Jamie's Phuket Blog

Jamie's Phuket Blog - Discover The Real Phuket!

24 February 2015 

Phang Nga Bay Revisited!

If anyone asks me for a list of "must see" places in the Phuket region, Phang Nga Bay is top of the list. The bay is actually very big covering all the sea and many islands in between Phuket, Phang Nga and Krabi and I have seen only small parts of it. One of these days I want to buy a boat and go exploring! We have done several trips in Phang Nga Bay with friends and family. Our last one was back in .. wow, I had to double check. It was back in September 2010, I did not realise it was so long ago! I had planned that trip as an afternoon excursion, renting a longtail boat and aiming to reach James Bond Island late in the afternoon when all the tours had gone home and hopefully with the bonus of some golden afternoon light - it half worked. We were the only visitors on this otherwise crowded tourist attraction, but on that day the light was poor, with dark clouds and some light drizzle. So I said "we have to try that again!" and time has ticked by, and life has moved on, and it's been more than 4 years since our last Phang Nga Bay trip. Well, earlier this month my cousin and his family who live in Singapore came to Phuket for a few days, I had a day off on Saturday February 7th and the weather looked good, so we decided that Phang Nga Bay had to be visited again. And everyone had a great day out.

From our house it takes just over an hour to drive to Phang Nga Town. We live just outside Phuket Town. If you were driving from the north of Phuket island, it would be a shorter drive, if you started at Kata beach for example, it would probably take at least 90 minutes - remember it can take well over an hour to get from one end of Phuket to the other! We do this trip without signing up for a tour, we drive ourselves, we negotiate a boat, we find a place for lunch ... doing it yourself in a foreign land is not for everyone, but it's not exactly brain surgery. There are lots of tours doing this area, but many are cheap, rushed and crowded. My friends at Easy Day Thailand can do a tour which is based on the way we do Phang Nga Bay - more personal and trying to avoid the crowds!

We headed up to Phang Nga in 2 cars as there were 9 of us altogether - my wife and I, our 2 kids, my daughter's friend, my wife's cousin's son, my cousin and his wife and their son! We set off late morning, no particular rush and stopped off first at Wat Suwan Kuha temple which is just before Phang Nga Town. Glad to see the entry fee is still 20 Baht (and no dual pricing). Wat Suwan Kuha features lots of monkeys outside and a big reclining Buddha inside along with many other Buddha images and behind the Buddha cave is a larger cave.

Wat Suwan Kuha Entrance in the rock

Monkeys outside Wat Suwan Kuha

(above) Entrance to Wat Suwan Kuha and monkeys outside the temple

Reclining Buddha at Wat Suwan Kuha

Wat Suwan Kuha - Buddha Images

(above) Inside Wat Suwan Kuha temple

After the stop it was time for lunch. Now, back in 2010 we ate at a place called Samchong Seafood, which is on a mangrove river which leads out into the bay and we rented a boat from the jetty next to the restaurant. In the last few years I have heard from several independent sources that this restaurant has gone downhill. Our friends at Easy Day Thailand don't use it now .. and although I will reserve judgement until we go check it again, on this trip we played it safe and went for lunch at Dairy Hut Seafood which is just past Phang Nga Town. We've eaten here a number of times, and it's always been good, as it was this time too! Then we backtracked a few km - just before Phang Nga Town if coming from Phuket there is a right turn and a sight saying "Phang Nga National Park" which leads down to the Phang Nga municipal jetty. Arriving at the jetty, longtail boat drivers leap into the road to flag down cars. We negotiated a boat for 1600 Baht, actually a little more than I was expecting and my wife and I both thought the drivers were a bit of an unfriendly bunch, reinforcing our idea to give Samchong a try again some day, as the longtail driver we had there was really nice. However - 9 people, 1600 Baht .. yeh, let's not worry too much about the price! I am not sure a "tourist" could get exactly the same deal and even if you end up paying a little more, I'd suggest doing a trip with Easy Day Thailand, with a guide along for the ride to explain things.

Phang Nga Pier

(above) at the Phang Nga pier

Longtail Boat Boys in Phang Nga Bay

(above) Our longtail boys for this trip were a right couple of charmers.

