Jamie's Phuket Blog

Jamie's Phuket Blog - Discover The Real Phuket!

30 July 2015 

Wine Connection Restaurant

Most of the time, if we eat out, we eat at cheaper Thai restaurants or local seafood places. We like the kind of places where we can all eat until stuffed and the bill won't be more than 1,000 Baht for the family, normally much much less than that! We tend to avoid restaurants for tourists or places that only sell "Western" food. Partly because I am a cheap skinflint, partly because we don't like "fancy" places where you pay for the appearance rather than substance of the food. Best Thai food is to be found at local restaurants that don't worry too much about presentation. However, of course now and then we do fancy something a bit different. I have an English belly and it seems my kids have inherited this too, mixed with my wife's absolutely Southern Thai belly - her favourite food is Gaeng Som, a very spicy and sour curry.

Anyway - Wine Connection is a big chain of stores all over Thailand. They started off selling wine. The first store in Phuket was in the Chalong area and there are now lots of branches in Phuket. I am not a wine person, but I have bought wine there quite a few times for parties. They expanded a few years back and started doing restaurants. I always thought of it as an expensive place for expats and "Thai people trying to be fancy" to eat, and we'd not eaten there before last week. We had gone to the Central Festival mall (just outside Phuket Town) to watch a movie, then found that the movie we wanted had stopped its run the day before. My daughter mentioned Wine Connection, and I found out she had eaten pizza in there with some friends .. not too expensive she said. So we went to have a look...

Wine Connection

(above) Outside Wine Connection in the Central Festival mall

A quick look at the menu outside .. Pizza starting at 170 Baht, pasta dishes around 200 Baht, and lots of meaty things (lamb, steak) at higher prices. No Thai food. The pizza and pasta seemed very well priced. My daughter assured me the pizza was good, so we thought we'd try. If you convert these prices to my old UK pounds, it's cheap - just over 3 pounds for pizza, 4 pounds for pasta. Yeh, if you are on holiday, Thailand is very cheap! We ordered a pizza each for the kids (are you sure you can finish it?) and I ordered fettuccine with chorizo. Drinks? Very happy to find some German Weissbier on the menu (which cost nearly as much as the food, but what the hell, we're here now!)

Inside Wine Connection

(above) Inside Wine Connection

Food came very quickly, but then again it was just before midday and not at all busy. My pasta arrived first and I was actually surprised by the size of the plate - often these slightly fancier restaurants have artistic, but small portions. The pasta was very tasty and went down very well with a German bier (yes I know it would go better with wine, but ...)

Fettuccine with Chorizo at Wine Connection

German Beer at Wine Connection

(above) My lunch - Fettuccine with chorizo and some very nice beer :)

The pizza is a kind of litmus test for me. I like pizza. I like good pizza. I can happily stay away from chain pizza places like Pizza Company. The kids got their pizza, and of course Dad took a slice to check the quality. Looks good, tastes good, thin and crispy, plenty of cheese. And of course the kids had no trouble finishing off the whole thing, they eat like horses!

Pizza at Wine Connection

(above) Good pizza!

Wine Connection is now on our list :) Actually the pizza was better and cheaper than Pizza Company. Bill was 880 Baht for 3 people - my wife skipped, she had her curry waiting at home :) There are several places we eat semi-regularly in the Central Festival mall. Often we use use the food court (4th floor, same floor as the cinema) Wine Connection is on the 2nd floor, same as many chains like Burger King, KFC etc.. We have eaten many times at the Fuji Japanese restaurant, and also the Zen Japanese restaurant. Many people come to Central at the weekend - a good hideout in the aircon on a really hot day, and a place to go on a rainy day! Shopping, a movie, a good meal, Phuket has certainly embraced the mall culture :) I'm not saying we spend that much time here, but we can't go out exploring every weekend!

21 July 2015 

Bang Pat Fishing Village

We do like taking drives off Phuket island, over the Sarasin Bridge and into Phang Nga Province. Phuket is the biggest island in Thailand, but Phang Nga is 8 times bigger than Phuket, so we are still finding new places to visit not far from home. Phang Nga has plenty of well known places like Khao Lak, James Bond Island, Lampi Waterfall and much more, but recently we've been exploring some lesser known areas. A few weeks ago we took a drive around the Khlong Kian area which is itself about half the size of Phuket and has some lovely views. To the east of Phang Nga Town, off the main road to Krabi (a road we have driven many times) you find Bang Pat. I first heard of Bang Pat about 4 years ago when I saw it on a Thai TV channel, and have always intended to stop there, but somehow never got around to it until last weekend.

