Jamie's Phuket Blog

Jamie's Phuket Blog - Discover The Real Phuket!

27 September 2015 

Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2015 Schedule

It's nearly here! The 2015 Phuket Vegetarian Festival will take place from 12 - 22 October 2015. The dates vary every year, 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 although I will be away for the first few days of the festival. I sold my "nice" camera a while back, and in 2014 was using a combination of and old (but OK) Lumix and a few iPhone photos too! I was thinking of buying a new fancy camera during 2015, but it's not happened. 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 much - I have only attended one firewalking event and it was so crowded. And until last year I had not experienced the crazy last night procession in Phuket Town - and this was great - will certainly be there again this year! 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 in Phuket during the festival, do try to see something ...

Recent Vegetarian Festival Blog Posts

2014 Phuket Vegetarian Festival Part 1
2014 Phuket Vegetarian Festival Part 2
2014 Phuket Vegetarian Festival Part 3

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

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.

Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2015 - Schedule 12th - 22nd October

The start of the 2015 festival will be Monday 12th October 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 often 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 15th October ... or actually the 14th - 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.

Monday October 12th

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.

13th - 14th October - there are no big events on the first 2 days of the festival except for a small procession from Naka shrine on the 14th, 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 normally 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.

Wednesday October 14th

Street procession into Phuket Town from Naka Shrine, located next to the weekend market just outside Phuket Town. This shrine is a newcomer to the festival and has only been doing processions for a few years. I visited last year (2014) and it was quite crowded with photographers looking to get the first photos of the festival.

Thursday October 15th

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 (Lam Tao and Pak Tao). I was there last few years for this very noisy procession! A similar procession also takes place at several other shrines on the same evening. I believe there is a very big one at Jui Tui Shrine.

Below - Birth / Death Gods Procession at Kathu Shrine in 2014

Evening parade of Ma Song and god statues in Kathu

Friday October 16th

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 and I find that 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. It's a good one to attend early in the morning. I might even walk with them into town this year.

Saturday October 17th

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 story predates the Vegetarian Festival by several decades.

Sunday October 18th

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 very big crowds on this day. I have been in town the last few years for the Bang Neow procession, but have not tried to get into the temple due to the number of people. 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. Maybe I'll try to get some firewalking photos again this year....

Below - Phuket Town Procession Photos - Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2014

Ma Song Girls in Phuket Town 2014

Vegetarian Procession in Phuket Town 2014

Monday October 19th

Street procession starting at Jui Tui shrine, which is probably the biggest shrine in Phuket town - just west of the main market. I went to see the procession in 2013 and 2014 - it was very crowded but I got lots of photos! It is 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 and lined with food stalls during the entire 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 one time 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!

Tuesday October 20th

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 4 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 would be better. But hard work! 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

Firecrackers in Kathu village

Happiness is a Vegetarian Festival Procession

Later in the evening on October 20th - fire walking at Bang Neow, Cherng Talay and Sam Kong shrines. Got to be worth a look!

Wednesday October 21st

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 and I did take some photos, but the firewalking seems to draw very 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 selfie stick might work!

And then in the evening/night of the last day (21st October) there will be a huge procession around Phuket Town, with people carrying statues of the gods to Sapan Hin. Millions of firecrackers and fireworks. It is absolutely mad. I went for the first time in 2014. And will go again now with better preparation. There is so much smoke and so many firecrackers, it's advisable to wear long trousers, a shirt with long sleeves and something more than flip flops or you'll get burnt feet! Need to wear a cloth or face mask over your face too, to avoid too much smoke inhalation! And earplugs would be a good idea. It's like a warzone. A friend had a firecracker land in his pocket a few years ago and melt his iPod!

Earlier in the evening on the last night there is the "Bridge Crossing for Purification" ceremony at the shrines. We did this in 2011 and it was an evening I enjoyed very much. Everyone in white, lots of smiles, no bloody faces, seemed like the whole village was there!

