Jamie's Phuket Blog

Jamie's Phuket Blog - Discover The Real Phuket!

16 April 2016 

Phang Nga Bay Revisited

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 2015 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 (contact here).

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.

Wat Suwan Kuha Entrance in the rock

Monkeys outside Wat Suwan Kuha

(above) Entrance to Wat Suwan Kuha and monkeys outside the temple

Reclining Buddha at Wat Suwan Kuha

Wat Suwan Kuha - Buddha Images

(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.

Phang Nga Pier

(above) at the Phang Nga pier

Longtail Boat Boys in Phang Nga Bay

(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. Panyee 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.

Koh Panyee from the water

(above) Koh Panyee from the water - the mosque is just about the only building built on solid land. Everything else is on stilts.

Koh Panyi Village 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.

Koh Panyi - Street View

Buying Ice Cream - Koh Panyee Village

(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.

Koh Panyee Mosque

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!

Koh Panyee - The Floating Football Pitch

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!

Through the cave

Cruising through the mangroves

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!

Last tourists of the day

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 :)

At James Bond Island

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!

Panyee Village

(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.

Koh Tapu

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!

Koh Panyee Sunset

(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
Koh Panyee
Exploring Phang Nga Province





2 April 2016 

A Tour of South Phuket

We had some new visitors to Phuket in January 2015. 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.

Karon Viewpoint

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.

The "Wind Turbine" Viewpoint

(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 ...

Ya Nui Beach

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.

Phromthep Cape

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!

Lunch at Rimlay Seafood, Rawai Beach

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!". Rimlay is 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.

Phuket Big Buddha

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.

11th January 2015 Sunset

(above) Sunset on 11th January

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, please contact my friends at Easy Day Thailand!

Map - Tour of South Phuket





21 March 2016 

Kopitiam Restaurant in Old Phuket Town

We first found Kopitiam in Old Phuket Town back in 2011 when it had just recently opened. I often enjoy a little walk in the old town with it's old buildings and interesting little shops. Thalang Road is the center of the old town, and over the last 5 years especially now that many of the ugly overhead wires have been hidden, the area has become very pleasant and more popular with tourists, especially Thai tourists - if you walk down Thalang road or the little side street called Soi Romanee you'll always see young Thai folks snapping photos of each other in front of old doorways! A fair number of small cafes and restaurants have opened on and around Thalang road over the last few years and there are also some older establishments like Abdul's Roti Shop. On that walk back in 2011 we decided to try out Kopitiam. There was a table full of Phuket locals sitting outside, always a good sign for good local food! It's become a favourite place for us since then.

Kopitiam locals

(above) Outside Kopitiam in 2011

Kopitiam coffee shops are found commonly in Malaysia and Singapore - the word comes from Kopi (Malay for Coffee) and Tiam (a Hokkien Chinese word for Shop) - Hokkien people migrated in large numbers to Phuket in the late 19th century and in Phuket Town this is obvious - many people are of Chinese descent (although the families now have Thai names), many shops have Chinese signs and there are Chinese shrines in and around Phuket Town.

Kopitiam is run by the Bumrungwong family who also run the well known herb shop next door - and the family also had the Wilai restaurant which is on the other side of the herb shop. Kopitiam is also called "Kopitiam by Wilai". The Wilai restaurant is now part of Kopitiam - an airconditioned section! And it has a little secret - a passageway through the kitchen leads to the Shrine of the Serene Light which has its entrance on Phang Nga Road one block south. There's quite a bit of history here!

The Oldest Herb Shop

(above) Inside the old herb shop next door to Kopitiam

Kopitiam on Thalang Road, Phuket Town

(above) Kopitiam from the outside

The history is evident inside Kopitiam, which has kept an old feel, built in a turn of the century (20th century) style shophouse with wooden beams across the ceiling and a stone floor. This used to be the family home. You'll find decorations consisting of Chinese signs, old Phuket photos and tasteful wooden furniture. No need for aircon really - it was a warm day, but these old shophouses never seem to get hot. A couple of ceiling fans is enough. If you are too hot, well, pop over to the other side of the herb shop into the aircon!

Kopitiam restaurant, Thalang Road, Phuket

(above) Inside Kopitiam

Kopitiam on Thalang Road

(above) Outside looking to the east along Thalang Road.

