Jamie's Phuket Blog

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15 December 2014 

Top 10 Family Hotels in Phuket

Several times on the Phuket blog, I have blogged the Top 10 Hotels in Phuket, the list being based mostly on TripAdvisor rankings (for want of anything better). The hotels in the most recent list are all styles and all over the island, but mostly 4 - 5 star resorts .. I mean it's a list of the best hotels, so you'd expect them to be classy! TripAdvisor is not perfect, anyone can leave a review, there's no way to check if the reviewer actually stayed at the hotel, but I would hope that on average things even out, though results can be skewed by smaller hotels which actively pursue TripAdvisor reviews. A hotel might be great, but get less reviews simply because they don't ask guests to leave a review. Anyway, we digress... Blog readers gave me some suggestions to do some different "top 10 hotel" lists for families, couples or low budget hotels. So here goes...

On this page you'll find a list of the Top 10 Family Hotels in Phuket, again based on current TripAdvisor rankings. For each hotel there are links for checking rates online, for booking and availability - On this blog I recommend Agoda.com for hotels in Phuket. For each hotel there's also a link to reviews on Agoda (where available) - and only people who have booked the hotel through Agoda can make the review (I use Agoda myself and leave reviews). With all the reviews on Agoda and/or TripAdvisor, you get a very wide range of opinions. Sure there may be other good family hotels that are not on this list, please do send me a message on Facebook if you have stayed in a good family resort in Phuket, every opinion counts!

Top 10 Phuket Family Hotels

1. Andara Resort and Villas (Kamala Beach)

Andara

A 5 star resort, on the hillside near Kamala Beach with luxury villas. I'm a bit surprised to see this rated as the top family hotel, but it does provide relaxation in comfort for the whole family, and since it's individual villas with private pools, suits families as well as couples. Andara resort is not right on the beach - it's on the hillside. Many of the villas have great seaviews

Andara Resort & Villas - Online Booking
Andara Resort Reviews

2. Rising Sun Residence (Chalong)

Rising Sun Residence

Rising Sun Residence is also not a beachfront hotel - it has 12 villas in the hills of Chalong overlooking Chalong Bay and Chalong Temple. There are seven 3 bedroom villas - some of these have a private pool and jacuzzi, kitchen and large living room. There are also five 1 bedroom villas arranged around a large pool with sun deck and jacuzzi. Long way from the main beaches, more of a "home away from home" and would be a good idea to rent a car if you stay here.

Rising Sun Residence - Online Booking
Rising Sun Residence Reviews

3. Kantary Bay Hotel (Cape Panwa)

Kantary Bay Hotel

The Cape Panwa area is south of Phuket Town, well away from the main Phuket beaches, an area that we really like. Kantary Bay Hotel is right by the Phuket Aquarium, and the hotel has studio, 1 bedroom, and 2 bedroom suites. All suites have a living room and kitchenette. Seeing a trend here? Family hotels are not the standard "room" - it's nice to have something more like an apartment so you can be a bit more independent.

Kantary Bay Hotel - Online Booking
Kantary Bay Hotel Reviews

4. Pacific Club Resort (Karon Beach)

Pacific Club Resort

The Pacific Club Resort is a long time favourite and seems to often rank highly, despite (again, thats 4 out of 4 so far) not being by the beach. It's about 10 minutes walk down the hill to the sands of Karon Beach. The hotel is in the hills, with seaviews and green views. There are normal rooms and also 1 and 2 bedroom suites. The restaurant is also meant to be very good and I must try it one day!

Pacific Club Resort - Online Booking
Pacific Club Resort Reviews

5. JW Marriott (Mai Khao Beach)

JW Marriott

I think everyone knows the Marriott brand? Actually there are 2 different hotels in the top 10 - Marriott Beach Club and the JW Marriott Resort, so I combine them here. Marriott is at Mai Khao Beach - north of the airport and a long way from the main tourist areas or Phuket Town (like 40 - 50km away). A place to relax. Mai Khao Beach is very uncrowded. I'd advise on car hire if you stay here to get out and explore, especially as dining options nearby are limited.

