Jamie's Phuket Blog

Jamie's Phuket Blog - Discover The Real Phuket!

29 June 2016 

Laem Ka Beach

Let me start by saying that despite living in Phuket, which is well known for it's beaches, we (as a family) are not really beach people. We don't really ever "go to the beach"- certainly not for a whole day, normally just in passing we might decide to take a look, or if I am in a "go for a drive" mood, we might stop at a beach or two. We honestly never visit the main beaches in Phuket, and I suppose the only beach that we visit often would be Khao Kad beach which is home to The Beach Bar, a favourite hangout of ours in the high season (it closes in low season). Maybe we used to visit beaches more often when the kids were small, like 8 - 10 years ago, but even then we preferred small beaches with no crowds. And despite being a very very busy tourist island, Phuket and the surrounding area does have many quiet areas and some quieter beaches. We first found Laem Ka beach in 2006, which was the year I started doing this blog so we started exploring Phuket a lot more. Although we'd been around the Rawai beach area many times, we had no idea that Laem Ka existed! After a wrong turn and directions from a friendly hotel security guard we found this lovely quiet place and (for once) we even stayed a while and let the kids play at making sandcastles.

Laem Ka Beach 2006

(above) Our little boy at Laem Ka Beach, November 2006.

Time passes, kids grow up, everyone is busy, and then one day you find 10 years have got behind you. It was in late 2006 that we first found The Beach Bar too, and we started to drive towards Rawai less often as it normally takes 45 minutes from our house. I actually think that until a few days ago I had not been back to Laem Ka since 2006. Too busy working and exploring new places. 10 years is a long time, although not too much of that is free time for fanciful pursuits like photography and blogging! Well, I was heading to Rawai a few days ago mainly to photograph the mosques, but I figured it would be good to check out Laem Ka again. I had heard over the last few years that it had got busy with speedboats. Coming from Chalong, the tiny road down to Laem Ka is almost at Rawai Beach (see map at the end of this post). Just before the turning to Laem Ka is an even smaller side road leading to Laem Ka Noi (Noi means small). I remember 10 years ago seeing a sign for Laem Ka Noi Seafood, but when we got there we just found a few old tables by the sea. The place is mentioned on several websites, so I wondered if it looked more open these days ...

Road to Laem Ka Noi

(above) Road to Laem Ka Noi. It's about 1km down this very narrow road, and then you hit a twisty concrete track heading slightly downhill and then (promising) a sign to Laem Ka Noi Seafood. An even narrower road heads steeply downhill. I parked near the sign and walked down. And saw some old tables by the sea. Like a 10 year old memory. Now, there was one table occupied by a couple, and the table had some plates on it, but aside from an old man in a hut above the sea, I saw no restaurant, no staff, no menus. Nobody came to ask if I was hungry or wanted a drink. If this place really is a restaurant, it holds it's secret well!

Laem Ka Seafood

(above) Laem Ka Noi Seafood (?)

So, that mystery has yet to be solved. I drove back to the main road and then the turning to Laem Ka is just 400m further towards Rawai, just after a 7 Eleven store and opposite the entrance to Rawai temple. The 1km drive passes through the back of Rawai village and then you come to a security barrier (open) and then drive through a beautiful piece of land full of coconut trees. It's private land and there are signs on trees saying "No Photo". Whoever owns the land has granted right of way to the beach.

Road to Laem Ka Beach

(above) Road to Laem Ka Beach. The car park is still bare and dusty. There is still an old open front shack above the beach as there was 10 years ago, but no sign of any vendors selling food or drinks. A few steps lead down from the carpark to the sea. It was high tide, plus (being low season) a few waves. The rocky area (see photo below) where my kids played 10 years ago was not accessible. I may have to come again at low tide for more photos!

Rocks - High Tide at Laem Ka Beach

Crowded? No. People had told me about speedboats, but maybe because it's low season and with a few small waves, not safe for the speedboats to land .. I'll have to check again in high season. The rocky area (with patches of sand) is to the right of the steps. With that being underwater, I turned left. There was 1 local family there, plus 2 foreign couples (another couple arrived with a guide/driver and only stayed a few minutes for a photo) and there was a bunch of little local kids - some clothed, some not - running around playing football and jumping in the sea. A sunny low season day would seem to be ideal for a visit to Laem Ka beach!

Laem Ka Beach

The whole beach is only about 150 metres long. The rocky area is at the south end, and at the north end is a rather dilapidated looking building. Just north of that is the old Evason resort which closed a few years ago, but is due to re-open in 2019 as the Intercontinental Phuket Resort. There are some basic wooden stalls at the back of the beach. Nothing was open when I was there, but maybe in high season there are vendors for the tourists coming in by speedboat?

