Jamie's Phuket Blog

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Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2014 Schedule

The 2014 Phuket Vegetarian Festival is on from September 23rd - 3rd October 2014. The dates vary every year (2013 was 4 - 14 October), as it's based on the Chinese lunar calendar. It's my favourite Phuket event / festival and I always take too many photos! I expect the same again this year ... only I sold my camera a while back, so really do need to buy a new camera soon :) There is a lot to this festival, it took me a few years to understand, and there are still parts of the festival I have not seen like the last night procession in Phuket Town. Most of the events happen far away from the main beach areas, mostly in and around Phuket Town, or at the various Chinese shrines around the island. If you are here during the festival, do try to see something ...

Recent Vegetarian Festival Blog Posts

Vegetarian Festival 2013 Part 1
Vegetarian Festival 2013 Part 2
Food at the Phuket Vegetarian Festival
Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2012

I have written loads about the vegetarian festival on the blog in the past and there are hundreds of photos on the blog and on Flickr. For general information about Phuket's most bizarre / interesting festival start here:

Phuket Vegetarian Festival - My Favourite Event in Phuket or
The Amazing Phuket Vegetarian Festival

Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2014 - Schedule 23rd September - 3rd October

The start of the 2014 festival will be Tuesday 23rd September in the late afternoon when the "lantern poles" are raised at all the participating shrines. The Emperor Gods are said to descend down the poles into the shrines at midnight. I normally attend Kathu shrine (my local) as I did in 2011 : Photos of Pole Raising and Midnight Ceremony. Not too much happens for the next couple of days, but the Chinese shrines are always interesting to visit any evening or any time during the festival really. The first big street procession will be on the 26th September ... or actually the 25th - a few years ago the "Naka" shrine joined as a newcomer in the festival and will likely be the first to have a procession. All the main processions pass through the old Phuket town area, all of them start early (around 7am or earlier), all finish either at Sapan Hin (south end of town) or back at their home shrines if the shrine is in Phuket Town.

Tuesday September 23rd

At all the Chinese shrines, sometime between 4 - 6pm - raising of the Go Teng pole. Events at the shrines will go on all evening. The lanterns are hung from the pole at midnight, signifying the start of the festival. There will be plenty of firecrackers and fireworks too. In 2011, I went back to the shrine just before midnight expecting some bizarre ceremonies, but it was far more hushed and reverential and kind of spooky. Did not leave the shrine until 1am and people were still gathered there saying prayers.

24th - 25th September - there are no big events on the first 2 days of the festival except for maybe a small procession from Naka shrine on the 25th, but people can visit any shrine at any time, and the Jae (เจ) food is to be found all over the island but mostly around the shrines and especially in Phuket Town. The festival has many aspects and the food is one part of it. I will try to stick to the strict diet during the festival. No meat, no alcohol. Not just "no meat" - the food is specially prepared with clean utensils and certain other ingredients like garlic and onions are not allowed due to the strong flavour. Don't worry if you are not vegetarian, almost all restaurants are open as normal in tourist areas. In fact, it can be hard to find the festival food near the beaches.

Friday September 26th

Street procession starting 7am for Sapam Shrine - this shrine is a few km north of Phuket Town (about a 10km walk from the shrine to Sapan Hin). To see piercing taking place at any shrine you have to be there before 7am. Try 6am. In the evening, around 7pm (better get there earlier), there will be another procession around Kathu village for the Birth and Death Gods. I was there last 2 years for this very noisy procession! A similar procession also takes place at several other shrines on the same evening.

Below - Birth / Death Gods Procession at Kathu Shrine in 2011

Evening street procession for the birth and death gods

Saturday September 27th

Today's big street procession is from Sam Kong Shrine. Procession goes from the shrine in the north of town (not far from Tesco Lotus), past the Bangkok-Phuket Hospital and through the old section of Phuket town. The shrine is not far from my house. There's a link at the top of the page to 2012 photos from this shrine - they have some pretty gory face piercing! The Sam Kong area is also a good area for food hunting, there are stalls all along the street here for half a kilometer.

