Jamie's Phuket Blog

Jamie's Phuket Blog - Discover The Real Phuket!


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Phuket : No Culture and No History? Er, Really?

When I started the Phuket Blog in 2006, one of the main motivations was to show "The Real Phuket" - whatever that really means! Any visitor coming to Phuket island knows that we have beaches, hotels, nightlife, shopping, hot weather, lots of tasty food ... And there are plenty of tours you can book to beautiful places like Phang Nga Bay, Phi Phi, the Similan Islands and much more. But most visitors are unaware of Phuket's history and culture. Indeed one reason I started the blog was to counter comments that I seemed to read almost daily in travel forums saying "Phuket has no culture. If you want culture you have to go to North Thailand". Comments like "Phuket is just beaches and old men looking for young Thai girls" annoyed me. Fair enough, we have no hill tribes or amazing ruins of old civilisations and yes, Patong beach is all about tourism, but there is a local culture here and lots of history. I didn't realise how much until I started the blog and Phuket has only just started in the last 10 years to really promote it's cultural identity. There is a lot to discover here beyond the sunloungers, bars and shops. I know it's not for everyone. If you enjoy a week of sun, beaches, bars and nightlife that's great, and more than likely you are not reading this blog anyway :)



(above) Last year a book was released called A History of Phuket - great book! Great reading if you have an interest in Thai history. I have read it twice and will read again!

Phuket has a long history as a port and as a waypoint for traders going between Arabia and India to the west, and China to the east. Phuket was an important trading post before any Europeans arrived. The first Europeans only found this part of the world in the early 16th century. Phuket went through periods of Arab, Indian, Portuguese, French, Dutch and British influence. There was once a French governor of Phuket and there were Brits living here in the 18th century. Indeed the British were on the verge of taking Phuket in the early 19th century after conquering Burma, but in the end Britain took Penang instead as it was closer to the important straits of Malacca, leaving Phuket island (then called Thalang) as part of Siam. Oh yeh, history is here! The mix of people passing through Phuket over the centuries does create a unique melting pot of cultures, peoples and religions. In Phuket Town you can find Buddhist temples, Chinese shrines, a Mosque, a Catholic church, a Sikh Gurdwara, a Hindu shrine and probably more! It's a sign that Phuket has been on the map for a long time. Phuket was important a long, long time before any tourists came to enjoy the beaches. If anyone imagines that Phuket has no history or culture, think again!

Phuket Vegetarian Festival

It's had a lot of blog space over the years. I never attended any vegetarian festival events or street parades until 2006 when I started the blog and decided to find out more about this event. It's huge. A 10 day festival with crazy street processions featuring bizarre piercings, entranced spirit mediums, a lot of firecrackers and a lot of history. It's my favourite time of year in Phuket, and I'm not even a vegetarian! The festival has Chinese roots and began somewhere around 1825 when visiting Chinese got sick in Phuket and cured themselves with a cleansing diet. Well, that's what the story is. Later, people from Phuket sailed to China to discover more. Also called the "9 Emperor Gods" festival, it's quite wild, but if you stay by the beaches you really don't see much. It's centered in Phuket Town, with some Chinese shrines in other parts of the island also participating. A couple of photos and a few links below to help explain more. The festival is also found in other parts of south Thailand, but Phuket is where it started and if you really want to see more, it's not for the faint hearted!



(above) Vegetarian Festival Procession in Phuket Town



(above) Face Piercing at Sam Kong Shrine, Phuket Town

More Information:

Phuket Vegetarian Festival Introduction
2013 Vegetarian Festival Photos
Vegetarian Festival Food


The Heroines of Thalang

Phuket was previously known as Thalang, also Salang and Jungceylon. Phuket is a word derived from the Malay word "Bukit" meaning Hill, as Phuket does indeed have many hills. Well, back in the Thalang days, in 1785, Phuket and indeed Siam was under threat from the Burmese who headed down the west coast and threatened to take Thalang. The governor had recently died, and it was his wife and her sister who rallied the people of Phuket to fight off the invaders. The sisters were later honored by the king of Siam. If you have been to Phuket you have probably seen the statue in the middle of a roundabout on the main road between Phuket Town and the airport ...



(above) Statue of the Heroines of Thalang - there is also an annual festival to celebrate the victory over Burma in 1785. Thalang is now the name of the town in the middle of Phuket Island south of the airport. 200 years ago this was the main town on the island. Nobody seems to mention that the Burmese came back 20 years later and won a victory over the people of Thalang. The Burmese were finally chased from the area by the British in the 1820s.


