Travelfish contributions by Batfish
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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 2015 Schedule
Published 7:09 am, 27 Sep 2015
It's nearly here! The 2015 Phuket Vegetarian Festival will take place from 12 - 22 October 2015. The dates vary every year, 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 although I will be away for the first few days of the festival. I sold my "nice" camera a while back, and in 2014 was using a combination of and old (but OK) Lumix and a few iPhone photos too! I was thinking of buying a new fancy camera during 2015, but it's not happened. 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 much - I have only attended one firewalking event and it was so crowded. And until last year I had not experienced the crazy last night procession in Phuket Town - and this was great - will certainly be there again this year! 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 in Phuket 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
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.
Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2015 - Schedule 12th - 22nd October
The start of the 2015 festival will be Monday 12th October 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 often 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 15th October ... or actually the 14th - 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.
Monday October 12th
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.
13th - 14th October - there are no big events on the first 2 days of the festival except for a small procession from Naka shrine on the 14th, 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 normally 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.
Wednesday October 14th
Street procession into Phuket Town from Naka Shrine, located next to the weekend market just outside Phuket Town. This shrine is a newcomer to the festival and has only been doing processions for a few years. I visited last year (2014) and it was quite crowded with photographers looking to get the first photos of the festival.
Thursday October 15th
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 few years for this very noisy procession! A similar procession also takes place at several other shrines on the same evening. I believe there is a very big one at Jui Tui Shrine.
Below - Birth / Death Gods Procession at Kathu Shrine in 2014
Friday October 16th
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 and I find that 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. It's a good one to attend early in the morning. I might even walk with them into town this year.
Saturday October 17th
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 story predates the Vegetarian Festival by several decades.
Sunday October 18th
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 very big crowds on this day. I have been in town the last few years for the Bang Neow procession, but have not tried to get into the temple due to the number of people. 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. Maybe I'll try to get some firewalking photos again this year....
Below - Phuket Town Procession Photos - Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2014
Monday October 19th
Street procession starting at Jui Tui shrine, which is probably the biggest shrine in Phuket town - just west of the main market. I went to see the procession in 2013 and 2014 - it was very crowded but I got lots of photos! It is 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 and lined with food stalls during the entire 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 one time 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!
Tuesday October 20th
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 4 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 would be better. But hard work! 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 October 20th - fire walking at Bang Neow, Cherng Talay and Sam Kong shrines. Got to be worth a look!
Wednesday October 21st
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 and I did take some photos, but the firewalking seems to draw very 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 selfie stick might work!
And then in the evening/night of the last day (21st October) there will be a huge procession around Phuket Town, with people carrying statues of the gods to Sapan Hin. Millions of firecrackers and fireworks. It is absolutely mad. I went for the first time in 2014. And will go again now with better preparation. There is so much smoke and so many firecrackers, it's advisable to wear long trousers, a shirt with long sleeves and something more than flip flops or you'll get burnt feet! Need to wear a cloth or face mask over your face too, to avoid too much smoke inhalation! And earplugs would be a good idea. It's like a warzone. A friend had a firecracker land in his pocket a few years ago and melt his iPod!
Earlier in the evening on the last night there is the "Bridge Crossing for Purification" ceremony at the shrines. We did this in 2011 and it was an evening I enjoyed very much. Everyone in white, lots of smiles, no bloody faces, seemed like the whole village was there!