And the food! I note that despite our many visits I have very few food pics! I love the Phuket style pork, the various fried noodles, the penang curry is good, you can get snacks like french fries or tofu, they do Bak Kut Teh too. And many many different drinks. All kinds of juices, herb drinks, teas and coffees. And beer too! And during the Phuket Vegetarian Festival they do only vegan food.

Penang style stir fried flat noodle, "Char Kway Teow"

(above) Char Kway Teow

Mee Hokkien, vegetarian style.

(above) Mee Hokkien

Kopi at Kopitiam Phuket

(above) "Kopi O" - strong back coffee

Butterfly Pea Flower Drink

(above) On a hot day, maybe even better than a beer - try a butterfly pea flower drink ("Anchan")!

Photo of old Phuket Ferry

(above) You can have a history lesson while you wait for the food - there are loads of old Phuket photos around the walls showing the town, tin mines, and I was particularly interested to see pictures of the old ferry connecting Phuket to the mainland - the Sarasin bridge was only completed in 1967. Before that, Phuket really was an island!

Inside Kopitiam Restuarant on Thalang Road

(above) Inside Kopitiam (photo taken March 2016)

I always enjoy a walk around Phuket Town. There's still more work going on right now on other streets to hide all the wires like has already been done on Thalang Road. The area has been considered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is my favourite part of Phuket and my wife and I even joke (but in a serious way) about living in an old shophouse in town one day :)

Kopitiam Location Map (Phuket Town)


View Kopitiam by Wilai - Restaurant in Phuket Town in a larger map





3 March 2016 

The Big Chicken Restaurant

The Big Chicken has been a favourite place of mine to eat since 2008. This blog post was originally posted back then, but it has now been updated (March 2016). We used to eat there a lot, since it's pretty close to our house, prices are good .. very convenient for us, but a couple of weeks ago we realised that we'd not eaten there for maybe 2 years, as we have found other favourite places and sometimes the older places get forgotten. If you drive on the normal bus route between Patong and Phuket Town, after passing through the area called Tungtong, and passing the Phuket Country Club you'll see a restaurant that is also a local landmark. Everyone knows where the Big Chicken is! You can't miss it. There is a big chicken outside.

Big Chicken Restaurant

The actual name of the restaurant is Krua Tungtong. Not sure how many years it's been open, must be at least 20 years. I remember the first time we ate there - we figured it was a slightly fancy local place as the decor is quite decent (I mean wooden chairs instead of plastic!) and there always seemed to be nice cars parked outside. We thought it might be a bit more expensive than some other local places. Well, yes, a little bit, of course there are places to eat for 40 Baht, but although many of the customers do often seem to be well-off locals (with a fair few local foreigners) the restaurant is quite cheap. Thai dishes go for 80 - 120 Baht. You can get simple things like fried rice or chicken fried with garlic for 50 - 60 Baht. It always seems to be busy, and with a good trade you can keep the prices down.

Big Chicken Restaurant

(above) At the Big Chicken in 2016

Big Chicken Restaurant

(above) And my family eating there in 2008! It's hardly changed at all. Same decor, decent food at a good price. After a bit of a gap, I think it'll be back to being a regular place for us. You see, with this kind of restaurant, we can eat out as a family and the bill might come to 700 Baht. Can be less. Can be more. Depends of course what you order and how much you eat! I think our last bill was 790 Baht, but that included a couple of beers and a lot of food!

Tom Yum Gai

(above) Tom Yum with chicken and lots of mushrooms. My kids like to order it with extra mushrooms.

Chicken and lime sauce

(above) Chicken with lime sauce (like mayonnaise with lime) served with fried seaweed. Yum! Good if you don't like spicy food.

Aside from normal Thai food, they have a long, long list of Isaan food (northeast Thailand), and (they say) Vietnamese food. Having never been to Vietnam I can't say if this is authentic, but I had a "Vietnamese" noodle and sausage soup which was very tasty (and only 70 Baht!). The menu is about 10 pages. There's also a healthy supply of grilled chicken (Gai Yang) - which I guess is the house specialty and is why you find a 30 foot chicken outside! And grilled pork (Moo Yang) which I think is very good. A simple dish I like is Moo Yang with fried sticky rice.

Gaeng Om

(above) Gaeng Om, a kind of Isaan spicy, herby soup. You have to try something different sometimes!