Sunday September 28th

The street procession today is from Tha Ruea shrine which is in the Thalang area of Phuket in the center of the island - this used to be the main town in Phuket a couple of hundred years ago and there are several historic temples in the area and the annual Heroines Festival celebrating an important date in the history of Phuket - the Heroines predate the Vegetarian Festival by several decades.

Monday September 29th

Lots of things going on today... In the morning (7am), a huge street procession in Phuket Town for the Bang Neow Shrine, which is in the south of the town on Phuket Road, one of the biggest and most important shrines participating in the festival. Expect big crowds on this day. I have been in town the last few years for the Bang Neow procession. There is also a smaller procession starting 7am from Cherng Talay Shrine which takes place in Thalang district in the Cherng Talay area. A good one to see if your hotel is in Kamala, Surin or Bang Tao beaches and you don't want to head to town.

And then ... Fire Walking at several locations including Sapam Shrine, Sapan Hin (participants from Jui Tui shrine), Baan Tha Reua Shrine and Sui Boon Tong shrine (just west of the market and not far from Jui Tui shrine in Phuket Town). Fire walking kicks off around 8pm. I did go and see some firewalking a couple of years ago at Kathu. Was crowded and hard to get any photos! Maybe try again this year....

Below - Phuket Town Procession Photos - Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2012

Phuket Town - Vegetarian Festival Procession 20th October 2012

2012 Phuket Vegetarian Festival 20th October

Tuesday September 30th

Street procession starting at Jui Tui shrine, which is probably the biggest shrine in town - just west of the main market in Phuket Town. I went to see the procession in 2009 and 2013 - it was very crowded but I got lots of photos! It was hard to get into the shrine early morning, better to find a spot just outside or along the procession route - the route is always easy to find - just follow the people and the little shrines that people set up outside their houses - that means the procession is coming this way! The area around Jui Tui and along the street from the market is always busy during the festival.

Later in the day, there are lots of events on the schedule at various shrines including bladed ladder climbing at Sam Kong and Bang Neow shrines and "nail bridge crossing" at Sapam Shrine. Not sure what that is! We did go to watch bladed ladder climbing last year at Sam Kong, I did not take a camera as it was a bit rainy outside, the weather can be a concern at this time of year, but usually not too bad and sometimes darn hot! The bladed ladder climbing did not seem too dramatic. Can't say I saw any bleeding feet!

Wednesday October 1st

Street procession from Kathu shrine to Phuket Town. It's a long walk this one, about 10km from Kathu Shrine all the way to town, around the old town and ending at Sapan Hin. Kathu is my "local" shrine. The shrine is only about a mile from my house. I have been there early (6 - 6:30am) the last 3 years to watch piercing rituals. Should try to get there even earlier. 6:30am is a bit too late really. Must make an extra effort! I think 5:30am is better. Things happen early in the morning that are mysterious. The piercing may freak people out the first time they see it. I am now just looking for better camera angles and want to get some video too.

Below - Kathu Shrine Piercing and Firecrackers - Phuket Vegetarian Festival

Vegetarian Festival Phuket, 22nd October 2012 at Kathu Shrine

Vegetarian Festival Street Procession 22nd October in Kathu Village

Later in the evening on the 1st - fire walking at Bang Neow, Cherng Talay and Sam Kong shrines. Got to be worth a look!

Thursday October 2nd

The last full day of the vegetarian festival. There is a street procession for Sui Boon Tong shrine in town early in the morning, then events such as firewalking at Kathu shrine in the afternoon - I went in 2010 - too crowded! I did take some photos, but the firewalking seems to draw big crowds. Maybe I'll try again this year at one of the shrines. Maybe come with a stepladder to shoot photos over everyone's heads! Or a GoPro camera on a stick might work!