The Por Tor Festival

I have enjoyed discovering more about Phuket culture and first investigated the Por Tor Festival in 2011. It's another festival based on Chinese beliefs although it seems very specific to the straits of Malacca. There is something similar in Singapore. A family member from a Chinese-Thai family in Bangkok who visited the festival with us last year did not know about it. In English they call it the "hungry ghost" festival and the belief is that in the 7th lunar month, the hungry ghosts of ancestors visit our world. So they need feeding!



(above) Making huge red turtle cakes which are used as offerings at the Por Tor shrine in Phuket Town



(above) Inside the Por Tor shrine during the Por Tor festival

More Information:

Por Tor Festival 2011
Por Tor Festival 2012


Old Phuket Town

Thalang was the main population area if you go back 200 years or more, but there's hardly a sign of any old buildings there as almost everything was was wooden, or destroyed by the Burmese in the early 19th century. Phuket Town became more important due to the tin mining boom which existed as far back as the 18th century, but became huge in the latter half of the 19th century. Many of the open pit tin mines were in the south of the island, and a port and town were built with a wide canal extending from the sea at Sapan Hin through the town and several kilometers further in the Kathu tin mining area. The "Bang Yai" canal still exists, but is only navigable for a short distance. Much of the "Old Town" was built in the late 19th and early 20th century. Rich mining families built mansions, there was a school teaching Chinese, a hospital was built and the first bank in Phuket was built in 1907 (the Standard Chartered Bank) with a police station opposite for security! The Old Town was looking rather shabby for many years - certainly when I got here in 1999, it was really quite crumbly. But over the last 10 years a lot of effort has gone into the Old Town, businesses have opened, plenty of paint has been used, there are regular festivals and a good number of cafes, bars and restaurants. It's my favourite part of Phuket!



(above) The old herb shop on Thalang Road in old Phuket Town



(above) Soi Romanee, a lovely little street in the old town

More About Phuket Town:

Thalang Road - Heart of the Old Town
A Walk in Old Phuket Town
The Old Phuket Town Festival


The Baba / Peranakan Culture

Again, something I knew nothing about until a few years ago. Phuket started promoting something called the "Baba Wedding", a little festival which was all about the Baba (local name) or Peranakan culture - people descended from Chinese and local Malay citizens. You can find the Peranakan culture in Singapore, Penang, through the straits of Malacca. Such people are also called "Straits Chinese". In the 19th century there was huge immigration from southern China to this area. New arrivals met locals and married. Their offspring were called baba (male) and Nyonya (female). Many of the big Phuket families and also big families in Penang and right up the west coast of Thailand are Babas. I went to the Baba Wedding event for the first time in 2010 and managed to get admission to the Hongyok House. The Hongyok family is one of the big Phuket families. Being in that house was quite a buzz. A lot of history there.



(above) Baba ladies at the Hongyok House in Phuket Town

Last year (2013) I was able to find time to attend the opening ceremony and street parade for the Baba Weddings in the old town (you might notice, a lot of this cultural stuff happens in town, not by the beach!). It's very interesting to have a unique culture right here in Phuket, and I am glad that the culture is now being better promoted.



(above) Young Baba (Nyonya) girls at the Baba Wedding Parade 2013

More Information:

Baba Weddings in Phuket 2010
Baba Wedding Parade 2013


Museums in Phuket

Did I mention that Phuket has a long and interesting history? Well, it happens that there are several museums in Phuket. The average beach tourist is unlikely to visit, but I hope a museum might be on the list for a Phuket Blog reader! Maybe not all, but pick one .. or two on a rainy day. They are all pretty good and don't have high entry fees.



(above) My Mum and Dad checking out some Phuket history at the Thai Hua museum in Phuket Town. It's built in an old Chinese school and really is worth a look, very well presented and a lot to learn!



(above) Not far from the Thai Hua museum is Chinpracha House, a mansion built for a rich Chinese family about 110 years ago at the height of the tin mining boom. The owner has opened the ground floor to visitors and it's a fascinating look into the life of the "upper class" in those times. A great way to explore the old town along with Thai Hua and Chinpracha is with Phuket Heritage Trails - ask for Chaya if you want to learn about Phuket's history!

