Jamie's Phuket Blog

Jamie's Phuket Blog - Discover The Real Phuket!

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

25 April 2015 

Zaab Kafe in Phuket Town

And another new restaurant! I seem to be blogging a lot of food recently, largely because we've not really been anywhere for the last couple of months since our excellent day trip in Phang Nga Bay in February. But low season is coming soon meaning I can take some holidays and long weekends to get out and explore. Anyway, being "stuck" in Phuket is quite nice! There have been a few restaurants that I have meant to blog for a while. Zaab Kafe (with a K) has been open for about 18 months I think .. at least that would be when I noticed it. Zaab is on Yaowarat Road a couple of blocks north of the main part of Phuket Old Town. And yet, still very much in the old town - some buildings nearby are certainly not new.

Zaab Kafe

(above) Entrance to Zaab Kafe approaching on Yaowarat Road from the north

Phuket Old Town

(above) Over the street from Zaab are some classic old Phuket Town shop-houses

Old Building

(above) And next door is this old shophouse with a wooden second floor. Definitely a "fixer-upper"!

Zaab Kafe is a little more modern. Certainly adds a splash of colour to the street and just about tasteful enough not to spoil the old town atmosphere. Well, just about ... it is a little bit twee. There is a certain kind of Thai people who love a place like this with colorful decor, and seats where you can take your photo next to a Kitty or a big teddy bear :) Absolutely a place for the local market, which does mean very good Thai food.

Inside Zaab Kafe

Kitty Welcomes you to Zaab Kafe

(above) Cuddly decorations at Zaab Kafe

Zaab Kafe in Phuket Town

(above) Inside Zaab Kafe

Lots of space inside with tables of varying design. Some with chairs, some for sitting on the floor, some booths, some smaller tables if you just want a coffee and cake and don't need half an acre of space for all your food dishes :) That is our style - we do tend to over order at places like this. Too many delicious sounding options. We've been half a dozen times so it's become a bit of a regular place for us now. Not really in the "cheap" price bracket, at least by local standards. I think our last visit the bill was 1700 Baht for 7 people. That's probably cheap if you are from the UK. Last year in my home town I noticed a Thai restaurant where simple Thai dishes like Pad Graprow were 15 pounds (about 700 Baht) per dish! Yes, so 1700 Baht for 7 is OK. It does depend what you order of course. Everything is tasty. My favourite so far is the Fried Laab (ลาบทอด) - Laab is a meat dish from northeast Thailand - normally made with pork and cooked with chilies and herbs. And if you then fry it, delicious! See the photo below ...

Fried Laab

The last couple of times I have been here, I have left with a slightly aching belly, too full and yet still wanting more! The menu is varied and they have all kid of drinks - different coffees, juices, shakes ... I had a very good mango shake last time. You can also get a beer. Here's a few of the dishes we have tried at Zaab.

Lemon Chicken

(above) Lemon Chicken - might not seem like a Thai dish, but I see it in many Thai restaurants. A good choice if you want something non spicy (not like the laab, which is spicy!)

Salmon with Rice

(above) Salmon steak with rice - a kids favourite.

Fried Rice with Chinese Sausage

(above) There are plenty of fried rice options. This one made with Chinese sausage and salted egg.

DIY Vietnamese fresh spring rolls

(above) Make your own Vietnamese style fresh spring rolls!

And finally - and this one does go well with a beer if you have the chance to try anywhere ... Sun dried pork (beef also available), in Thai it's called Moo Det Deow (หมูแดดเดียว). I can nibble several plates of this!

Sundried Pork

Phuket Town is the place to find this kind of local restaurant. They are all a bit different, especially newer places that are built with a bit of an individual touch. Not just plastic chairs and tables selling the same old Thai food. We like to find something interesting with dishes that we can't get in other restaurants. I am glad that we live close to town because in the last few years there have been plenty of new restaurants and cafes opening up away from the more touristy areas of Phuket and offering some tasty treats.

More Phuket Town restaurant suggestions

Kopitiam on Thalang Road
Tunk Ka Cafe
Eleven Two & Co
Rider Cafe
Yellow Door

Zaab Kafe Location Map

13 April 2015 

Eleven Two & Co. Restaurant in Phuket Town

Because we live near Phuket Town, if we are eating out we often head to town or nearby and we have several favourite restaurants. But Phuket Town is constantly changing, new restaurants and cafes open often as the old town in particular gets popular as a place to visit. The center of the old town is Thalang Road which used to be the main market street 100 years ago and is still home to older shops selling cloth, hardware and herbal medicine. There is a weekly Sunday market on Thalang Road too. One of our favourite places to eat along Thalang Road is Kopitiam, and I have found Since 1892 good for a coffee, and then you have a couple of old Muslim roti restaurants on the same street. A newer restaurant, Eleven Two & Co. opened in late 2013 and I have been a couple of times just for a snack or a drink. Last week, I met up with fellow blogger Tim for a proper meal there, as the menu did look quite tempting!

Sunset time on Thalang Road

(above) Eleven Two is situated on Thalang Road in the heart of Phuket Old Town. It's on the left side of the photo above. You can see it's built into an old shophouse and I am glad to say the owners have kept the old style.