Below - Crossing the Bridge for Purification - Phuket Vegetarian Festival

Crossing the Bridge for Purification

Below - Final Night in Phuket Town - Phuket Vegetarian Festival

Running the Gauntlet - Last Night of the Phuket Vegetarian Festival

Thursday October 22nd

At about 5pm the lantern poles (Go Teng poles) are lowered at the shrines marking the very end of the 2015 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

7 September 2015 

Hungry Ghost (Por Tor) Festival in Phuket Town

It's festival time! The Por Tor festival, also called the Hungry Ghost festival takes place in Phuket during the second half of the 7th lunar month, which this year is August 28th to September 12th. The hungry ghost festival also takes place in Singapore, Hong Kong and other places, and the history seems to be a mix of Buddhist and Taoist beliefs. It's not a huge event in Phuket, and almost everything takes place in Phuket Town, though I did see a few offerings outside a small Chinese shrine near our house in Kathu. Certainly, if you stick to the beach areas you will have no idea this is happening! It's not something that all local people participate in, and in other parts of the country this festival hardly exists. A few years ago we visited with my wife's sister and husband. His family is Chinese-Thai from Bangkok and he'd never heard of this festival before! I have blogged about the Por Tor festival a couple of times before in 2011 and 2012. The last couple of years we'd either not been here during the festival or just decided to skip it. This year I wanted to have a look again. My mother died last year on August 29th and her funeral was on September 8th. I hope she's not hungry. She should be OK though, she had a proper send off, a lovely funeral and a huge family gathering, so she should hopefully be a happy ghost.

The first part of the festival included a couple of street parades (which I missed, but you can find some pics on Tim's Blog). The center of activities for a few days was the central market on Ranong road in Phuket Town. We went for a look on August 30th. The second floor of the market becomes a temple and has massive tables full of food offerings for those hungry ghosts!

Roast Pig

Red Turtle Cake

(above) Roasted offerings and giant red turtle cakes for the Por Tor Festival. The red turtles are a symbol of long life and good fortune.

Lighting Candles

Prayers at the Por Tor Festival

(above) Lighting candles and saying prayers at the temporary shrine in the market. This was on for the first few days of the festival, along with a street fair outside on Ranong Road. Lots of food stalls and a stage with dance and music performances. On the 31st there was a parade from the market heading through old town and south to the Por Tor Kong shrine. A place that I did not know existed until 2011, down a small unassuming side street, but it's the center of activities for much of the Por Tor Festival.

Stage outside the market

(above) Dancers outside the market in Phuket Town

Making Pancakes with Mussels (หอยทอด)

(above) Street stall near the market, making Hoy Tod (a kind of omelette with mussels)

The little Por Tor Kong shrine is in the south of Phuket Town, not far from the Bang Neow shrine, which is one of the main shrines during the Phuket vegetarian festival. We found this shrine in 2011 when we went exploring during the Por Tor Festival and just followed the crowds. Not a big shrine, but gets very very busy in the evenings during the festival as people come here to make offerings and say a prayer in the shrine. This year we headed into town on a Sunday evening (September 6th) and I dragged the family down to the shrine to make a turtle offering. We had to park about half a mile away and take a little walk, passing the famous Keng Tin bakery on the way. They do Chinese snacks year round and make lots of turtle cakes for the festival, but when we passed they were just about sold out! But a little further up the street a family was making a big turtle ...

Making giant Ang Ku - Turtle Cakes

Heading down the small side street called Takuathung Road things got busier as we approached the shrine. Lots of food stalls and clothes stalls and of course stalls selling turtles. So we bought one to leave at the shrine as an offering to any of our lost ancestors who might be hungry.

Family with turtle cake

At the shrine itself the crowds were thick. There was a queue to obtain incense sticks for lighting and placing in the shrine. And many, many people arriving with turtle cakes. Of course, I dived into the crowds to take a few photos, while the rest of the family found a relatively quiet spot to wait for blogger Dad. The photos here are all taken with an iPhone 6, and they seem to be OK, which makes we wonder why I still want to buy a nice new Canon SLR! This was the first time I have really tried to use this phone/camera in these conditions (night time / low light) and it's done pretty well.

The food offering display outside the shrine (see below) was quite marvelous, and it is a very nicely decorated shrine.