And then in the evening/night of the last day (2nd) there is a huge procession around Phuket Town, with people carrying statues of the gods to Sapan Hin. Millions of firecrackers and fireworks. It looks absolutely mad. I have seen it on TV - it's always live on TV in Phuket. I am not sure if I wish to attend and will almost certainly not take a camera, there will be so much smoke and dust and so many firecrackers, also I hear it's advisable to wear something more than flip flops or you'll get burnt feet! Need to wear a cloth over your face too, to avoid too much smoke inhalation! And earplugs. A friend had a firecracker land in his pocket and melt his iPod!

What we did do in 2011 on the last night was visit Kathu shrine for the "Bridge Crossing for Purification" - an evening I enjoyed very much. Everyone in white, lots of smiles, no blood, seemed like the whole village was there!

Below - Crossing the Bridge for Purification - Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2011

Crossing the Bridge for Purification

Friday October 3rd

At about 5pm the lantern poles (Go Teng poles) are lowered at the shrines marking the very end of the 2014 Phuket vegetarian festival.

See you there?

Where are the shrines? Location Map - Chinese Shrines in Phuket


View Phuket Vegetarian Festival Chinese Shrines in a larger map


 Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2014 Schedule  |   Jamie's Phuket Blog




Phuket Weekend Market (Night Market)

Markets are where you can sample real life, local life - it's all laid bare for everyone to see. I've always been a big fan of markets and despite all the modern shopping malls and supermarkets that have sprung up around Phuket (Tesco Lotus, Big C, Central, Jungceylon and more) the local markets are as lively as ever. You'll find fresh markets in all areas of Phuket, some daily, some only on selected days. One of the biggest is in Kathu in between Patong and Phuket Town - see Kathu Local Market. Well worth a look.

Fruit Stall

Weekend Market Phuket

The Phuket weekend market (aka Phuket night market) is located just outside Phuket City off Chao Fa West road, near Naka Temple. There's a Google Map at the end of this page. It's open Saturday and Sunday starting late afternoon, up to around 10pm. Along the same road is also a fresh market (called the Talad Sot Mai - "New Fresh Market"). The weekend market is not really for buying fresh food, but there are stalls selling fruit and there are loads snack stalls for buying deserts, corn, drinks, spicy snacks, noodles and of course fried insects! I've been in Thailand since 1999. Never eaten a fried insect and have no plans to eat a fried insect. Ever.

Fried Grasshoppers

Phuket Weekend Market

Weekend Market Phuket

It's one of those "you can get anything here" markets - you'll find entire stalls selling nothing but remote controls or comic books or fluffy toys. There are also some random secondhand stalls where you're never quite sure what you'll find. Many stalls are selling clothes, new and secondhand. We visit the weekend market every couple of months if we happen to be passing. There are CD and DVD stalls (all originals of course!), handicrafts and antiques too. It's become quite popular with tourists now, but don't expect to find something on the scale of Jatujak market in Bangkok.

Weekend Market Phuket

Need a cap?

You don't see many beggars in Phuket. So it's quite noticeable at the weekend market. Each time we go I see several poor souls with disabilities and I suppose no family to support them. Having traveled in some very poor countries in my life, I admit to having a hard heart, but here it stands out more. On our last visit I did give this guy some money...

Poor beggar at the market

The weekend night market starts up in the afternoon and carries on into the late evening. Many people go in the evening and it does get quite busy. Hard to park a car sometimes. We go there every now and then. My wife can always find some clothes to buy! If you go in the evening, you could more or less eat your dinner at the market by buying and sampling different snacks like the yummy (and slightly spicy) fish cakes below.