More Museums in Phuket:

Phuket Tin Mining Museum
Thalang National Museum

There's more here that could be mentioned, I suppose that depends what counts as "culture". There are foods that are very local - a couple of restaurants where you can get good local food are Kopitiam on Thalang Road in the old town and Tunk Ka Cafe on top of Rang Hill, on the north side of town. Or try Laem Hin Seafood for local seafood dishes, especially local salads made with fish roe or dried shrimps.

There are local festivals worth visiting such as the Chalong Temple Fair which takes place around Chinese New Year or the Kathu village cultural fair - date varies, sometime in July or August. And of course Phuket takes part in all the big Thai festivals like Songkran (on April 13th) and Loy Krathong (which will be November 7th 2014 - date varies every year).

Phuket has no culture or history? Think again, but it has to be said, you're not going to find it on the beach! I do hope that this blog has encouraged people over the years to explore Phuket and the surrounding area. I have no problem if you are coming to Phuket for the beach, a cold beer and a good time, or to play golf or to scuba dive or just to relax at a 5 star resort. I'm just saying ... there is a lot more to Phuket than all of that. Tourism is just the latest episode in the history of Phuket. The mix of old and new, I love it. Phuket is my home and I hope to keep this Phuket Blog going for many more years, trying to show another side of the "Pearl of the Andaman". Enjoy the beaches, enjoy the food and the shopping, have a nice cold beer on a hot day in winter, and do try to find time to glimpse some of old Phuket. History and culture, it's right here. Cheers!






About the Phuket Blogger

It was pointed out to me recently by a very well respected blogger that I do not have an "about me" page. Apparently this is a normal thing to have on a "travel blog". And I just checked on that ... I looked at the top 10 travel blogs on this list .. and all of them had big obvious ABOUT or ABOUT ME links at the top of the page in the main menu. The mobile version of this blog does have a limited profile at the foot of the page which says ...

I have traveled many roads and in 1999 ended up in Thailand. After visiting some 50 countries from Zaire to Bolivia; from India to Malawi; from Denmark to Guatemala, Phuket was where I stopped moving. I am married, we have 2 kids, we live in Phuket.

Maybe that's all you need to know. Skip the rest. This mini-profile is also on my Blogger profile page, but until now I do not have any "about me" information on the main, big, desktop version of the blog. The last 11 words of that mini-profile are the important ones. I am married with kids and we live in Phuket. We're not on holiday here. It's a perfectly normal family life. Just that we happen to live in Phuket which is a popular destination for tourists. And I write a blog about Phuket, or several blogs actually. It's a hobby, not a job. Sometimes I write new blog pages regularly, sometimes I am too busy with normal life. I have a proper job, managing a dive center called Sunrise Divers. In high season that's a 6 day per week job. In low season, 5 days per week. So blogging time and exploring time is limited. More gets done in low season (May to October) when I can work less days and take some holidays.



(above) A little Q&A I did with the local Phuket News paper.

The lack (until now) of an "about Jamie" page is partly due to privacy, mixed with a very English modesty - who wants to read about me? I don't want to blab on about myself. The blog is quite personal anyway, featuring plenty of family photos, and many pages about things we do as a family, but I try to keep family details to a minimum. We live in the Kathu area of Phuket and I'm not getting any more specific. I hope I have never mentioned which school the kids attend and my wife makes sure family photos on the blog are not too personal. But, yes this is a BLOG, not a travel guide. Some pages are about what we do, some are more informational. Some events such as the Phuket Vegetarian Festival get blogged every year. I have blogged 4 times already about trips to Koh Yao Noi island and if we go again, it'll be another blog page. Some pages get updates with new photos, sometimes a repeat visit gets a new blog page. It's mean to be personal-but-not-too-personal!



(above) Me and da kidz at Koh Yao Noi island.

OK. So. About Me. Hello, I am Jamie and I live in Phuket. I am English or British depending on what sport is being played. I was born in the same year as the lunar landing - "a giant leap for mankind", I lived in England's green and pleasant land, went to school, got lots of exam passes. Not much traveling when I was young, but then again, a 100 mile drive seemed like a long trip when I was a kid. We had family holidays all over Britain and a few in Europe, camping in France, Germany, Belgium. And when I was 16, with a group of about 10 kids from my school, I went to India for 1 month. Quite a shock it was. We stayed in basic accommodation, visited farms, schools, factories, helped on a building project for an orphanage, and got a few easy days at the beach and sightseeing too! Was an emotional experience. I can't say it inspired me to travel more. I was young and happy to be back home again. Finished school, 4 years at University. I have a BSc in Chemistry and an MSc in Forensic Science. Thanks. And I wanted to be a forensic scientist.



