Jamie's Phuket Blog

Jamie's Phuket Blog - Discover The Real Phuket!

10 July 2014 

Laem Sing Beach

Just a couple of weeks ago, we took an afternoon family drive up the west coast of Phuket. The idea was to stop at a few beaches that we'd not seen for years. Yes, I said years. Phuket is a big place, we do have a few favourite places by the beach, but generally we're not a beachy family. We drove through Kamala beach, and stopped at Surin beach. In between Kamala and Surin there is another, much smaller, beach called Laem Sing (or Laem Singh if you want to spell it like that). There's a viewpoint on the roadside where you get this amazing view of Laem Sing. The west coast of Phuket has a lot of beautiful views.

(above) Laem Sing beach seen from the viewpoint between Kamala and Surin beaches

Many years ago, back in the year 2000, my wife and I (before we were married) used to ride our scooter up and down the coast quite often. Back then we never visited Phuket Town, we took days off and headed south from our room in Patong to Kata or Rawai beaches, or north to Kamala and Laem Sing. 14 years ago, Laem Sing had zero development - no bars or restaurants, just a few beach chairs and maybe a couple of people with coolers of drinks for sale. OK, it was low season when we visited, but it seemed like we had the whole beach to ourselves. The photo below shows a much younger me on Laem Sing beach all those years ago.

As years rolled by I was aware of websites promoting Laem Sing as "the unspoiled beach". And so it became busier, and I knew that bars and restaurants were opening there. Thankfully there is no space for a hotel. And somehow, we never went again. Preferring to keep a memory of a beach in Phuket with nothing but sand, sea and surrounded by jungle. We realised that we'd not visited Laem Sing for 14 years! So, after stopping at Surin beach we parked in the small parking area above Laem Sing. The sign needs replacing ...

And then a walk down the steps to the beach. Not a long walk, but on the way back up you're going to be breathing hard!

So, right now Laem Sing beach is going through some changes along with all the beaches in Phuket. The rules are suddenly being enforced. Rule 1 : No building on the sand. The beach is public land, not private, not to be used for profit. And so all up the west coast the bars, restaurants, massage huts, beach chairs are being removed. The beaches are being made more natural again. I am sure this is temporary. Local people will make deals and yes, in a touristy place like Phuket you need some beach chairs and drinks for sale. When we got down to the beach we found (on that very day) the beach huts and bars being removed or burned. (This means I better go back in a few months for an update!)

But looking out to sea, pretty much the same as 14 years ago! I would hope that if we visit Laem Sing again later this year, we'll find maybe a few snack stalls and drink sellers, but no large restaurants. Or you can just stop at a minimart on the way, get a few drinks and some ice and enjoy the beach.

(above) Looking out to sea from Laem Singh beach (panorama)

(above) Laem Sing looking south (Kamala is just around the corner)

Hard to believe that I can live on a small island and not visit somewhere for 14 years, but .... Phuket is not so small and well, I am not on holiday here, mostly working 5 - 6 days per week. More time would be nice. Laem Sing (after the "clean up" is cleaned up) should look something like it did many years ago. Back to being a place to visit if you want the unspoiled beach. If you want busy, there's still Patong for you!

 Laem Sing Beach  |   Jamie's Phuket Blog

6 July 2014 

A visit to Surin Beach

It's an odd thing, but I am not really a beach person. My wife even less so. And yet we live in Phuket which is famous for it's beaches. We don't "go to the beach" very often. Our kids enjoy some beach time, but this is not something we do every weekend. There's a lot more to Phuket than beaches - and that was one of the reasons I started this blog! If we do "hit the beach" then it's likely to be a quiet one rather than one of the main west coast beaches in Phuket. Last weekend we took a little afternoon drive. We do that sometimes .. just "go for a drive" and see where the road takes us. My wife and I figured that the last time we'd been to Surin beach was in 2006. That sounds kind of crazy, but do remember, we are not on holiday here .. we have a normal life of work and school and bills to pay. At weekends we might go away, might take a trip somewhere, or more likely do the garden, kids go to music class, have an easy day at home after a week of work and school ... Last weekend I wanted to check out Surin beach because with the support of the current military leadership of the country, Phuket has developed some cojones and issues like taxi gangs and illegal building on the beaches are being tackled. I wanted to see Surin now that restaurants on the sand and "beach clubs" on the sand had been removed.

(above) The result ... no building on the beach. Only sand, palm trees and a few lucky low season visitors.

Surin beach is not very big, but it has a fairly big car park right behind the beach as well as a municipal football pitch. Space is limited which is why restaurants and bars started to build on the sand. And, in my opinion, a few bamboo bars on the beach is fine, but Surin was getting silly, and it had "approval" from local officials who were allowing the development (for a price). And now suddenly it's gone! We walked along the beach from the car park to the north end where some rocks stick up through the sand. Our kids had last played here 8 years ago ...

(above) On the rocks at the north end of Surin beach

Well, back in 2006 there was a small restaurant near the rocks. Now I saw only a beach club called Zazada .. and (I did not look) I guess the prices of drinks would be more than I want to pay. The structures on the sand had only been knocked down a week before so, in places, things looked a bit untidy. I'll go again in a couple of months and see if everything is tidy! The kids found a wooden swing hanging from a palm tree ...

