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 The bracketed figure is submitted reviews -- reviews may not be published for editorial reasons or may be removed because the property concerned has been delisted from Travelfish or has closed.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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Lucky 13 Sandwich near Rawai Beach
Published 9:13 am, 22 Jun 2015
Most of the time I do prefer cheap and simple Thai food, but living in Phuket with it's many tourists and many different nationalities means that, if I am in the mood, there's plenty of good non-Thai food! Growing up in England, the sandwich was an almost everyday meal or snack. Sandwiches taken to school for lunch, sandwiches from the cafe at work, sandwiches in a backpack on a hike ... But living here, noodles or rice are the main staple diets. We do sometimes have some bread in the kitchen at home, make the occasional cheese toastie, but it's often more of an emergency snack. However I do like a good sandwich, and by "good" I mean better than I can make at home, something a bit fancier, not just cheese and ham.
Lucky 13 opened at the end of 2012, and I have meant to try it for ages! But Rawai is not that close to our house (about 25km) and although I guess its only about 7km from my work at Sunrise Divers (Karon Beach), I tend to grab quick lunches close to the dive center. On a totally free day back in March 2015 I was passing by Lucky 13 on the way to Rawai beach and decided to try it. Lucky 13 is easy enough to see near the Seashell museum on the same side of the road.
There's seating outside or inside (with aircon), I have now been twice and there's not been a crowd either time. I think it's maybe better known by people who live here, especially people living in the Rawai or Naiharn area. They also deliver, you can phone and order, or order online through their website (www.lucky13sandwich.com). A good local trade is what you need here. The menu is pretty big, some of it covers the wall inside, lots of sandwiches to choose from, also a lot of different drinks and they do burgers and breakfasts too. Apparently it's open 24 hours. I wonder how much 3am trade they get?
Sandwiches ... plenty of choice, some cheaper than others. Starting price about 150 Baht up to about 250. I like the choice of breads ...
(above) Salami, sun dried tomato and pesto (with plenty of salad) sandwich
(above) Beef striploin with mustard mayo (and salad) sandwich. I went for ciabatta on both occasions, how fancy! They are pretty big sarnis, certainly enough for lunch. On my second visit I was given a loyalty card - free sandwich after buying 10 .. not sure I'll get to 10 any time soon. But will pass by again for sure, maybe try a burger or one of their breakfasts. Oh, there is a Lucky 13 outlet in Patong too. I am less likely to visit that one, Rawai is so much nicer!
More about the Rawai Beach area
Rawai Beach Information
Phuket Seashell Museum
Visiting Koh Kaew Island
Lucky 13 Sandwich - Location Map
3 Temples in One Afternoon
Published 9:39 am, 11 Jun 2015
A couple of weeks ago I had a free Saturday afternoon, did not fancy staying home, and was feeling in the mood for a temple .. this used to happen a lot. Phuket has many Buddhist temples and also plenty of Chinese shrines and mosques and even a Sikh Gurdwara. When I started the blog in 2006, I would regularly blog about different temples although (yes I know) most people and readers of this blog don't really care much for temples! So temple-related blog posts are quite rare now. Well, anyway, I had this afternoon free. Daughter was busy with school homework, my wife stayed with her and my boy bravely decided to come with Dad on a temple visiting afternoon :) We headed towards Thalang, in the center of Phuket island, which used to be the main population area before the tin mining boom of the 19th century led to the growth of Phuket Town and Kathu. There are quite a lot of temples around Thalang and I wanted to revisit several to get new photos and update the pages on the blog.
We started at Wat Sri Sunthorn which is a little south of Thalang and north of the Heroines Monument. Sri Sunthorn was one of 2 sisters known as the Heroines of Thalang who led the people of Phuket against a Burmese invasion in 1785. The temple used to be hard to spot from the road, but the entrance has been widened recently. There are multiple buildings, but the main attraction is a pretty darn big reclining Buddha which sits on the roof.
(above) My boy and the Buddha. He's about 5 feet tall, so you can see that's a Big Buddha :)
We are both born on Tuesday. There is a different Buddha image for each day of the week. For Tuesday - it's the reclining Buddha :) Outside the temple are donation boxes, one for each day. So we made a donation in the Tuesday box ...
A few kilometers further North you enter Thalang town. On the left side if heading North (west side of the road) there's a big temple called Wat Phra Nang Sang which seems to have had constant building work in progress for years. It is said to be the oldest temple in Phuket (or at least is built on the location of the oldest temple) and is apparently where the people of Phuket gathered to fight the Burmese 230 years ago. There are some older temple buildings and a whole new section that has been built since I was last there in 2006. The grounds are quite large, so we wandered around for a while. Was a hot day so after this temple we had to stop at a nearby 7-eleven for drinks :)
If you turn west at the traffic lights near Wat Phra Nang Sang you soon reach Wat Thep Kassatri, named after the other of the 2 heroines. We did not visit on this day and indeed, Wat Thep Kassatri is one temple I have not blogged yet! Instead we headed a little further North and then u-turned back south to find Wat Phra Tong (the road is 4 lane here and the entrance is on the southbound side of the road). Wat Phra Tong's main attraction is a "half Buddha" image which has a mysterious history and each time I have visited there have always been a few people there saying prayers.