Por Tor Kong Shrine

I went looking for a back way into the shrine. No way past the queue of people with incence sticks. I found some space just inside the "exit" - you have to enter and exit a Chinese shrine and leave incence in the right places in the right order. With all the candles and all that incense it was pretty hot and smoky in there. I could still feel the smoke in my lungs next morning. if hanging around in there, a mask would be a good idea.

Por Tor Kong Shrine

(above) Inside the Por Tor Kong shrine.

The altar at the back of the shrine is in a narrow passage. It's here that people will put their burning incense in different places. Yes, this is Phuket. Not the beaches, beers and sunshine version of Phuket. A bit different.

Prayers in the Por Tor Kong Shrine

Saying prayers in the Por Tor Kong Shrine

Por Tor Kong Shrine

One of the volunteers looking after the shrine found me a space to stand for a couple of minutes right inside, a bit too close to people, maybe! In a case like this a nice camera with a wide angle lens would be ideal. I squeezed against the wall to keep out of people's way as they came through the shrine. After a few minutes the smoke was a bit much and the volunteer guy suggested I should move on out anyway, and not stay too long right there in the "holiest" area. The true meaning of this festival is hard to grasp without being a local (and when I say local, I mean really local). Many local people in Phuket have Chinese ancestors and they understand what these festivals mean. Many areas of Phuket have nothing to do with Por Tor or the vegetarian festival. I try to get some meaning out of it by getting close to the events, but I am an English atheist, merely here as an observer. I'd like to believe in something more spiritual and maybe someone somewhere has the answer. Are the spirits of hungry ancestors hanging around Phuket Town right now? As I write this, it's September 7th, so 5 more days if you are in Phuket and want to see something a bit different... Note that the dates change every year. Festival starts in the middle of the 7th Chinese lunar month if you want to plan for the future!

Por Tor Festival - Map of Locations

View Por Tor Festival in a larger map

29 August 2015 

One Night in Khao Lak

Khao Lak was just getting to be very popular in 2004. A quiet alternative to Phuket, very nice beaches and easy to reach - just fly in to Phuket Airport and get a taxi north. It's not much further to Khao Lak than it is to Patong Beach, just in the other direction and to be honest, with the traffic, probably takes about the same time. And then, 26th December 2004. The Tsunami. Phuket was hit, but Khao Lak was hit far worse. Killed thousands in the area, compared to hundreds in Phuket. Many hotels were (and are!) right by the beach. The fishing village of Ban Nam Khem a little north was flattened. In places the water reached more than 1km inland. Recovery was quick, but in places the rebuilding took years. Phuket was quickly back on the tourism map and I felt that Khao Lak was a little bit forgotten. Not pushed as a destination by travel companies, more likely to attract independent tourists looking for a quiet place to stay. And even in high season, Khao Lak is not that busy. Hotels are strung out along a 20km coastline, some hotels are quite remote, some are in more built up areas. We did several short trips to Khao Lak back in 2013 - see Holidays in Khao Lak - we had some relaxing days and did trips to Koh Tachai island and visited the tsunami memorials.

I had wanted to take another weekend in Khao Lak, but just to relax and do nothing. My dear wife didn't fancy it .. "nothing to do", she said. Exactly! A relaxing weekend at a nice hotel, with crazy low season prices, sit by the pool, go to the beach, have a night in a hotel, and maybe visit a nearby waterfall or something. Perfect! Well, we finally got a night in Khao Lak on August 15th, and got lucky with the low season weather. We had first been white water rafting in Phang Nga and then drove to the west to Khao Lak, only about 45 minutes drive. Previously we'd stayed at Nangthong Bay Resort. This time, something new - The Leaf On The Sands, which is owned by Katathani resorts. They also run The Sands Resort, which is right next to The Leaf, and there's the Katathani and The Shore in Phuket.

As I understand it, The Leaf is the cheaper sister of The Sands. To reach the beach from The Leaf you take a path next to The Sands, takes about 5 - 10 minutes to walk to the beach depending on your walking speed. We checked in mid afternoon and I liked it right away!