We know you can also get a "local" boat from here to Panyee village, and we'd like to try that sometime. We arranged with the boat boys to take our group to Panyee village first and then James Bond Island (real name Koh Khao Ping Gan). The jetty is up a mangrove river about 7km north of Panyee, about 20 minutes by longtail boat. Payee is a stilted village built around a large limestone karst. I find this place very interesting, once beyond the row of restaurants and souvenir stalls. It's what I think of as a micro-society, a place slightly removed from reality, a little isolated from the rest of the world although these days there are hundreds of tourists visiting every day. Thus even more reason to find some backstreets.

Koh Panyee from the water

(above) Koh Panyee from the water - the mosque is just about the only building built on solid land. Everything else is on stilts.

Koh Panyi Village on Stilts

Everything is built around the rocky island called Koh Panyee which towers above the village. Since our last visit there have been a couple of changes ... the mosque has been rebuilt with shiny golden minarets, and the island has a floating football pitch! We walked through narrow streets passing the mosque to the west side of the island.

Koh Panyi - Street View

Buying Ice Cream - Koh Panyee Village

(above) The back streets of Panyee village are narrow and (to me) full of interest. At every step I wonder what it's like to live here. I imagine it's a very close community where everyone knows everyone and doors are always open. Life will have changed a lot over the last 20 year with tourism generating a lot of income, but it's still a fishing village at heart.

Koh Panyee Mosque

The mosque when we last visited looked rather sad. Now looking much healthier. Panyee is Muslim like much of the Phang Nga coastal area (and also much of Krabi and a fair amount of Phuket!). Although the stallholders selling souvenirs look a little bored, I see a lot of smiles here, I think it's an easy lifestyle.

Crossing over from where we landed, past the mosque I found what I wanted to see - the floating football pitch. It wasn't there when we visited in 2010 although there was a concrete recreation area attached to the school. The story of the Panyee football team is now well known thanks to a video made by a Thai bank. You can find the video and more photos on a blog page I wrote in 2010 about Koh Panyee. And what a spectacular place to kick a ball around!

Koh Panyee - The Floating Football Pitch

We all enjoyed a run around. The kids realised that you'd get quite wet playing here, as you'd need to jump into the sea to retrieve the ball any time it went out of play! We spent about an hour at Koh Panyee and I think I would happily spend half a day there taking photos. It was nearly 4pm when we started heading towards James Bond Island, which is about another 7km south. We went via a small island where several sea kayak companies have their bases and on a busy high season day you can find hundreds of tourists on a little kayak tour (part of a day trip package) - not for serious kayakers! Our longtail picked a path through the kayaks and through a small cave. All of these little islands are beautiful. I want a boat!

Through the cave

Cruising through the mangroves

We got to Koh Khao Phing Gan (the proper name for James Bond Island) about 4:30pm. Rather shocked to find we were a bit early .. still a couple of groups of Chinese here!

Last tourists of the day

We got there after the national park staff had left, so in theory we'd not need to pay the entry fee .. except our boat boys had collected 900 Baht from us in advance. Did we see that money back? Ha! The last trip in 2010 we'd also got there late and not paid any fees, and nothing to the boat dudes. I could tell these 2 young guys did not want to be the last ones back to the pier, but .. tough! This is the Monk family you are driving and we do it our way! We stayed until the last Chinese group had gone and the light was very nice this time. Would have been even nicer at high tide .. have to plan that next time :)

At James Bond Island

The tall rock that sticks up from the water is called Koh Tapu, which means "Nail Island". I wonder how many years until it falls over? I'm sure the base looked fatter in the movie! In the late afternoon light, this area is gorgeous. The photo above was taken at nearly 5:30pm, by which time we had this "crowded" tourist attraction to ourselves. Even the souvenir stall holders had gone. I had not noticed before, maybe it was the light, but you can see Koh Panyee from here, 7km to the north - what a view!