Below - Crossing the Bridge for Purification - Phuket Vegetarian Festival
Below - Final Night in Phuket Town - Phuket Vegetarian Festival
Thursday October 22nd
At about 5pm the lantern poles (Go Teng poles) are lowered at the shrines marking the very end of the 2015 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
Hungry Ghost (Por Tor) Festival in Phuket Town
Published 11:10 am, 7 Sep 2015
It's festival time! The Por Tor festival, also called the Hungry Ghost festival takes place in Phuket during the second half of the 7th lunar month, which this year is August 28th to September 12th. The hungry ghost festival also takes place in Singapore, Hong Kong and other places, and the history seems to be a mix of Buddhist and Taoist beliefs. It's not a huge event in Phuket, and almost everything takes place in Phuket Town, though I did see a few offerings outside a small Chinese shrine near our house in Kathu. Certainly, if you stick to the beach areas you will have no idea this is happening! It's not something that all local people participate in, and in other parts of the country this festival hardly exists. A few years ago we visited with my wife's sister and husband. His family is Chinese-Thai from Bangkok and he'd never heard of this festival before! I have blogged about the Por Tor festival a couple of times before in 2011 and 2012. The last couple of years we'd either not been here during the festival or just decided to skip it. This year I wanted to have a look again. My mother died last year on August 29th and her funeral was on September 8th. I hope she's not hungry. She should be OK though, she had a proper send off, a lovely funeral and a huge family gathering, so she should hopefully be a happy ghost.
The first part of the festival included a couple of street parades (which I missed, but you can find some pics on Tim's Blog). The center of activities for a few days was the central market on Ranong road in Phuket Town. We went for a look on August 30th. The second floor of the market becomes a temple and has massive tables full of food offerings for those hungry ghosts!
(above) Roasted offerings and giant red turtle cakes for the Por Tor Festival. The red turtles are a symbol of long life and good fortune.
(above) Lighting candles and saying prayers at the temporary shrine in the market. This was on for the first few days of the festival, along with a street fair outside on Ranong Road. Lots of food stalls and a stage with dance and music performances. On the 31st there was a parade from the market heading through old town and south to the Por Tor Kong shrine. A place that I did not know existed until 2011, down a small unassuming side street, but it's the center of activities for much of the Por Tor Festival.
(above) Dancers outside the market in Phuket Town
(above) Street stall near the market, making Hoy Tod (a kind of omelette with mussels)
The little Por Tor Kong shrine is in the south of Phuket Town, not far from the Bang Neow shrine, which is one of the main shrines during the Phuket vegetarian festival. We found this shrine in 2011 when we went exploring during the Por Tor Festival and just followed the crowds. Not a big shrine, but gets very very busy in the evenings during the festival as people come here to make offerings and say a prayer in the shrine. This year we headed into town on a Sunday evening (September 6th) and I dragged the family down to the shrine to make a turtle offering. We had to park about half a mile away and take a little walk, passing the famous Keng Tin bakery on the way. They do Chinese snacks year round and make lots of turtle cakes for the festival, but when we passed they were just about sold out! But a little further up the street a family was making a big turtle ...
Heading down the small side street called Takuathung Road things got busier as we approached the shrine. Lots of food stalls and clothes stalls and of course stalls selling turtles. So we bought one to leave at the shrine as an offering to any of our lost ancestors who might be hungry.
At the shrine itself the crowds were thick. There was a queue to obtain incense sticks for lighting and placing in the shrine. And many, many people arriving with turtle cakes. Of course, I dived into the crowds to take a few photos, while the rest of the family found a relatively quiet spot to wait for blogger Dad. The photos here are all taken with an iPhone 6, and they seem to be OK, which makes we wonder why I still want to buy a nice new Canon SLR! This was the first time I have really tried to use this phone/camera in these conditions (night time / low light) and it's done pretty well.
The food offering display outside the shrine (see below) was quite marvelous, and it is a very nicely decorated shrine.
I went looking for a back way into the shrine. No way past the queue of people with incence sticks. I found some space just inside the "exit" - you have to enter and exit a Chinese shrine and leave incence in the right places in the right order. With all the candles and all that incense it was pretty hot and smoky in there. I could still feel the smoke in my lungs next morning. if hanging around in there, a mask would be a good idea.
(above) Inside the Por Tor Kong shrine.
The altar at the back of the shrine is in a narrow passage. It's here that people will put their burning incense in different places. Yes, this is Phuket. Not the beaches, beers and sunshine version of Phuket. A bit different.
