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 The bracketed figure is submitted reviews -- reviews may not be published for editorial reasons or may be removed because the property concerned has been delisted from Travelfish or has closed.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 10:15 am, 19 Oct 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 ...
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 ...
Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2014 - Part 3
Published 6:44 am, 16 Oct 2014
My favourite Phuket event finished on October 4th and there are already 2 blog posts online about the 2014 Phuket Vegetarian Festival - see Part 1 and Part 2. I wanted to see lots of the festival this year and thus we need 3 blog posts :) Part 2 covered the big street processions in town for the Bang Neow and Jui Tui shrines. Those are the biggest of the morning processions, and really are quite a buzz for me, even after many years. It's not to everyone's taste, can cause some traffic issues and some people just don't get the point of all the face piercing. Well, it's not your culture. This festival dates back about 190 years, is certainly not a tourist event and if you stick around the main beach areas of Phuket, which most visitors do, you really won't notice anything. The big events happen at Chinese shrines around the island and the biggest street parades are in Phuket Town. It all started back in about 1825 when members of a visiting Chinese theater got sick when entertaining tin miners in the Kathu area of Phuket to the west of Phuket Town. Kathu is where this began, even before Phuket Town existed as a town. And Kathu Shrine had it's procession on October 1st. I tend to visit this shrine every year since it's very close to my house. Every year I try to get there really early, like 6 - 6:30am, and then realise that's not early enough. So, this year I was there at 5:30am. It was already crowded. The whole local community takes part as Kathu is very much a Chinese-Thai area and takes pride in being the origin of the festival.
(above) Saying prayers at Kathu shrine - this photo taken at 5:40am on 1st October.
I have taken plenty of the face piercing photos over the years and Kathu has plenty of that. This year I wanted to try and capture what was happening inside the shrine as the entranced Ma Song came to the shrine before heading outside to get pierced. Managed to find a photo vantage point next to the main "altar". I think video would be better, will try that next year. The Ma Song are sitting around the shrine and then suddenly, one by one or in small groups, they start to grunt and shake their heads and in some cases dance wildly, slam their hands down on the altar and are dressed in their ceremonial outfits by their helpers. Hard to get a photo in the dim light with the camera I was using (an old Panasonic G1). The experience was worth more than the photos.
(above) Ma Song at the altar inside Kathu shrine, about 6am on 1st October
Outside things get real busy after 6am. Ma Song are exiting the shrine every minute and finding a place to sit and get pierced. There are male and female Ma Song here at Kathu although most of the ladies are not pierced. It was not long before the procession started to form up and get ready for the walk to Phuket Town - it's something like 7km from Kathu, quite a walk on a hot day especially if you are carrying extra weight.
(above) Face piercing at Kathu shrine, about 6:20am 1st October
Not long after the above photo was taken, the Ma Song start the walk to town. The procession seems a bit random, with people setting off when they are ready. I waited a while outside the shrine, as my favourite part of the procession is in the rear - groups of guys carrying statues of the gods, and local residents throw firecrakers or hang long strips of firecrackers on bamboo poles and dangle them overhead as the gods are carried past. If you get in the middle of this, it's best to wear ear plugs and a mask.
(above) Carrying the gods through the firecracker storm in Kathu village. This is still before 7am. The streets get carpeted in red firecracker debris. I'd forgotten to get a mask and a couple of times had to beat a hasty retreat as the smoke was too much.
(above) The rear of the procession. This particular Ma Song, a young guy, seems to take on the form of a bent old man, walking with a stick. It is said that the Ma Song are possessed by spirits. I have no idea what is true, I have no reason to doubt what I see with my own eyes. If not true, there are some damn fine actors in Phuket!
On the last night of the festival there is a huge procession in Phuket Town with Ma Song (not pierced) and hundreds of god statues being carried through the streets. I had never been into town on the last night until this year. Earlier in the evening all the shrines have a ceremony called "Crossing the bridge for purification" - we'd been into Kathu for this a few years ago and it was a lovely evening (see here). The crazy last night procession always seemed a bit too crazy to me, but this year, properly equipped (long trousers, running shoes, long sleeved white shirt, facemask, cotton wool plugs for the ears) it was time to get a new experience. And it was worth the effort. I will certainly go again next year, armed with a better camera I hope and a better knowledge of where to get the best views. I went in with the family although my wife and kids soon retreated to a safe distance, and met Tim along Phuket Road near the large roadside shrine set up by the Phuket Town municipality. At one point with the smoke getting too much I retreated behind this shrine and found myself standing net to the Mayor of Phuket Town!
A few photos ... I tried to get close to the action!