(above) In Glasgow with fellow forensic scientist Nick - this was in 1991. Nick and I got lucky during the MSc course and flew to California for 3 months to do some work in a forensic lab. And we had time to explore too, visiting the Grand Canyon (see photo below), Yosemite, San Francisco, Lake Tahoe and more. I think that's when the travel bug hit me.



Got a job with a big pharmaceutical company, but after about 18 months I felt the urge to travel some more. One big trip and then settle down for a normal life, that was the plan. I signed up for a trip through Africa with a company called Exodus Overland. About 15 people, big truck, camping, making our own food, from London to Jo'burg by truck. All overland. 6 months.



(above) Sahara Desert, 1993



(above) in Malawi, 1993

After Africa .. back to work for nearly 2 years, nearly getting sucked into an easy lifestyle, nearly being tempted to put a deposit on an apartment, get a nice new car .. but after a while I realised, with the money I had made, a really long trip would be possible! And so at the end of April 1995 began a 20 month trip, starting in North America and ending in South America, everything from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego. I wish there had been such things as travel blogs back then! But in 1995 I did not even have an email address or a digital camera. Less than 20 years but huge changes in the world. I loved the traveling life, and traveling solo meant I was free to explore in my own time. Met a lot of very nice people along the way, learned to speak Spanish, learned to scuba dive and when the money finally ran out there was no way I could consider going back to a "normal" life. Travel was normal. I went back to England just in time for Christmas 1996.



(above) on the Inca trail, 1996



(above) at Laguna Colorada, Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia, 1996

I took nearly 100 rolls of film on that trip. A shame that quality, affordable digital cameras were not around then! Well, after that trip, I went to work for about 9 months, did a little trip around Europe visiting friends and then headed back to Central America. Some of my favourite countries on the "big trip" had been Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras. I had spent 2 months diving on the island of Utila in Honduras and got my Divemaster certificate. So in 1998 I was back there for about 5 months, combined with some travels around Guatemala and southern Mexico. And I decided that the next step would be the PADI Instructor course. After a few months work in England, back to Honduras right after the Hurricane Mitch disaster. Got my instructor rating in December 1998 and stayed nearly a year in Utila as an instructor. I love Utila (more photos here), people there are great, but the travel bug was still biting. More to see, more to see ...



(above) Just chillin' at Water Caye, Utila

I'd not been anywhere in Southeast Asia before, although it was the number one region for backpackers thanks to Lonely Planet. Some other dive instructors I knew recommended Thailand. A little reading and it seemed that the Similan Islands was the best place to dive, and Phuket was home to most of the dive shops. So at the end of 1999 I arrived in Phuket with a backpack, a bag of dive gear and not much money! Got some work easily enough, but it dried up after a couple of months and by January 2000, living in Patong, which I did not like even then, I was thinking of moving on. But, as it often does, something arrived. I got a fixed job on a liveaboard dive boat, and then at the end of high season I met a girl who worked in the office for the same dive company. We've been together ever since, and as you may know, we have 2 kids and we live in Phuket.



(above) My wife and me on the Sarasin bridge that connects Phuket to the mainland

My name is Jamie. This is home, this is life. A lot more Phuket blogging to come soon!


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Thalang Road : Heart of Old Phuket Town

If you read this blog often or have dug deep into the hundreds of pages, it should be apparent that I like Phuket Town, especially the old part of town, which tends to be called 'Old Phuket Town' by most people. It's just a few streets really, though older buildings do exist in outlying areas. If you go back about 100 years the town of Phuket was much smaller. What we call the old town was built in the late 19th century and early 20th century when Phuket was already an important tin mining area. Phuket Town became the main town due to the easy access to the sea at Sapan Hin, and in those early days the Bang Yai canal which still runs through town was an important waterway. When I first came to Phuket in 1999, I would say the old town was somewhat forgotten. It's only in the last 10 years than some "old town pride" has been restored, streets have been renovated, overhead wires removed, lots of little cafes and bars have opened, and they mix with the old shops such as hardware stores, herb shops, fabric shops, printers and old noodle shops to create the unique mix of old and new that is 'Old Phuket Town'. Right in the middle is Thalang Road which is certainly my favourite street in Phuket!