I knew that Bang Pat has some restaurants, but on this little trip we decided to eat first, and then go check out Bang Pat. We had lunch at Dairy Hut Seafood, a very nice place in between Phang Nga town and Bang Pat. We've eaten there several times before. The turning off the main road to Bang Pat is about another 6km past Dairy Hut on the road towards Krabi. The turn off is not too well signposted, but it does say "Bang Pat" in English, just not in huge letters! Then there's a 10km drive on a small road through little villages, passing lots of agricultural land and lots of shrimp farms as the surrounding area becomes mostly mangroves. At the end of the road - a car park, toilets and some stalls selling food. I was surprised to see so many cars! Can this place be so popular. It was hard to find a parking spot, must have been at least 50 cars there. Then I realised it was the first weekend after the end of Ramadan. And Phang Nga is a largely Muslim area, so Bang Pat was full of local families out for a big celebration meal. I would imagine any other time it's not so busy. I was a grey day also, with some light drizzle in the air, not ideal for photos - this means I think we have to go again to get more photos and try a restaurant when it's less crowded.

Bang Pat is a fishing village built in the mangroves just at the entrance to the open sea (part of Phang Nga Bay). Seafood is the business around here - fish, prawns, crabs, shellfish. The village is on the other side of a wide mangrove creek, so you walk over a bridge, about 150 meters over to the village.

Bridge to Bang Pat

(above) Bridge over to Bang Pat - it was quite busy when we visited!

Bang Pat Village in Phang Nga

(above) View of Bang Pat village from the bridge

It's not a big village, smaller than the well known Panyee Village in Phang Nga Bay. My first thought was that it looks a little run down, although I think the grey skies did not help! We turned left off the bridge and I went off exploring the side streets.

Bang Pat Village Mosque

Young dudes hanging out in Bang Pat

(above) Bang Pat street scenes

We found several houses with caged eagles (or brahminy kites?) outside. See photo below. Not sure if these are being kept as pets or if they are somehow used to help with fishing. If anyone reads this who knows the answer, please do let me know!

Eagles kept by locals at Bang Pat

The restaurants were very busy on this day. I think on a sunnier day, could be a very nice place to have a seafood lunch. I counted about 6 different restaurants and also saw one sign for a homestay. An article in a local news site from 4 years ago says there were 10 homestays. I think maybe that was a little ambitious, but the restaurants at least seem to be running and fresh seafood is certainly guaranteed.

Restaurant at Bang Pat

(above) Restaurant at Bang Pat

My family at Bang Pat

(above) And all the family enjoying some exploration :)

OK, there's not a huge amount to see here at Bang Pat - it's not a day trip on it's own, but combined with a few other nearby things it's worth a visit. It would be an option for a lunch before renting a longtail boat out into Phang Nga Bay for example. We just wandered around for about 40 minutes and then with more rain coming in, it was time to drove home. From our house about 90 minutes to Bang Pat (we live near Phuket Town). Just about anywhere in Phang Nga is OK for a day trip or even a half day. On this day we did not leave home until nearly midday. And as I said, I think we need to return to try some food and see the place on a sunnier day!

Bridge across the water to Bang Pat

(above) Heading back over the bridge - look out for mopeds! It was a popular day for local Muslims to visit. Looks like people were having a fun day out!

Bang Pat - Location Map

11 July 2015 

A Tour of South Phuket

We had some new visitors to Phuket earlier this year. My aunt and uncle were in Thailand for the first time, staying 7 nights at the Centara Karon Resort which is a few minutes walk from the sands of Karon beach and a couple of kilometers up the road from my office at Sunrise Divers. We had a couple of evenings with them visiting a few favourite places like Kopitiam and the After Beach Bar, but since it's high season I could only take one full day off that week. On Sunday 11th January I drove to pick them up from the hotel for a little tour around some of the sights in the south of Phuket before heading to the beach in the late afternoon for my son's birthday party. And, as it happens, it was also my aunt's birthday. All photos on this page were taken on the same day.

This little tour covers a lot of beautiful scenery and is only a small corner of southwest Phuket. It was one of the first parts of Phuket that I explored when not diving. It was a very quiet area then, but even now the roads are not so busy and it's a nice area for a ride on a moped with lots of possible stopping off points. It was nice to be a "tour guide" for half a day and this trip with my relatives helped me remember that Phuket really is a nice place to live! We started from Karon to the south, past Kata beach and then on the hilly, winding road along the coast to Naiharn beach.

First stop was the well known Karon Viewpoint (also called "the Phuket Viewpoint" or Kata Viewpoint). And as you can see the weather was perfect, just what you'd hope for in January. Always a great view from here looking north along the Phuket coastline. There are many great coastal views in Phuket.