First thing .. a drink! The drinks menu is pretty big with all kinds of coffee, different teas, smoothies, sodas and beers. A few "special" imported beers available, but at 250 Baht per bottle, I'd rather stick with a simple Chang or Singha! There's even one import beer on the menu called "Dog B" with a menu price of 1,250 Baht! If anyone tries it, do let me know.

Chang Beer with free Prawn Crackers

(above) And you get some free prawn crackers with your beer :)

Eleven Two & Co

Most of the seating is open air, some right by the street, some just inside. There is also an aircon room if you can't stand the heat. I much prefer sitting near the street. Thalang Road is not really busy, you're not sitting by a highway here! The food menu has Thai dishes, burgers, pizza, salads, sandwiches and more. Prices a bit higher than your average Thai restaurant, but a decent price for burgers and pizzas. First time I stopped here with my wife for a snack, and the chicken satay french fries looked like a good idea - see photo below, went very well with a cold beer.

Chicken Satay with French Fries (Chips)

With Tim and his wife, we ordered a whole variety of dishes .... you have to try a few things before judging a restaurant! First up was a bruschetta selection. Pretty much a light meal on its own!

Mixed Bruschetta

And my main dish ... well, I do eat Thai food about 90% of the time, and when I go for something non-Thai, it's often a burger. And I don't mean McDonalds, no, no. I like a good homemade burger, big and fat, lots of real meat. And what I got at Eleven Two was the "Northern Tribe Burger" - just what the doctor ordered!

Burger at Eleven Two & Co

I had actually ordered something called the "Cheese Lava Pork Burger" but it was not available - a good reason to go again :)

And another side dish - spicy pork with tortillas ...

Spicy snack at Eleven Two & Co

I like this kind of restaurant, a bit arty, a bit different, a selection of foods that I might not normally eat. And the old town is a good place to find a more interesting place to eat. I can recommend Eleven Two & Co. for lunch or dinner. I think it's closed on Mondays. A place I will eat again for sure.

Eleven Two & Co. - Location Map

31 March 2015 

Rimlay Restaurant at Rawai Beach

Rawai beach is very different to the main west coast beaches in Phuket such as Patong, Karon, Kata and all the rest. Rawai is located right in the south of Phuket close to Phromthep Cape and the beach faces southeast. Like most beach and coastal areas on the east side of Phuket, Rawai is not a swimming beach, but it is fairly busy, as the beach road is lined with many small restaurants and a few hotels. Plus Rawai is home to many longtail and speed boats which can take people out to nearby islands such as Coral Island or Koh Kaew Yai. The east end of the beach past the pier has a fish market and a small sea gypsy community. I don't come to Rawai as often as I should. I like it and will try more of the restaurants here in the future.

Rimlay Restaurant sign

Rimlay (actually the full name is Baan Rimlay) is close to the pier. If driving in from Chalong, turn right and you can park in front of the restaurant - it's just after the turn. It's next door to the well known Nikita's bar/restaurant. Back in January I stopped here my my aunt and uncle for lunch during a tour of the south of Phuket. It was a good choice! We got a table by the sea and on a hot day it was an ideal place to enjoy a cold beer in the shade.

Rimlay Restaurant

And I was glad to see the prices are reasonable. 60 Baht for a Chang beer when you are sitting by the sea in Phuket is a good deal :) Baan Rimlay has been there for many years. I'm pretty sure it was there back in 1999 when I arrived in Phuket, I know it's neighbour Nikita's was there back then and if I recall, Nikita's did not do food, but you could order and they'd bring it from Rimlay. Is that right? Heck, it was a long time ago! Nikita's does do food now and I should stop by sometime soon. On this occasion, my uncle, aunt and I ordered some small dishes (and another beer). The whole place is in the shade with some big trees growing above the restaurant. A light sea breeze is all you need, so it's not too hot even on a hot Phuket day.

Yam Sam Grob

(above) I ordered Yam Sam Grob, which is a seafood salad. Very good with a beer, very good on a hot day when you don't want a huge plate of food. Phuket (and neighbouring Phang Nga province) specialises in this kind of dish - you can also get a salad with crispy dried shrimp or with lemongrass or with fish eggs, it's very local food and hard to find outside this region.

Garlic Prawns

(above) And some garlic shrimp, another good snack to enjoy with a cold beer. I need to go again and order something else from the menu to complete this blog entry! It's a comfortable place for a seafood lunch or a drink and a nibble, with seating by the sea and good prices - you struggle to find this at the more developed beaches. I was back again last weekend taking some photos and stopped in just for a cold afternoon beer. It's not a huge place, maybe 10 tables, service quick and friendly. Might be a nice place for dinner too.

Rimlay Restaurant

(above) Baan Rimlay Restaurant

There are a whole bunch of small restaurants here in Rawai. If you visit the fish market on the other side of the pier (see photo below) there are restaurants there which will cook what you buy - totally fresh seafood! There are also a couple of fancier looking places further along the beach. I hope Rawai can stay nice and simple - the fact that you can't swim and sunbathe here tends to keep the hordes away. To be honest, it's not changed that much in 15 years, a bit more developed, but still quiet.

Rawai Beach Fish Market

Related Links / Nearby Attractions

More about Rawai Beach
Rawai Beach Hotels
Ya Nui Beach
Phromthep Cape
Koh Kaew Yai Island
Sunset Tour to Coral Island

Baan Rimlay Restaurant - Location Map