Jamie's Phuket Blog

Jamie's Phuket Blog - The Original Phuket Blog since 2006

23 May 2017

Bang Rong Pier and Community

The east coast of Phuket is very, very different to the west coast. All the main tourist areas and beaches are found on the west coast, while large parts of the east coast are almost untouched by tourism. Much of the coastline is mangrove forest, with large areas of rubber plantations in the hills, along with shrimp farms, small fishing villages, quiet bays and some great views if you drive round the hilly back roads. If we're lost for something to do, we often just "go for a drive" and see what we can find. And it was on one of these days, must have been in 2005, that we first found Bang Rong. Check the photos below. Yes, this is Phuket.

Old boat man at Bang Rong, Phuket

Bang Rong is a small Muslim community on the North East coast close to Bang Pae Waterfall and the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project. From Bang Rong Pier you can take a ferry to Koh Yao Noi, which we have done a few times, or other islands in between Phuket and Krabi.

The road down to the pier is easy enough to find, turn right off the main road at the mosque, about 1km north of the entrance to Bang Pae waterfall. There's a map at the bottom of the page. There's an entrance gate to the pier. If you are parking long term, like getting a ferry to Koh Yao Noi or Koh Yao Yai, then you have to pay a parking fee. If you are just coming to eat or have a quick look, you do not have to pay.

Bang Rong Mosque, Phuket

(above) Bang Rong Mosque

You will almost certainly see monkeys in the mangroves or on the road near the pier, or they might come out to say hello. They can be a bit cheeky, hanging around looking for food.

Be careful a monkey, Phuket

Monkey at Bang Rong, Phuket

We've been here many times now, and we like the small family run floating restaurant (it's actually called Chum Chon restaurant, though we always just call it 'Bang Rong') which is reached by a wooden walkway through the mangroves. We first ate here on our first visit more than 10 years ago and we still like it.

Bang Rong - Walkway to the restaurant

Bang Rong Floating Restaurant

It's a quiet place for lunch with good seafood or just simple things like fried rice. We always find it very friendly. I like to sit at our table by the water and snap pictures of passing boats, heading up the mangrove channel. It's a different world here, a million miles from the tourist beaches and yet only about a 25 minute drive from our house!

Boat at Bang Rong, Phuket

Oar powered longtail boat at Bang Rong, Phuket

There are some kayaks for rent at the restaurant, which you can paddle up into the mangroves. They have a deal with a couple of tour companies to include a quick paddle in the tour itinerary. Or you can just rent one (with or without a paddler, who will be one of the family running the restaurant). We did this a few years ago and do mean to do it again one day - see Kayaking in the Mangroves. It's a nice way to spend an hour. I think the rental now is about 200 Baht for 1 hour.

Kayaking in Phuket

Kayaking at Bang Rong, Phuket

You see all kind of folks and all kind of boats here. The longtail boat below was coming in from Koh Yao Noi. Every boatman has his "boy" (often a son or relative) to help with the boat. I watched them approach and tie up the boat through my 300mm zoom!

Longtail boat approaching Bang Rong, Phuket

Longtail boat at Bang Rong, Phuket

Longtail boat man at Bang Rong, Phuket

Bang Rong is one of our favourite quiet places to sit and relax. It's very peaceful here, just the odd longtail engine to disturb the silence. Makes a good day out combined with the waterfall, the gibbons, a kayak trip in the mangroves, or maybe a visit to the new Phuket Elephant Sanctuary which is not far away. Or you can just grab lunch here before getting a boat to Koh Yao Noi or Koh Yao Yai.

Boats leaving Bang Rong

(above) Boats heading out from Bang Rong

Bang Rong - Location Map


View Bang Rong, Phuket in a larger map


Bang Rong Pier and Community  |  Jamie's Phuket Blog




9 May 2017

A Holiday in Krabi

Phuket island is the biggest island in Thailand, this is true, and it's bigger than most people realise, but many of the tourist attractions, day trips and much of the beautiful scenery you see in brochures and online can actually be found outside of Phuket island/province in the nearby provinces of Phang Nga and Krabi. Phang Nga province we have explored extensively and is reached simply by driving over the bridge from Phuket, plus you have Phang Nga Bay to the east and north of Phuket. Krabi is reached by road from Phuket through Phang Nga, or by boat directly across Phang Nga Bay. The many islands in the bay are split between Phuket, Phang Nga and Krabi provinces. One of the most common destinations for day trippers or longer stays is Phi Phi - and the Phi Phi Islands are part of Krabi province. And please note : Krabi is not an island. I do suggest looking at a map of the area before taking a holiday!