JW Marriott - Online Booking
JW Marriott Reviews
Marriott Phuket Beach Club

6. Cape Panwa Hotel

Cape Panwa Hotel

Another hotel at Cape Panwa - the Cape Panwa Hotel is an older hotel, has a little private beach and I know the guest relations manager, so if you book here say hello to Tim. He's very helpful arranging trips and knows plenty about Phuket. The hotel has a variety of suites of different sizes, many with seaviews, and the Cape Panwa area is very nice.

Cape Panwa Hotel - Online Booking
Cape Panwa Hotel Reviews

7. Serenity Resort and Residences (Chalong Bay)

Serenity Resort and Residences

Chalong Bay is not a swimming beach, but great views and actually a good central location for getting around Phuket. Serenity has simpler rooms up to huge 2 - 3 bedroom suites, with seaviews, kitchens and some with private pools. You're not far to drive from here to Kata or Rawai beach and only 20 minutes to Phuket Town too. The pool suites are expensive / luxurious. The simpler rooms are a good deal and kids under 5 stay at no extra cost, good if you have smaller kids.

Serenity Resort and Residences - Online Booking
Serenity Resort and Residences Reviews

8. Banyan Tree (Bang Tao Beach)

Banyan Tree

The Banyan Tree - definitely luxury. You're looking at 1000 US$ per night, but go on, you're worth it! I'm amazed that this place makes the list, must be a few rich TripAdvisor readers! The 2 bedroom pool villas look amazing. I'm going to stay here if we win the lottery! Just for a night....

Banyan Tree - Online Booking
Banyan Tree Reviews

9. Twinpalms (Surin Beach)

Twinpalms

Twinpalms has now been open 8 years and is one of the best places around the Surin area, which despite rampant hillside development manages (on the beachfront) to retain a laid back feel with small restaurants and bars. Twinpalms has less than 100 rooms, some of which are huge duplexes and penthouse suites. It's those 2 bedroom suites that are great for families. Twinpalms also has its own semi-private beach club right by the sand.

Twinpalms - Online Booking
Twinpalms Reviews

10. Holiday Inn Resort (Patong Beach)

Holiday Inn Resort

Holiday Inn has been around for ages, and is the only Patong beach hotel to make this list. The resort has lots of kids activities and family rooms and the south end of Patong is quite family friendly away from most of the bars and noise. Holiday Inn also recently opened at Mai Khao beach with the resort also specifically catering to kids. Holiday Inn has not only family suites but these things called Kids Suites - kids will love it!

Holiday Inn Resort - Online Booking
Holiday Inn Resort Reviews

Hope this list of family hotels is useful! For Phuket hotel bookings, I always recommend looking at Agoda.com first and last - it's what I use. Any questions about hotels or Phuket, please do ask on my Jamie's Phuket Facebook Page.

Things to do with kids in Phuket
Top 10 Hotels in Phuket 2014
My Phuket Hotel Suggestions
Phuket Hotels - Book Online @ Agoda.com


 Top 10 Family Hotels in Phuket   |   Jamie's Phuket Blog




1 December 2014 

Sunday Walking Street Market (Lard Yai) in Old Phuket Town

Sunday has always been a quiet day in old Phuket Town. Many businesses close on Sundays and the nightlife is much quieter than Friday or Saturday - the area has plenty of bars and pubs which are mainly frequented by locals rather than tourists. Sunday was always a good day to walk around old town and take photos, as there would be much less traffic than other days, but it did feel a bit too quiet sometimes with many shops and some restaurants closed. The old town has had a renaissance over the last 5 years with a lot of work being done to preserve old buildings and remove ugly overhead wires, museums have opened, and many small cafes too. I'm hoping the area can avoid becoming just cafes and souvenir shops, and so far that is the case. Thalang Road is the heart of the old town and still has many old businesses such as printers, hardware stores, Muslim fabric shops and places like Abdul's Roti shop and the old herb shop. Towards the end of 2013, the Phuket old town community launched the Sunday Walking Street market along Thalang Road. This had been planned for some months and does need support from local government and police, as traffic has to be diverted and all vehicles moved from Thalang Road before the market starts in the afternoon. It's been running for about 12 months now and is very popular!



