takua Pa and surrounding area
A Tour of South Phuket
Published 10:43 pm, 18 Jan 2015
We had some new visitors to Phuket last week. My aunt and uncle were in Thailand for the first time, staying 7 nights at the Centara Karon Resort which is a few minutes walk from the sands of Karon beach and a couple of kilometers up the road from my office at Sunrise Divers. We had a couple of evenings with them visiting a few favourite places like Kopitiam and the After Beach Bar, but since it's high season I could only take one full day off that week. On Sunday 11th January I drove to pick them up from the hotel for a little tour around some of the sights in the south of Phuket before heading to the beach in the late afternoon for my son's birthday party. And, as it happens, it was also my aunt's birthday. All photos on this page were taken on the same day.
This little tour covers a lot of beautiful scenery and is only a small corner of southwest Phuket. It was one of the first parts of Phuket that I explored when not diving. It was a very quiet area then, but even now the roads are not so busy and it's a nice area for a ride on a moped with lots of possible stopping off points. It was nice to be a "tour guide" for half a day and this trip with my relatives helped me remember that Phuket really is a nice place to live! We started from Karon to the south, past Kata beach and then on the hilly, winding road along the coast to Naiharn beach.
First stop was the well known Karon Viewpoint (also called "the Phuket Viewpoint" or Kata Viewpoint). And as you can see the weather was perfect, just what you'd hope for in January. Always a great view from here looking north along the Phuket coastline. There are many great coastal views in Phuket.
From the viewpoint you drop down towards Naiharn. This area has got so much more developed in the last 10 years, lots of restaurants, houses, a few resorts, and there are banks and local businesses. When the road gets to Naiharn Lagoon, there is an option to turn right and stop at Naiharn Beach, maybe visit Naiharn temple or follow the coast round to the very small Ao Sane beach. But we headed on south. The road here is narrow and hilly. You climb from beach level up to about 50 meters above sea level where there's a wind turbine, a great view and not a lot of parking space! This is one of my favourite views in Phuket.
(above) View from the wind turbine viewpoint just south of Naiharn beach (read more about this viewpoint on the blog here). The beach on the left side of the photo is Ya Nui Beach just to the south .. and after taking in this great view on a great day, we stopped at Ya Nui for a quick drink. It's always been a fairly quiet place. The one beach-side restaurant has now gone, but there are a few places to eat and drink by the road - and the road is very small and quiet. Ya Nui has a few nearby bungalows, and other people come by car or moped for a relaxing beach day without too many crowds. And this was in peak season ...
Just a few minutes drive from Ya Nui is Phromthep Cape, which is the "end of Phuket", the most south-westerly point on the island and a very popular stop for sunset views. I actually think there are better places for a sunset, but that's another story! Certainly the views are lovely. I was disappointed this time, because the lighthouse was closed (normally you can climb up for a better view). A hike to the very end of the cape was not an option with a couple of "not so young" folks, but I do recommend it.
I did consider lunch at the Cape Phromthep restaurant. We have eaten there only once before and I do want to try it again sometime, but preferably at sunset. On this occasion, I thought we could try a place at Rawai beach, just another 5 minute drive. Rawai beach is changing too - more modern looking buildings on the beach road and a resort under construction. I chose a place called "Rimlay" for lunch towards the jetty end of Rawai beach (east end), next door to the well known Nikita's restaurant. Rimlay has some tables in the shade right by the sea, looked ideal and I'd say my aunt and uncle thought so too!
I had a great seafood salad and (of course) a cold Chang. We sat by the sea and I thought "damn, Phuket is a great place!". I think I'll blog this restaurant a bit later, it's certainly one to visit again. A very pleasant lunch. Time ticked by, a second cold beer was enjoyed and it was time to move on. We could have stopped at the Phuket Seashell Museum, but time was limited. We drove to Chalong and then up and up the hill to the Big Buddha. It was rather busy up there. My aunt had to borrow a sarong to cover her shoulders (they hand these out for free at the entrance). You are supposed to dress properly at temples. I saw a shirtless guy being stopped by "Big Buddha Security" and not allowed in without a shirt. The day continued to be hot with blue skies.