Laab Neua (Laab with Beef)

(above) Laab with beef. Super tasty. I have also had the laab with fried fish and want to try more. The menu has a whole page of laab options!

Sometimes local restaurants open and close within a couple of years. There are at least 8 that I have blogged in the past that have closed down. Big Chicken is an old time favourite, very popular and I can say, to the best of my memory, that I have never had a bad meal here. Simple and tasty and here to stay.

More of our favourite places to eat in Phuket...

Laem Hin Seafood
Kopitiam in Old Phuket Town
The Beach Bar
Dairy Hut
More Phuket Restaurants

Big Chicken - Location Map





25 February 2016 

Top 10 Phuket Hotels 2016

This 2016 Top 10 Phuket Hotels list is again based on TripAdvisor hotel rankings, this list as they were in February 2016. I know these rankings change all the time and, well .. Trip Advisor ... are all the reviews really real? Well some of these hotels have thousands of reviews, so I think on average it should be about right. There are again a couple of new hotels in the list, but many of the top 10 are similar to 2015. For each hotel there are links for checking online rates and availability - I suggest using Agoda.com to book your hotel in Phuket. There are also links to reviews for each hotel - also mostly from Agoda where possible. Hotels get scores out of 10 on Agoda so you can easily compare, and reviews can only be left by people who have booked the hotel, but Agoda does not have any ranking lists, so this top 10 uses TripAdvisor rankings.

Top 10 Phuket Hotels 2016

1. Trisara Phuket Villas & Residences

Trisara

Trisara has amazingly been top of the top 10 for 3 years running, so I guess it's no fluke! And it's also not cheap :) Oh, I'd love to stay here a few days! Trisara has spacious private pool villas by a private beach to the north of Bang Tao beach in the north of Phuket island. Trisara is a "private, luxury, amazing view, relax and unwind" style hotel. Only 48 villas, lots of space, no crowds. There are also some "private residences" with 2 - 6 bedrooms, ideal for families or big groups, or even weddings. Or just for a relaxing getaway for a romantic couple. The location is miles from any busy areas, so you will need your own transport or get taxis everywhere.

Trisara - Online Booking
Trisara Reviews

2. The Chava Resort (Surin Beach)

Chava Resort

The Chava jumped into the top 10 last year at number 7, now pushing for top spot. Surin Beach always has something in the top 10. The Chava Resort is actually a collection of 2 - 5 room apartments (they call it an "apartment resort"), some are run by the hotel, some privately rented. Rooms are enormous, not normal hotel size, good for families and small groups. Again, it's a place with views, slightly up in the hills, not by the beach but really only a few minutes from the sea.

Chava Resort - Online Booking
Chava Resort Reviews

3. Andara Resort and Villas (Kamala Beach)

Andara

Up from 6 to 3 ... Andara is a 5 star resort, on the hillside near Kamala Beach with luxury villas. It was rated highly on my best family hotel list, and with individual villas and private pools, will suit couples as well as families. Andara resort is in the hills, not right by the beach. Some (not all) of the villas have superb sea views. There is a trend of non-beachfront luxury the last 5 years. Maybe because the beach areas - certainly the main beaches - are too full, and also because beachfront land is impossibly exppensive. If you want luxury and seclusion, it's there, but not necessarily right by the beach.

Andara Resort & Villas - Online Booking
Andara Resort Reviews

4. BYD Lofts (Patong Beach)

BYD Lofts

2nd place in 2014, 3rd in 2015, 4th in 2016 - BYD Lofts seems to be keeping up standards if you want something near the heart of Patong Beach close to the action and in the middle of the busiest beach area in Thailand - this hotel offers serviced apartments (again, you see - apartments, rather than just rooms), featuring a rooftop pool (and a view over the beautiful concrete jungle of Patong). There are one or two bedroom apartments of various sizes. I hardly ever visit Patong, it's not my style, but for sure Patong beach is very convenient for visitors, with huge numbers of restaurants plus shops/the Jungceylon Mall and tour agents near you. And bars and nightlife.