Kids + beach + rope swing = who needs an iPad? Well, our kids have got used to our sudden urges to take a drive. They might complain, but then enjoy the chance to explore. While the boy jumped around on the rocks, the girl walked to the very end of the beach. Maybe someday she will take the road less traveled. Crowded beaches? Where?

(above) Exploring the ends of Surin beach

After a while we walked back south to the carpark. The lack of any buildings on the beach is very pleasant. The same is happening at other beaches. I'd suggest that people bring a picnic or stop at a 7-11 before arriving at a beach these days! At Surin, without the smaller beach restaurants, not so much choice for eating. I mean, the beachfront shacks were not so cheap anyway, but compared to the beach clubs (Zazada, Catch and Bimi) they were a deal! Surin is now a BYO beach! Only thing left standing on the sand is the lifeguard shack ...

I do like the idea of keeping the beaches natural, but people gotta eat and drink! I imagine that once the whole thing blows over you will see drinks vendors on the beach, then maybe some little mobile food stalls, and then a little bamboo restaurant and maybe the whole thing will start again! Surin is a nice area to stay, there are plenty of hotels including Ayara Hilltops, Twin Palms and Manathai Resort.

Full List of Surin Beach Hotels

If not staying at Surin, it's just a few minutes from Kamala beach or about 20 minutes from Patong beach. And to the north of Surin you find Bang Tao, Layan, Naithon, Nai Yang and Mai Khao beaches. I know ... Phuket has a lot of beaches. And if you are a beach person, it's worth exploring to find the right beach for you :)

We left Surin, heading back home via Kamala and Patong, but first ... in between Surin and Kamala beaches used to be a little gem called Laem Sing beach. Untouched. No construction. And I think my wife and I had not stopped there since about 2001! Back then, Laem Sing was a totally untouched paradise, but of course over the years a bar opened, and another and a restaurant and another one. Now, with help from the friendly Thai army, all that will be gone. Laem Sing will be the next blog post, as we stopped there on the same day. Just south of Surin is a viewpoint with a great view of Laem Sing beach. Wow.

(above) Laem Sing beach. We really should "take a drive" more often. I forget how beautiful the west coast of Phuket can be ...

 A visit to Surin Beach  |   Jamie's Phuket Blog

3 July 2014 

The Big Buddhas of Phuket

Buddhas? Surely there's only one "Big Buddha" in Phuket? The big white one on the hill? Yes, that's the one known as THE Big Buddha, and it certainly is impressive. We've been driving up that hill for 10 years since before construction began. It's not just the 45m high statue, but we love the great views over much of southern Phuket. Thailand is of course mostly Buddhist, so there are lots of Buddhist temples here, though Phuket also has large a Muslim minority and many Thai-Chinese families. You'll find mosques and Chinese shrines all over the island too, and even a Catholic church, a Hindu temple and Sikh temple!

"The" Big Buddha of Phuket

The biggest Buddha in Phuket is the big white marble covered statue on top of the Nakkerd hills in the south of the island near Chalong. It's been under construction for many years. The main statue is fairly well complete, but there's still work in progress around the edges. When it was being built we'd come up the hill for the views and some peace. Now it's part of many tour itineraries, so can be crowded, unless you visit early morning or late afternoon. The statue can be seen from much of the south of the island, and the views from the hill, more than 400m above the sea, are great.

The Big Buddha of Phuket
Hiking to the Big Buddha

Phuket Big Buddha

Reclining Buddha at Sri Sunthorn Temple

Built on the roof of one of the temple buildings at Sri Sunthorn temple, just south of Thalang in the centre of Phuket island is a 25m reclining Buddha. This is not a busy temple, we've been numerous times and hardly ever seen more than a few visitors. It's right by the main road through Phuket from town to the airport, but it's behind some trees and hard to spot from the road. The temple is named after one of the Heroines of Phuket who fought off the Burmese way back in 1785. Oh yes, we got history too!

Sri Sunthorn Temple

Sri Sunthorn Temple Buddha

Seated Buddha at Rang Hill Temple

Up a tiny, hard to find side road next to the Vachira hospital in Phuket Town, is a little secret. Somehow, I did not see this until January 2012, even though the blog had been going nearly 6 years and I love temples. My wife just casually said one day "did you ever see the temple up this road?" ... Wat Khao Rang is at the foot of Rang Hill, on the north side of Phuket Town, well known for views and the popular Tunk Ka Cafe. The golden seated Buddha is very nice indeed and I really should go back one day for some early morning photos in better light. Phuket is full of surprises, even for a long term resident!

Khao Rang Temple

The "Other" Phuket Big Buddha

Buddha in a cave at Wat Suwan Kuha

OK, this one is not on Phuket island .. Wat Suwan Kuha, also called Wat Tham ("cave temple") is over the bridge in Phang Nga province, but is visited by many tours from Phuket. We've been quite a few times. The Buddha is quite impressive, the whole thing was built about 150 years ago by the Na Takuathung family who still live in Phuket. A visit here can be combined with a Phang Nga Bay tour. Outside the cave there are lots of monkeys. There's a 20 Baht entry fee to the cave.