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!". I think I'll blog this restaurant a bit later, it's certainly one to visit again. A very pleasant lunch. Time ticked by, a second cold beer was enjoyed and it was time to move on. We could have stopped at the Phuket Seashell Museum, but time was limited. We drove to Chalong and then up and up the hill to the Big Buddha. It was rather busy up there. My aunt had to borrow a sarong to cover her shoulders (they hand these out for free at the entrance). You are supposed to dress properly at temples. I saw a shirtless guy being stopped by "Big Buddha Security" and not allowed in without a shirt. The day continued to be hot with blue skies.

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 2015

This kind of tour is something I often suggest to people. This corner of Phuket has a lot to see, and the scenery is beautiful, plus there are loads of options for restaurants and bars - if you did this as an afternoon tour it would finish nicely with a sunset at a viewpoint or the After Beach Bar. It's a very nice part of Phuket away from the busier beaches, lots of places of interest, sea views and small beaches. Especially ideal if you have a hotel around Karon beach or Kata beach. It had been a while since I'd done a little tour like this and even for me, living here a long time, it was a lovely day!

For guided tours like this or around any area in or near Phuket, ask my friends at Easy Day Thailand!

Map - Tour of South Phuket

1 July 2015 

Exploring New Roads - Klong Kian, Phang Nga

On some weekends we don't do much, just odd jobs, homework (kids), have a lunch out maybe, take it very easy. Sometimes a long sleep in is very much appreciated. But even with a late wake up call, there are plenty of hours in the day for doing something more interesting. My wife and I like to just "go for a drive" sometimes, maybe with a vague destination in mind, or maybe we just follow our noses. The kids will be like "Do we have to? Can't we stay home and rest and play video games?" But very often these random drives end up being plenty of fun and I like to think that the kids also like the idea of exploring new roads. They might just end up going backpacking for years like I did :) Well, on a recent day off, we were not up too early, had noodles for breakfast about 11am and then thought "What now?" I had been looking at a part of Phang Nga province for some time on the map, a large area about half the size of Phuket that we had not explored at all. Phang Nga is the province just over the bridge from Phuket and we have done a lot of drives around this area in the past. The area I wanted to explore is just over the bridge to the east, a big bulge sticking out with the main road to Phang Nga Town looping around it. On the map it looked very quiet and I was not sure if the roads were that good, but we have a pick up truck which can handle a few rough roads!

The area is part of Takua Thung district and during the afternoon we passed through 3 different sub-districts (Tambon) - Lo Yung, Klong Kian and Tha Yu. We had 3G coverage almost all the way and had Google Maps on the phone to check directions. Proper exploring :) We took a right turn just a couple of km after the Sarasin bridge, and off onto new roads. Started off as a good road, then hit a few km of road building with many large trucks coming the other way, but it soon settled down into lovely green scenery.

A nice road and green hills

The roads were actually very good all around the area except when we deliberately hit some dirt later. Lots of rubber plantations and lots of pineapples growing around here.

Pineapples growing in Phang Nga

(above) Pineapple fields. A lot of Phang Nga (and northern Phuket) is rural / agricultural.

Our first stop ... My wife was driving and I was navigating using Google Maps. I wanted to find somewhere with a view back over the water to Phuket. We skirted one larger fishing village and ended up passing a smaller one, which was rather dirty and stinky with the road ending in dirt next to a small jetty and a view of Phuket island about 3km away.

Looking across the water to Phuket

(above) Looking over to Phuket. We could see planes coming in to land. The nearest part of Phuket is called Laem Sai, an area we explored a couple of years ago on another little drive :)

Back roads of Phang Nga

(above) Our first stop, on a Phang Nga back road. Nice views, guaranteed no tourists!

Onward! I could see that the village of Klong Kian had a sizeable jetty, and looked to be the largest community in the area. Took about 20 minutes to drive there from our first stop. Just before the village, the road climbed up to around 75m above sea level with a great view ...

Viewpoint near Khlong Kian Pier

Down the hill to reach the jetty that can be seen in the photo above. And it's a fairly big one, about 400 meters long. I am guessing some Phang Nga Bay boat tours use this pier, so maybe it's busy in high season. We saw a restaurant (open, but empty) and a large car park (with 1 bus parked). Lazy family decided to drive down to the end of the jetty rather than getting exercise. At the far end was space to park a few vehicles. One minibus was waiting there. We enjoyed the quiet and the seaviews.

Khlong Kian Pier

(above) Looking down Klong Kian jetty

Girls riding bikes on Khlong Kian Pier

(above) Local kids riding bikes at Klong Kian jetty

A mangrove canal enters the sea next to the jetty and there are many longtail boats moored up the canal. The Thai word for canal is "Klong" (คลอง) and this area of Phang Nga has many mangrove canals. Much of the northeast coast of Phuket is also mangroves.