BYD Lofts - Online Booking
BYD Lofts Reviews

5. Point Yamu by Como Resort (Cape Yamu)

Point Yamu Resort

A quite new resort (opened 2014). And a great location, if you don't mind being miles from anywhere! A few years ago when Cape Yamu started being developed, we took a drive to explore the area. It looked terrible. A beautiful natural headland covered in concrete and cranes. Of course now it looks totally amazing and I'd be very very happy to stay a night here. Oh, by the way ... it's not cheap! Not at all! Cape Yamu is on the east coast of Phuket, and there are great views. There are 79 rooms plus 27 private villas. It looks amazing. Did I say that already?

Point Yamu Resort - Online Booking
Point Yamu Resort Reviews

6. The Shore at Katathani (Kata Noi Beach)

The Shore at Katathani

The Katathani Resort has been a fixture for many years at quiet Kata Noi beach to the south of Kata beach. The Shore is the newer luxury "pool villa" development, which opened in 2010 catching the popular wave of private villa style hotels - as you may see from this top 10! And these villas look great. They are all private pool villas, some with seaview (note: if you ready the reviews you can see that the view does vary from villa to villa). A great hotel for couples. Most of the reviews are from couples and I see lots and lots of honeymoon reviews. Well, you have to spoil yourselves once.

The Shore at Katathani - Online Booking
The Shore Reviews

7. Navatara (Rawai Beach)

Navatara

And the surprise new entry for 2016 .. I've not heard of this place, but it's been open since 2013! I can't keep up with new hotels! Navatara has just 37 rooms, is built "Thai style", some rooms have direct pool access, all rooms look pretty big! A small, Thai style resort away from the main beaches, but not too far - sounds like what a lot of people ask me to recommend! Not by the beach, about 500m from Rawai beach and a few minutes drive from Nai Harn beach and Phromthep Cape. A very nice corner of Phuket.

Navatara - Online Booking
Navatara Reviews

8. Amari Phuket (Patong Beach)

Amari Phuket

The Amari Phuket Resort has been open for a very long time. It was one of the first big resorts in Phuket, opening way back in 1984. For an olde hotel like this to make the top 10 is quite an achievement. Great location to relax at the far south end of Patong Beach away from the madness, but you can walk to the busy center of Patong in 15 minutes. A new "ocean wing" just opened in January 2016. They do keep on improving and last time I looked it, everything looked perfect. Yes, please!

Amari Phuket Resort - Online Booking
Amari Phuket Reviews

9. Pen Villa (Surin Beach)

Pen Villa

Pen Villa was a new entry on the 2013 list and then moved out of the top 10. It's back! Again, a smaller resort, away from the beach (Surin about 700m away). It looks quite simple from the outside, but certainly seems popular, it's a family run place and quite a bit cheaper than the rest of the top 10. Reviews on Agoda are good too.

Pen Villa - Online Booking
Pen Villa Reviews

10. The Surin (Pansea Beach)

The Surin

And to round out the top 10 another Oldie but Goldie. The Surin (formerly called The Chedi) reopened with the new name about 5 years ago, but The Chedi had been there for nearly 30 years already, with it's ridiculously good location on a private beach between Surin and Bang Tao beaches. And it's not ridiculously expensive. Actually the beach is not quite private, it's shared with the Amanpuri.

The Surin - Online Booking
The Surin Reviews

So, that's my Top 10 hotels in Phuket as of early 2016. Have you stayed at a hotel that's not listed, but you think it should be? So you better review it big time on TA,. Phuket, now that it's been on the mainstream tourism route for about 30 years, has a mix of old and new resorts, big hotels, small guesthouses, villas, apartments, hillside, beachfront, busy areas, very quiet areas... There is actually something here for everyone and any budget, but doing some proper research is important especially checking hotel location. Look at a map. In recent years many new luxury resorts have opened in more secluded areas and the trend is for sea view hillside (not on the beach) villas. Land prices and rents are so high that beachfront is a mega investment. Phuket has a big luxury market now, but at the same time small guesthouses and "backpacker price" places are flourishing.

Check agoda.com for hotel booking. Lots of reviews on agoda for most of the hotels listed here and certainly do read the reviews, but do think carefully also about what suits you - location, resort size, hotel style, price(!), do you want something for couples, or suitable for families / kids, close to the airport or close to nightlife etc. Some like it quiet and secluded, others want action. If you get it wrong, doh! If you have any questions, please do ask on my Jamie's Phuket Facebook Page. See you in Phuket!