The Leaf On the Sands

(above) The Leaf On The Sands. Our room was one of these by the pool :)

And the room rate? Not much more than 1,000 Baht! Low season prices can be a little bit nuts here! High season rates start around 3,000 Baht. We were straight into the pool for a splash about with the kids. There is also a second pool with a swim up bar, so I headed there too for a cold Chang with friends (we did this weekend with our friends from the Easy Day Thailand tour company). It's not a huge resort, has about 90 rooms. All with free WiFi, thank you! That has to be a given these days .. any hotel that charges for WiFi should be ashamed. Our room was comfortable, huge bed, big bathroom. Aircon maybe a little too powerful for the size of room, but .. right by the pool, inexpensive... I do like low season! We are lucky of course because we can decide last minute to take a trip. We can wake up Saturday morning and check the weather. Sunny? Let's go out! If you have a pre-booked holiday, well, you just have to be lucky.

I took a late afternoon walk down to the beach. Khao Lak has many different beach areas. This is Nangthong Beach. The hotel we stayed in before is just a 10 minute walk along the beach. Very quiet at this time of year, very few people around. I watched a few guys fishing from the rocks...

Khao Lak Beach

That evening our group all got together for a big dinner at a place called Baan Khao Lak Seafood, which is actually a few km south of the main Khao Lak beaches. I think it's more of a locals place to eat, being not that close to any hotels. We had a big spread of fried fish, penang curry and shrimp tom yum. And a beer or 2 :) And back to the hotel. I was back in the pool to let the kids jump on me, then popped out for a couple of beers at a small Italian restaurant over the street from the hotel, and enjoyed sitting with my wife on the hotel balcony. Easy life!

Next morning, no rush, but was woken about 7:15am by the kids (ours and their friends) who were already splashing around in the pool!

The Leaf On the Sands

(above) View from our room about 7:20am, Sunday morning.

Oh well, no sleep in for me! Another jump in the pool and then off for breakfast. Now .. hotels in Thailand do sometimes have very basic breakfasts. Often cold fried eggs, crappy white bread for toast, only sachets of instant coffee. I am happy to say that The Leaf was a good one. Fresh brewed coffee, and a cook who was making eggs to order. In my book, that's fancy, but then again we don't tend to stay at fancy hotels! Breakfast was included in the room rate too. A very good low season deal. After breakfast, I had to run to catch up with my son and a few of his buddies, who were heading down to the beach. It was a beautiful morning. As good as any high season morning. No big waves, just a gentle surf. Blue skies, empty sands. A shame it was Monday and back to school and work next day, I wanted another night!

Khao Lak 16th August 2015

(above) On the beach, Sunday 16th August

We all took a walk up the beach, kids darting in and out of the water, body surfing the waves. They can all swim pretty well, my kids and our friend's kids, but anyway, best to have some adult supervision. I don't think any of them wanted to leave either!

Khao Lak - Nangthong Beach

(above) My boy and a couple of buddies enjoying a perfect beach morning in Khao Lak.

My Boy at Khao Lak

Oh to be 10 years old again! Life is simple.

A very good weekend, with the rafting on Saturday and a relaxing night in Khao Lak. And my wife now wants to go again. I have finally convinced her that doing nothing for a weekend can be fun! Well, almost nothing ... we left from Khao Lak just about midday and headed back south to Phuket, stopping off at Lampi Waterfall on the way. It's not a really long drive from home to Khao Lak, we drive slow and it takes less than 2 hours. So, when will be our next Khao Lak trip?!