Wat Suwan Kuha

Reclining Buddha at Wat Suwan Kuha

Reclining Buddha at Koh Sirey Temple

Every time we visit the temple on a hill at Sirey Island (just east of Phuket Town) we feel sorry for the place. With some funding it could be gorgeous. Please do visit and leave a donation! Sirey Island (rather like Phuket) is hardly an island, you can drive there over a small bridge from Phuket Town. The temple is up a small hill, about 200 feet above sea level - views are pretty good actually! Inside the temple is a large reclining Buddha about 20m from head to toe. We like driving around Sirey for the views and there are some small restaurants dotted around the place, plus a sea gypsy village not far from the temple.

Koh Sirey Temple

Reclining Buddha at Koh Sirey Temple

Golden Buddha at Koh Kaew Yai Island

Not such an enormous Buddha, but an important one ... Koh Kaew Yai is a small island about 1km off the south tip of Phuket, you can see it from Phromthep Cape. Local legend says that Buddha set foot on the island before arriving in Phuket. Some monks live on the island. There is a large "footprint of Buddha" on the south side of the island, and facing north towards Phuket is a Buddha statue about 6 or 7m high. Not enormous, but an interesting place to visit - you can go by longtail boat from Rawai beach.

Boat trip to Koh Kaew Yai

Big Buddha's hand, Koh Kaew Yai

Wat Bang Riang

A very impressive temple in the hills north of Phang Nga Town near the small town of Thap Put ... quite a drive from Phuket actually, but a day trip including this temple can also include Wat Suwan Kuha and maybe a nice lunch at Tha Sai Seafood. The temple covers a huge area, with a main building on a hill and then a big Buddha and a big standing figure of the goddess Guan Yin. And quite a few steps to climb! Certainly worth a visit if you are in an exploring mood (which we often are!).

Wat Bang Riang

Wat Bang Riang, Phang Nga

Related Blog Posts

Phuket Temples and Shrines
Wat Chalong - Phuket's Biggest Buddhist Temple
Sikh Gurdwara in Phuket Town
Shrine of the Serene Light in Phuket Town

Google Map of Phuket Temples

View Phuket Temples in a larger map

 The Big Buddhas of Phuket  |   Jamie's Phuket Blog

1 July 2014 

Phuket Zoo - Should You Visit?

The last time I mentioned Phuket zoo on the blog was back in 2007, and I wrote "A tourist kid sat with the tiger while his dad took photos. The tiger keeper (a one armed man) poked the tiger with a stick, making him growl and bare his teeth. Would I let my kid sit next to a pissed off tiger? Er.. no."

Seems my memory is short! And I am a hypocrite.

Yeh, I sat with the Tiger

That's me, my daughter and my Mum with the same tiger in 2004 (before the blog existed). I'd forgotten about that earlier visit with the family when we took the tiger photos, watched the shows, bought ice cream for the little girl and quite possibly enjoyed the day! I knew the zoo wasn't all that clean, but most of the animals seemed happy and oh, an orangutan riding a bike and doing maths, hilarious! We went again in 2006, again enjoying things, and justifying the visit as the only opportunity the kids would get to see such animals, and it's right here in Phuket! By then we had a little son too. And we don't have the money for a family holiday to Tanzania.

Orangutan riding a bike

Feeding Tiger Cub

Feeding a tiger cub? Elephants playing basketball? Brilliant!

Elephant Playing Basketball

I have not been since 2007. Over the years my views on Phuket zoo have changed. I noticed a lot more of the unhappy animals which were probably there in 2004 and 2006, or maybe things got worse? Kids have been since, on school trips. I have no plan to visit again, though maybe I should, just to see for myself. I don't want to say too much bad, since I have not been there for many years.

Oh, and the crocodile show! More fun! Don't think they have lost anyone yet...

Crocodile at Phuket Zoo

Fun or exploitation? I recall the crocs water being very green, I recall elephants chained up, though to be honest - look at the face of the elephant playing basketball, I reckon he looks happy. But .... is this leopard happy?

Caged Leopard

Is this bear happy?

Bear and Bare Concrete

Given that my last visit was 2007, I wanted to get some updated opinions. So in December 2012 I posted on my Facebook page "I'd like to hear what people think about Phuket zoo". And got a lot of replies. I was hoping for a mixture of opinions - you can read all the replies here, but here's a selection ...

Myself and my daughter came out of there in tears, if places are making money out of animals they should treat the animals humanely..The conditions are horrendous:( I love Phuket and have been 5 times but have told everyone Not to go to the zoo...I don't find it amazing that you beat a crocodile to bleed, and its entertainment, personally I would've found it funny if the croc had of bitten his head off
Terrible. We were there a couple of months back. We were unable to have photos with many of the animals as they were "tired".....more likely drugged. The animal enclosures were dirty, no water and many of the animals were suffering from injuries and were starving. Should be closed down! I wouldn't recommend it to anyone! Many more beautiful sights to see in Phuket
Not a big fan of zoos in general but I was very disturbed by what I saw at Phuket Zoo -- the concept of using animals for entertainment is very outdated, and most of the creatures there looked unhealthy and/or agitated. The tigers being photographed looked zonked out on drugs. It provides no opportunities for visitors to learn anything about wildlife or nature. It's a sad animal prison. Avoid!