Panyee Village

(above) Panyee village as seen from James Bond Island. Touristy or not, it's pretty frikkin' spectacular! And if it can be called "touristy" then it's only for a few hours per day. We must do this again sometime soon, and not wait another 4 years! We stayed as long as we could on Scaramanga's island, but for sure the boat boys were worried they'd be getting back late. I was snapping photos up until we left just after 5:30pm.

Koh Tapu

Now I only wish I had a better camera ... Well, it's my birthday soon :) These pictures were taken with a Panasonic Lumix G1, not the most modern camera. Actually a couple of these photos were taken with an iPhone. I am really considering splashing out this year on a Canon 7D or something of a similar quality. Anyone got a spare?

Anyway .. we sped back to the Phang Nga pier in about 25 minutes from James Bond Island, passing Koh Panyee with the sun sinking low. Every time we've done this trip it's been a great day out. We drove back to Phuket, straight into Phuket Town for dinner at Kopitiam at about 8pm. Perfect day!

Koh Panyee Sunset

(above) Not far off sunset as we dash past Koh Panyee on the way home.

Phang Nga Bay - More Information

Our Phang Nga Bay trip in 2010
Tours with Easy Day Thailand
James Bond Island
Koh Panyee
Exploring Phang Nga Province

 Phang Nga Bay Revisited!   |   Jamie's Phuket Blog

13 February 2015 

Tone Pariwat Waterfall

There's always more to explore! On a recent day off work, we went exploring into Phang Nga Province, north of Phuket Island. We head this way quite often, because Phang Nga is big and has lots of green spaces and very little development, plus every time we find new roads and new places of interest. Our main aim on this trip was to visit the Sunday market in Old Takua Pa Town, but on the way we took a different route to normal (with the help of Google Maps!) on a winding road heading north from Phang Nga Town. A very rural area like much of Phang Nga which is about 8 times the size of Phuket Island. Well, then instead of heading direct to Takua Pa we saw a side road signposted 'Tone Pariwat Waterfall'. We had heard of this place but never been before, and since there was plenty of time, we turned off onto this narrow road. Somewhat surprised to see quite a few minibuses on the same road, but I remembered that this area is where many tours come for river rafting, elephant riding and a jungly day out not too far from Phuket (took us about 90 minutes drive from our house).

Road to Tone Pariwat Waterfall

And there were also lots of elephants by the side of the road, I also caught a glimpse of an elephant walking along the river, a fleeting glimpse, I should have stopped for a photo. I'm not really into elephant rides myself, I like the idea of free elephants, but the fact is there are a lot of captive elephants in Thailand and some are better cared for than others.

Elephants near Tone Pariwat

The road follows a river for a while, and there are various 'adventure camps' along the river, where the rafting tours start and end. Tours in this area can be booked with my friends at Easy Day Thailand. There are rafting trips of various lengths and the tours may also include elephant rides, a stop off at Wat Suwan Kuha (temple in a cave) and a visit to the waterfall that we were heading to!

The last couple of kilometers of the road are narrower and head over a couple of hills. It's all green and wild. We love this kind of scenery, but it's hard to capture in a photo.

Green Hills in Phang Nga

(above) Scenery near Tone Pariwat Waterfall.

Finally reached the waterfall ... did the usual negotiations at the entrance about "yes I am foreign, but I live here and have a work permit". In this case the park staff insisted I pay the 200 Baht foreigner fee, but then did not charge the rest of the family. Plenty of parking space by the river and a sign saying the waterfall is a couple of hundred meters away. Along the nicely made pathway we stopped a few times. We'd not brought any swimming clothes, as there was no plan to stop here. But we could at least dip our toes in the river.

Path to the waterfall

(above) Path to the waterfall

Sitting by the river

(above) Plenty of places to sit and enjoy the water

And the kids found a pool full of fish. The water levels were bit low, as there had not been any rain for about a month. So the fish had a nice pool with no rushing water. I can imagine that after some heavy rains, things would look a lot different here. Damn, we wanted a swim. From now on we'll pack swimming clothes on any day out just in case!