Thalang Road has been mentioned on the blog many times, so this page is meant to tie everything together and show what Thalang Road has to offer. So let's take a walk .... starting on the east side, to the east of the junction with Thep Kasatri Road there's the south side of the Queen Sirikit Park, the Tourism Authority of Thailand office and the dragon statue - old Chinese legend says that Phuket island is a sea dragon called Hai Leng Ong, risen from the waters.

Dragon Statue on Thalang Road in Phuket Town

Walking west you cross the Bang Yai canal just before the road junction. It's a bit of a smelly canal these days, but I have read that the old town authorities are trying to clean it up. We took a ride in an olde style boat in 2012 during the old town festival ...

Boat on Bang Yai Canal, Phuket Town

The main part of Thalang Road starts after the junction with Thep Kasatri Road. With a few exceptions this stretch of road, about 400 meters long, has remained very much "old style" with just a few newer buildings and with many old family businesses that have been open since the road was built. Plus a few new cafes and restaurants which for the most part retain the old shopfronts.

Thalang Road Facade

The intricate carving above is found on the 2nd floor of a building on Thalang Road close to the junction with Thep Kasatri road. The ground floor is a fabric shop. As you enter this part of Thalang Road you can see shops, homes and various businesses. Just about 20m along the street on the south side is a cafe called Since 1892 which opened in 2012. It's small and arty and everything inside is for sale - furniture, clothes and coffee and cakes!

Since 1892 Cafe, Thalang Road, Phuket Town

Keep walking west ... this part of Thalang road has many Muslim shops, including (just a few doors from Since 1892) a couple of Roti shops selling Muslim food - Roti (pancakes) with curry. I have been a few times to Abdul's Roti Shop - delicious!

Abduls Roti Shop on Thalang Road

There are lost of Muslim fabric shops along this part of the road as well as a bicycle shop and several homes. With "old town pride" being rekindled in recent years, many of the shophouses have been renovated or repainted, I especially love the 2nd floor shutters.

Fabric Shops, Thalang Road

Shutters on 2nd floor window, Thalang Road

(above) Muslim fabric shops and the 2nd floor shutters of a building that seems to have been there since 1889 - I took that picture just yesterday (17th July 2013) ... I tend to take photos every time we walk along Thalang Road!

Just after the line of fabric shops on the south side of the road is a bar/restaurant called Route 68 which we like. They have live music at weekends, normally just gentle jazz or blues. Good place for a few drinks. Old Town has quite a lot of small bars and pubs, good for a night out.

Route 68 on Thalang Road

And opposite Route 68 is a narrow road that heads north from Thalang Road and joins up with Dibuk Road. This narrow street is called Soi Romanee, and many years ago it was (so they say) lined with brothels frequented by tin miners. Nowadays it's quiet, there are a couple of small cafes and guesthouses, and it's very pretty and colourful. We used to hang out sometimes at a place called Glastnost Cafe but I have not seen the owner for ages - he's a lawyer and I think working in Bangkok all the time now.

Soi Romanee

(above) Soi Romanee

Let's keep walking west from Soi Romanee - there are quite a few real businesses here on Thalang Road, mixing with the newer cafes and shops. There are a couple of old printers, several hardware stores and some old style general stores....

Printer on Thalang Road

Old shop on Thalang Road

The variety of business along here is great. Keep walking past the Hum Wan hardware store which has been in the same family since .. forever (and look up above the store front, WoW!) - then you see right next to each other is the Christian Assembly and the Hai Lam Chinese Shrine. Phuket is a melting pot and if you delve into the history of Phuket you can see why. In town you have Buddhist temples, Chinese shrines, a Catholic church, a Sikh Gurdwara and a Hindu shrine too!

Hailam Chinese Shrine on Thalang Road

Just after the Chinese shrine (photo above) is the China Inn cafe, and then a row of family businesses - first is the Kopitiam restaurant at which we are regulars (hey, I am the mayor on Foursquare!), and next door is the old herb shop called Nguan Choon Tong, selling old Chinese herbal remedies and run by the same family since 1917. And after that is Wilai restaurant also run by the same family and a very nice family they are too!

Old Herb Shop on Thalang Road

Kopitiam, Thalang Road, Phuket Town

(above) The herb shop and Kopitiam on Thalang Road

Wilai restaurant has a little secret too - passing through the restaurant, walking past the kitchens, down a narrow passage and you are now in the Shrine of Serene Light which has it's entrance on the next road to the south (Phang Nga Road). I did ask if the shrine was something to do with their family, but it's not ... I think the building housing the Wilai restaurant was maybe owned by different people when the shrine was built in 1889.