(above) Happy Feet?

Been there twice, once with my brother & partner at the time & then again with my parents. Never again, worst experience. Hate the way they treat their animals & charge you so much for it

Oh yeh - as said above - they do charge you so much - it's a 500 Baht entry fee, though locals pay only 80 Baht. And then many people will pay more for tiger photos, snake photos, food to feed the animals etc... plus your taxi.

That poor orung u tang, he looks so sad. The poor monkeys with chains and the poor elephants look so sad to. We hated it there.

Toucan Toucan

(above) At least the toucan looked fairly healthy

Phuket zoo is the only attraction on Phuket that I will never return to. It is a disgrace with animals kept in horrible conditions. It reminds me of pictures of zoos in the west from over a hundred years ago.
It was run down and the animals are not cared for and were all cramped in cages. I have to say though that we had the biggest laugh with the Orangutan who fell in love with my husband and we got some great photos. Even the little monkeys are such funny characters and we loved them but as for the rest of the zoo well ...SHAME!

Well I thought I might get at least a few people saying they had fun, but it really was pretty unanimous. These are all comments by people who have been to the zoo in recent years. I guess the place is still busy with tour groups. And I imagine there are visitors like we were the first time - ooh! a tiger! Oooh! A funny monkey! Wow! A huge snake! You can find a lot more opinions on TripAdvisor. Some are positive and I hear that animal activists post fake bad reviews. I was glad to get the opinions on my Facebook page too. Should you visit? My opinion is that the zoo is obviously not looked after very well, it seems obvious that some animals are treated poorly. Personally I am unlikely to return, though maybe I should, just to get my own view. Anyway, Phuket has so much to see, that unless you have never seen any animals before or never been to a zoo before, why go?

Related Phuket Blog posts

Phuket Bird Park
Phuket Botanic Garden
Phuket Aquarium
Recommended Phuket Hotels

 Phuket Zoo - Should You Visit?  |   Jamie's Phuket Blog

16 June 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 7 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

11 June 2014 

Top 10 Phuket Hotels 2014

Time for an update - this is a new Top 10 / Best Phuket Hotels list which I have again based on TripAdvisor rankings as they were in February 2014. For each hotel there are links for checking online rates and availability - I suggest using Agoda.com if you want to book a hotel in Phuket. There are also review links - also mostly from Agoda where possible - only people who have booked the hotels through Agoda can make a review (I've left some reviews myself), and if you check the reviews, they tend to be very honest reviews, with plus points and minus points and you can be pretty sure they were left by actual guests. Hotels get average scores out of 10 on Agoda, so you can easily compare. but Agoda does not have any ranking lists, so the top 10 here has to be based on TripAdvisor. Here we go ... the 2014 version of the Top 10 Phuket hotels.

1. Trisara Resort Villas


Trisara was 4th last year, and I'd say .. If I have the money it would be my choice. Trisara offers private pool villas on a private beach just north of Bang Tao beach in the north of Phuket. Trisara is a "secluded, luxury, amazing views, forget-your-worries" style hotels. Only 39 villas, lots of space, no crowds. Villas from 2 - 6 bedrooms, so can be ideal for families or big groups, or weddings. Or just for a relaxing trip for a couple. And yes, it's miles from any busy areas, so don't complain that you have to get taxis everywhere :)

Trisara - Online Booking
Trisara Reviews

2. BYD Lofts (Patong Beach)

BYD Lofts

Up from 3rd place last year, BYD Lofts is not really a hotel, as it offers serviced apartments, with a "view over beautiful Patong" rooftop pool, near the center of Patong Beach. There are 1 / 2 bedroom apartments of various sizes. A good place to stay if you like to be near the center of all the action (that's Patong) but need a quietish place to retire to. I tend to avoid Patong, but for sure it's convenient as a visitor to have a lot of restaurants, shops and tour counters near you. And bars and nightlife.

BYD Lofts - Online Booking
BYD Lofts Reviews

3. Rising Sun Residence (Chalong)

Rising Sun Residence

Not a beach hotel, Rising Sun Residence has 12 villas in the hills in the Chalong area near Chalong Temple. There are seven three-bedroom villas, four of these have a private pool and jacuzzi, kitchen and large living room. The five one-bedroom villas are built around a large pool with sun deck and jacuzzi. Long way from the beach, so would suit people who want to explore Phuket (it would be a very good idea to have your own transport if you stay here) and "come home" in the evening. Jamie's Phuket kind of people!

Rising Sun Residence - Online Booking
Rising Sun Residence Reviews

4. The Baray Villa by Sawasdee Village (Kata Beach)

The Baray Villa

The Baray Villa has just 14 luxury villas, which are run by the Sawasdee Village Resort, and yet separate from the resort. Villas are 2 floor with huge rooms, jacuzzi, direct pool access, set in tropical gardens, with a spa available. Reviews make the villas sound fantastic! It was number 1 in 2012. Yes, please!