I really don't know why, but we have never, ever been to Krabi for more than a day trip. A couple of times to Phi Phi .. and I think a couple of the small islands we visited on our Koh Yao Yai weekend trip were in Krabi province. And we did a day trip back in 2009 on such a hot day, my Dad had trouble with the heat, our accommodation was not what we expected and although we had intended to stay a night, we returned to Phuket having just seen Ao Nang beach, which I was not impressed by, and found a nice lunch overlooking Nopparat Thara beach, which was much nicer. And somehow we never went back until last weekend!

First thing to say - we're planning another long weekend in Krabi soon! I think one reason we never went since 2009 was that we felt it was quite a long drive for a weekend. Krabi Town is just 60km across the bay from Phuket Town, but more like 160km or maybe a little more by road. But for this trip we left home early and were driving over the bridge from Phuket at 8:30am and found Krabi to be closer than we thought! By 10am we were getting close to Krabi Town. There's some great scenery in the Phang Nga - Krabi region, a very nice drive. And before 10:30am we checked in at our hotel. We chose to stay in Krabi Town rather than a more expensive beach area. I wanted to see the local town and we chose an inexpensive hotel called Just Fine near the river and near the night market. Rooms 1,000 Baht per night and it was indeed just fine .. we might well stay in the same place again as it was friendly and we liked the location.

Read More About Krabi Hotels (Agoda.com)

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(above) Room, reception and view over the market from the Just Fine Hotel in Krabi Town.

My friends at Easy Day Thailand have lots of tour options around Krabi - there are snorkel tours, boat trips, kayaking trips, and they can arrange transfers and hotels too.

Ask Easy Day Thailand about Krabi Tours

We had no set plans for the weekend. There were really only 2 places I certainly wanted to see - the Emerald Pool and the Tiger Temple. I knew the climb to the temple was something for the morning, before the heat of the day, so on our first afternoon we drove off towards the Emerald Pool about 1 hour southeast of Krabi Town on the way towards Trang. Stopped for a quick takeaway lunch on the way and arrived at the entrance to the Emerald Pool about 1:30pm. Entry fee 200 Baht for me, 20 Baht for my wife, 10 Baht each for the kids. Some people get angry about this dual pricing. There were a lot of cars parked and the entrance was like a little market with food stalls and clothes and souvenir stalls.

There were 2 paths from the entrance to the Emerald Pool. One was marked as being a quicker 800m walk and the other a 1,400m walk along a mangrove walkway. Of course we chose the longer, more interesting route - seemed that most people were just going the quick way! I only saw a few foreign tourists there, although I know this place is on many tours. The walk to the Emerald Pool was very nice, the area is full of pools of varying hues and waters which are full of minerals. Looks like a prehistoric jungle in places.

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So when we got to the actual "Emerald Pool" I was prepared for it to be a little crowded. Plenty of people, but not too bad. And certainly a kind of green colour!

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(above) Emerald Pool. We walked past this and carried on towards the "Blue Pool", another 15 minutes walk. It certainly was blue. Very blue indeed. Maybe bluer than the famous blue stone of Galveston.

krabi-emerald-pool-blue-pool

It was a hot day and we wanted a splash, but you're not allowed to jump in the Blue Pool, so .. back to the Emerald Pool! And we had a splash :)

Emerald Pool Krabi

It was getting a bit late in the day by the time we got back to Krabi Town, and we were hungry, but took a quick walk in the night market first as it was just a minute walk from our hotel. Surprisingly crowded considering this is the end of high season. Plenty of tourists and locals too. And lots of food stalls in the market, but we fancied a nice sit-down dinner.

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(above) Walking in the night market in Krabi Town. We had a quick walk and decided to see more of the night market next day. We had no idea where to eat that night, just took a drive around until we saw something that looked good. We wanted something more than street food and found a restaurant called Anchalee (ร้านอาหารอัญชลี) just over 1km north of the town center. Had lots of southern Thai food on the menu and lots of seafood. Price quite decent, not too cheap, but it turned out the portions were huge and we over-ordered. Everything very tasty. Recommended. And we'll probably eat here again on our next Krabi trip!