And we're pretty much at the end of Thalang Road. There is a lot more here than has been mentioned. This is the heart of old Phuket Town. A few meters after Kopitiam you reach the junction with Yaowarat road. If you carry on, Thalang Road becomes Krabi road and there's a lot to see along the next few hundred meters including the Thai Hua Museum and the Chinpracha House.

Thalang Road is not too busy, though due to the one way street pattern in Phuket Town it can get quite a bit of traffic in the day time. Evenings are quieter and anyway the best time for visiting a cafe. I'd suggest heading to old town late afternoon, walking around a while, finding a place for a drink, finding a place for dinner, then maybe another drink. Sunday is a bad day as many places are closed. Middle of the day is normally going to be too hot. This is my favourite area in Phuket and I am glad to see the old town being renovated and promoted. Many of the places mentioned above like Kopitiam, Route 68, Since 1892 .. they only opened in the last few years. Old Town is changing, but I hope it does not become too kitsch! Right now with a mix of cafes, bars, restaurants, old businesses, shrines .. it's perfect!

Thalang Road Phuket

(above) Thalang Road at festival time - taken during a local festival - the street is not normally this busy!

Thalang Road - Location Map


View Thalang Road, old Phuket Town in a larger map





Top 10 Phuket Hotels 2014

Time for an update - this is a new Top 10 / Best Phuket Hotels list which I have again based on TripAdvisor rankings as they were in February 2014. For each hotel there are links for checking online rates and availability - I suggest using Agoda.com if you want to book a hotel in Phuket. There are also review links - also mostly from Agoda where possible - only people who have booked the hotels through Agoda can make a review (I've left some reviews myself), and if you check the reviews, they tend to be very honest reviews, with plus points and minus points and you can be pretty sure they were left by actual guests. Hotels get average scores out of 10 on Agoda, so you can easily compare. but Agoda does not have any ranking lists, so the top 10 here has to be based on TripAdvisor. Here we go ... the 2014 version of the Top 10 Phuket hotels (updated March 2014).

1. Trisara Resort Villas

Trisara

Trisara was 4th last year, and I'd say .. If I have the money it would be my choice. Trisara offers private pool villas on a private beach just north of Bang Tao beach in the north of Phuket. Trisara is a "secluded, luxury, amazing views, forget-your-worries" style hotels. Only 39 villas, lots of space, no crowds. Villas from 2 - 6 bedrooms, so can be ideal for families or big groups, or weddings. Or just for a relaxing trip for a couple. And yes, it's miles from any busy areas, so don't complain that you have to get taxis everywhere :)

Trisara at Agoda.com
Trisara Reviews

2. BYD Lofts (Patong Beach)

BYD Lofts

Up from 3rd place last year, BYD Lofts is not really a hotel, as it offers serviced apartments, with a "view over beautiful Patong" rooftop pool, near the center of Patong Beach. There are 1 / 2 bedroom apartments of various sizes. A good place to stay if you like to be near the center of all the action (that's Patong) but need a quietish place to retire to. I tend to avoid Patong, but for sure it's convenient as a visitor to have a lot of restaurants, shops and tour counters near you. And bars and nightlife.

BYD Lofts at Agoda.com
BYD Lofts Reviews

3. Rising Sun Residence (Chalong)

Rising Sun Residence

Not a beach hotel, Rising Sun Residence has 12 villas in the hills in the Chalong area near Chalong Temple. There are seven three-bedroom villas, four of these have a private pool and jacuzzi, kitchen and large living room. The five one-bedroom villas are built around a large pool with sun deck and jacuzzi. Long way from the beach, so would suit people who want to explore Phuket (it would be a very good idea to have your own transport if you stay here) and "come home" in the evening. Jamie's Phuket kind of people!

Rising Sun Residence at HotelsCombined.com
Rising Sun Residence Reviews

4. The Baray Villa by Sawasdee Village (Kata Beach)

The Baray Villa

The Baray Villa has just 14 luxury villas, which are run by the Sawasdee Village Resort, and yet separate from the resort. Villas are 2 floor with huge rooms, jacuzzi, direct pool access, set in tropical gardens, with a spa available. Reviews make the villas sound fantastic! It was number 1 in 2012. Yes, please!

The Baray Villa at Agoda.com
Baray Villa Reviews

5. The Shore at Katathani (Kata Noi Beach)

The Shore at Katathani

Katathani has been around for many years on Kata Noi beach. The Shore is their newer luxury "pool villa" development, opened in 2010. And it sure looks good! Pool villas, some with seaview (note: the view does vary from villa to villa), all with private pools. As I said, this "private villa" thing seems to be the trend in the last few years. A great hotel for couples. I see lots of honeymoon reviews.