The Baray Villa - Online Booking
Baray Villa Reviews

5. The Shore at Katathani (Kata Noi Beach)

The Shore at Katathani

Katathani has been around for many years on Kata Noi beach. The Shore is their newer luxury "pool villa" development, opened in 2010. And it sure looks good! Pool villas, some with seaview (note: the view does vary from villa to villa), all with private pools. As I said, this "private villa" thing seems to be the trend in the last few years. A great hotel for couples. I see lots of honeymoon reviews.

The Shore at Katathani - Online Booking
The Shore Reviews

6. Andara Resort and Villas (Kamala Beach)


A 5 star resort, on the hillside near Kamala Beach with luxury villas. It was rated number 1 on the top 10 family hotel list, providing relaxation in comfort for the whole family, and since it's individual villas with private pools, will suit families as well as couples. I'd happily stay here, thanks! Andara resort is not right on the beach - it's on the hillside. Many of the villas have great sea views. See there really is a trend of non-beachfront luxury these days ...

Andara Resort & Villas - Online Booking
Andara Resort & Villas at HotelsCombined.com
Andara Resort Reviews

7. Mom Tri's Villa Royale (Kata Noi Beach)

Mom Tri's Villa Royale

Up from 10 to 7 this year ... The Villa Royale was built by the same original owner of the Boathouse on Kata beach (Mom Tri) on land which used to be the location of his home, on the headland overlooking Kata Noi beach (just south of Kata beach). Steps from the hotel takes you down to the beach. Great views from the rooms and from the restaurant too. It's got a touch of class and olde Thai style, and is often fully booked even in low season!

Villa Royale - Online Booking
Villa Royale Reviews

8. Renaissance Resort and Spa (Mai Khao Beach)

Renaissance Phuket Resort and Spa

7th last year, 8th this year. Mai Khao Beach is still one of Phuket's quiet places. It's about 10km long with maybe 10 plus a couple of small bungalow operations. Renaissance is one of the best in the area (as evidenced by it's high ratings), close to the airport (don't worry, there's no noise) and right on Mai Khao beach which is never, ever crowded. There's a variety of rooms - simple "deluxe" rooms up to pool villas with seaview. Mai Khao Beach is way up in the north of Phuket, it's over 40km from here to Patong, Karon and Kata. If you want solitude, it's ideal and why would you visit the busier beaches anyway?

Renaissance Resort - Online Booking
Renaissance Resort Reviews

9. Pen Villa (Surin Beach)

Pen Villa

6th last year and still in the top 10 ... Pen Villa. It's a newer, smaller hotel at Surin beach, and I'd really not heard of it before writing the 2013 Top 10. Only opened a couple of years ago, and looks like the kind of personal place which requests guests that they make reviews on TripAdvisor. Every year there are a couple of places that make me say "Where?". Power of the internet. I'm sure it is very nice though!

Pen Villa - Online Booking
Pen Villa Reviews

10. Twin Palms (Surin Beach)

Twin Palms

Surin Beach, despite rampant hillside development manages to retain a laid back feel on the beachfront with small restaurants and bars although they tend to be a little expensive, and yet Surin is so so different to the big beaches it's nice to come here for a meal and drink sometimes. Twin Palms is not huge, under 100 rooms - the more luxury rooms are huge duplexes and penthouse suites. Twin Palms also has its own semi-private beach club (Catch Beach Club) right by the sea. Yeh, Surin is "beach club" country.

Twin Palms Booking - Online Booking
Twin Palms Reviews

That's the Top 10 best hotels in Phuket as of March 2014. Maybe you have booked a hotel that's not listed, but you think it should be? Phuket has a very confusing mix of old and new resorts, big hotels and small guesthouses, villas for rent, hillside, beachfront, busy areas, quiet areas... There's something here for everyone, but some research does pay off especially with regards to location. There is a trend in recent years for new luxury resorts in more remote areas and for sea view hillside (not on the beach) villas. Land prices and rent are very high these days in Phuket, so it's hard to think about opening a small hotel or guesthouse. I'd say Phuket is slowly heading upmarket. Older tourist areas like Soi Bangla in Patong are being redeveloped. Out with the bars, in with aircon shopping centers and new resorts. And dotted around the coast, many new 5 star resorts have opened in the last 10 years.

Here's a few more Best / Top 10 hotel lists for families, luxury and romantic places to stay...

Best Phuket Family Hotels
Best Phuket Luxury Hotels
Best Phuket Couples Hotels

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29 May 2014 

Tuk Tuks and Taxis in Phuket - Your Opinions

Jamie's Phuket Blog almost always talks about Phuket in a positive way. I blog about places we have been, restaurants we like, things we have enjoyed doing as a family. I don't tend to post news stories or dwell on things that I don't like although I have written about the tsunami several times and back in 2006 I did mention the coup. Yes there was a coup in 2006 and, yes, I am aware there was one last week, but have no plans to blog about it. For news updates, weather and more, please do follow me on Twitter.