One of the volunteers looking after the shrine found me a space to stand for a couple of minutes right inside, a bit too close to people, maybe! In a case like this a nice camera with a wide angle lens would be ideal. I squeezed against the wall to keep out of people's way as they came through the shrine. After a few minutes the smoke was a bit much and the volunteer guy suggested I should move on out anyway, and not stay too long right there in the "holiest" area. The true meaning of this festival is hard to grasp without being a local (and when I say local, I mean really local). Many local people in Phuket have Chinese ancestors and they understand what these festivals mean. Many areas of Phuket have nothing to do with Por Tor or the vegetarian festival. I try to get some meaning out of it by getting close to the events, but I am an English atheist, merely here as an observer. I'd like to believe in something more spiritual and maybe someone somewhere has the answer. Are the spirits of hungry ancestors hanging around Phuket Town right now? As I write this, it's September 7th, so 5 more days if you are in Phuket and want to see something a bit different... Note that the dates change every year. Festival starts in the middle of the 7th Chinese lunar month if you want to plan for the future!
Por Tor Festival - Map of Locations
View Por Tor Festival in a larger map
Phang Nga Bay Revisited
Published 11:03 am, 5 Sep 2015
If anyone asks me for a list of "must see" places in the Phuket region, Phang Nga Bay is top of the list. The bay is actually very big covering all the sea and many islands in between Phuket, Phang Nga and Krabi and I have seen only small parts of it. One of these days I want to buy a boat and go exploring! We have done several trips in Phang Nga Bay with friends and family. Our last one was back in .. wow, I had to double check. It was back in September 2010, I did not realise it was so long ago! I had planned that trip as an afternoon excursion, renting a longtail boat and aiming to reach James Bond Island late in the afternoon when all the tours had gone home and hopefully with the bonus of some golden afternoon light - it half worked. We were the only visitors on this otherwise crowded tourist attraction, but on that day the light was poor, with dark clouds and some light drizzle. So I said "we have to try that again!" and time has ticked by, and life has moved on, and it's been more than 4 years since our last Phang Nga Bay trip. Well, earlier this month my cousin and his family who live in Singapore came to Phuket for a few days, I had a day off on Saturday February 7th and the weather looked good, so we decided that Phang Nga Bay had to be visited again. And everyone had a great day out.
From our house it takes just over an hour to drive to Phang Nga Town. We live just outside Phuket Town. If you were driving from the north of Phuket island, it would be a shorter drive, if you started at Kata beach for example, it would probably take at least 90 minutes, maybe 2 hours - remember it can take well over an hour to get from one end of Phuket to the other! We do this trip without signing up for a tour, we drive ourselves, we negotiate a boat, we find a place for lunch ... doing it yourself in a foreign land is not for everyone, but it's not exactly brain surgery. There are lots of tours doing this area, but many are cheap, rushed and crowded. My friends at Easy Day Thailand can do a tour which is based on the way we do Phang Nga Bay - more personal and trying to avoid the crowds by avoiding the peak times.
We headed up to Phang Nga in 2 cars as there were 9 of us altogether - my wife and I, our 2 kids, my daughter's friend, my wife's cousin's son, my cousin and his wife and their son! We set off late morning, no particular rush and stopped off first at Wat Suwan Kuha temple which is just before Phang Nga Town. Glad to see the entry fee is still 20 Baht (and no dual pricing). Wat Suwan Kuha features lots of monkeys outside and a big reclining Buddha inside along with many other Buddha images and behind the Buddha cave is a larger cave.
(above) Entrance to Wat Suwan Kuha and monkeys outside the temple
(above) Inside Wat Suwan Kuha temple
After the stop it was time for lunch. Now, back in 2010 we ate at a place called Samchong Seafood, which is on a mangrove river which leads out into the bay and we rented a boat from the jetty next to the restaurant. In the last few years I have heard from several independent sources that this restaurant has gone downhill. Our friends at Easy Day Thailand don't use it now .. and although I will reserve judgement until we go check it again, on this trip we played it safe and went for lunch at Dairy Hut Seafood which is just past Phang Nga Town. We've eaten here a number of times, and it's always been good, as it was this time too! Then we backtracked a few km - just before Phang Nga Town if coming from Phuket there is a right turn and a sight saying "Phang Nga National Park" which leads down to the Phang Nga municipal jetty. Arriving at the jetty, longtail boat drivers leap into the road to flag down cars. We negotiated a boat for 1600 Baht, actually a little more than I was expecting and my wife and I both thought the drivers were a bit of an unfriendly bunch, reinforcing our idea to give Samchong a try again some day, as the longtail driver we had there was really nice. However - 9 people, 1600 Baht .. yeh, let's not worry too much about the price! I am not sure a "tourist" could get exactly the same deal and even if you end up paying a little more, I'd suggest doing a trip with Easy Day Thailand, with a guide along for the ride to explain things.