On the day I visited (one of those not so uncommon perfect blue sky low season days) Laem Ka beach was paradise ...

Laem Ka Beach

Other places to visit near Laem Ka ...

Rawai Beach
Phromthep Cape
Phuket Seashell Museum
Ya Nui Beach
Koh Kaew Yai Island

Laem Ka Beach - Location Map





22 June 2016 

Street Art in Phuket Town

Over the last few months, art has been appearing all over Phuket Town, and a few other spots around the island too. I am not quite sure if this is something organised or government approved, but it's happening and, in my opinion, adds something extra to the town although I'd not want to see the prettier streets in the old town messed with too much. Thalang Road, Krabi Road and Dibuk Road for example still have many older shophouse style houses and businesses and this area has already undergone a lot of restoration in the last 10 years with plenty of repainting, the removal of overhead wires and lots of nice little cafes and bars opening which mix with old shops selling hardware, Muslim fabrics or Chinese herbs. I really like the old town area and wish I had more time to wander around taking photos. The first street art I noticed was about 4 years ago on the corner of Thalang road and Soi Romanee, very much the heart of the old town. This amazing face ...

Phuket Town Graffiti

It was painted on an old crumbling wall by a French artist called Noé Two. And right away it became a focal point for photos, selfies and Facebook fans! The face stayed there, slowly crumbling over the last few years until it was painted over a few months ago. On this particular wall, it enhanced the environment. But quite a few streets in the old town look like the photo below, taken on Dibuk Road. I hope buildings like this can be left as they are.

Dibuk Road, Phuket Town

All this new art started appearing in April this year, with various artists involved such as Alex Face, Rukkit and Liudmila Letnikova. I don't know all the names of the artists. It seems to be part of a locally organised idea called the F.A.T Phuket Project, meaning "Food, Art, (old) Town". I saw some photos appearing on Instagram just as I went on holiday after Songkran. Actually, there was a wall full of odd pieces of art at one end of Dibuk Road back in February although nothing that really stood out, more like a wall of graffiti - see here for photos.

So, with the art having been there for a couple of months, I finally had some time to have a look. We all headed into town one evening, not long before dark, had a good look around trying to find all the art we could, but the light was not great for photos, so I went back with the kids a few days later just after lunch for another "hike around town with Dad":) They love it really. We started at Krabi road near the Thai Hua Museum. Close to the museum, on the south side of the street is an alleyway that leads down to the main market on Ranong Road. And just after the narrow alley you find this ...

Old Phuket Town Street Art

Nicely brightens up a slightly dirty street. And directly opposite there's a little something too ...

Old Phuket Town Street Art

You could certainly argue that the whole wall needs a repaint, but it's the juxtaposition of the new art and the old walls that is so great. We carried on past the market and headed to Phang Nga Road where you can find a couple of art galleries and the old On On Hotel. Just about opposite Southwind Books (a very good secondhand bookshop) there are a couple of local characters painted on another wall that could do with a full repaint :)

Old Phuket Town Street Art

Old Phuket Town Street Art

(above) Art on the wall, Phang Nga Road, Old Phuket Town. Just a few meters further along the road, but on the other side, is the entrance to the Sang Tham Shrine, a Chinese shrine built at the end of the 19th century in between the old shophouses and, until a few years ago, devilishly hard to find! The entrance was smarted up and widened in 2013. There's a lovely painting a few meters inside the entrance ...

Old Phuket Town Street Art

(above) Art at the Sang Tham Shrine

All along Phang Nga Road there are paintings on walls. Just a few meters from the shrine is a big building that used to be a bank, but has been empty for as long as I can remember. Someone has painted a lion here :)

Old Phuket Town Street Art

After the On On Hotel, there's a yellow building called Pengman ... another old Chinese/Thai business. It's a very popular noodle shop with a cheap hotel in the back. And a big slice of art along the side wall of the building, very hard to fit into one photo!

Old Phuket Town Street Art

Old Phuket Town Street Art

This one was painted by local artist Mue Bon. Certainly brightens up that alleyway, bins and all. And not far along the same road you come to the Sinthavee Hotel, one of the older hotels in town dating back to the time before mass tourism. And they've got a giant tiger outside :)

Old Phuket Town Street Art

Old Phuket Town Street Art

There are a few unexpected paintings and I am sure we did not see everything yet. Just along from the Sinthavee Hotel is an alley leading to a carpark. A bit dim and dirty .. well, it used to be!