Jetty made from any old piece of wood

(above) Up the klong at Klong Kian. The little walkways to the boats are made from scraps of wood.

We moved on from Klong Kian. I was worried we'd have to drive back the way we came, but the road carried on north and from consulting the map, looked like we could get back to the main road at the village of Tha Yu. Again we had no particular plan, just drive and see what we could see ... And we found a little gem! About 7km north of Klong Kian, I could see a fishing village on a mangrove canal that looked big enough to be of interest and maybe with some views. I can't see the name of the village, but it's marked on the map on this page. We drove to the end of the village and found a long wooden floating jetty with many longtails tied up. Looking on the map, it might be possible to take a boat from here out into the bay .. something we might try on our next Phang Nga Bay trip!

Jetty in the mangroves

Not a bad view, but rather restrictive, being up a klong. A local guy told us that we'd find a better view along a dirt track leading closer to the open sea. The track looked to have been built IN the canal with stones and mud. But it was mostly dry and he said we could drive it, about another 500 meters ... just one worrying muddy patch (we don't have 4WD) leading to a patch of land where building work was going on including a community center.

Dirt road in the mangroves

We drove along the dirt track above to find the beautiful views below ...

Jetty at small fishing village

Mangrove canal and view of Koh Daeng

Worth the trip! I knew there must be some views like this and I want to explore this area further, although there are few roads in the mangroves and at some point, to see the best of Phang Nga Bay, you have to take a boat. Maybe not too many people plan on taking trips like this, just exploring. I prefer this to visiting well known attractions, although of course there are plenty of tourist attractions worth visiting. An afternoon like this on the back roads is what my wife and I enjoy sometimes, and glad to say the kids enjoyed this afternoon too.

More things to see in Phang Nga

Wat Suwan Kuha (temple in a cave)
Holidays in Khao Lak
Koh Yao Noi Island

Klong Kian Area, Phang Nga - Location Map

22 June 2015 

Lucky 13 Sandwich near Rawai Beach

Most of the time I do prefer cheap and simple Thai food, but living in Phuket with it's many tourists and many different nationalities means that, if I am in the mood, there's plenty of good non-Thai food! Growing up in England, the sandwich was an almost everyday meal or snack. Sandwiches taken to school for lunch, sandwiches from the cafe at work, sandwiches in a backpack on a hike ... But living here, noodles or rice are the main staple diets. We do sometimes have some bread in the kitchen at home, make the occasional cheese toastie, but it's often more of an emergency snack. However I do like a good sandwich, and by "good" I mean better than I can make at home, something a bit fancier, not just cheese and ham.

Lucky 13 opened at the end of 2012, and I have meant to try it for ages! But Rawai is not that close to our house (about 25km) and although I guess its only about 7km from my work at Sunrise Divers (Karon Beach), I tend to grab quick lunches close to the dive center. On a totally free day back in March 2015 I was passing by Lucky 13 on the way to Rawai beach and decided to try it. Lucky 13 is easy enough to see near the Seashell museum on the same side of the road.

Lucky 13, Rawai, Phuket

There's seating outside or inside (with aircon), I have now been twice and there's not been a crowd either time. I think it's maybe better known by people who live here, especially people living in the Rawai or Naiharn area. They also deliver, you can phone and order, or order online through their website (www.lucky13sandwich.com). A good local trade is what you need here. The menu is pretty big, some of it covers the wall inside, lots of sandwiches to choose from, also a lot of different drinks and they do burgers and breakfasts too. Apparently it's open 24 hours. I wonder how much 3am trade they get?

At Lucky 13, near Rawai beach, Phuket

Sandwiches ... plenty of choice, some cheaper than others. Starting price about 150 Baht up to about 250. I like the choice of breads ...

Choice of breads at Lucky 13

Salami, sun dried tomato and pesto sandwich :)

(above) Salami, sun dried tomato and pesto (with plenty of salad) sandwich

Striploin Beef Sandwich

(above) Beef striploin with mustard mayo (and salad) sandwich. I went for ciabatta on both occasions, how fancy! They are pretty big sarnis, certainly enough for lunch. On my second visit I was given a loyalty card - free sandwich after buying 10 .. not sure I'll get to 10 any time soon. But will pass by again for sure, maybe try a burger or one of their breakfasts. Oh, there is a Lucky 13 outlet in Patong too. I am less likely to visit that one, Rawai is so much nicer!

More about the Rawai Beach area

Rawai Beach Information
Rimlay Restaurant
Phuket Seashell Museum
Visiting Koh Kaew Island
Cape Phromthep

Lucky 13 Sandwich - Location Map