Fish Cakes

Weekend Market Phuket

Steamed Corn

This blog likes to show a bit of local life and the weekend market is a good place to start if you want to see the real Phuket (although quite a lot of other tourists also go!). Remember, it's on Saturday and Sunday only. Try some snacks and food from the many foodstalls, grab a cold beer from the bar that can be found somewhere in the middle of the market... actually there are a few places selling drinks. Easy to get to from Phuket Town. If you come from Patong it takes about 20 minutes. I think a tuk tuk will charge about 400 Baht. or of course you can rent a moped for about 200 - 250 Baht per day. Best to go late afternoon / early evening when the temperature cools down a bit. Gets busier after dark and can be really quite crowded. Enjoy!

More Markets in Phuket

Phuket Town Main Market (Daily)
Thalang Road Walking Street (Sunday)
Indy Market (Wednesday/Thursday/Friday evenings)
Karon Temple Market (Tuesday and Saturday)
More Weekend Market Photos


Phuket Weekend Night Market - Location Map


View Phuket Weekend Market in a larger map


 Phuket Weekend Market (Night Market)  |   Jamie's Phuket Blog




A visit to Layan Beach

There are plenty of changes currently being imposed on Phuket by the military - mostly cracking down on rip offs, local "mafia" and actually imposing the laws that have been overlooked in Phuket for many years. Chief among these is encroachment at the beaches and structures being built on the beach or on land that is officially designated as national park land. Over the last couple of months, buildings have been removed all over Phuket with the idea being to make the beaches more natural. We recently visited Surin beach and Laem Sing beach to check out the changes, and last weekend I wanted to try Layan beach, which used to be a favourite hangout of ours some years ago (I blogged it in 2007). It always was a very quiet place, located at the north end of Bang Tao beach. Only a couple of hotels, an almost empty beach, one restaurant ... I knew that an upmarket beach club had been built there and that had kind of put me off visiting, but we decided to have a look ...



Aside from the Nikki beach club (which from the rear looked rather ugly - concrete walls spoiling the view of the ocean) nothing much has changed. And since it was low season, the beach really was quiet. Above photo shows the view looking south along Bang Tao beach. Only a few people on the beach. To be honest much of the north of Phuket is like this. If you are staying at Patong beach and complaining that Phuket is crowded, get out of Patong! We took a little walk. No people. No beach chairs. I do like an empty beach! Sure there was a bit of flotsam washed up on the beach, same every low season when the west winds blow the Indian ocean onto our shores. But the beach was more or less ours!



The Nikki beach club seems rather out of place. Aside from the old thatched roof restaurant that's been there for at least 10 years, the new beach club is the only thing near the sand. Too near? Well, it's not been knocked down yet! And when I am on a beach I like the sounds of the waves, not a thumping trance music beat. Well it's not my cup of tea. These beach clubs have sprung up over the last 5 years to meet a demand I suppose, a demand for places where rich people can hang out and not be bothered by the less well off. I saw 3 security guards at Nikki, and on a low season afternoon, only a few customers.



(above) Nikki beach club view from Layan beach



(above) And looking out to sea from Layan beach

Now, Layan beach has 2 parts - the southern part is essentially the north end of Bang Tao beach and I'm not sure how it qualifies for a different name! If you move a bit further north, there is a canal emptying into the sea and a small island called Koh Kala which is connected to the mainland by a sandbar. Just north of the island is one resort (Anantara Layan Resort) and just past this a small dirt carpark with access to the beach - at low tide you can walk over to the island, and we've been for BBQs here before, a very nice untouched quiet place. There were rumours of a marina being built but I think this little bit of land is a protected area. It's not really a swimming beach, more of a lagoon being semi enclosed by the island and sandbar. The sand is nicer at the south end of Layan, but it's a nice spot for a picnic.



(above) at the "lagoon", north end of Layan beach - view of Koh Kala looking south.



(above) On the beach, Layan beach (north end). Don't anyone tell me "Phuket is crowded"! Sure, some of Phuket is crowded and some roads are full of cars and there are roadworks, but .... much of the island is quiet. Go and explore! After Layan beach we carried on north, the road passes the 5 star Trisara Villas, and then winds around the hills before reaching Naithon beach which I also blogged many years ago and, while it's still quiet, there are a couple of new resorts and we could see that beachfront buildings had been knocked down, so that blog page also needs an update sometime!