(above) Walking Street along Thalang Road just before dark ... it starts late afternoon around 4pm and continues until about 10pm every Sunday. The ever popular Weekend Night Market is on Saturday and Sunday, and seems to be just as busy despite "competition" from this new market. I think people maybe visit both on a Sunday. The weekend market is much bigger, but the official name for this Sunday walking street is "Lard Yai" (หลาดใหญ่). Yai means big, and Lard is a shortened version of Thalad, meaning market, but in the southern Thai dialect, people just say "Lad" / "Lard" - hard to exactly transliterate, there is no hard R sound in the word. It's because back in the old days, Thalang Road was the main market street in town.



We go quite often and our Sunday dinner is snacks purchased along the street! It's pretty busy and with Thalang Road itself closed to traffic, and many people visiting the market, parking can be hard to find. We tend to park at Wat Mongkon Minit temple, which is on Dibuk Road just over the street from the north end of Soi Romanee, a narrow old street that leads down to Thalang Road. It's 20 Baht to park the car there. Soi Romanee has had plenty of renovation work in the last 5 years. There are still some old houses here, plus a few cafes and guesthouses. In the tin mining days 100 years ago, this street was apparently full of brothels!



(above) Soi Romanee, looking down towards Thalang Road

If you get there around 5pm, it's still pretty quiet, but it soon gets busier. All along Thalang Road between the junctions with Phuket Road and Yaowarat Road, about 400 meters of activity including lots of food, entertainers and stalls selling arts and crafts, clothes, bags, hats, plants, antiques and more. We don't really go for shopping, but I think visitors might find something worth buying. We're there more for food and snacks ...





Parked at the west end of the street we found the "Tuk Tuk Diner" which does burgers for 50 Baht as well as chili hot dogs and chili fries. I'd heard of this - the owner is a Thai-American called Tom and he was there eating his own goods, so the kids and I had a burger each :) I'll try to get a decent photo next time! And I'll go for a chili hot dog next time :)

There are always street entertainers, some are the same every week and some are strictly amateur or school dance acts. A few weeks ago there was a brass band playing!



(above) A clown on Thalang Road



(above) A little live music for the market shoppers

As day turns to night the street comes alive. It gets busier around 6:30pm normally (depends on the weather I guess) and the coloured lights are lit along Thalang Road. A nice place to visit on a Sunday evening, away from the tourist crowds, into the local crowds :)



(above) Sunday market on Thalang Road after dark



(above) Street dancer on Thalang Road. I see this guy at every street fair and he's very enthusiastic!

The Lard Yai has become very popular, a place to hang out on Sunday evening for locals, and a good way of showcasing the old town. Not many tourists though .. I know if you're staying on the west coast it's a bit of a drive to reach Phuket Town, but worthwhile! I'm going to keep saying it - there's a lot more to Phuket than beaches!

Related posts on the Phuket Blog :

More Phuket Markets
Thai Hua History Museum
Kopitiam Cafe on Thalang Road
Hotels in Phuket Town





12 November 2014 

Uber Taxi App Now Available in Phuket

I figure this is worth a mention, although from reading around the internet it seems that Uber and other app-based taxi services like GrabTaxi have their fans and haters too! These apps have been around a while - Uber started in the USA in 2011 and already started in Bangkok earlier this year. I know that in Europe there have been protests from established taxi services who claim these apps to be illegal, I am not sure 100% how they work in different countries, but in Phuket which has had all kinds of taxi problems for years, I would say anything that adds a new option has to be good, even if the prices don't go down yet. Phuket taxi fares tend to be quite high, especially for shorter trips. Doesn't really look like Uber is cheaper, but it's the way it works that might be useful for some people especially if you have used it before in other places.