A nice little afternoon with my boy. Maybe 3 temples was a bit too much for him :) I am told that when I was a young boy, having been dragged around many churches and cathedrals I said "seen one stained glass window, seen them all!" Hopefully a few visitors to Phuket disagree with that and might enjoy a little temple tour. More info on the blog : Phuket Temples.
Diving with my Family at Racha Yai Island
Published 9:45 am, 29 May 2015
So, in case you don't know .. I am manager at Sunrise Divers in Phuket, and have been doing this almost non stop since 2001. It's my job, it pays the bills, pays the kids school, puts food on the table etc. Blogging is just a fun hobby. I came to Phuket in 1999 as a dive instructor looking for work. Found some work. No real plans to stay forever, but then I met my wife who was working in the same dive shop and, well, here we are! You can find a little more on the About Jamie page on this blog! I don't dive much these days, but have logged about 1,500 dives over the years. My wife is a certified diver too and is a very relaxed diver. My daughter has done some little scuba try outs in the pool. My son just turned 10 this year and officially you should allow kids under 10 to scuba dive. So a few weeks ago we found a free day, the weather looked good, and the kids were excited to learn that I'd booked us all for a day trip to Racha Yai Island. We have been there before on a weekend trip, and I have dived there maybe 100 times, but now the kids are old enough - it's time to dive!
(above) On the dive boat and ready to go. Trips depart from Chalong Bay. We met at Chalong pier about 8am and it was about 8:30am when we set off. It takes about 90 minutes on a dive boat to reach Racha Yai Island. The dive boats in this area are quite large, have upper deck seating areas and some have a smaller indoor (aircon) saloon area. So it's pretty comfortable, you are not sitting with the dive gear on a bench! Also, breakfast is provided, along with unlimited coffee, tea, and drinking water. I let the family relax while I set up all our scuba gear (OK, my dear wife helped a bit). Only took about 15 minutes to get 4 sets of gear and 4 weight belts ready, then I could join everyone upstairs for a cup of tea.
(above) Dive gear, ready to go!
(above) Our son takes a seat with a view .. Racha Yai island straight ahead!
When you arrive at Racha Yai, where you dive depends a bit on the conditions. As far as possible, if there is no strong northeast wind, it's best to dive on the east side of the island. It was not at all a windy day, so we started on the east coast with beautiful blue water. Visibility underwater here varies from 15 meters up to 30+ meters year round unless the weather is really bad! Much of the time, even in low season, it looks like this ...
(above) Racha Yai island, east coast. And we were looking forward to getting in the water! We let others get ready first as we were "non paying customers". There were about 20 on the boat including 4 or 5 instructors leading different groups of divers from different countries. I figured we'd take our time getting ready as it would be the kids first dive in the sea. It feels a little odd wearing scuba gear for the first time and even stranger once you start breathing through a regulator underwater!
(above) Our kids getting ready to dive
(above) We let everyone else get ready first :)
Wet suits on, weight belts on, sit down on the bench, strap into the BCD and then stagger to the dive platform carrying all that weight! Fins are the last thing to put on, as you don't want to be walking around wearing fins. I helped the kids with adjusting their gear. Checked everything was turned on and ready to go ....
(above) Our daughter getting her fins on with some help from the boat staff
(above) My wife ready to dive!
After a few teething problems ... both kids would go down a couple of meters and then signal to me that they wanted to go up again .. "my ears feel funny" or "my mask is loose" .. After about 5 minutes we all descended to about 7 meters under water, down to the sand, and the kids looked OK, if a little awkward (you normally do look a bit awkward on a first go at anything!), so we started to swim around. I did not take them deeper than about 9 meters. My wife has not logged too many dives but is a natural mermaid :) I did not take an underwater camera, as I knew I'd have to keep both eyes on the kids. Instructors should be using their eyes to care for students, not taking photos! But we saw plenty of marine life ..
(above) We saw all of these and more - moray eel, scorpionfish, clownfish, pufferfish, triggerfish, bannerfish, lionfish and more. Always plenty of life at Racha Yai! Many thanks to Simon Ilett (a dive instructor working in Phuket) for the photos. Our first dive was about 35 minutes and I was relieved that it had all gone smoothly! My kids are now divers! These day trips have 2 dives with lunch in between. The boat was moved while we ate lunch, my son had his nose in a fish identification book and both kids were pleased with themselves and ready to dive again. We had our second dive in Siam Bay on the south end of Racha Yai.