From the Big Buddha, given a little more time, a stop at Wat Chalong Temple would have been next on the list and between there and home there's also the Phuket Botanic Garden and the Bird Park. A bit too much for a day! We had a party to get to, and so the Big Buddha was the last stop on this trip. We stopped home to pick up the family, headed off for the party and the day ended like this ... Perfect.
(above) Sunset on 11th January 2015
This kind of tour is something I often suggest to people. This corner of Phuket has a lot to see, and the scenery is beautiful, plus there are loads of options for restaurants and bars - if you did this as an afternoon tour it would finish nicely with a sunset at a viewpoint or the After Beach Bar. It's a very nice part of Phuket away from the busier beaches, lots of places of interest, sea views and small beaches. Especially ideal if you have a hotel around Karon beach or Kata beach. It had been a while since I'd done a little tour like this and even for me, living here a long time, it was a lovely day!
Map - Tour of South Phuket
Kamala Beach Revisited
Published 10:48 am, 10 Jan 2015
Just before New Year I had a free day and felt like checking out Kamala Beach. There have been a lot of changes to the beaches in the low season with the army helping to provide the muscle to clear all structures off the sand, and helping to enforce new regulations keeping beach chairs off the beaches. Some people think this is great, some want their beach chairs! Just this week there have been moves to allow chairs on some parts of some beaches, but .. are they really needed? I blogged a few months ago about these changes and visited Surin Beach, Layan Beach, and Laem Sing Beach. Kamala used to be a place we visited often as we had quite a few friends living there, but I think in the last 5 years we've only been a few times! Kamala always used to be quieter than the 3 main beaches (Patong, Karon, Kata), but I know there has been development and new hotels. The middle section of the beach always used to have a lot of small restaurants right on the sand. I was guessing these would be all gone. Wrong!
So, as you can see from the photo above, there are still restaurants right by the beach. The change is that the restaurants now have no chairs/tables *on* the beach, which leaves the beach free for people to relax. Between the beach and the restaurants is a concrete path a couple of metres wide, and the path is mostly covered in sand, plus the floors of many of the restaurants are sandy. So .. you're pretty much right on the beach. Nice. I had parked at the police station which is closer to the south end of the beach than the north. There used to be a couple of restaurants there, but they had 100% gone. Walking north is a line of beachside restaurants for about 200 meters. The beach was pretty busy, there were a few chairs, quite a few beach umbrellas and a lot of people lying in the shade near the path under the trees.
(above) Kamala beach on 28th December 2014
Kamala is quite a small beach and development is limited because at the south end you have Kamala temple and school plus the very south of the beach is very shallow and a little muddy. And the north end of the beach has no development since the land that fronts the beach is a Muslim cemetery. Walking north past the row of restaurants the narrow concrete path continues onwards, but there are no buildings. There are a few mobile stalls selling food and drinks and a few people have got chairs and tables on the beach there. Space is limited, and I saw people lying almost on the path!
I mean, the beach is big enough, but people like to crowd the center. If you walk 100m you find some space! And yes sure it was a little crowded, between Christmas and New Year - absolute peak season. Aside from small restaurants there were also lots of stalls selling fruit shakes and juices. One of the lovely things about living in a tropical climate - no shortage of lovely fruit!
(above) Fruit shakes for sale at Kamala Beach
I had been reading how all the little wooden / bamboo massage shacks had been removed from the beaches, all part of the clean-up. With the restaurants and bars having to move everything to the other side of the path - bingo! More space for massage ladies to move in. No fixed structures, just mats on the sand and I saw plenty of people having a massage. Easy to relax here at Kamala - eat by the beach, massage on the beach, beer by the beach ...