Fish Pool

Mini waterfalls on the river

So we had a nice drive and a nice walk ... the actual waterfall was a bit of an anticlimax, but this is dry season. I imagine after a few rainy days it would look great. We had also noticed that the river was rather shallow, looked like the rafts on rafting trips would have trouble to keep moving! At the end of the trail, the waterfall has 2 main sections, the upper falls drop into a large pool where you can swim.

Tone Pariwat Waterfall

There are some rickety wooden walkways built over the river above the second part of the falls. I'd not want to walk here if the river was in flood. And you'd maybe not want to try swimming either. You can tell from the amount of bare rock that these falls can get a lot bigger!

Tone Pariwat Waterfall

Yes it certainly is very pretty and was very uncrowded considering it was Sunday and we'd seen a lot of minibuses. Have to try again in low season after a few drops of rain. And bring swimming clothes. This is the kind of unexpected detour I like, we often drive off with vague plans and the plans change on the way. There's a lot of world to explore, but for now Phuket and Phang Nga will do!

Tone Pariwat Waterfall - Location Map

 Tone Pariwat Waterfall   |   Jamie's Phuket Blog

6 February 2015 

Top 10 Phuket Hotels 2015

The last Top 10 hotels list was a year ago (see here) - this is a new Top 10 Phuket Hotels list which has been based on TripAdvisor rankings as they were in February 2015. I know these rankings change daily and I have my suspicions about TripAdvisor. Are all the reviews really real? But some of these hotels have thousands of reviews, so things should average out nicely. There are again a couple of new hotels in the list, but quite a few of the top 10 are similar to 2014. For each hotel there are links for checking online rates and availability - I suggest using Agoda.com to book your hotel in Phuket. There are also links to hotel reviews - also mostly from Agoda where possible. 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.

2015 Top 10 Phuket Hotels

1. Trisara Resort Villas


Trisara was also top last year, and 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 about 50 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 - Online Booking
Trisara Reviews

2. Kata Rocks (Kata Beach)

Kata Rocks

Kata Rocks only opened a few months ago, although there was a "soft opening" .. so how does it end up at No.2 on the list? Only about 40 reviews so far, yes they are all good, but ... will Kata Rocks still be at the top of the list in a year or two. Now, one thing is for sure, I have noticed Kata Rocks is very good at social media, plus I know people who have been for events and drinks and people say it's great. Villas with maybe the best seaview in Kata. It is promoted as a SIX star resort. Well, if I am to be convinced, Kata Rocks please do invite me for dinner!

Kata Rocks Website
Kata Rocks Reviews

3. BYD Lofts (Patong Beach)

BYD Lofts

Was in 2nd place last year, so very consistent - BYD Lofts offers serviced apartments, with a "view over beautiful Patong" rooftop pool, near the center of the Patong Beach area. There are one or two bedroom apartments of various sizes. The right place to stay if you want to be near the center of all the action (that's Patong for you) but need a quiet(ish) place to sleep. I tend to avoid Patong, it's not my cup of tea, but for sure Patong beach is convenient for tourists, with a shed load of restaurants plus shops and tour agents near you. And bars and nightlife.

BYD Lofts - Online Booking
BYD Lofts Reviews

4. Point Yamu Resort (Cape Yamu)

Point Yamu Resort

Another new resort (opened early 2014). And an amazing location, if you don't mind being miles from anywhere! I remember a few years ago when Cape Yamu started being developed. It looked awful. A beautiful natural area, covered in a building site. Yeh, of course now it looks amazing and I'd give my right arm to stay a night here - it's not cheap! My right arm might not be enough. Cape Yamu is on the east coast, great views. There are 79 rooms and 27 private villas, Italian designed, looks like a dream.

Point Yamu Resort - Online Booking
Point Yamu Resort 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 - Online Booking
The Shore Reviews

6. Andara Resort and Villas (Kamala Beach)


A 5 star resort, on the hillside near Kamala Beach with luxury villas. It was rated number 1 on my top 10 family hotel list, providing relaxation in comfort for the whole family, and since it's individual villas with private pools, will suit couples as well as families. I'd happily stay here, thanks! Well, I'd happily stay at any hotel on this list, but I don't take freebies, don't work for a big web hotel booking company and don't have the cash! Andara resort is not right on the beach - it's in the hills. Many of the villas have superb sea views. I can see that there really is a trend of non-beachfront luxury these days ... Maybe the beach areas, certainly the main beaches, are too full .. if you want luxury and seclusion, it's there, but not necessarily by the beach.