(above) at the Phang Nga pier
(above) Our longtail boys for this trip were a right couple of charmers.
We know you can also get a "local" boat from here to Panyee village, and we'd like to try that sometime. We arranged with the boat boys to take our group to Panyee village first and then James Bond Island (real name Koh Khao Ping Gan). The jetty is up a mangrove river about 7km north of Panyee, about 20 minutes by longtail boat. Payee is a stilted village built around a large limestone karst. I find this place very interesting, once beyond the row of restaurants and souvenir stalls. It's what I think of as a micro-society, a place slightly removed from reality, a little isolated from the rest of the world although these days there are hundreds of tourists visiting every day. Thus even more reason to find some backstreets.
(above) Koh Panyee from the water - the mosque is just about the only building built on solid land. Everything else is on stilts.
Everything is built around the rocky island called Koh Panyee which towers above the village. Since our last visit there have been a couple of changes ... the mosque has been rebuilt with shiny golden minarets, and the island has a floating football pitch! We walked through narrow streets passing the mosque to the west side of the island.
(above) The back streets of Panyee village are narrow and (to me) full of interest. At every step I wonder what it's like to live here. I imagine it's a very close community where everyone knows everyone and doors are always open. Life will have changed a lot over the last 20 year with tourism generating a lot of income, but it's still a fishing village at heart.
The mosque when we last visited looked rather sad. Now looking much healthier. Panyee is Muslim like much of the Phang Nga coastal area (and also much of Krabi and a fair amount of Phuket!). Although the stallholders selling souvenirs look a little bored, I see a lot of smiles here, I think it's an easy lifestyle.
Crossing over from where we landed, past the mosque I found what I wanted to see - the floating football pitch. It wasn't there when we visited in 2010 although there was a concrete recreation area attached to the school. The story of the Panyee football team is now well known thanks to a video made by a Thai bank. You can find the video and more photos on a blog page I wrote in 2010 about Koh Panyee. And what a spectacular place to kick a ball around!
We all enjoyed a run around. The kids realised that you'd get quite wet playing here, as you'd need to jump into the sea to retrieve the ball any time it went out of play! We spent about an hour at Koh Panyee and I think I would happily spend half a day there taking photos. It was nearly 4pm when we started heading towards James Bond Island, which is about another 7km south. We went via a small island where several sea kayak companies have their bases and on a busy high season day you can find hundreds of tourists on a little kayak tour (part of a day trip package) - not for serious kayakers! Our longtail picked a path through the kayaks and through a small cave. All of these little islands are beautiful. I want a boat!
We got to Koh Khao Phing Gan (the proper name for James Bond Island) about 4:30pm. Rather shocked to find we were a bit early .. still a couple of groups of Chinese here!
We got there after the national park staff had left, so in theory we'd not need to pay the entry fee .. except our boat boys had collected 900 Baht from us in advance. Did we see that money back? Ha! The last trip in 2010 we'd also got there late and not paid any fees, and nothing to the boat dudes. I could tell these 2 young guys did not want to be the last ones back to the pier, but .. tough! This is the Monk family you are driving and we do it our way! We stayed until the last Chinese group had gone and the light was very nice this time. Would have been even nicer at high tide .. have to plan that next time :)
The tall rock that sticks up from the water is called Koh Tapu, which means "Nail Island". I wonder how many years until it falls over? I'm sure the base looked fatter in the movie! In the late afternoon light, this area is gorgeous. The photo above was taken at nearly 5:30pm, by which time we had this "crowded" tourist attraction to ourselves. Even the souvenir stall holders had gone. I had not noticed before, maybe it was the light, but you can see Koh Panyee from here, 7km to the north - what a view!