Taxi choices for most visitors to Phuket currently extend to tuk tuks and normal taxis. There has been plenty of work done in the last year to take illegal taxis off the streets (like a car parked outside your hotel with a cardboard "taxi" sign on the roof). There was a big drive to make sure all local taxi drivers are registered and insured and have the proper licence. Official taxis should also have the drivers name on the door. There are also some meter taxis, mostly doing airport runs, but very few around the beach areas where "taxi mafia" groups have long controlled certain areas. Again earlier this year using military authority there was a big crackdown on the taxi gangs with quite a few arrests being made. The arrival of something like Uber seems good to me.

Uber is an app you can download to your phone/iPad or PC, but it needs to be able to read your location, as the app connects you do the taxi, so the driver knows exactly where you are and you can see where the driver is, plus you can check your location as you are driving, very useful in a new place! You can sign up online here (the link is https://get.uber.com/invite/uberjamiesphuket), which includes a special promo code for a 200 Baht discount on your first ride. If you download the app, enter the promo code uberjamiesphuket. I have checked out the app, but have no particular need to use it here in Phuket since I live here and have my own transport. Need a holiday now to another location where Uber is online so I can try it!

Here's a screenshot from my phone (below), what you see when you are using Uber. You can choose a pickup location and see where Uber registered vehicles are located. I have selected a location on the beach road in Patong and can see 3 different cars available.



You then set the pick up location and tells you the estimated time for pick up and you can get a fare estimate for where you want to get to or enter a promo code. Then you hit the Request Uber button (See below).



Seems very simple. When you sign up for Uber you select a payment option - credit card or Paypal are options. I chose PayPal. No cash needed. Apparently cash is not an option. Some people like that, some people still like cash! No need to tip either, although I guess that depends on you. If you check the Uber Phuket page, it says (in the small print) "No need to tip". There's a flat rate 950 Baht to the airport from anywhere which is cheaper than local taxis charge in Karon or Kata, so a tip might be OK!

Oh, so how does it work? I wondered that too, so I met Warren, the Uber representative for Phuket and had lunch and a chat. So it's not just any old taxis or "some guy with a car". Uber does not employ drivers. It's local taxi drivers who sign up for the app themselves to be drivers. Not all are accepted. Uber wants nice, friendly, well dressed divers with nice cars like a Toyota Camry or Fortuna or Honda Civic. They started with a few limo drivers and it seems word of mouth helps spread the word among the drivers. So you can be sure all drivers are legal. Uber is not their job, just another way for them to get customers, not just hanging around on a street corner or outside a hotel shouting "taxi!" at anyone passing by. I'm not quite clear how Uber makes much money out of this arrangement though! Surely the lions share of the fare goes to the driver?

Anyway, I hope I have a chance to try Uber myself sometime. There is one other important point - after taking a ride with an Uber taxi you can leave feedback and a rating for the driver. Warren told me that if drivers get a few bad ratings, they get removed from the app. That should ensure that only the nice polite drivers are available on Uber. Of course many Phuket taxi drivers are very nice. We have a nice guy outside our dive shop most days called Mr Teep. But people's experiences with taxis and tuk tuks in Phuket are mixed - I wrote about this earlier this year - see Phuket Taxis and Tuk Tuks - Your Opinions. I reckon Uber might well be used here by people who already use it and maybe if you have not tried it, give it a go! Just to repeat - you can sign up online here or if you download the app, enter the promo code uberjamiesphuket. Either way gets a 200 Baht discount on the first ride. Good luck to Uber. Something new is needed in Phuket. Ideally I'd like to see more buses, especially I'd like to see bus services between the beaches (there are not any right now), but anything that challenges the status quo will do!