Andara Resort & Villas - Online Booking
Andara Resort & Villas at HotelsCombined.com
Andara Resort Reviews

7. The Chava Resort (Surin Beach)

Chava Resort

The Chava has jumped into this top 10 list. There's always something in the list at Surin Beach! Chava is actually a collection of 2 - 5 room apartments, some are run by the hotel, some privately rented. Rooms are huge, not normal hotel size, good for families and small groups. Again, it's a place with views, slightly up in the hills, but still only a few minutes from the beach

Chava Resort - Online Booking
Chava Resort Reviews

8. 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 (one of the older resorts in Phuket), and yet are 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. Been around a long time, and still a good one!

The Baray Villa - Online Booking
Baray Villa Reviews

9. Anantara Phuket Villas (Mai Khao Beach)


Mai Khao Beach is still one of Phuket's quiet places and I think it will stay quiet because beachfront land is just too expensive now! Mai Khao about 10km long with maybe 10 resorts plus a few small bungalow operations. Anantara was on my Romantic Hotels list, a lovely getaway, if you can afford it. Worth renting a car if you plan to stay at a more remote hotel, cheaper in the long run than taxis and gives you freedom to explore, although I imagine people staying at Anantara will do a lot of relaxing, not much exploring!

Anantara Villas - Online Booking
Anantara Reviews

10. Amari Phuket (Patong Beach)

Amari Phuket

The Amari Resort has been around for a long time, one of the first big resorts in Phuket about 25 years ago. It has a superb location right at the south end of Patong Beach away from the crowds, very nice place to relax but you can walk to the busy center of Patong in 10-15 minutes. When a hotel has been around this long and makes the top 10, I think you can say it's a quality place!

Amari Phuket Resort - Online Booking
Amari Phuket Reviews

OK, that's the Top 10 best hotels in Phuket as of February 2015. It'll be different next week, but this top 10 is what I'm putting online! Have you stayed at a hotel that's not listed, but you think it should be? Phuket has a huge 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 doing your 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 rents are so high these days in Phuket, it's hard financially to open a small hotel or guesthouse, and those that do open will be on back streets. 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 (and 6!) star resorts have opened in the last 10 years.

Hotel booking ... I recommend you check agoda.com for booking - I use this myself for holidays. On the subject of reviews, by all means read them, but do think also about the hotel features and what suits you - location, resort size, room style, price(!), good for couples, or kids, close to airport or nightlife 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, some need beachfront.... Any questions about Phuket, please do ask on my Jamie's Phuket Facebook Page. See you in Phuket!

 Top 10 Phuket Hotels 2015   |   Jamie's Phuket Blog

30 January 2015 

Sunday Market in Old Takua Pa

Last Sunday (25th January 2015) we had one of our exploring days. Sometimes we feel in the mood for a drive, sometimes we relax at home or don't go far when I have a day off and the kids are off school. Last Sunday we drove, as usual with no particular destination in mind, we'd see what we felt like on the way. I wanted to eat at a particular restaurant, but as things turned out we did not have time for that! We headed towards Phang Nga Town. We do like to explore Phang Nga Province to the north of Phuket which has a lot of great scenery. We thought about stopping at a viewpoint cafe near the town, but then we realised - it's Sunday! Well, I had heard of the Sunday market in old Takua Pa, but last time we passed through on a Sunday there was no market. That was in low season, and so I figured it only takes place in high season. We've stopped in Old Takua Pa several times before. It's a time warp. Built around the same time as old Phuket Town in the late 19th and early 20th century - a tin mining boom town with shophouse architecture and Chinese shrines, but when we first visited in about 2010 it was very, very quiet. Like a memory. I heard of the market a couple of years ago and it seems that old Takua Pa is being promoted on a small scale. If you stay in Khao Lak, certainly worth a visit. And especially on a high-season Sunday. I guess from November to April the market will be there.