(above) Massage at Kamala Beach
After a little walk up and down the beach on a hot afternoon, I think you'll agree nothing hits the spot like a cold beer. So I stopped at "Bob's Bar" for a Chang. Having a place to eat or drink right by the beach is great. I'm happy to see natural looking beaches, but the authorities may have been a little over zealous in some places. Tourists like to sit on the beach, but do need shade and do need food and drinks. Kamala looks like it's got the balance right at the moment.
(above) Kamala beach - Bob's bar is there behind the green umbrellas. I could have very happily sat there and had a few beers, but I did have to drive home! So one cold Chang went down the hatch in about 3 minutes. I was happy to see Kamala prospering. My main memory of Kamala is being there on December 25th 2004 with my wife 9 months pregnant, a little daughter, everyone playing on the beach. And next day was the tsunami. So this was another reason for visit Kamala on December 28th 2014, 10 years (and 2 days) after that day. Good to see Kamala looking busy and the beach looking very well cared for.
Kamala Beach Information and Links
• Jamie's Phuket Blog page about Kamala 2009
• Kamala Beach Hotels (at Agoda.com)
Khao Lak Tsunami Memorials
Published 7:37 am, 3 Jan 2015
Update 26th December 2014. 10 years since the tsunami. I was thinking of writing a new blog post, but words don't mean to much. Last year we visited the tsunami memorials in Khao Lak and it certainly was a time for reflection and remembrance. Today also.
It's been a long time since I mentioned the tsunami on the blog. Seems like a very long time ago. Our son was born 2 weeks after it happened, and he's a big boy now! We do occasionally pause to think about what happened on December 26th 2004. Was certainly an emotional time for me, although we lost nothing and I personally did not know people who died. Actually, Phuket suffered a lot less than Khao Lak (or Phi Phi Island). The number of deaths in Phuket was less than 300. In the Khao Lak area along the coast, the official number was more than 4,000. This is mainly due to the topography of the land and the sea floor - very flat, so the wave could just keep going. In places, the tsunami reached over 1km inland. In other areas where the land rises away from the sea, the damage was a lot less. One of the worst hit areas was the fishing village of Baan Nam Khem which is north of the beaches, close to the larger town of Takua Pa. We've driven this way quite a few times in the last 8 years, on the way to visit places like Khao Sok National Park and the old town of Sri Takua Pa. And each time we passed through I thought about stopping at a tsunami memorial, but at the same time I really did not want to be guilty of "tsunami tourism". But on our recent holiday, since we were staying in Khao Lak, we decided to visit the memorials, pay our respects to those who died. Quite a sombre holiday activity, but after all these years, it was something I wanted to do.
We visited 2 different memorials on different days. The first was the Baan Nam Khem tsunami memorial park. Just to the west of the village, right by the beach. The park looks to be well kept. There's a small museum with lots of photos, and several small stalls selling food and drinks. The main memorial consists of 2 long walls. One is bare concrete and curved like a big wave. The opposite wall is covered in name plaques, some with photos, some with fresh flowers. A long wall full of people who are gone but not forgotten.
I let the kids walk at their own pace, reading names. They know about the tsunami of course, but visiting this memorial at Baan Nam Khem made them stop and think. We stopped by one plaque showing a photo of a young European boy, age 10. Seeing a face and knowing his age really hit home with the kids. "Did he die?" my son asked. He knows that he was born just after the tsunami, but it's hard to grasp what "it" really is. He watches videos on YouTube showing the tsunami. I've told them how lucky we are. We were all at Kamala beach on Christmas Day 2004. next day Kamala was hit hard.
Another who died that day in Khao Lak was a young man called Bhumi Jensen. The tsunami affected a great many families who lost loved ones, and even the Thai royal family was not spared. Bhumi was the son of Princess Ubolratana, the eldest daughter of King Bhumibol. There is a small shrine to him at the memorial park, and also a large Buddha statue right by the sea.