The Shore at Katathani at Agoda.com
The Shore Reviews

6. Andara Resort and Villas (Kamala Beach)

Andara

A 5 star resort, on the hillside near Kamala Beach with luxury villas. It was rated number 1 on the top 10 family hotel list, providing relaxation in comfort for the whole family, and since it's individual villas with private pools, will suit families as well as couples. I'd happily stay here, thanks! Andara resort is not right on the beach - it's on the hillside. Many of the villas have great sea views. See there really is a trend of non-beachfront luxury these days ...

Andara Resort & Villas on Agoda.com
Andara Resort & Villas at HotelsCombined.com
Andara Resort Reviews

7. Mom Tri's Villa Royale (Kata Noi Beach)

Mom Tri's Villa Royale

Up from 10 to 7 this year ... The Villa Royale was built by the same original owner of the Boathouse on Kata beach (Mom Tri) on land which used to be the location of his home, on the headland overlooking Kata Noi beach (just south of Kata beach). Steps from the hotel takes you down to the beach. Great views from the rooms and from the restaurant too. It's got a touch of class and olde Thai style, and is often fully booked even in low season!

Villa Royale at Agoda.com
Villa Royale Reviews

8. Renaissance Resort and Spa (Mai Khao Beach)

Renaissance Phuket Resort and Spa

7th last year, 8th this year. Mai Khao Beach is still one of Phuket's quiet places. It's about 10km long with maybe 10 plus a couple of small bungalow operations. Renaissance is one of the best in the area (as evidenced by it's high ratings), close to the airport (don't worry, there's no noise) and right on Mai Khao beach which is never, ever crowded. There's a variety of rooms - simple "deluxe" rooms up to pool villas with seaview. Mai Khao Beach is way up in the north of Phuket, it's over 40km from here to Patong, Karon and Kata. If you want solitude, it's ideal and why would you visit the busier beaches anyway?

Renaissance Resort at Agoda.com
Renaissance Resort Reviews

9. Pen Villa (Surin Beach)

Pen Villa

6th last year and still in the top 10 ... Pen Villa. It's a newer, smaller hotel at Surin beach, and I'd really not heard of it before writing the 2013 Top 10. Only opened a couple of years ago, and looks like the kind of personal place which requests guests that they make reviews on TripAdvisor. Every year there are a couple of places that make me say "Where?". Power of the internet. I'm sure it is very nice though!

Pen Villa at Agoda.com
Pen Villa Reviews

10. Twin Palms (Surin Beach)

Twin Palms

Surin Beach, despite rampant hillside development manages to retain a laid back feel on the beachfront with small restaurants and bars although they tend to be a little expensive, and yet Surin is so so different to the big beaches it's nice to come here for a meal and drink sometimes. Twin Palms is not huge, under 100 rooms - the more luxury rooms are huge duplexes and penthouse suites. Twin Palms also has its own semi-private beach club (Catch Beach Club) right by the sea. Yeh, Surin is "beach club" country.

Twin Palms Booking on Agoda.com
Twin Palms Reviews

That's the Top 10 best hotels in Phuket as of March 2014. Maybe you have booked a hotel that's not listed, but you think it should be? Phuket has a very confusing mix of old and new resorts, big hotels and small guesthouses, villas for rent, hillside, beachfront, busy areas, quiet areas... There's something here for everyone, but some research does pay off especially with regards to location. There is a trend in recent years for new luxury resorts in more remote areas and for sea view hillside (not on the beach) villas. Land prices and rent are very high these days in Phuket, so it's hard to think about opening a small hotel or guesthouse. I'd say Phuket is slowly heading upmarket. Older tourist areas like Soi Bangla in Patong are being redeveloped. Out with the bars, in with aircon shopping centers and new resorts. And dotted around the coast, many new 5 star resorts have opened in the last 10 years.

Here's a few more Best / Top 10 hotel lists for families, luxury and romantic places to stay...