19 August 2015 

White Water Rafting in Phang Nga

It's been a long time since I tried white water rafting. Back in my young, fit days I did it a few times. The first was in Zimbabwe on the Zambezi river (see photo) and that was pretty scary! I also did easier (but colder) rafting trips in Chile and Wales. And here in Thailand we've tended to shy away from tourist activities, preferring to find our own adventures, but sometimes we certainly do what the tourists do, I mean you have to visit Phi Phi and James Bond Island and see the Fantasea show and so on, there are some "must see" things around here! To the north of Phuket you have Phang Nga province, which we visit often. It's a huge area with a lot to see, and even this year we have done several trips exploring roads that were new to us, including the Klong Kian area and the Tone Pariwat Waterfall. Along the road to this waterfall, which followed a river, we saw many rafting companies and lots of elephants (for elephant trekking). So last week when our friends who run the Easy Day Thailand tour company asked us to join a fun "company trip" including rafting and a night in Khao Lak, we knew where to go and looked forward to another drive in that direction. very nice scenery around there. It's only about a 90 minute drive from where we live near Phuket Town - out of Phuket, over the bridge, to Phang Nga Town and then about another 15km after the town. And we got lucky with the low season weather which during July and early August had seen plenty of wind and rain. On Saturday August 15th the weather was beautiful. We reached the "Best Rafting 4U" headquarters about 9:30am and had time to get some coffee, take a little walk by the river and wait for the whole group to arrive in dribs and drabs.

Song Phraek River

(above) The river next to the rafting camp. Not very rough! You see .. further upstream is a dam, which is opened when all the rafts (from various companies) are ready to go, this increases the river flow and makes things more fun :) In extreme weather the river itself can overflow the dam, and rafting can't be done. It did seem pretty safe to me, nothing too scary if you have done it before. Quite scary for my 10 year old boy :) I have read over the years of at least one death on a rafting trip, but not sure if that was here or in Khao Sok national park. We all had to wear helmets and lifejackets on the rafts, and it was plenty of fun, but in our group there were kids as young as 5, so I think that is a measure of the danger factor. Actually I am not sure if they generally allow kids that young, but as we were a big "travel agent" group, I guess any such rule was waived.

Life jackets

(above) Get your lifejackets on!

So we were driven in trucks a few km up river to "the dam" where rafts were launched down a slide and we walked down stairs to the water, and then had to exit the raft again 20 meters later and clamber over rocks to get to the actual river. And then wait for the dam to be opened .... Before this, a briefing was given explaining how to sit in the raft, to listen to the guide on the raft and what to do should we fall out! Rafts could hold 4 - 5 people. So we took a raft for our family of 4.

Rafting family!

(above) Rafting family ready to go!

Launching the rafts

(above) Launching a raft into the calm water above the dam. Actually the hardest part of the trip for big, clumsy me was climbing over rocks to get back into the raft just below the dam. This dam is not huge, but holds the water about 5m higher than the river below, so once they open it, there is quite a rush! Our rafts waited until the water was high enough and then set off pretty darn fast!

Rafting in Phang Nga

They do recommend not taking phones or cameras. We took an older iPhone and had a dry bag. The photo above (my boy and me) was taken as we started moving. I think, in hindsight, I could have taken a nicer camera in the dry bag and snapped photos between rougher sections of river, but this is ideal GoPro camera territory, or any small waterproof camera. My helmet even had some kind of mount built in. A selfie stick with a GoPro - even better :) But I can't stand people who, instead of enjoying something, are constantly taking their own picture, so they can enjoy watching themselves later. Enjoy the NOW! And as the rafting company takes photos as you head down the river which they will frame and sell you later for 200 Baht, you will get a good action shot of yourself!

White water rafting in Phang Nga

(above) That's us! Photo taken by the rafting company. Looks quite rough actually .. I guess there were a few little sections that had me falling over backwards in the raft and nearly squashing my son! The whole rafting experience was over in about 30 minutes. I am sure they told us it was a 5km ride, but if I look on Google Earth, looks like about half of that. And at times as we rushed down rapids and into calmer areas, it did seem surprisingly crowded, especially as this is low season. There were rafts from several different operators at the same time. Although - when I say "low season", it's probably the best time for rafting. If you try this in a dry February, the river might have low water levels/ Now, after some rain, it was just about perfect.

River Rafting in Phang Nga

(above) On the river - photo by Paul Flaxman

Rafting in Phang Nga

(above) A busy low season day on the river!