A few days later, and only a short drive from our hotel, we visited another memorial site, one of the symbols of the tsunami, demonstrating just how powerful nature can be. Police patrol boat number 813 was anchored offshore from La Flora resort, on royal protection duty looking after Princess Ubolratana and her family. The force of the tsunami was very strong at this point. The hotel was heavily damaged, many people lost their lives and the 80 foot long police boat was carried over 1km inland by the tsunami. Nobody ever moved the boat. It was decided to leave it as a memorial, although over the years the site had started to get developed. Shophouses line the main road nearby. In 2012 work started on creating a memorial park around the boat with a museum. Work is still in progress.
As you can see, it's a big piece of metal. And (I just checked on Google Earth) it's 1.2km from the sea. When the museum is complete, I imagine we'll visit again. We liked our days in Khao Lak, very relaxing and the hotel prices in low season are very low (see Khao Lak Hotels), although Khao Lak in low season gets more rain than Phuket and if the wind blows strongly, the waves just about cover the whole beach.
For the moment, it's just the boat, a completed but empty building, a wide open park area and a museum under construction very slowly - just a few Burmese construction workers on the job. I imagine they know that quite a lot of Burmese died in the tsunami too - not in Burma, but in the Baan Nam Khem and Khao Lak area - many Burmese work on fishing boats or do building in Thailand.
I think the whole family was glad to visit these memorials. Kids learned something, we got to pay our respects or say a prayer in our own way. Everyone living in this area had their life shaken up by the tsunami, and especially here everyone hopes it will not happen again although, if it did, the loss of life would be a lot less. People know what to do now, and with warning systems in place, such a disaster just could not have the same effect again. Certainly I have no worries about being on the beach, what happened on December 26th 2004 was absolutely a freak of nature. Not to be forgotten, but not to be feared either.
Khao Lak Tsunami Memorials - Location Map
View Khao Lak Tsunami Memorials in a larger map
Jamie's Phuket Review of 2014
Published 10:33 am, 27 Dec 2014
The year is almost over. I've been in Phuket for over 15 years now and this blog is over 8 years old. 2014 has not gone totally to plan. It has been a funny old year. Every year I do a "best of" post showing what's been new on the blog. This has been 2014. Blogging has slowed down somewhat, especially later in the year. I spent 5 weeks in England. Mum was very ill. Cancer again. She'd beaten cancer 3 times before. I was hopeful. Dad has dementia which has developed very fast. I don't want to recount too many details here. Mum died at the end of August. They have both been to Phuket many times. I will start my 2014 review with a photo of them taken in 2013.
(above) in Memory of my Mum. This is Mum and Dad at Khao Lak in 2013.
2014 is ending with sad memories in another way. 10 years ago on December 26th "the tsunami" happened. Killed something like 250,000 people around the Indian Ocean. More than 5,000 killed in Thailand. We visited the tsunami memorials in Khao Lak with my parents in 2013. I wrote about my tsunami memories a few years ago. No plans to write more.
So let's begin with a little review of what's been new on the Phuket Blog this year.
January ... To the north of Phuket, over the bridge is Phang Nga Province which covers a huge area. We often drive this way and keep exploring and finding new places. First couple of blog posts of the year were about Phang Nga, first a viewpoint cafe and then I wrote a long post about Exploring Phang Nga Province.
(above) Phang Nga Viewpoint
Aside from time spent in England, a couple of other things have slowed down new blog posts in 2014. Aside from laziness. One thing is work. In high season I normally work 6 days per week at Sunrise Divers. A day off is a chance to get out and see new things, but also a chance to relax! Another reason - a lower than usual desire to take photos. I ended up selling my camera this year and mostly just use a phone, though I did pick up my Dad's old camera from England and used it later in the year at the vegetarian festival.
In February, I think the only new blog post was a Top 10 Phuket Hotels list. March - I wrote a page that every other blog and website has, and should have been on this blog before - an "About Jamie" page. That should explain a little about who writes this blog!