We took the lovely jungly route from Phang Nga to old Takua Pa via Noppring (route 4090), took a long detour to Tone Pariwat waterfall which we'd never seen before (to be blogged!) and really enjoyed the drive on quiet country roads. Reached old Takua Pa around 3:30pm hoping to find the market and also feeling rather hungry! And yes, the market was happening along the main street in the town. It looks something like Thalang Road in Phuket, only the overhead wires have not been removed and there are less trendy cafes!

Old Takua Pa Town on Market Day

(above) Old Takua Pa main street with the Sunday market.

My first thought? It's much smaller than the Sunday market which started up in 2013 on Thalang Road in Phuket Town. I'm not going to suggest that Takua Pa is worth a special visit from Phuket, but if you are in Khao Lak, or exploring the area - yes! I was surprised actually to see so many foreign tourists walking around, and really this market did not have much in the way of souvenirs or handicrafts or things the average tourist might want to buy. But it does show that there is some promotion of the market. Our family wandered up the main street, mainly looking for something to eat! I wanted a place to sit down rather than just snacks, but there's plenty of food to but and nibble ...

Spicy fishcakes for sale

(above) A bag of spicy fishcakes would have been just fine for a snack

Spicy sausages for Sale

(above) Or some spicy sausages!

There was not really a cafe or even a noodle shop open, but we did find a place with tables inside doing Kanom Jeen noodles and chicken satay. My wife loves kanom jeen, a real southern-Thai favourite. The kids like it too. Sorry to say I don't! But a dish of satay and an ice tea was just fine. We sat inside and I snapped a photo of a couple of fellow diners ...

The Kanom Jeen Shop

This old town really is a step back in time. I want to explore a bit more around old Takua Pa. There is a huge Chinese shrine on the edge of town, as well as a couple of smaller ones in town. There are also some old city walls and I have read that a few of the older houses predate Phuket Town by a few decades.

Looked like the market was just getting going when we arrived, and I am sure it continues until well after dark. But we had to drive back home to Phuket a couple of hours away. I took a few more photos of the market as we headed back to the car. Really is a lovely place.

Takua Pa Smile

Chili Pastes for Sale

And I loved this door (below). There are quite a few tumble-down houses. Some of these places are well over 100 years old. Wish I had the cash to buy this place and fix it up!

Old old door

I was happy to have been able to stop here again, a successful day out with the whole family! Yes the kids may moan "Not another drive! Can't we stay home?", but they love it really. A day out with the family is always nice for me. And this is a fair day out from Phuket. We drove about 300km altogether, but it was easy driving on roads with not too much traffic and plenty of scenery. An easy day out from Phuket really. And another day when I think we are lucky to live here!

Map showing Old Takua Pa and surrounding area

 Sunday Market in Old Takua Pa   |   Jamie's Phuket Blog

18 January 2015 

A Tour of South Phuket

We had some new visitors to Phuket last week. My aunt and uncle were in Thailand for the first time, staying 7 nights at the Centara Karon Resort which is a few minutes walk from the sands of Karon beach and a couple of kilometers up the road from my office at Sunrise Divers. We had a couple of evenings with them visiting a few favourite places like Kopitiam and the After Beach Bar, but since it's high season I could only take one full day off that week. On Sunday 11th January I drove to pick them up from the hotel for a little tour around some of the sights in the south of Phuket before heading to the beach in the late afternoon for my son's birthday party. And, as it happens, it was also my aunt's birthday. All photos on this page were taken on the same day.

This little tour covers a lot of beautiful scenery and is only a small corner of southwest Phuket. It was one of the first parts of Phuket that I explored when not diving. It was a very quiet area then, but even now the roads are not so busy and it's a nice area for a ride on a moped with lots of possible stopping off points. It was nice to be a "tour guide" for half a day and this trip with my relatives helped me remember that Phuket really is a nice place to live! We started from Karon to the south, past Kata beach and then on the hilly, winding road along the coast to Naiharn beach.