(above) Panyee village as seen from James Bond Island. Touristy or not, it's pretty frikkin' spectacular! And if it can be called "touristy" then it's only for a few hours per day. We must do this again sometime soon, and not wait another 4 years! We stayed as long as we could on Scaramanga's island, but for sure the boat boys were worried they'd be getting back late. I was snapping photos up until we left just after 5:30pm.
Now I only wish I had a better camera ... Well, it's my birthday soon :) These pictures were taken with a Panasonic Lumix G1, not the most modern camera. Actually a couple of these photos were taken with an iPhone. I am really considering splashing out this year on a Canon 7D or something of a similar quality. Anyone got a spare?
Anyway .. we sped back to the Phang Nga pier in about 25 minutes from James Bond Island, passing Koh Panyee with the sun sinking low. Every time we've done this trip it's been a great day out. We drove back to Phuket, straight into Phuket Town for dinner at Kopitiam at about 8pm. Perfect day!
(above) Not far off sunset as we dash past Koh Panyee on the way home.
Book Tours with Easy Day Thailand
Phang Nga Bay - More Information
Our Phang Nga Bay trip in 2010
James Bond Island
Exploring Phang Nga Province
One Night in Khao Lak
Published 7:21 am, 31 Aug 2015
Khao Lak was just getting to be very popular in 2004. A quiet alternative to Phuket, very nice beaches and easy to reach - just fly in to Phuket Airport and get a taxi north. It's not much further to Khao Lak than it is to Patong Beach, just in the other direction and to be honest, with the traffic, probably takes about the same time. And then, 26th December 2004. The Tsunami. Phuket was hit, but Khao Lak was hit far worse. Killed thousands in the area, compared to hundreds in Phuket. Many hotels were (and are!) right by the beach. The fishing village of Ban Nam Khem a little north was flattened. In places the water reached more than 1km inland. Recovery was quick, but in places the rebuilding took years. Phuket was quickly back on the tourism map and I felt that Khao Lak was a little bit forgotten. Not pushed as a destination by travel companies, more likely to attract independent tourists looking for a quiet place to stay. And even in high season, Khao Lak is not that busy. Hotels are strung out along a 20km coastline, some hotels are quite remote, some are in more built up areas. We did several short trips to Khao Lak back in 2013 - see Holidays in Khao Lak - we had some relaxing days and did trips to Koh Tachai island and visited the tsunami memorials.
I had wanted to take another weekend in Khao Lak, but just to relax and do nothing. My dear wife didn't fancy it .. "nothing to do", she said. Exactly! A relaxing weekend at a nice hotel, with crazy low season prices, sit by the pool, go to the beach, have a night in a hotel, and maybe visit a nearby waterfall or something. Perfect! Well, we finally got a night in Khao Lak on August 15th, and got lucky with the low season weather. We had first been white water rafting in Phang Nga and then drove to the west to Khao Lak, only about 45 minutes drive. Previously we'd stayed at Nangthong Bay Resort. This time, something new - The Leaf On The Sands, which is owned by Katathani resorts. They also run The Sands Resort, which is right next to The Leaf, and there's the Katathani and The Shore in Phuket.
As I understand it, The Leaf is the cheaper sister of The Sands. To reach the beach from The Leaf you take a path next to The Sands, takes about 5 - 10 minutes to walk to the beach depending on your walking speed. We checked in mid afternoon and I liked it right away!