In April, a blog post that is more of an article. When I first came to Phuket I had no idea that the area had such a long and rich history. And I imagine many visitors also see very little beyond the beaches and tours. But Phuket has a lot of history and culture and over the years this blog has tried to show that. And also in April I found a new place to hang out - a bar on the hillside way above Patong Beach - Wassa Homemade Bar.
(above) Sunset above Patong at Wassa Homemade Bar
A nice little thing happened in May. There was something called a Worldwide Instameet. Users of Instagram around the world meeting up to take photos of their own place. We did one in Phuket, meeting up at the Chinpracha House mansion in old Phuket and after taking some photos using iPhones and other similar devices we headed to a cafe for a few drinks :) A very nice time - see : Phuket Instagram Meet Up.
After selling my proper camera I am using the iPhone for most photos though it does of course have limits and I think the new year of 2015 will see a new camera coming my way! In the meantime, please do follow me on Instagram, thanks!
The Phuket Blog Facebook Page is also very busy and sometimes I ask questions there to get some opinions. In May I asked people what they think about Taxis and Tuk Tuks in Phuket - lots of opinions voiced! A few days after writing this, there was a coup, we had curfews and martial law for a short time, though in Phuket it was quickly back to normal. Except the new military government have cracked down on so-called taxi mafia groups in Phuket and then later started a process of beach clearance, with structure not allowed on the sand, and beach chairs being removed. Controversial! Beaches look better, but it's nice to have some shade and some little restaurants by the beach!
In June I blogged the "new" Sunday walking street market that takes place every Sunday evening on Thalang Road in old Phuket Town. We go quite often for a walk, to buy some snacks, enjoy the old town - see Phuket Sunday Walking Street Market.
When the aforementioned beach clearances started I wanted to have a look, so took some drives to check out a few beaches. In July we visited Surin Beach and Laem Sing Beach. The clearance was still going on at Laem Sing. We first went there 15 years ago and it was very quiet. It then got touted as "the quiet beach" and thus became a busy beach with many small bars and restaurants. I think it looks better empty. There was still a man there with an ice box to sell me a beer :)
(above) View of Laem Sing Beach in July 2014
(above) Our kids enjoying Surin Beach
It was in July that I headed to England for a 3 week stay. There was another 2 weeks late August into September. Exploring time in Phuket was thus limited and, well, there was a lot on my mind. The blog is still just a hobby, so it got rather ignored sometimes this year.
We did find time for another beach recon session .. this time to Layan Beach which was (as it always did) looking very nice although the beach club there looks rather out of place.
(above) Layan Beach, August 2014
Well, after my second trip to England it was nearly time for my favourite time of year, although given my somewhat melancholy mood, I nearly gave it a miss. But, after not bothering too much about he start of the festival, I went to quite a few parades and for the first time went to the crazy last night in Phuket Town. The 2014 Phuket Vegetarian Festival (September 23rd - October 3rd) got blogged in 3 separate posts ::
Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2014 - Part 1
Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2014 - Part 2
Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2014 - Part 3
And I did enjoy taking photos .... here's a few from the festival. I'll skip the gory ones. Check the 3 links above for much more.
After the festival we took a short family holiday north of Phuket to Chumphon, Hua Hin and Prachuap Khiri Khan provinces. A very relaxing time, which I much needed and felt very lucky to be here in Thailand and have such a lovely family.
A new blog post in November revisited a place that I first blogged in 2006. Rang Hill in Phuket Town now has a fancy new viewpoint with even better views than before. I must get up there again at sunset one day! I also blogged in November about the Uber Taxi App, which has started in Phuket .. if it's allowed! Struggled to find time in the last month for blogging, although we've had some nice family days out. Last photo for this 2014 summary - see below. Me and the kids at Mai Khao Beach a few weeks ago. Happy New Year from Phuket!
(above) This is my Phuket!