The procession goes on from about 9:30 / 10pm until midnight or later. As I was there with the family, I did not stay too late - the photos above were all taken around 10pm. It gets wilder later on. I think I better aim to be in town until after midnight next year. This was just a taster! While waiting on Phuket Road for more of the procession to pass I became aware through the constant din of firecrackers that the next street over (Montri Road) seemed noisier, so I found a shortcut and found myself in the middle of a firestorm! Along with the firecrackers, piles of paper were being burnt in the street as the gods were carried past. Chaos and one facemask was not enough! But as the madness eased for a second I got one of my favourite photos from this year's festival.
Finally a short video. I was using a very basic Lumix camera on this last night, but I think with a little preparation, like wrapping the camera up in cloth and plastic, a nice camera would probably survive! Anyway, the Lumix had a video setting, so here's a little burst of madness ...
And that just about does it for the 2014 Phuket Vegetarian Festival, except there is a second festival this year from 24th October until 2nd November, as there are 2 ninth lunar months. I have no details of what will happen during this second festival. I get the impression that the answer is "not much" except for maybe another 9 days of vegetarian food for the faithful? I'll post any info that arises on my Facebook Page or you can follow me on Twitter for Phuket news and more. See you in Phuket!
The Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2014 - Part 2
Published 10:10 am, 7 Oct 2014
So, the vegetarian festival is over for another year. Or is it? Actually, 2014 sees a rare event since the 9th lunar month occurs twice and there will be a second vegetarian festival from about October 24th to November 1st. Apparently this only happens every hundred years or so, and it does seem that nobody is quite sure what to do second time around! I know that only some shrines will be participating and there won't be the massive street processions of the main festival which took place September 23rd - October 3rd. I'll have to wait and see what happens!
I already blogged Part 1 of the 2014 festival. This post covers all the events that I attended from September 27th until the end of the festival. I admit to getting a bit lazy over the weekend 27th - 28th September. Alarm set for 5am, with intentions to visit shrines, but both Saturday an Sunday mornings I turned off the alarm and enjoyed a rest. Fair enough, I do work all week after all! But when we hit Monday 29th, it was time for some action. I headed into town before 7am to watch some of the street procession from Bang Neow Shrine. This year I have tried to spotlight some of the more spiritual aspects of the vegetarian festival, not so much of the face piercing which tends to get most of the press.
(above) One of the Ma Song (entranced spirit mediums) blessing a man on the street
(above) Ma Song blessing a household shrine
(above) Ma Song giving a gift of fruit to a young child
Of course the face piercing cannot be ignored! By their pain is the bad luck of the community cast out!
And at the rear of the procession come the gods carried by teams of young guys through a hail of firecrackers.
The very next day, September 30th, was the biggest of the street processions starting from Jui Tui shrine and winding around the old town, down to the sea at Sapan Hin and back to the shrine. It takes about an hour for the whole procession to pass, and you can then move location and see it all pass again :) Jui Tui features something that Bang Neow does not - female Ma Song, and not just a few. The morning started thundery and a little wet, but thankfully the rain stopped.
I stood on Thalang Road in the center of old town for this procession. Businesses along the street set up shrines outside their door.
The respect shown to the Ma Song by the local people is obvious. And I am glad to see the old traditions being passed down to the young kids.
As the biggest shrine, you might expect a few bizarre piercings to be found on this morning ...
At one point, I was standing in the street with my little Lumix G1 camera and the whole procession stopped and posed for me. I looked around expecting to see some pro photograher next to me, but no .. this group shot was just for Jamie's Phuket. Thanks everyone!
And along came the gods. Every year I try to get a perfect photo of firecrackers exploding as these guys carry their chariots through the streets. Will try again next year, although there are always a few good photos if you press the shutter enough times!
This procession really is a buzz for me. I'd happily have stayed another hour but of course I have to work. Lots more photos can be found on my Flickr account - see Phuket Vegetarian Festival Photos. I'm going to need a Part 3 on the blog to cover the last couple of days. I love this festival and although I can understand people who don't like it either due to it's bizarre rituals or just that the traffic gets held up around town every morning, I think it's brilliant. And some people may say it's getting more commercial. I don't see that. Maybe a few more young guys doing odd piercings so they can get on TV. And despite claims that the festival brings tourists, I don't see that either. Not too many tourists watching these events, mostly locals. Certainly more tourists than when I first looked in 2006, but still there is not way you can call it a tourist attraction / something for tourists .. This is a 180+ year old event and tourism has been big in Phuket for less than 30 years.
Part 3 coming soon featuring early morning at Kathu shrine and the final night procession in Phuket Town.
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.