Review of Uber vs Grabtaxi in Bangkok by Greg
Uber Phuket page on their website


 Uber Taxi App Now Available in Phuket   |   Jamie's Phuket Blog




5 November 2014 

New Viewpoint at Khao Rang Hill

Something new and rather good has happened at Rang Hill on the north side of Phuket Town. A new viewpoint has been built! Maybe not a huge deal, since Rang Hill has always had a decent view, but it's been done very nicely and with a platform extending out to the south of the hill beyond the tree cover, so the view is now much better and you can see pretty much all of Phuket Town, plus all the way across to Chalong Bay and the hills to the west including the Big Buddha. We've been up Rang Hill countless times and it's been blogged several times, most recently in 2013 (see Rang Hill in Phuket Town). Not much had changed up there for many years. A twisty road heading up from town (actually several twisty roads from different directions) and the well known Tunk Ka Cafe which has been there for .. well, it's been there longer than I've been in Phuket. A new restaurant called Khao Rang Breeze was completed a few years ago (we've not eaten here) and now there are more monkeys than there used to be.

And now .. this new viewpoint is complete :

New Viewpoint at Rang Hill in Phuket Town

Nice! You walk under a white pavilion to reach this open area. When we saw the building going on we thought the pavilion would be like a view tower, but there's no steps to take you up to the upper levels, although it does have a balcony and looks totally like something to be ascended. Someone mix up the building plans somewhere?

Tower / Pavilion at the Rang Hill Viewpoint

(above) Tower / Pavilion at the Rang Hill Viewpoint. Photo by Dawn in Phuket.

Rang Hill is not exactly a tourist attraction. But it's easy to find and with the nice views and places to eat, worth a look if you are exploring around Phuket Town. We stopped at the weekend to check out the new viewpoint and it was all local people up there. And as my daughter noticed, most of them were taking selfies. It's well built and certainly adds to Rang Hill. We did not stop for food on this particular day. We have eaten at Tunk Ka Cafe many times and we also mean to try the Rang Hill View restaurant which is half way up the hill. The Breeze restaurant is a little pricier.

Previously, the view from Rang Hill was more limited looking southwest towards Chalong and the Big Buddha. There were snatches of views to the south from Tunk Ka, looking through the trees, but now with this viewing platform you get a view spanning more than 180 degrees and I think it looks great.

View from Rang Hill, Phuket Town

(above) View from Rang Hill. You can see a full size version here. It was just about possible to see Phi Phi in the distance (nearly 50km away to the southeast). Most of Phuket Town is visible, you can see south to Cape Panwa, southwest to Chalong and (visible on the right side of the top photo of the viewpoint) west to the hills including the Big Buddha and Radar Hill.

Now I need to visit again around sunset time! I think this viewpoint has been done really well. Good job, Phuket municipality! We were just in Hua Hin last month and they have built several viewpoints on top of the hill (Khao Hin Lek Fai) to the west of the town. This viewpoint at Rang Hill certainly rivals Hua Hin. I'll try to get up again soon for a sunset.

More Phuket Viewpoints

Khao Kad Viewpoint
The "3 Beaches" Viewpoint
Phromthep Cape


 New Viewpoint at Khao Rang Hill   |   Jamie's Phuket Blog




29 October 2014 

Phuket Town Central Market

I'd been meaning to explore the big central market in Phuket for a long time. I do like markets - it's where you see real local life, or at least one side of local life. The main market is on Ranong road in the older section of Phuket Town, and when I first came to Phuket in 1999, I walked around the town since the first few nights in Phuket were spent in town. The central market back then was an old building, not sure when it was built, but could be close to 100 years ago. I never went inside. The smell was off-putting. This was an old, old, place with old, old smells. Thankfully, the old central market was finally demolished about 5 years ago, and a new one built which finally opened in 2010. There are of course local markets all over Phuket Island, but the main market is still in Phuket Town.

You can't park on the road near the market, it's full of stalls and small shops and local buses and things being loaded and unloaded. I parked on Krabi road near the Thai Hua Museum, and just west of the museum is a very handy alleyway that cuts through 2 blocks direct to the market...