First stop was the well known Karon Viewpoint (also called "the Phuket Viewpoint" or Kata Viewpoint). And as you can see the weather was perfect, just what you'd hope for in January. Always a great view from here looking north along the Phuket coastline. There are many great coastal views in Phuket.

Karon Viewpoint

From the viewpoint you drop down towards Naiharn. This area has got so much more developed in the last 10 years, lots of restaurants, houses, a few resorts, and there are banks and local businesses. When the road gets to Naiharn Lagoon, there is an option to turn right and stop at Naiharn Beach, maybe visit Naiharn temple or follow the coast round to the very small Ao Sane beach. But we headed on south. The road here is narrow and hilly. You climb from beach level up to about 50 meters above sea level where there's a wind turbine, a great view and not a lot of parking space! This is one of my favourite views in Phuket.

The "Wind Turbine" Viewpoint

(above) View from the wind turbine viewpoint just south of Naiharn beach (read more about this viewpoint on the blog here). The beach on the left side of the photo is Ya Nui Beach just to the south .. and after taking in this great view on a great day, we stopped at Ya Nui for a quick drink. It's always been a fairly quiet place. The one beach-side restaurant has now gone, but there are a few places to eat and drink by the road - and the road is very small and quiet. Ya Nui has a few nearby bungalows, and other people come by car or moped for a relaxing beach day without too many crowds. And this was in peak season ...

Ya Nui Beach

Just a few minutes drive from Ya Nui is Phromthep Cape, which is the "end of Phuket", the most south-westerly point on the island and a very popular stop for sunset views. I actually think there are better places for a sunset, but that's another story! Certainly the views are lovely. I was disappointed this time, because the lighthouse was closed (normally you can climb up for a better view). A hike to the very end of the cape was not an option with a couple of "not so young" folks, but I do recommend it.

Phromthep Cape

I did consider lunch at the Cape Phromthep restaurant. We have eaten there only once before and I do want to try it again sometime, but preferably at sunset. On this occasion, I thought we could try a place at Rawai beach, just another 5 minute drive. Rawai beach is changing too - more modern looking buildings on the beach road and a resort under construction. I chose a place called "Rimlay" for lunch towards the jetty end of Rawai beach (east end), next door to the well known Nikita's restaurant. Rimlay has some tables in the shade right by the sea, looked ideal and I'd say my aunt and uncle thought so too!

Lunch at Rimlay Seafood, Rawai Beach

I had a great seafood salad and (of course) a cold Chang. We sat by the sea and I thought "damn, Phuket is a great place!". I think I'll blog this restaurant a bit later, it's certainly one to visit again. A very pleasant lunch. Time ticked by, a second cold beer was enjoyed and it was time to move on. We could have stopped at the Phuket Seashell Museum, but time was limited. We drove to Chalong and then up and up the hill to the Big Buddha. It was rather busy up there. My aunt had to borrow a sarong to cover her shoulders (they hand these out for free at the entrance). You are supposed to dress properly at temples. I saw a shirtless guy being stopped by "Big Buddha Security" and not allowed in without a shirt. The day continued to be hot with blue skies.

Phuket Big Buddha

From the Big Buddha, given a little more time, a stop at Wat Chalong Temple would have been next on the list and between there and home there's also the Phuket Botanic Garden and the Bird Park. A bit too much for a day! We had a party to get to, and so the Big Buddha was the last stop on this trip. We stopped home to pick up the family, headed off for the party and the day ended like this ... Perfect.

11th January 2015 Sunset

(above) Sunset on 11th January 2015

This kind of tour is something I often suggest to people. This corner of Phuket has a lot to see, and the scenery is beautiful, plus there are loads of options for restaurants and bars - if you did this as an afternoon tour it would finish nicely with a sunset at a viewpoint or the After Beach Bar. It's a very nice part of Phuket away from the busier beaches, lots of places of interest, sea views and small beaches. Especially ideal if you have a hotel around Karon beach or Kata beach. It had been a while since I'd done a little tour like this and even for me, living here a long time, it was a lovely day!

For guided tours like this or around any area in or near Phuket, ask my friends at Easy Day Thailand.

Map - Tour of South Phuket

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