(above) Photo taken from the boat as we entered Siam Bay, Racha Yai Island
There are some underwater elephant statues here, but they are down about 18m deep, and our depth (for first time divers) was a maximum of 12m. We actually did not go deeper than about 7 meters on the second dive, swimming around in the shallows for 45 minutes. Could have stayed quite a lot longer, but it would be rude to delay the boat :) On the second dive the kids were very comfortable, checking out marine life, enjoying life underwater. 45 minutes went by very fast. After we were back on the boat and I got all the gear stowed away, the kids were already asking "when can we go again?" We will certainly go again soon. Diving might not seem like hard work, but I can tell you, combined with a day out on the water, when you breathe compressed air and carry dive gear and swim underwater .. it really is good exercise! Both kids slept in the aircon saloon on the way back to Chalong Bay. A great day out. Anyone wants to dive, contact me at Sunrise Divers! Thanks also to Noon at Local Dive Thailand for letting us go on her boat :)
Where to see Monkeys in Phuket
Published 9:16 am, 19 May 2015
I get the impression that a lot of visitors to Phuket want to see a monkey .. and preferably not in the zoo (the zoo will not appear on this list). Now, I am a bit blasé when it comes to monkeys. I have seen plenty. I have traveled in Africa, been face to face with a baboon outside my tent, seen hundreds of vervet monkeys in the Masai Mara, and I have seen gorillas in the Ruwenzori mountains (gorillas are not monkeys of course - they are apes). Nevertheless, I am still happy to see wild monkeys. There are not many wild animals left in Phuket - the island was jungle covered 200 years ago, and Phuket used to have wild elephants, tigers, rhino and a lot more. Industry in the form of tin mining and especially rubber led to clearance of much of the jungle during the 19th and early 20th century, long before any tourists came here. There are some untouched jungly areas, but much of the land is cultivated, and there are no tigers here anymore! Monkeys however are adaptable, and can live in just about any kind of environment. There are quite a number of places where you can see monkeys in the Phuket area....
I guess the best place to start is Monkey Hill (real name is Khao To Sae) on the north side of Phuket Town - it's the hill with all the aerials / radio masts etc. on top, and easy to spot from much of the south of the island, being around 270m above sea level. There are a lot of monkeys here, mostly they are found near the top of the hill. Local people come up to feed them, but it's not a "tourist attraction". You can drive up in a car. People also exercise here, but I am not sure I'd want to walk up to the top where the monkeys are. Not sure if they can get aggressive, but I'd rather be in a car! (update) I saw a news story last year - a tourist was bitten by a monkey here.
• Monkey Hill - More Information
Also on the north side of Phuket Town, Rang Hill (I am sure) never used to have monkeys some years ago, I do not recall seeing any until the last few years. Rang Hill is quite popular as a viewpoint, a place to eat or get some fresh air and exercise. Our last few visits, there have been monkeys a-plenty taking handouts or sifting through garbage. They just tend to hang around the carpark area and not the restaurants.
• Rang Hill - More Information
• New Viewpoint at Rang Hill
• Tunk Ka Cafe on Rang Hill
Sirey Island (east of Phuket Town)
As you drive to Koh Sirey, passing the fishing port and shipyards, you enter an area of mangroves and here be monkeys. They live in the mangroves and the local authorities even built a little monkey viewing area by the side of the road. We like the Sirey island area, nice and quiet and there's a very nice temple on the hill here too.
• Sirey Island - More Information
• Sirey Temple
Wat Suwan Kuha Temple
Also called "Buddha Cave Temple" and "that cave with a Buddha in it", Wat Suwan Kuha is a temple built into a cave close to Phang Nga Town, off Phuket Island, and about a 90 minute drive from Phuket Town. Certainly worth a visit, and outside the cave there are lots of monkeys. We have been a few times and I have not seen any monkeys inside the cave. I guess they know the rules.
• Wat Suwan Kuha - More Information
Bang Rong (northeast coast of Phuket)
I remember driving down the small road to Bang Rong pier to eat at the floating restaurant in the mangroves. We'd been before but never seen monkeys. This time - monkeys! We got quite excited - unexpected monkeys are the best. They hang around in the mangroves but also jump around on the roofs of buildings and chew car aerials. We know where *not* to park now. Bang Rong is where you can get a ferry over to Koh Yao Noi and Koh Yao Yai Islands too. (Update) On our most recent visit monkeys were rather over friendly and even stole fruit from our table and tried to grab a bag of take away food from my wife's hand. Take care!
• Bang Rong - More Information
Gibbon Rehabilitation Project
Close to Bang Pae Waterfall and not far from the aforementioned Bang Rong, the Gibbon Rehab Project looks after gibbons that have been illegally caught, or kept as pets. Some are released back into the wild. It's illegal to own a gibbon, and if you see gibbons being hawked round the streets for photos, please contact the GRP. Gibbons are apes, not monkeys, I know that .. but want to include the project here, it's worth a visit combined with the waterfall, a jungle hike ....
• Phuket Gibbon Rehab Center - More Information
Related Phuket Blog Posts
Khao Sok National Park
Hiking to the Highest Point in Phuket
Kayaking in the Mangroves
Suggested Phuket Hotels
Kamala Beach Revisited
Published 9:09 am, 19 May 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
Phuket Blog page about Kamala 2009
Kamala Beach Hotels (at Agoda.com)
Laem Sing Beach