(above) The Leaf On The Sands. Our room was one of these by the pool :)
And the room rate? Not much more than 1,000 Baht! Low season prices can be a little bit nuts here! High season rates start around 3,000 Baht. We were straight into the pool for a splash about with the kids. There is also a second pool with a swim up bar, so I headed there too for a cold Chang with friends (we did this weekend with our friends from the Easy Day Thailand tour company). It's not a huge resort, has about 90 rooms. All with free WiFi, thank you! That has to be a given these days .. any hotel that charges for WiFi should be ashamed. Our room was comfortable, huge bed, big bathroom. Aircon maybe a little too powerful for the size of room, but .. right by the pool, inexpensive... I do like low season! We are lucky of course because we can decide last minute to take a trip. We can wake up Saturday morning and check the weather. Sunny? Let's go out! If you have a pre-booked holiday, well, you just have to be lucky.
I took a late afternoon walk down to the beach. Khao Lak has many different beach areas. This is Nangthong Beach. The hotel we stayed in before is just a 10 minute walk along the beach. Very quiet at this time of year, very few people around. I watched a few guys fishing from the rocks...
That evening our group all got together for a big dinner at a place called Baan Khao Lak Seafood, which is actually a few km south of the main Khao Lak beaches. I think it's more of a locals place to eat, being not that close to any hotels. We had a big spread of fried fish, penang curry and shrimp tom yum. And a beer or 2 :) And back to the hotel. I was back in the pool to let the kids jump on me, then popped out for a couple of beers at a small Italian restaurant over the street from the hotel, and enjoyed sitting with my wife on the hotel balcony. Easy life!
Next morning, no rush, but was woken about 7:15am by the kids (ours and their friends) who were already splashing around in the pool!
(above) View from our room about 7:20am, Sunday morning.
Oh well, no sleep in for me! Another jump in the pool and then off for breakfast. Now .. hotels in Thailand do sometimes have very basic breakfasts. Often cold fried eggs, crappy white bread for toast, only sachets of instant coffee. I am happy to say that The Leaf was a good one. Fresh brewed coffee, and a cook who was making eggs to order. In my book, that's fancy, but then again we don't tend to stay at fancy hotels! Breakfast was included in the room rate too. A very good low season deal. After breakfast, I had to run to catch up with my son and a few of his buddies, who were heading down to the beach. It was a beautiful morning. As good as any high season morning. No big waves, just a gentle surf. Blue skies, empty sands. A shame it was Monday and back to school and work next day, I wanted another night!
(above) On the beach, Sunday 16th August
We all took a walk up the beach, kids darting in and out of the water, body surfing the waves. They can all swim pretty well, my kids and our friend's kids, but anyway, best to have some adult supervision. I don't think any of them wanted to leave either!
(above) My boy and a couple of buddies enjoying a perfect beach morning in Khao Lak.
Oh to be 10 years old again! Life is simple.
A very good weekend, with the rafting on Saturday and a relaxing night in Khao Lak. And my wife now wants to go again. I have finally convinced her that doing nothing for a weekend can be fun! Well, almost nothing ... we left from Khao Lak just about midday and headed back south to Phuket, stopping off at Lampi Waterfall on the way. It's not a really long drive from home to Khao Lak, we drive slow and it takes less than 2 hours. So, when will be our next Khao Lak trip?!
A Tour of South Phuket
Published 7:36 am, 27 Aug 2015
We had some new visitors to Phuket earlier this year. My aunt and uncle were in Thailand for the first time, staying 7 nights at the Centara Karon Resort which is a few minutes walk from the sands of Karon beach and a couple of kilometers up the road from my office at Sunrise Divers. We had a couple of evenings with them visiting a few favourite places like Kopitiam and the After Beach Bar, but since it's high season I could only take one full day off that week. On Sunday 11th January I drove to pick them up from the hotel for a little tour around some of the sights in the south of Phuket before heading to the beach in the late afternoon for my son's birthday party. And, as it happens, it was also my aunt's birthday. All photos on this page were taken on the same day.
This little tour covers a lot of beautiful scenery and is only a small corner of southwest Phuket. It was one of the first parts of Phuket that I explored when not diving. It was a very quiet area then, but even now the roads are not so busy and it's a nice area for a ride on a moped with lots of possible stopping off points. It was nice to be a "tour guide" for half a day and this trip with my relatives helped me remember that Phuket really is a nice place to live! We started from Karon to the south, past Kata beach and then on the hilly, winding road along the coast to Naiharn beach.