Now, day 2 of our trip was meant to start with a walk up to the Tiger Temple just outside town, but ... I think the food the night before was a little too good, I ate too much and had stomach pain in the night, culminating in a little sickness, so we did not get up early and took the day very easy. Our hotel was right opposite Black Canyon Coffee, so I could get a latte in the morning and we just took a bit of a drive around, stopped for a little walk by the river and then headed to the "shell cemetery" aka "fossil beach" which is between town and Ao Nang beach. I thought it would be an interesting stop .. show the kids some geology, but it was high tide and the signs indicated that it was best to visit at low tide, so we skipped this place. Next time :)

So we drove to Ao Nang beach which, like our last visit, did not impress, we could find no place to park and carried on to Nopparat Thara beach, but here it was very high tide and it seems the beach has been eroded a lot, and the restaurant we found back in 2009 was no longer there. Nothing special here if you live in Phuket and see beaches every day!

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(above) Driving into Ao Nang. Next time we will get the boat taxi from Ao Nang around to Railey and Phra Nang beaches. That is meant to be Krabi's best scenery, so it's on my list.

This day, thanks to my fragile belly, we took it easy. When driving back from the Emerald Pool the day before we'd seen signs for a hot spring waterfall, a bit closer to Krabi town (maybe 45 minutes drive) so we went that way. The hot spring is just east of the small town of Khlong Tom. Quite a few cars there when we arrived, but it's less busy than the well-known Emerald Pool. Entry fee 160 Baht for me, way less for the rest of the family. They also had a 20 Baht golf cart ride to the waterfall which is only a few minutes walk (500 meters). We walked. And it was quite nice! Not a big place, so I was glad it was not too busy. Me and the kids took the plunge. The water was HOT. A sign recommended only 20 minutes in the water. And that was certainly enough. If I took a bath it would not be this hot!

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(above) At the hot waterfall

And back to town, but the weather was somewhat against us. Dark clouds and some light rain falling. Nevertheless we took a walk along the river to the south and found another night market with lots of food stalls and some with tables and chairs too. On a drier evening we'd have eaten there. Krabi, with the town built along the river, is a nice town. We liked it and again wondered why we'd never been after all these years!

krabi-town-1

(above) Foodstalls along the riverfront in Krabi town

There's also quite a few statues and pieces of art along the river. There is a black crab that had people taking photos next to it all the time. We saw it morning and night. We did not take a photo. Instead we found the sculpture below - much more impressive and being ignored by tourists. Why is the crab so popular? Crab and Krabi are not related. Krabi is not the Thai word for Crab (it's poo - ปู).

krabi-town-art

(above) Art in Krabi Town

The rain started so we headed to the hotel, only a few minutes away, but ventured out later for dinner at a place called Baitoey, recommended by the hotel staff - it was good, and a little shopping as I needed a pharmacy for my belly and we'd seen a bookshop on the riverfront, but by 9pm it had closed already. There was also this old, dusty looking bar on the riverfront, looked a bit like a wild west saloon and the only customer was a sleeping motorbike taxi driver...

krabi-street-bar

So, my guts felt OK .. alarm set for "early" Sunday morning. We still wanted to tackle the Tiger Temple. I'd call this a family achievement. I plan to write a whole blog post about this, and I'd like to do it again. Fist thing to say - if you want to hike up to the Tiger Temple, start early. And carry water. We started walking at 7:20am, but it was already hot. If we do this again, I want to start an hour earlier.

Here's the view from our room at about 6:45am .. the Tiger Temple is on top of a hill in the distance, about 8km north of our hotel. Perfect sunny morning. A bit of cloud would have been nice. I was hoping some of the hike would be in the shade, but it was mostly east-facing and the morning sun got hot quickly! So, just a short drive from town, easy to park, not many people there so early. My daughter fell foul of the clothes police and had to borrow a skirt for hiking up :)

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(above) No short shorts!