Alley to the Market

And it's a busy little alleyway! I hung around for 10 minutes to take a few photos. Big pick up trucks were squeezing through, heading out from the market, with only a few inches to spare on each side. These streets were not built with a Toyota Hilux in mind! Phuket Town has a lot of little shortcuts, and this is one of the most useful.

Market Alleyway

Approaching the market down this narrow street, you first come to an outdoor market area. The streets around the main market building are full of colour, stalls selling fruits and vegetables. People were loading vehicles with baskets full of bananas, papayas, oranges, pineapples, coconuts ....

Fruit Paradise

The streets in this area of course get a bit scruffy, but help is at hand. The market area keeps itself as tidy as possible. I saw several people hard at work inside and outside ...

Cleaning Up

The alley leads right to the entrance of the central market, though of course you can also get there along Ranong road. I had originally intended to get there earlier, but it was after 10am, and already hot with the sun high in the sky. It would be better to get there a bit earlier for photos and to avoid the heat. The street outside the market is a continually moving ballet.

Phuket Town Market

So I wandered inside. The main entrance has several sets of stairs leading to 3 different levels. There are signs in English which is very helpful for non Thai speaking market enthusiasts. I like to find a place to watch people coming and going. Markets are great for people watching. The egg man arrived with a pick-up full of eggs, and he took repeated journeys between truck and market stall. Down all those steps. With all those eggs. It's all about balance.

I am the egg man

Most of one floor seems to be all about meat of various kinds. Phuket of course has plenty of seafood available. Our family eats lots of fish. It would take a fair sized family to manage one of the fish on the stall below. Most local markets in Phuket also sell fish, prawns, squid and shellfish. The people of Phuket, Phang Nga and Krabi areas have long been fishing folk. As a diver I wish they'd fish a bit less in some areas, but seafood is a traditional staple for locals and in demand from tourists so the fishing industry remains strong.

Fishmonger

The fish and seafood stalls need ice. Fresh seafood is great. Old seafood is a disaster. I had to dodge out the way of the ice men several times. Buckets full of ice arriving to keep those fish cool....

The ice man cometh

Any market anywhere is a riot of colours, smells, people, and things you don't get "back home". Thai cooking is more about the herbs, spices and special blends of ingredients that can be added to vegetables, meat, maybe coconut milk, and wow! You get a wonderful variety of tastes. This stall below is selling a lot of things used in local Phuket cooking - dried chilies, dried shrimp, dried fish combined with the right spices can make all kind of dishes. The dried shrimp in particular is an oft-used ingredient in Phuket and Phang Nga.

At Phuket Town Market

And this shop (below) adds the spice - several different curry pastes for sale, the magic ingredient in Thai curries. People do sometimes make their own curry paste, but it's actually not that easy, and most people buy the curry pastes from a specialist in the local market...

Curry Paste

And the market is also the place to pick up some vegetables and a smile ...

Vegetables!

Outside the market on Ranong Road is where local buses are found, destination anywhere! It's a shame that Phuket does not have a comprehensive public transport system. You can get a bus from Phuket Town to all over the island (and from there, back again). But from Karon to Patong beach? From Patong to Surin Beach? No bus. Only taxis and tuk tuks. Well, I hope that will change. From the street outside the market you can head out all over Phuket ...

Bus to the end of Phuket!

The bus above? Takes you to Sarasin, where you find the bridge to the mainland. The bus below? Heads off to the northeast coast to Bang Rong, where there's a great floating restaurant in the mangroves. The old central market in Phuket Town is still the center of Phuket for local people.

Bus to Bang Rong

This is not at all a tourist market, this is the center of Phuket life, well it certainly was until 15 years ago. A traditional market with fresh produce has to compete with supermarkets, and Phuket has a lot of these now, mostly opened in the last 10 years, but the local markets seem as busy as ever, a great place to get a taste of the real Phuket.

Phuket Town Market - Location Map


View Phuket Town Central Market in a larger map


 Phuket Town Central Market   |   Jamie's Phuket Blog