Old Phuket Town Street Art

Old Phuket Town Street Art

At the east end of Phang Nga Road at the intersection with Phuket Road, a couple of the more iconic buildings in town are being renovated - the old police station with the clock tower and, on the opposite side of the road, the old Standard Chartered Bank building, which was the first bank to open in the town - and the bank also financed the police station, much needed to deter robbers in the (at the time) fairly lawless mining town! The bank building is being turned into a museum and I have been waiting a fair while for news of it's opening! One other artwork was painted on this building, but had to be removed, which is maybe fair since it's already being renovated and is an important historical landmark in the town.

So at the end of Phang Nga Road, we turned left, then left again onto Thalang Road. The only new art along Thalang Road, which is pretty much a work of living art anyway, is found at the corner of Soi Romanee - as mentioned above. The beautiful girl's face that was painted in 2012 had all but peeled off anyway. And now you have this ...

Old Phuket Town Street Art

And it's a very popular spot for a photo. There's a wooden bench underneath. But hard to get a good photo - need a wide angle lens. Plus, right next to it, you have this amazing bird ...

Old Phuket Town Street Art

Hopefully the old town folks will allow all this art to stay .. maybe some more will appear. There have been various projects over the years to make the old town prettier. I can say that when I first went exploring these streets 10+ years ago it looked quite run down, like nobody really cared. But now things look way better and there are still works planned to bury more cables and events such as the Old Town Festival now take place every year to showcase the area.

Our little walk around took over an hour, and I promised my daughter a lemon and honey soda at the Bookhemian Cafe, a cool place with lots of books on Thalang Road, and likely to appear on this blog soon! We all had a drink and a rest there before heading home. Dad and kids enjoyed the walk :)

Phuket Town Street Art

Phuket Town Art - Location Map






15 June 2016 

Caffeine Italian Restaurant

Last week we tried a new restaurant for dinner. We do have a bunch of regular places, mostly selling inexpensive Thai food. Eating out can be pretty much as cheap as eating at home if you choose local Thai restaurants. But for sure, now and then, we need something different. The kids and I do like pizza now and then, and I have even convinced them that oddities like bruschetta and gnocchi are tasty! We have eaten a few times recently at Rum Jungle, which does very good steak, fish, meat dishes, pasta and good bruschetta. And the kids decided they like gnocchi after giving it a try at Da Sandro (to be blogged soon). I think that very good pizza is hard to find. There's a good place in Chalong called Agli Amici, where I have been a couple of times, but on this evening, we did not fancy a 20km drive for dinner. I was thinking of the Big Chicken which does good Thai and Isaan food, and is close to our house, but the kids said "Pizza" so we decided to try Caffeine, which is just over the road from the Big Chicken. It's been open a couple of years and a couple of people had mentioned to us that the food is good, so let's try!

Caffeine Restaurant

Caffeine Restaurant Location

Caffeine is by the main road, one of the routes that runs between Phuket Town and Patong Beach, not far from the entrance to Phuket Country Club golf course. It is open every day for lunch and dinner and is apparently Italian owned (an Italian - Thai couple, I believe). There's seating for maybe 30 people at a stretch, with outdoor and indoor tables, but it's not a big place. We chose indoors as it was early evening and there was quite a bit of traffic passing, so inside was quieter.

Seating at Caffeine Restaurant

Inside Caffeine Restaurant

(above) Outdoor and indoor tables at Caffeine. The menu was quite extensive with many pizza options, calzone, lots of pasta choices, and sandwiches plus desserts and coffee. We went direct to the pizza section. Prices from 200 Baht (Margherita) with others from 240 - 280 Baht. I chose a Peperonata, the kids chose Ham and Cheese / Ham and Mushroom. There are more than 20 pizza options on the menu. And we will be back to try more! The forno is outside and everything is freshly made.

Making Pizza

We only had to wait about 15 minutes for all 3 pizzas to be ready. I was not expecting them to be so large. The kids were immediately questioning whether they could finish it all! I had secretly been thinking "260 Baht .. a bit expensive", but you get your money's worth here! My peperonata came first ...

Peperonata Pizza

Followed by the kids pizzas ...