We finished our rafting right next to the BestRafting4U camp, where they have some decent bathrooms, so we could change, dump wet clothes in our cars, and they provided a big buffet lunch. We were just here for rafting, as the weekend was to be combined with a relaxing stay in Khao Lak (about 50 km to the west). Most people would sign up for combination adventure tours with rafting, visiting the waterfall, maybe elephant riding, ATV rides, jungle zip-lining, there are several options - you can ask our friends at Easy Day Thailand about these trips. We just came for a bit of whitewater fun, and then headed off for some time by the pool in Khao Lak at The Leaf On The Sands Resort.

Now that we've done this trip, yes I do recommend it of you are of a sporty nature (and can swim). The hills and rivers in Phang Nga make a nice day out especially if you are staying at a busier beach area in Phuket. It's good to see more than just the beach here in Phuket, and a bit of rafting combined with other things is something to add to the Phuket "to do" list. And now we've done it :)

Book a Tour like this with Easy Day Thailand

Related Posts on Jamie's Phuket

Tone Pariwat Waterfall
Elephant Trekking in Phuket
Exploring Phang Nga Province
Phang Nga Bay

10 August 2015 

Phuket Wake Park

The Kathu area of Phuket is where I live. It's not far from Patong Beach (just over the hill on the way to Phuket town) and if you wish to get away from the most touristy beach in Thailand, get on a bike and ride over that hill past the temple on the hill, down to a quieter, largely residential area with a lot of history (Kathu was the center of the tin mining industry, and the famous Phuket Vegetarian Festival originated here). The daily Kathu market is worth a visit and you'll find temples in and around the village.

But there's more! If you turn left at the lights next to the Caltex gas station, you pass the market and are heading towards Loch Palm Golf Course and the old Kathu village when you will see a left turn to Kathu Waterfall (Nam Tok Kathu). There's actually a fair amount of new houses around this area - Kathu is getting quite popular! The road up to the waterfall winds along for several kilometers. It's all residential with houses old and new, and lots of small shops and restaurants. Along the way you pass the entrance to the Phuket Wake Park. It used to be called Phuket Cable Ski - but was rebranded with new owners (Russian, I believe) a couple of years ago. There's plenty of parking, and a wakeboard shop outside too.

Wake Park Entrance

Shop at Kathu Wake Park

I first blogged it back in 2007 (this is an updated post), we used to bring our little kids just to watch, but as our kids have got older it's become one of their favourite things to do. It's quite a big set up, with a 400 meter long artificial lake surrounded by hills and palm trees. There's a restaurant too and I can get a cold Chang beer while I watch our kids. You can try wakeboarding, water skiing or kneeboarding. Lessons are available, or (like our kids) you can just learn by trial and error! They are quite good now, but not doing any jumps yet :)

Phuket Wake Park - Cable Ski

(above) Phuket Wake Park in Kathu

Wakeboard Park in Phuket

Wakeboarding - Cable Ski

(above) My kids at the Wake Park

Pick up Service

(above) When people fall off, there's a pick up service - just swim to the side and wait :)

We tend to go at weekends, which are busier, lots of kids of varying levels of ability. The serious dudes tend to be there outside the busy hours, but every time I have been there, we've seen some more experienced folk too, doing flips, jumps and other fancy stuff. Never tried myself, not my cup of tea and I am a bit big these days ... though I have been rafting on the Zambezi and raced bicycles downhill at 80 kph in the Pyrenees... when I was younger! Quite happy to watch my kids now, they like to try all kinds of sporty stuff.

The prices are reasonable I guess - 650 Baht for 2 hours or 1150 Baht for a whole day (adult rates - kids are 350 Baht / 550 Baht). There are also long term rates. We normally let the kids do 2 hours and they are tired enough after that. There are some boards, helmets and life jackets for free rental, though I guess they are not the best ones! There is some better gear you can pay to rent. We won't be buying gear unless the kids get really serious!

• More information: Phuket Wake Park Website

Kathu Waterfall

Just up the road from the wake park is Kathu Waterfall, where you can take a little jungle walk or even a swim if there's enough water. Like many of the waterfalls in the Phuket area, it's nothing too amazing, but if you're exploring, have a look!

Kathu Waterfall - More Information

Phuket Cable Ski (Phuket Wake Park) - Location Map

View Phuket Wake Park in a larger map