Since I blog about things that I do, or we do as a family, I have not mentioned public transport, although maybe a "general information" blog post about this subject might be a good idea. We have our own transport, we live here, so we have no use for taxis, tuk tuks, motorbike taxis or buses. Way back when I first got here to Phuket I did use tuk tuks and buses a few time, but preferred motorbike taxis as they were cheaper than tuk tuks and faster than buses! Before having any children, and when I lived in Patong for a while in 1999/2000 I could take a motorbike taxi from one end of Patong to the other for 20 Baht and a tuk tuk I am sure had a starting fare of 50 Baht in Patong. When I moved over the hill to Kathu, I remember a tuk tuk to Phuket Town was 100 Baht. It was quite affordable back then.

(above) Motorbike taxi driver in Phuket Town.

These days, I gotta say that in my opinion taxi and tuk tuk fares are nuts. I think the average rate between the airport and the main south Phuket beach areas (Patong, Karon, Kata) is about 1000 Baht now. Taxi stand near our dive shop shows a rate of 1200 Baht. Now, fair enough it's a 50km drive and in heavy traffic can be a 2 ½ to 3 hour return trip. I don't think the airport fare is too bad, but 400 Baht from Karon to Patong, like 7 - 8 km? Or 200 Baht just from one end of Karon to the other (2km)? Or 1000 Baht return trip to the Big Buddha? 600 Baht to Phuket Town?

(above) Taxi prices posted outside the Karon Place Hotel next to Sunrise Divers, Karon Beach

My simple opinion is that there are too many taxis and tuk tuks, so each driver does not get enough business, and thus they have to charge more per trip, and then spend 80% of the day in a hammock. There has not been enough regulation to limit the number of taxis, plus each area has it's own little mafia cooperative keeping fares high and a taxi from Karon, for example, can take a tourist from Karon to Patong, but cannot pick up in Patong so has to return empty. But are the fares too high? Is it a rip-off? I don't know! I am basing my comments on my own financial status, so it seems a bit expensive to me, but maybe the average tourist has more money and thinks tuk tuks are a good deal and a fun part of being in Phuket?

(above) This was the last time I used a tuk tuk - back in 2010. My daughter and I were walking in Phuket Town (doing the 2010 Phuket Photo Walk), she got tired and we hailed a tuk tuk for a ride across town. I was expecting to be quoted a silly number, but the driver said 60 Baht. I think you might find Phuket Town to be a little different to the main tourist areas!

Since I don't take taxis, I wanted to get some opinions from people who do use them. I asked on my Phuket Blog Facebook Page ...

"What do you think about tuk tuks and taxis in Phuket? Good service? Had any bad experiences? Do you think prices are OK, or too high?"

Thank you to all those who left answers and comments. There were plenty of opinions, more than 100 comments in total though some were off topic! I will have to cherry pick here, can't post all comments, but you can read the whole Facebook post with all answers here. I am including all kind of comments below, positive and negative. It's a real mixed bag of opinions!

If you are a taxi or tuk tuk driver, or if you know a taxi or tuk tuk driver, you might want to read some of these comments. I know some local people read this Phuket weblog. Some good comments here and remember, this is from people who actually use the service (not me)!

We have used lots of Tuk Tuks and have enjoyed them. The drivers are always good fun but we have also found that we can get a taxi for the same price.

Good point raised actually - tuk tuks are the box shaped little things, normally red in colour but can be any colour. No seatbelts, no aircon, no doors. My opinion - they're not as safe, but people like them because you don't get anything like this "back home". You can normally find proper cars with aircon, doors and seatbelts hanging around hotels and they charge the same.

I think the drivers charge way too much for distances around Phuket.
I had to go to hospital when I was in Karon and the driver stayed with me nearly all day and made sure I got back to my hotel alright. I gave him 2000Bht, I can not fault the service these guys provide.
Been visiting Phuket since 2004 - Tuk Tuks have got progressively more expensive - but never had a bad experience.... 200 Baht from Amari into Patong - Bangla adds up after a week though!
They have motorbike taxi in Phuket too. When I'm out partying and leave my motorbike home I always pay a ladyboy 100 baht and she take me home. Always the same price even if you go from Karon to Kata But if we go to Patong or longer way I always call for my taxi friend and I always pay the same price. Some tuk tuk people are not nice but if you're not happy with the people or the price just walk to next one.

Jamie says - I'm not sure I'd want to pay a ladyboy 100 Baht to "take me home" :)

I found them to be good clean dangerous fun. haggle with a friendly smile to get a good deal, only naive tourists get ripped off, and you guys stick out like sore thumbs. lol

You see some people think like this comment above, others say ...

It's a f*cking rip off and the baddest thing about Phuket.
Works well unless you stay in Kamala, there they are run by the mafia and are a total rip-off
!! I was expecting more of this kind of comment actually!

Tuk Tuks are a novelty but because of the pecking order, when queued you can't choose the one you want! Its a pain coz if you have young children they want the one with the loud music and colourful lights and bling, but you are forced to take the next one going. Leads to much disappointment with the children who drive home from dinner in a plain one to see others rock up to the hotel having a party in the back!!
Ditto most of the previous comments - 40 Baht for one hour of pootling around the sights of Bangkok - Asked for 200 baht in Phuket before you even get in the tuk tuk or they know where you want to go - Can be quite aggressive if you even start to try to barter.....Again it was all 'Land of Smiles' from the Bangkok drivers with good banter. Felt I wanted to tip the Bangkok driver....And just paid what was asked and no more on Phuket. It could be a lot better if they tried.