A sign tells you there are 1,237 steps to the top. My wife's cousin's son (who is a soldier) ran to the top in 20 minutes. We intended to be a bit slower. Right from the start it's steep. We we huffing and puffing quite early. The step numbers are painted on posts on the way up. 100, 200, 300, only a thousand more? Signs warned of monkeys and we saw a few, but they did not seem aggressive. The views started to get good around the 900 step mark although at this point you are just looking east and south over mostly flat land.

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(above) My girl on the way up, getting close to 1,000 steps.

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(above) View at about 1,000 steps. Nearly there.

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(above) A rest in the shade with less than 200 steps to go!

And then, and it's only when you get to the top, then you see the 360 degree views with the mountains and the amazing karst landscape of Krabi. It really is a WOW moment. Once you've caught your breath, the view takes your breath away again. A few images ...

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tiger-temple-view-2

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(above) Wow. Tiger Temple, Krabi.

We were all quite proud to have conquered this hill! I have done much harder in the past, but this is the present - I am 48 and overweight! Great views, very peaceful, and we spent about half an hour at the top, resting and enjoying life. It had taken us about 1 hour 10 minutes to walk up. Hot and sweaty, but I had carried plenty of water and we'd started early. I was more worried about doing 1,237 steps down. My knees and thighs don't like walking down steps. It was quite hard and my wife's legs were even more jelly-like than mine. Kids had no problems, of course. Our kids are quite fit and active. My legs were hurting for a couple of days after this. I really must do more exercise!

Our little Krabi trip ended with lunch back at Baitoey restaurant by the river where we'd eaten the night before, and with us wishing we'd not taken a 4th floor room in a small hotel with no elevator! Up and down 4 floors after the Tiger Temple. Ouch.

Krabi - we'll be back soon! Not so far from home!

Tours and Excursions in Krabi with Easy Day Thailand
Krabi Hotels @ Agoda.com

Map of the Krabi Area


A Holiday in Krabi  |  Jamie's Phuket Blog




23 April 2017

Street Art in Phuket Town

During 2016, art was appearing all over Phuket Town, and a few other spots around the island too. I am not quite sure if this is something organised or government approved, but it's happening and, in my opinion, adds something extra to the town although I'd not want to see the prettier streets in the old town messed with too much. Thalang Road, Krabi Road and Dibuk Road for example still have many older shophouse style houses and businesses and this area has already undergone a lot of restoration in the last 10 years with plenty of repainting, the removal of overhead wires and lots of nice little cafes and bars opening which mix with old shops selling hardware, Muslim fabrics or Chinese herbs. I really like the old town area and wish I had more time to wander around taking photos. The first street art I noticed was about 4 years ago on the corner of Thalang road and Soi Romanee, very much the heart of the old town. This amazing face was very striking ...

Phuket Town Graffiti

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

Dibuk Road, Phuket Town

All this new art started appearing in April this year, with various artists involved such as Alex Face, Rukkit and Liudmila Letnikova. I don't know all the names of the artists. It seems to be part of a locally organised idea called the F.A.T Phuket Project, meaning "Food, Art, (old) Town". I saw some photos appearing on Instagram just as I went on holiday after Songkran.

Actually, there was a wall full of odd pieces of art at one end of Dibuk Road back in February 2016 although nothing that really stood out, more like a wall of graffiti - see here for photos. And (update) that wall has now been repainted with a mural of King Rama IX - see below :

After the death of King Bhumibol in October 2016, a new mural was painted on a wall along Dibuk Road just to the west of Wat Monghkon Nimit. There had been some rather bizarre graffiti / art here before, but that was painted over. Now we have this very nice mural ...

King Bhumibol Street Art in Phuket Town

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

Old Phuket Town Street Art

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

Old Phuket Town Street Art

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

Old Phuket Town Street Art

Old Phuket Town Street Art

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

Old Phuket Town Street Art

(above) Art at the Sang Tham Shrine

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

Old Phuket Town Street Art

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

Old Phuket Town Street Art

Old Phuket Town Street Art

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

Old Phuket Town Street Art

Old Phuket Town Street Art

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

Old Phuket Town Street Art

Old Phuket Town Street Art

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

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

Old Phuket Town Street Art

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

Old Phuket Town Street Art

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

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

Phuket Town Street Art


Phuket Town Art - Location Map


Street Art in Phuket Town  |  Jamie's Phuket Blog