Layan Beach - Location Map


View Layan Beach Phuket in a larger map


 A visit to Layan Beach  |   Jamie's Phuket Blog




Lampi Waterfall

It was last month (July 2014) that we decided one afternoon to "take a drive". We do this sometimes, with no particular destination in mind, we make up a plan as we drive. It normally results in an interesting day with new discoveries. This time we drove north and kept driving over the Sarasin Bridge into Phang Nga province which has a lot of natural attractions. We'd been to Ton Prai waterfall a couple of times last year, only about 30km from the bridge on the way to Khao Lak, and since we'd just had some rain we decided to stop there first. Ton Prai is well worth a visit, but is not for the lazy as you need to walk through the jungle 650m from the visitors center to reach the waterfall. And we'd forgotten to bring any swimming clothes, as we had left the house with no plan ... this led to a grumpy son who wanted to swim. So we promised he could swim at the next waterfall. Lampi is a little further north, a bit closer to Khao Lak and we realised that we'd never stopped here before. Well, we almost did one time many years ago when we had an argument at the entrance and the national park staff tried to charge my wife the foreign price because she's married to me. This time was much more pleasant!

After leaving Ton Prai, which only had a few visitors, we were surprised to arrive at the Lampi waterfall and see a busy car park. And the reason for this .. is it that Lampi is bigger, more spectacular, more impressive than Ton Prai? Not really, they are both pretty cool. But .. Lampi waterfall is just a couple of minutes walk from your car, plus there are several food stalls and little restaurants .. no need for a walk in the jungle. There was also a shop selling swimming shorts so the boy could swim without getting his other clothes wet. There's a bridge over the river where you can get a nice view of the falls and we walked over this first.



(above) me and the boy at Lampi Waterfall (on the bridge)

OK son, so you want to swim? There's a big pool under the falls. Half is roped off in a vague attempt at safety awareness, and there is a sign telling people to stay one side of the rope. I guess the side nearest the falls is pretty deep. I can imagine that in full flood, Lampi waterfall is not a place to paddle. On this day there were plenty of bathers, mostly youngsters. Our boy took the plunge and quickly found out that the water was refreshingly (or bone chillingly) cold. Certainly colder than the average Thai shower!



(above) Dad! It's cold in here! He did eventually take a proper dip and swim around for a while, but not too long! Certainly a refreshing way to spend an hour on a hot day. The rest of us sensibly stayed out of the water. Getting up closer, I could see that Lampi is actually quite impressive with multiple levels of cascades tumbling out of the jungle. The hills to the east of Lampi and Ton Prai waterfalls are about 500m high, about the same as the highest point in Phuket. We'll head back to Lampi again sometime, all equipped with swimming clothes!



(above) Lampi Waterfall .. pretty nice, right?

On this particular day we carried on north through Khao Lak and up to Takua Pa .. it was a Sunday and we'd heard of a street market in Old Takua Pa, but on arriving there we found nothing. Maybe it has not been a success? Not to worry, we then drove back to Phuket from there via Phang Nga on a beautiful road that we'd never taken before. Always something new to find, especially if you just "go for a drive"!

Lampi Waterfall - Location Map


View Lampi Waterfall in a larger map


 Lampi Waterfall  |   Jamie's Phuket Blog




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

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)

Andara

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

I recommend you check Agoda.com for booking - it's what I use myself for holidays. On the subject of reviews, by all means read them, but do think also about actual hotel features - location, size, room type, price(!), suitability for kids etc.. one person's heaven may be another person's holiday nightmare! Some like it quiet and secluded, others want action. Some want great views from a hillside, some want beachfront.... Any questions about hotels, please do leave a comment on the Jamie's Phuket Facebook Page.


 Top 10 Phuket Hotels 2014  |   Jamie's Phuket Blog




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




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




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