Ham and Mushroom Pizza

Huge Ham and Cheese Pizza

Now, of course Dad finished all his pizza (and paid later with stomach ache .. my guts are used to lighter Thai food these days!). Kids managed no more than half. Never mind, we'll get the rest to take away, put in the fridge and eat cold tomorrow! Cold pizza? Yes, please :)

They really were big pizzas - ideal for big hungry adults. We do plan to eat there again and the kids can share one, or maybe we just get one pizza for 3 of us and add some pasta and bruschetta. My wife, by the way, doesn't really eat that kind of food, she is way too Thai! Our bill for 3 pizzas and some drinks (a beer, lemon soda, water) was 800 something Baht. And I did have a few slices of cold pizza next day for lunch :)

Caffeine - Location Map





7 June 2016 

Zaab Tae Tae Restaurant

People often ask where they can get "real" Thai food in Phuket. It can be hard to find a restaurant at the main tourist beaches that does anything really authentic because the Thai food served at a restaurant that caters to tourists does tend to be somewhat bland, plus if you have a restaurant that claims to offer "Thai food, Seafood, Pizza, Pasta, Burgers ... " it's not likely to be all good! For real Thai food, you have to eat where the locals eat. Many of the restaurants recommended on this blog are places that don't see too many tourists. As a family, we don't go to eat at Patong beach or any of the main beaches. And since we live close to Phuket Town, that's where we tend to eat most often, and Phuket Town is a good area to find good Thai food.

Zaab Tae Tae is just outside town, next to the Index mall, just off the main road that runs from the Central Festival Mall to Tesco Lotus. Doesn't sound like a great location, but very convenient for us, only a few minutes from our house. The restaurant specialises in Isaan and Northern Thai food, most of which is spicy! The word Zaab is a Northern slang word for tasty (you'd normally say Aroy) and Tae Tae means "very very", also Northern slang, whereas you'd normally say Mak Mak. The location is good for local people who work in the area and it's always been fairly busy when we have eaten there. It's indoors and airconditioned, a bug plus on a hot day!

Zaab Tae Tae

(above) Zaab Tae Tae entrance.

There's room for about 40 people inside and it's nicely decorated and comfortable, we find the staff to be friendly and even the bathroom is fresh and clean. The menu does have English translations though I am not sure how much English the staff speak.

Inside Zaab Tae Tae

Inside Zaab Tae Tae

The menu is quite large, but don't expect to find things like sandwiches here. It's mostly spicy North or Northeastern (Isaan) food. There are quite a few restaurants in Phuket doing this kind of food as it is very popular throughout Thailand, plus Phuket attracts a lot of people from that area looking for work. Another one we like that does good Isaan food is the Big Chicken. My wife is a big fan of the Somtam that they make here. Never been a fan myself, but somtam is one of the most popular foods in Thailand and can be made with many different ingredients and does tend to be very spicy!

Somtam

(above) Somtam at Zaab Tae Tae. My wife gets a version called Tam Sua. It's spicy even for her! I'd only order this if you are used to spicy Thai food and want to try something hardcore!

My favourite Isaan food is Laab, a kind of spicy, herby salad, normally made with some kind of meat. You can get laab with chicken, fish, beef, pork, and the one below is made with a kind of Isaan sausage called Sai Krok. My taste buds explode with delight :)

Laab with Isaan Sausage

On our last visit I also ordered some spicy pork, which was also super tasty. Actually I think I ordered Moo Dad Deow, which is a kind of fried dried pork, but I've not seen it looking like this before, it's normally more like jerky. I'll have to order it again to be sure :)

Spicy BBQ Pork

And my wife also ordered an omelette made with mussels (Hoy Tod). Another thing I have never been a fan of! I am not allergic to shellfish, but generally don't like to eat any, which is a shame, as shellfish dishes are common at local seafood restaurants in this area.

Omelette with Shellfish

And more food photos from a visit a few days later ...

Yam Moo Yo

(above) This is Yam Moo Yo - Spicy Salad with Vietnamese Sausage.

Spicy Fried Chicken

(above) Very very tasty spicy fried chicken wings.

Isaan Fried Rice

And this delicious plate which they call Khao Pad Isaan (Isaan Fried Rice). Too many good things to choose from here! I have to say that for me, eating out is sometimes a compromise between location, food and price. Great food at a good price (4 different dishes for my wife and I, total under 400 Baht) wins over location in this case. I mean, location is convenient for us, but for sure there's no great view! We have a few regular places within 10 minutes drive of our house and this has become one of them!

More favourite restaurants in the Phuket Town area :

Big Chicken
Krua Suan Cha
Kopitiam
Yellow Door

Zaab Tae Tae - Location Map









27 May 2016 

Samet Nangshe Viewpoint - Wow!

