Jamie's Phuket Blog

Jamie's Phuket Blog - Discover The Real 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

11 June 2015 

3 Temples in One Afternoon

A couple of weeks ago I had a free Saturday afternoon, did not fancy staying home, and was feeling in the mood for a temple .. this used to happen a lot. Phuket has many Buddhist temples and also plenty of Chinese shrines and mosques and even a Sikh Gurdwara. When I started the blog in 2006, I would regularly blog about different temples although (yes I know) most people and readers of this blog don't really care much for temples! So temple-related blog posts are quite rare now. Well, anyway, I had this afternoon free. Daughter was busy with school homework, my wife stayed with her and my boy bravely decided to come with Dad on a temple visiting afternoon :) We headed towards Thalang, in the center of Phuket island, which used to be the main population area before the tin mining boom of the 19th century led to the growth of Phuket Town and Kathu. There are quite a lot of temples around Thalang and I wanted to revisit several to get new photos and update the pages on the blog.

We started at Wat Sri Sunthorn which is a little south of Thalang and north of the Heroines Monument. Sri Sunthorn was one of 2 sisters known as the Heroines of Thalang who led the people of Phuket against a Burmese invasion in 1785. The temple used to be hard to spot from the road, but the entrance has been widened recently. There are multiple buildings, but the main attraction is a pretty darn big reclining Buddha which sits on the roof.

Reclining Buddha

(above) My boy and the Buddha. He's about 5 feet tall, so you can see that's a Big Buddha :)

We are both born on Tuesday. There is a different Buddha image for each day of the week. For Tuesday - it's the reclining Buddha :) Outside the temple are donation boxes, one for each day. So we made a donation in the Tuesday box ...

Making a Donation at Wat Sri Sunthorn

A few kilometers further North you enter Thalang town. On the left side if heading North (west side of the road) there's a big temple called Wat Phra Nang Sang which seems to have had constant building work in progress for years. It is said to be the oldest temple in Phuket (or at least is built on the location of the oldest temple) and is apparently where the people of Phuket gathered to fight the Burmese 230 years ago. There are some older temple buildings and a whole new section that has been built since I was last there in 2006. The grounds are quite large, so we wandered around for a while. Was a hot day so after this temple we had to stop at a nearby 7-eleven for drinks :)

Buddha and disciples

Photography Boy

If you turn west at the traffic lights near Wat Phra Nang Sang you soon reach Wat Thep Kassatri, named after the other of the 2 heroines. We did not visit on this day and indeed, Wat Thep Kassatri is one temple I have not blogged yet! Instead we headed a little further North and then u-turned back south to find Wat Phra Tong (the road is 4 lane here and the entrance is on the southbound side of the road). Wat Phra Tong's main attraction is a "half Buddha" image which has a mysterious history and each time I have visited there have always been a few people there saying prayers.

Prayers at Wat Phra Tong

Wat Pratong (Wat Phra Thong)

A nice little afternoon with my boy. Maybe 3 temples was a bit too much for him :) I am told that when I was a young boy, having been dragged around many churches and cathedrals I said "seen one stained glass window, seen them all!" Hopefully a few visitors to Phuket disagree with that and might enjoy a little temple tour. More info on the blog : Phuket Temples.

29 May 2015 

Diving with my Family at Racha Yai Island

So, in case you don't know .. I am manager at Sunrise Divers in Phuket, and have been doing this almost non stop since 2001. It's my job, it pays the bills, pays the kids school, puts food on the table etc. Blogging is just a fun hobby. I came to Phuket in 1999 as a dive instructor looking for work. Found some work. No real plans to stay forever, but then I met my wife who was working in the same dive shop and, well, here we are! You can find a little more on the About Jamie page on this blog! I don't dive much these days, but have logged about 1,500 dives over the years. My wife is a certified diver too and is a very relaxed diver. My daughter has done some little scuba try outs in the pool. My son just turned 10 this year and officially you should allow kids under 10 to scuba dive. So a few weeks ago we found a free day, the weather looked good, and the kids were excited to learn that I'd booked us all for a day trip to Racha Yai Island. We have been there before on a weekend trip, and I have dived there maybe 100 times, but now the kids are old enough - it's time to dive!

