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 The bracketed figure is submitted reviews -- reviews may not be published for editorial reasons or may be removed because the property concerned has been delisted from Travelfish or has closed.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 - Part 1
Published 11:24 am, 28 Sep 2014
So we're in the middle of the 2014 Phuket Vegetarian Festival, I have been sticking to "the diet" since September 23rd and have managed to find the time and effort to visit a few shrines for festival events. Maybe my enthusiasm for the festival is not what it was, and (without going into to many details) it's been a hard couple of months. I have spent 5 weeks in England in 2 separate visits, the second time arriving only a couple of days before Mum passed away. And my Dad now has dementia, plus he fell over and broke his hip a couple of days after Mum died. Not the easiest time. Got back here to Phuket just 10 days before the festival started and straight back to work, so I have been a little tired. One of my main motivations over the last few years has been photography, trying to get better photos of the vegetarian festival, but earlier this year I sold my camera and have been only using an iPhone for quite a few months now! Well I picked up my Dad's old Panasonic Lumix G1 from England, it's a bit of an old camera, but I have been trying it out this week.
September 23rd the festival began in the evening with the raising of the Go Teng pole at the shrines around the island, the pole is where the gods are said to descend into the shrines. I was working so missed the ceremony this year, but you can see photos from 2011 here. I did go to Kathu shrine (my local) in the evening to snap a few photos and then into Phuket Town to get some food.
(above) at Kathu shrine, 23rd September
(above) Starting "the diet" .. dinner at Kopitiam in Phuket Town, 23rd September
Normally I east whatever I feel like, including lots of meat and I drink plenty of beer. So sticking to the alcohol-free vegan diet for 9 days is quite a challenge. The key is to eat a good variety of food, not just 9 days of spring rolls, and find a few restaurants where you know you can get something good. And drink plenty of juice or ice tea instead of beer :) I wrote a page about the Food at the Vegetarian Festival last year. A few photos below of some tasty dishes ...
(above) 3 of my meals this week ... fried rice, "mee hoon" noodles and yentafo noodles. All vegan and all tasty.
Note : After October 3rd I will certainly be back on the meat and beer :) But this current diet is certainly good for a change and good for a clean out!
On September 25th, I was at Naka shrine in the morning. Got there a bit late really, 6:45am. I think 6am is a better time if you want to see what goes on at the shrine in the morning of a street procession. I'd not been to Naka shrine before and thought it might be quite small and quiet. Wrong! It was packed and my first view inside the shrine showed that it might be hard to get a photo, with a line of backpack-wearing "pro" photographers taking up much of the space. I find some of these photographers rather pushy and slightly disrespectful - all that matters is the photo. They shove cameras to within inches of pierced faces and have no qualms about getting in the way of obvious amateurs like myself!
I was there for about an hour and did manage to get some decent photos with the Lumix camera. As faces get pierced all around the grounds of the shrine, it's hard to know where to look, and you can't see it all at the same time. Here's a few pics from the 25th ...
On September 26th after a day at work, I headed into Kathu village in the evening for an evening procession of the birth and death gods, or are they the gods of the living and the dead? Something like that. Statues of the gods are carried through the streets by teams of young guys and most of the Ma Song from Kathu also join the parade (no piercings on this day). It takes place just after dark, starting about 6:45 - 7pm. In the shrine before the procession, the young lads sit and wait for their walk through the firecrackers and people light incense and candles for an evening prayer.
A team of very young lads lead the way carrying flags on bamboo poles ...
And then they're off! Hard to get great photos here. The procession keeps moving pretty quick, there are firecrackers going off randomly everywhere, it's dark and I just kind of point the camera and hope. It's all noise and smoke for 10 minutes and the procession heads through the village .. then a 25 minute wait and the procession passes again heading back to the shrine.
Over the weekend (27th and 28th September), well, I should have maybe woken up early one morning and visited a shrine, but yesterday and today I set the alarm for 5:45, woke up, turned it off and decided that sleep was better than pierced faces. But for sure in the next few days I'll be heading out a couple of times for street processions, firecrackers and pierced faces. The next 3 days feature processions from Bang Neow, Jui Tui and Kathu shrines. And there are evening events too such as bladed ladder climbing and fire walking. Schedule Here. There will be a "Part 2" next week. See you in Phuket!
Top 10 Phuket Hotels 2014
Published 9:01 pm, 27 Sep 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. 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
Phuket Hotel Search
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 5:51 am, 24 Sep 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
• Top 10 Hotels in Phuket 2014
• Top 10 Family Hotels in Phuket
• Top 10 Luxury Hotels in Phuket
• Jamie's Suggested Phuket Hotels
Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2014 Schedule
Published 5:49 am, 24 Sep 2014
The 2014 Phuket Vegetarian Festival is on 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. 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 ...