First stop was the well known Karon Viewpoint (also called "the Phuket Viewpoint" or Kata Viewpoint). And as you can see the weather was perfect, just what you'd hope for in January. Always a great view from here looking north along the Phuket coastline. There are many great coastal views in Phuket.
From the viewpoint you drop down towards Naiharn. This area has got so much more developed in the last 10 years, lots of restaurants, houses, a few resorts, and there are banks and local businesses. When the road gets to Naiharn Lagoon, there is an option to turn right and stop at Naiharn Beach, maybe visit Naiharn temple or follow the coast round to the very small Ao Sane beach. But we headed on south. The road here is narrow and hilly. You climb from beach level up to about 50 meters above sea level where there's a wind turbine, a great view and not a lot of parking space! This is one of my favourite views in Phuket.
(above) View from the wind turbine viewpoint just south of Naiharn beach (read more about this viewpoint on the blog here). The beach on the left side of the photo is Ya Nui Beach just to the south .. and after taking in this great view on a great day, we stopped at Ya Nui for a quick drink. It's always been a fairly quiet place. The one beach-side restaurant has now gone, but there are a few places to eat and drink by the road - and the road is very small and quiet. Ya Nui has a few nearby bungalows, and other people come by car or moped for a relaxing beach day without too many crowds. And this was in peak season ...
Just a few minutes drive from Ya Nui is Phromthep Cape, which is the "end of Phuket", the most south-westerly point on the island and a very popular stop for sunset views. I actually think there are better places for a sunset, but that's another story! Certainly the views are lovely. I was disappointed this time, because the lighthouse was closed (normally you can climb up for a better view). A hike to the very end of the cape was not an option with a couple of "not so young" folks, but I do recommend it.
I did consider lunch at the Cape Phromthep restaurant. We have eaten there only once before and I do want to try it again sometime, but preferably at sunset. On this occasion, I thought we could try a place at Rawai beach, just another 5 minute drive. Rawai beach is changing too - more modern looking buildings on the beach road and a resort under construction. I chose a place called Rimlay for lunch towards the jetty end of Rawai beach (east end), next door to the well known Nikita's restaurant. Rimlay has some tables in the shade right by the sea, looked ideal and I'd say my aunt and uncle thought so too!
I had a great seafood salad and (of course) a cold Chang. We sat by the sea and I thought "damn, Phuket is a great place!". I think I'll blog this restaurant a bit later, it's certainly one to visit again. A very pleasant lunch. Time ticked by, a second cold beer was enjoyed and it was time to move on. We could have stopped at the Phuket Seashell Museum, but time was limited. We drove to Chalong and then up and up the hill to the Big Buddha. It was rather busy up there. My aunt had to borrow a sarong to cover her shoulders (they hand these out for free at the entrance). You are supposed to dress properly at temples. I saw a shirtless guy being stopped by "Big Buddha Security" and not allowed in without a shirt. The day continued to be hot with blue skies.
From the Big Buddha, given a little more time, a stop at Wat Chalong Temple would have been next on the list and between there and home there's also the Phuket Botanic Garden and the Bird Park. A bit too much for a day! We had a party to get to, and so the Big Buddha was the last stop on this trip. We stopped home to pick up the family, headed off for the party and the day ended like this ... Perfect.
(above) Sunset on 11th January 2015
This kind of tour is something I often suggest to people. This corner of Phuket has a lot to see, and the scenery is beautiful, plus there are loads of options for restaurants and bars - if you did this as an afternoon tour it would finish nicely with a sunset at a viewpoint or the After Beach Bar. It's a very nice part of Phuket away from the busier beaches, lots of places of interest, sea views and small beaches. Especially ideal if you have a hotel around Karon beach or Kata beach. It had been a while since I'd done a little tour like this and even for me, living here a long time, it was a lovely day!
For guided tours like this or around any area in or near Phuket, ask my friends at Easy Day Thailand!
Map - Tour of South Phuket