My Family

(above) On the dive boat and ready to go. Trips depart from Chalong Bay. We met at Chalong pier about 8am and it was about 8:30am when we set off. It takes about 90 minutes on a dive boat to reach Racha Yai Island. The dive boats in this area are quite large, have upper deck seating areas and some have a smaller indoor (aircon) saloon area. So it's pretty comfortable, you are not sitting with the dive gear on a bench! Also, breakfast is provided, along with unlimited coffee, tea, and drinking water. I let the family relax while I set up all our scuba gear (OK, my dear wife helped a bit). Only took about 15 minutes to get 4 sets of gear and 4 weight belts ready, then I could join everyone upstairs for a cup of tea.

Dive Gear Ready

(above) Dive gear, ready to go!

On the Way to Racha Yai Island

(above) Our son takes a seat with a view .. Racha Yai island straight ahead!

When you arrive at Racha Yai, where you dive depends a bit on the conditions. As far as possible, if there is no strong northeast wind, it's best to dive on the east side of the island. It was not at all a windy day, so we started on the east coast with beautiful blue water. Visibility underwater here varies from 15 meters up to 30+ meters year round unless the weather is really bad! Much of the time, even in low season, it looks like this ...

Racha Yai Island

(above) Racha Yai island, east coast. And we were looking forward to getting in the water! We let others get ready first as we were "non paying customers". There were about 20 on the boat including 4 or 5 instructors leading different groups of divers from different countries. I figured we'd take our time getting ready as it would be the kids first dive in the sea. It feels a little odd wearing scuba gear for the first time and even stranger once you start breathing through a regulator underwater!

Kids going Diving

(above) Our kids getting ready to dive

Phuket Dive Boat

(above) We let everyone else get ready first :)

Wet suits on, weight belts on, sit down on the bench, strap into the BCD and then stagger to the dive platform carrying all that weight! Fins are the last thing to put on, as you don't want to be walking around wearing fins. I helped the kids with adjusting their gear. Checked everything was turned on and ready to go ....

Getting fins on

(above) Our daughter getting her fins on with some help from the boat staff

Ready for a Dive

(above) My wife ready to dive!

After a few teething problems ... both kids would go down a couple of meters and then signal to me that they wanted to go up again .. "my ears feel funny" or "my mask is loose" .. After about 5 minutes we all descended to about 7 meters under water, down to the sand, and the kids looked OK, if a little awkward (you normally do look a bit awkward on a first go at anything!), so we started to swim around. I did not take them deeper than about 9 meters. My wife has not logged too many dives but is a natural mermaid :) I did not take an underwater camera, as I knew I'd have to keep both eyes on the kids. Instructors should be using their eyes to care for students, not taking photos! But we saw plenty of marine life ..

Moray Eel

Scorpion Fish

Clown Fish

(above) We saw all of these and more - moray eel, scorpionfish, clownfish, pufferfish, triggerfish, bannerfish, lionfish and more. Always plenty of life at Racha Yai! Many thanks to Simon Ilett (a dive instructor working in Phuket) for the photos. Our first dive was about 35 minutes and I was relieved that it had all gone smoothly! My kids are now divers! These day trips have 2 dives with lunch in between. The boat was moved while we ate lunch, my son had his nose in a fish identification book and both kids were pleased with themselves and ready to dive again. We had our second dive in Siam Bay on the south end of Racha Yai.