Recent Vegetarian Festival Blog Posts
• 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 ...
A visit to Surin Beach
Published 4:40 am, 18 Sep 2014
It's an odd thing, but I am not really a beach person. My wife even less so. And yet we live in Phuket which is famous for it's beaches. We don't "go to the beach" very often. Our kids enjoy some beach time, but this is not something we do every weekend. There's a lot more to Phuket than beaches - and that was one of the reasons I started this blog! If we do "hit the beach" then it's likely to be a quiet one rather than one of the main west coast beaches in Phuket. Last weekend we took a little afternoon drive. We do that sometimes .. just "go for a drive" and see where the road takes us. My wife and I figured that the last time we'd been to Surin beach was in 2006. That sounds kind of crazy, but do remember, we are not on holiday here .. we have a normal life of work and school and bills to pay. At weekends we might go away, might take a trip somewhere, or more likely do the garden, kids go to music class, have an easy day at home after a week of work and school ... Last weekend I wanted to check out Surin beach because with the support of the current military leadership of the country, Phuket has developed some cojones and issues like taxi gangs and illegal building on the beaches are being tackled. I wanted to see Surin now that restaurants on the sand and "beach clubs" on the sand had been removed.
(above) The result ... no building on the beach. Only sand, palm trees and a few lucky low season visitors.
Surin beach is not very big, but it has a fairly big car park right behind the beach as well as a municipal football pitch. Space is limited which is why restaurants and bars started to build on the sand. And, in my opinion, a few bamboo bars on the beach is fine, but Surin was getting silly, and it had "approval" from local officials who were allowing the development (for a price). And now suddenly it's gone! We walked along the beach from the car park to the north end where some rocks stick up through the sand. Our kids had last played here 8 years ago ...
(above) On the rocks at the north end of Surin beach
Well, back in 2006 there was a small restaurant near the rocks. Now I saw only a beach club called Zazada .. and (I did not look) I guess the prices of drinks would be more than I want to pay. The structures on the sand had only been knocked down a week before so, in places, things looked a bit untidy. I'll go again in a couple of months and see if everything is tidy! The kids found a wooden swing hanging from a palm tree ...
Kids + beach + rope swing = who needs an iPad? Well, our kids have got used to our sudden urges to take a drive. They might complain, but then enjoy the chance to explore. While the boy jumped around on the rocks, the girl walked to the very end of the beach. Maybe someday she will take the road less traveled. Crowded beaches? Where?
(above) Exploring the ends of Surin beach
After a while we walked back south to the carpark. The lack of any buildings on the beach is very pleasant. The same is happening at other beaches. I'd suggest that people bring a picnic or stop at a 7-11 before arriving at a beach these days! At Surin, without the smaller beach restaurants, not so much choice for eating. I mean, the beachfront shacks were not so cheap anyway, but compared to the beach clubs (Zazada, Catch and Bimi) they were a deal! Surin is now a BYO beach! Only thing left standing on the sand is the lifeguard shack ...
I do like the idea of keeping the beaches natural, but people gotta eat and drink! I imagine that once the whole thing blows over you will see drinks vendors on the beach, then maybe some little mobile food stalls, and then a little bamboo restaurant and maybe the whole thing will start again! Surin is a nice area to stay, there are plenty of hotels including Ayara Hilltops, Twin Palms and Manathai Resort.
• Full List of Surin Beach Hotels
If not staying at Surin, it's just a few minutes from Kamala beach or about 20 minutes from Patong beach. And to the north of Surin you find Bang Tao, Layan, Naithon, Nai Yang and Mai Khao beaches. I know ... Phuket has a lot of beaches. And if you are a beach person, it's worth exploring to find the right beach for you :)
We left Surin, heading back home via Kamala and Patong, but first ... in between Surin and Kamala beaches used to be a little gem called Laem Sing beach. Untouched. No construction. And I think my wife and I had not stopped there since about 2001! Back then, Laem Sing was a totally untouched paradise, but of course over the years a bar opened, and another and a restaurant and another one. Now, with help from the friendly Thai army, all that will be gone. Laem Sing will be the next blog post, as we stopped there on the same day. Just south of Surin is a viewpoint with a great view of Laem Sing beach. Wow.
(above) Laem Sing beach. We really should "take a drive" more often. I forget how beautiful the west coast of Phuket can be ...