I also can't quite understand why taxis in Bangkok are so much cheaper than Phuket. I think maybe it's because the drivers don't lounge around in hammocks all day.

When we were in Thailand tuk tuks were a novelty. We found the convenience great. The fact that we didn't have to run the gauntlet in Patong was fabulous. From Jung Ceylon to Merlin cost 250 was a bit pricey but we still did it every day as we were not interested in a suit glasses or favours from the women on the street.
Only used one once in Patong. To get me to hospital!! Faster than a taxi and quicker than an ambulance !!
Sometimes taxi and tuk tuk are the same price so you may as well travel in aircon comfort. It depends on the size of your group too. Usually they will negotiate and people often step in to help you if you look confused lol. Our housekeeper at the villa negotiated rides out and we had a driver who was fantastic that did day trips. Its a great place and full of many wonderful people. There are a few rogues everywhere.
I found it a good service and friendly
One time tuk tuk in two yrs. I do not like always feel some want to rip you off.

As you see above - opinions vary, some people think it's expensive or a rip off and some say the opposite!

Very expensive charge & not friendly. When I visit Phuket I always rent a car at the airport.
We hired a car with no problems for rest of trip...air con was like heaven!!

I might just talk about hiring your own vehicle at some point. I think that if you really want to explore Phuket as I do, a car is essential, or at least a moped for shorter distances. Car hire tends to be somewhere between 800 - 1500 Baht per day depending on season, type of car and length of hire contract. Can be cheaper than a few taxi rides, but you do need to be happy driving in Phuket traffic :)

Stay in a place where you don't have to take tuktuk often, so you won't regret to spend the most of your money to them. It is the tourist himself who made the prices grow because of his stupidity to pay nearly all price only to have the confort not do walk 500m. there are good and bad drivers, but most are honest because they tell you the price before riding. there are also good and bad tourists. if it is too expensive, avoid tuktuks, stay in a better area, or even stay at home
Visited Phuket last year with my family, they (especially the grandchildren) loved the experience. Just have to negotiate with the driver before you get in. We found them very friendly and careful with the kids on board.
Complete rip off....Chang Mai from airport to hotel,about 30 minute drive in minivan with 4persons,charge 160 baht,Phuket from airport to Karon 1000 baht....Bangkok airport to inner city about 45 minute drive 260 baht.....go figure!...a disgrace what they extort from tourists. Thai government needs to address this.
love em! overpriced? hell no compared to what i pay at home
Overpriced they rip off as much they can...

It seems there is no middle ground here .. people seem to like Phuket tuk tuks and taxis or hate them!

Here's a good comment ::: I agree, the short trips are overpriced.

I think that the drivers should not charge so much just to go from one end of the street to the other , like 200 Bht but happy to drive you round for hours up to 5 hours for just 450 Bht . I would use them 5 times a day for short travel it they were reasonable, it does not make sense they would rather b doing nothing than getting money for what would be a Max 10 min trip to go back and make more money for lots more 10 min trips. I have been to Phuket at least 20 times and the heat does get to tourists and a well priced ride for these very short trips would benefit EVERYONE
Expensive! Live on Karon beach when we are there. they take 200 for to drive to some place in Karon,300 to Kata, 400 to Patong. And in the evening they go home early....so no tuk.tuk ore taxi

Below .. I am not sure who posted this, maybe a taxi driver or friend of a taxi driver ... a little hard to understand, but I will point out one thing - whoever wrote this certainly agrees, there are TOO MANY taxis and tuk tuks, that's why they don't have enough fares and thus have to charge more per fare.

In tuk tuk and taxi side : tuk tuk and taxi they can work just only 4 or 5 month a years as now not thing no tourist and what about 8 month what they can do, not thing. if they out from work that mean can't be back to work anymore. if a lot of driver that mean not so much work too, must sheared your guest and money. they have taxi and tuktuk club for make the same price and also have price show on the sign beside the road and front of there station, the gasoline in thailand is the most expensive in the world almost 40-50 THB/lite. small car but lot of weight and go up to big mountain. Why they must to start from 200 THB. evern you go for just 1/2 Km. how many car in work please some please have much more 20 car. if you are the first one and got guest for 200 THB. and when you come back to station must to be the last again and wait for 3-4 hr. or more for run another car to have guest then you can turn to the first one again. what you think how many THB. they got and how many hrs. they should work to got a lot money. like now the 2nd car still not got guest from 10 O'clock till 21:00 pm what about another car in station if today they can't be the first much to move to the next day and next day and next day. please thing everything for 2 side not only 1 side. everything have bad and good. a lot of experience with bad guest too.

Expensive? We are staying up on the hill at Patong and we get a tuk tuk twice a day to wherever we want to go, average price is 200 baht for 5 of us, cheap cheap!
We love them and don't mind paying for the experience of traveling in them. When I compare distance for price from Phuket to Australia, great value too!
Love a tuk tuk
They are too expencive and killing the tourisem. The are noise and drive like hell.

(Please note, if spelling and grammar are bad .. I am quoting exactly as written by people who are not always native English speakers!)