Siam Bay, Raya Island

(above) Photo taken from the boat as we entered Siam Bay, Racha Yai Island

There are some underwater elephant statues here, but they are down about 18m deep, and our depth (for first time divers) was a maximum of 12m. We actually did not go deeper than about 7 meters on the second dive, swimming around in the shallows for 45 minutes. Could have stayed quite a lot longer, but it would be rude to delay the boat :) On the second dive the kids were very comfortable, checking out marine life, enjoying life underwater. 45 minutes went by very fast. After we were back on the boat and I got all the gear stowed away, the kids were already asking "when can we go again?" We will certainly go again soon. Diving might not seem like hard work, but I can tell you, combined with a day out on the water, when you breathe compressed air and carry dive gear and swim underwater .. it really is good exercise! Both kids slept in the aircon saloon on the way back to Chalong Bay. A great day out. Anyone wants to dive, contact me at Sunrise Divers! Thanks also to Noon at Local Dive Thailand for letting us go on her boat :)

12 May 2015 

The Phad Thai Shop

This blog post was first blogged in 2008. The Phad Thai Shop is still there and I finally got round to updating this post now (May 2015!).

Phad Thai is a very common Thai dish made from noodles, egg, chili, tofu, normally some shrimp or some chicken, plus onion, fish sauce, nuts, lime... ingredients can vary. You can order Phad Thai in 10 different places and get 10 different tasting meals depending on the amount and variety of sauces added, the size and type of noodles used, type of meat added and so on... Phad Thai can be bland sometimes or it can be spicy, it can be dry or saucy. You get a lot of variety out of one dish! If bought from a street stall or roadside restaurant you're normally only going to be paying 40 - 50 Baht for your lunch - it's a cheap dish to make and thus a popular lunch all over Thailand, nearly as popular as Noodle Soup (Kuaytiow).

Close to our dive shop, Sunrise Divers in Karon Beach, on the back road near the Baan Karon Resort, there's one of the most popular little lunchtime restaurants I have ever seen in Phuket. Every day workers in the local area flock here for lunch, and the most popular dish is Phad Thai. The restaurant does not really have a name except "The Phad Thai Shop". They also do noodle soup with chicken or beef, a good Phad Gapraow with beef, a popular fried rice with crab. The menu is expanding - when I first ate here in 2005 they had only Phad Thai or Noodles and beef stew. It's open every day from quite early until late afternoon. Mostly caters to a lunch crowd.

(above) These used to be just a wooden handpainted sign, only in Thai - now the Phad Thai Shop is easier to spot!

It's only a little place but it can be packed at lunchtime. You can get Phad Thai to eat there or take away - the take away is wrapped in a banana leaf. The cooking is mostly done by one guy, with others helping to serve noodle soup, package up takeaways etc.. You can see the huge bowls full of chicken and beef at the counter - these are ladled over the noodles. The famous Phad Thai is really tasty, and you have extra bowls of chili sauce, prik nam pla (fish sauce with chili) and dried chili on the table in case it's not spicy enough for you.

(above) Cooking Phad Thai

You can get Phad Thai there either to eat there or take away. Bear in mind that by Western standards this is not really a "restaurant" - a collection of tables in a shack by the road outside someone's house... but this is real local eating here in Phuket. If you want to mingle with the people, get on the back roads and get some Pad Thai right here! I tend to get food from here at least once a week as it's so cheap and close to work.... oh and very tasty! Phad Thai is 50 Baht and it's a huge portion.

(above) Inside the Phad Thai Shop

The place was "tarted up" a couple of years ago with a concrete floor and nicer tables, but still the same food and same price (50 Baht). Just before the Baan Karon Resort on the way from Karon to Kata on Patak Road. It's not a big obvious restaurant, just a small local place... just look for the sign saying "The Phad Thai Shop". If in doubt come to see us at Sunrise Divers first. Only a few minutes away. Part of the reason for the new sign and the slight improvement in decor was the visit of a writer from the Lonely Planet guide, who was directed here by me and a former employee at Sunrise Divers. I recall the owner being very happy to be listed in the guide and they have a 5 foot tall copy of the page on the back wall!

(above) Listed in Lonely Planet and proud of it!

The Phad Thai Shop (Karon) - Location Map

View The Phad Thai Shop near Karon Beach in a larger map