Best Phuket Family Hotels
Best Phuket Luxury Hotels
Best Phuket Couples Hotels

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


 Top 10 Phuket Hotels 2014  |   Jamie's Phuket Blog  |  Top of The Page




Markets in Phuket

Before coming to Thailand, I traveled quite a lot in Africa plus North, Central and South America. Aside from such things as diving, local tourist attractions, food, drink, beaches, mountains, festivals and enjoying the company of other travelers and locals, I always enjoyed finding local markets. I would go out of my way if I heard of an interesting market. A market is a great place to sample real local life, no matter where you are. The market is the center of the town or village, and despite the arrival of many big shopping centers in Phuket over the last 12 years, the local markets here are still busy. There may be big stores like Tesco Lotus, Makro, Big C, Central and many minimart style shops like 7-11, but the market (Talad) is still the place to get fresh local produce, or a place to hang out and meet people. Phuket is a bigger place than most people realise and there are countless small local markets. I have blogged a number of interesting markets and plan to do more, since (for me) a market is an essential part of life in the local community. Here's some of Phuket's markets...

The Weekend Market

Weekend Market Phuket

Probably the market that most tourists will visit is the weekend market just outside Phuket Town. Locals call it Talad Naka (since it's close to Naka Temple) or Talad Jatujak Phuket (after the huge Jatujak market in Bangkok - the market in Phuket is much smaller!). It's held on Saturday and Sunday starting in the mid afternoon, carrying on until about 11pm. Best time to go, a bit before sunset. It is quite big and once you are in the maze of stalls, easy to be not quite sure which way to go! Lots of food stalls selling all kind of snacks and drinks, lots of clothes, arts and crafts, DVD's/CD's, plants, pets, mobile phone accessories, and it's great for people watching.

Phuket Weekend Market - More Information


Phuket Town Main Market

Phuket Town Market

The main market in town is a very busy place! It reopened in 2010 in a new building on Ranong Road in the old town area. The old market was .... old. And smelly. I never went inside! But the new market is well worth a visit. The streets all around the market are also a market, it's a very busy area and is also where you can get local buses to destinations all around the island.

Phuket Town Market - More Information


Kathu Fresh Market

Roti (Pancake) stall

Kathu is my area. The main market is big and seems to have got busier over the years even though the main Tesco store is only a few km away and Tesco even opened a mini store in the area. Kathu is the area between Patong and Phuket Town and is a mainly residential area but with quite a lot of history as the tin mining industry was centered here in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The market is on daily, all day. It's a fresh produce market with stalls selling fish, shrimp, meat, vegetables, chili paste, eggs, flowers, ready made meals and a lot more! Nice to visit early evening, get some food from one of the many food stalls and watch the world go by.

Kathu Market - More Information


Karon Temple Market

Jewelry at Karon temple market

A very easy to visit market if you stay near Karon beach ... the Karon temple market takes place in the temple grounds on Tuesdays and Saturdays in the late afternoon/evening. It's a mix of fresh produce, snacks and food, clothes and a few tourist-aimed stalls selling sunglasses or swimwear. It's the main local market in Karon. There's another market a couple of miles away in Kata on the back road away from the beach.

Karon Temple Market - More Information


Phuket Town Indy Market

Phuket Indy Market (หลาดปล่อยของ)

The Indy Market near the old section of Phuket town only started in 2010, meant as a place for kids/teenagers to hang out in a safe, smoke free environment. It's not huge, most of the stalls sell arty items and clothes and there's some food and drink stalls too. It is indeed very popular with the youngsters. There is often live music too. The Indy Market takes place on Thursday and Friday evenings (so does not clash with the Saturday/Sunday weekend market). Certainly worth a visit combined with dinner or drinks in Phuket Town. I've heard there is now a similar market on Wednesdays at a place called Boat Plaza, a new development just north of Phuket Town.

Indy Market - More Information


Expo Market

Expo Market in Phuket Town

We have used the Expo market quite a lot, bought shirts, pants, Thai souvenirs, computer games. It's an aircon indoor market, open every day near the center of Phuket Town. It's not been mentioned on the blog, but a good place for clothes.


Local Markets

Phuket covers an area of over 500 square km, and there are many local areas and small villages within Phuket, and all have some kind of market. Try looking for fresh seafood at Rawai beach, or check out the big Banzaan fresh market in Patong near the Jungceylon shopping mall - and there's another market in Patong on Nanai road (the back road). Oh and the touristy "OTOP" market. I drive past a small market in the Chalong area every day and there are regular local markets in the Bang Rong and Cherng Talay areas of Phuket. All over the island! Worth a look at any market for a taste of the real Phuket, to pick up some snacks or fruit and see something away from the organised tourist route.

Phuket Markets - Location Map


View Phuket Markets in a larger map


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