Never had a problem in the last 9 trips to Phuket.
My husband and I and our 3 children used them whilst staying in Karon and thought they were WAY overpriced. It was the biggest expense of our trip. They also would put the prices up because there were 5 of us. At the tuk tuk stations all prices on display are for 4 people. What does it matter if there are 2,4 or 10 people in a tuk tuk it's still going to the same place?? That pissed me off especially with little kids. Love Phuket it was our 3rd time but it's definitely getting more expensive.

To the person who wrote this (above) - I suggest renting a car.

We have been to Phuket 4 times going back in September 5th trip, we use them everyday, long trips short trips, they can be expensive, especially short trips, but we walk try barter what we think is reasonable if they don't agree we walk to the next lot till we have someone who actually wants money. Yes you do get good ones and when you do KEEP THEM!!
Stayed at Surin Beach and it was lovely, but the taxi monopoly means you have to pay the equivalent of AU$20 to get anywhere. It puts you off the idea of staying there again.
Scooter is the way to go around Phuket, definitely.

Jamie says - I have to say, I don't thing it's my imagination, but I swear that I saw a lot more tourists on scooters/mopeds this last high season ... avoiding taxi prices? You can normally rent a scooter for 250 - 300 Baht per day. That's cheaper than a single shop between beaches by taxi. Don't want to say too much here, but I'd only recommend you rent a scooter if you know how to ride, have experience riding in traffic and please, always wear a helmet (and a shirt!).

I think prices were higher last November than the July 2011 when we were there. I found it expensive from Patong to Kata... And also the fixed price of 200 Baht from Gracelands into Patong. I think the prices for everything were def higher the second time we went. But we loved it and can't wait to go back. The men on the beach outside Gracelands are awesome as well as the guys in the little takeaway shop on the beach. They are def worth the money. Oh and we never had a bad experience. Except for once when we asked to see the shops and he took us to a souvenir shop that we didn't want anything at. That was disappointing but the only time in the 21 days all up we have been to Phuket.

Re the comment above - "from Gracelands into Patong" ... seriously, some people need to walk a bit! Gracelands hotel is just 10 minutes walk from the center of Patong! I agree Patong to Kata or Karon, they charge too much.

We use tuk tuks when we are there and have always had a good experience. We also have a driver that we use for trips outside of Patong beach and he is great!.. takes us everywhere, books our day trips and suggests places for us to go exploring.
Definitely expensive but great fun to ride in! Better value if they drive you around for a few hours. The only time I've though highly of the service was with the Batman tuk tuk a few years ago. He took us to Laem Singh Beach and we arranged for him to return and pick us up a few hours later, and he was right on time.
Way way way over priced on both the taxi & tuk tuk.......they are stand over merchants.......they have this mentality that because it's quiet instead of getting of there asses & looking for work we will just sit in our little huts & put the prices up & the customer can come to us.......if you can find a good one stick with them cause they are very rare!!
Compared to the rest of Thailand they are way overpriced !

Agree. And very little alternative - buses run between Phuket Town and the main beaches, but not between the beaches. And anywhere else I have been in Thailand, you have lower taxi prices, or .. even in Pattaya, they have buses that run routes around the main tourist areas for a low price. If you could hop on a bus every 20 minutes from one end of Patong to the other for 20 Baht, it would be a success. If you really wanted to go NOW you could pay extra for a taxi. Pretty much how any place in the world does it.

LOVE the disco Tuk Tuks!
We were there 2 months ago. I thought the prices were high compared to Chiang Mai and Bangkok, but pretty much everything was more expensive in Phuket. And of course the prices were pretty much set although we did manage to bargain down a tiny bit on a couple of rides. We enjoyed the rides in the "pimped out" tuk tuks blasting music. And we had good service overall.
We gave the tuk tuk driver too much money and he was honest enough to let us know... we ended up giving him more than the fare because he was so nice about it and so honest!

OK, that's enough - a lot of comments as you can see. And to be honest I was surprised at the number of positive comments. I know very well that the taxi and tuk tuk prices have been increasing year by year. Sure, everything increases in price, but I think part of the reason the taxis are so expensive in Phuket is that there are too many of them. Plus the way they organise themselves into local groups, can't pick up in other areas outside their own group border and quite frankly there seem to be many drivers happy to lounge around all day and get a few fares at inflated prices. God forbid that if the prices were lower, more people would use the taxis and the drivers would have to work more, but would they make more money? If I can sell you one banana for 100 Baht, why would I sell you 2 bananas for 50 Baht each? I hope someone has found this interesting / useful / a fun read. If you are coming to Phuket - well, that's what other visitors think of Phuket's taxis and tuk tuks! See you in Phuket!

UPDATE - Just a few days after this blog post was written, there was a huge crackdown on illegal taxis and taxi "mafia" groups. Police and army cooperated and had a list of over 100 people they wanted to arrest. Despite many people obviously enjoying the service provided by taxis and tuk tuks in Phuket, for sure many people are not happy with the service, as can be seen from the comments I got on Facebook. This was a surprise crackdown and maybe it will help ... you can read more on the Phuket News website here, here and here.

 Tuk Tuks and Taxis in Phuket - Your Opinions  |   Jamie's Phuket Blog