There are lots of great views around the Phuket area (see Hills and Viewpoints for more). We have a mix of hills and ocean here (the name "Phuket" comes from the Malay word Bukit which means Hill), and if you climb a hill you can get some great seaviews. The highest hills in Phuket are over 500m above sea level, but just a few kilometres from the sea. I do like finding new viewpoints, and earlier this year, I saw an amazing view on Instagram, posted by a Thai photographer. I could see that it was in Phang Nga, just north of Phuket island, and I recognised one of the small islands in the view, as I'd taken a photo of the same island last year while exploring a corner of Phang Nga province that we'd never looked at before. So I figured the photo must be taken from a hill in that general location. Over the last few months I have seen many more photos taken from the same viewpoint, and some showed a sign saying "Samet Nangshe Resort". Really? A resort? We'd just been there 6 months earlier and I'd not seen any resorts under construction. Well, this had to be checked out!

We drove over the Sarasin bridge into Phang Nga province and took the same road as before towards the small village of Klong Kian and then started looking for the viewpoint. We saw several signs saying Samet Nangshe, so we quickly realised this place was being promoted a bit, at least locally because I'd not seen any photos taken by foreign tourists, only Thai people. I was expecting a tiny sign and a little dirt road which our (not 4WD) truck might struggle to climb, but we soon found what we came for and were surprised to find it looking quite busy. A large carpark off the road and quite a few little stalls selling drinks and snacks. And there were several cars already parked there. Looks like a local landowner has decided to make some cash from the view! You don't see any view from road level. A dirt trail, which is wide enough for a car (but we only saw people walking), snaked up the hillside. It was a hot afternoon so we bought some bottled water and then paid a 30 Baht "entry fee" (no extra charge for the foreign guy) at a bamboo kiosk at the bottom of the path. It only took a minute of walking uphill to see the view.

Samet Nangshe View

It was not a hard climb up, but not too easy either! It was a hot afternoon and the track is quite steep. Here's my wife and daughter stopping for a breather ...

Path up to Samet Nangshe Viewpoint

I do wonder if they might make a real road up here sometime. The dirt path is fine for walking and you can see there are steps carved into the dirt, though I wonder what this will look like in the rainy season! We moaned a bit about the heat and the steep path, but couldn't moan too much as we had companions for the walk, much smaller than us ...

Kids walking up to Samet Nangshe Viewpoint

(above) Kids walking up the path to Samet Nangshe Viewpoint. OK, if that little one can do it, let's walk! Actually it's only a 10 minute walk, probably less if you are very fit and healthy. Then you reach a small open area, with a stall selling drinks, and a view ...

View from "Level 1" at Samet Nangshe

Ah! So there is the "resort" sign I had seen on Instagram! And certainly no sign of any resort or hotel here. That is quite a view. Phang Nga Bay is full of small islands, we have done many trips in the area by boat, but it all looks different from up high. I would like to take a helicopter flight over this area, that would be amazing. My family were quite content to see the view from here, but ... just before reaching this viewpoint the path splits and a sign points the other way and says it's only 200m to a higher viewpoint. We could see this higher viewpoint from where we stood. I'm going for it! Anyone else? Just me? Sure it was a bit hot walking up, but nothing serious. So I left the family and headed up. Not too tough really, only another 10 minutes, but it was steep and I was breathing hard near the top. And on a very hot afternoon too.

But, wow. Sometimes you do get these WOW moments. No matter what photos you have seen, or how much traveling you have done before. Wow!

Samet Nangshe Viewpoint

View from the top .. and there is no way a single photo can capture the full view. I realised this already, as I had seen photos, but the reality is more. And this is the start. We'll come here again, because the view is looking east. And the photos I saw of the sunrise were spectacular. I want to see that sunrise. Phang Nga Bay is a beautiful place.

Samet Nangshe View Panorama

(above) And looking slightly more to the north across Phang Nga Bay. Wow. One more wow! The view here was fantastic. No way to show everything with one photo, and even though I had seen photos, the real life view was a fantastic thing to see. Nice to know that I can still be impressed by our local scenery. We will return! To get here in time for sunrise we'll have to leave home about 5am. I think an early morning will be very much worth the effort. Of course we said the same thing about Khao Kai Nui viewpoint (also in Phang Nga) that we visited 4 months ago. The Monks are not naturally early risers!

Related links on Jamie's Phuket

Phang Nga Bay Tour
Khao Kai Nui Viewpoint
Exploring Phang Nga Province
James Bond Island
Tours with Easy Day Thailand

Samet Nangshe Location Map