Jamies Phuket Blog

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17 March 2017

Top 10 Trips and Tours from Phuket

Most of the trips we do as a family from Phuket are done "our own way" without joining any organised or paid tour. And for us that's easy enough as we have transport, we know the roads, we can speak the lingo plus we enjoy exploring on our own. On many of the blog posts about trips such as Phang Nga Bay or visiting waterfalls I will post directions and maps so if you want to hire a car and explore, go for it! For other trips we get help from our friends who have a tour company called Easy Day Thailand - such as when we visited Koh Tachai Island and we've done trips as a group with these guys to Racha Yai Island, Koh Yao Yai Island and more. There is a lot to do here, lots of trips and that does not include local sightseeing to places like the Big Buddha, Cape Phromthep, old Phuket Town. When I stop to think about it, there is way too much to do here! Indeed after 17 years here, we still find new places to explore and there are lots of trips and organised tours that we have not done, I guess because we're not tourists!

My friends at Easy Day Thailand started by offering private tours and personal service. The private tours they offer are my recommendation, but they will also sell cheaper group tours and can offer airport transfers plus some tours in other parts of Thailand like Krabi, Kanchanaburi or transfers from Phuket to Samui or Koh Tao. Pretty much anything really, just ask them - contact here.

I have resisted adding any "top 10 attractions" list on the blog, because I think that depends what you are interested in. There are hundreds of pages on this blog and please do spend an hour browsing for information and ideas. You'll find there's more to Phuket than is shown in travel agent brochures. A lot more. Rather than "my" top 10, I asked the Easy Day team for a list of their 10 best/most popular/most recommended tours. The list is not in any particular order.

For bookings or questions, please contact Easy Day Thailand.

1. Exploring Phang Nga Bay

This would normally be the first trip I would suggest to anyone. We have done Phang Nga Bay trips many times, most recently in 2015 - see here : Phang Nga Bay. Great scenery, several iconic views. You can do trips like we have done by longtail boat in private groups visiting places like Panyee village and James Bond Island (see photo below), or there is a very popular (and lower price) tour including sea canoeing around several islands and caves in the bay. It's their best selling tour.

Private Phang Nga Bay Tour - More Information

Koh Tapu

Sea Canoes in Phang Nga Bay


2. River Tubing & Jungle Safari at Kapong

Kapong is in Phang Nga province to the north of Phuket Island. We have been in this area for a white water rafting tour, but the trip that is really recommended (and I must do it sometime) includes river tubing, swimming at a waterfall and elephant bathing and trekking .. and yeh, I know elephant trekking is not so trendy now, with concerns about cruelty, but I am assured this place really looks after the elephants and they only take small groups.

Kapong Safari - More Information

Elephant Bathing at Kapong in Phang Nga


3. Private Phi Phi Day Trip

I have not been to Phi Phi for quite a long time. It does tend to be rather crowded and most tours are on big boats with maybe 40 or 50 people. So they can be very cheap and that sounds attractive, and yes the scenery is very pretty despite the crowds, but a private tour is the way to go! Actually, it's best to stay overnight in Phi Phi and get a boat either late afternoon or early morning to avoid the daytrippers from Phuket! Easy Day can arrange that, or a private tour for a day from Phuket, so you get your own boat with a private guide in Phi Phi after taking a ferry from Phuket. And yes, this is more expensive that some of the real budget tours, but really worth the extra. Me and the family must go again sometime. Our last visit was years ago on a seaplane!

Phi Phi Day Trip - More Information
Phi Phi Overnight Tour - More Information

Losamah Bay, Phi Phi Islands from a seaplane


4. Khao Sok National Park

Day trips are possible to Khao Sok, although it's about 3 hours drive from Phuket and it's certainly best to stay a night. We have been many times and Easy Day Thailand use the same hotel that we have used - Cliff and River Resort. Tours include rafting or tubing on the river and/or a trip on the huge Ratchaprapha Lake. We love this area, great scenery, fresh jungle air, a nice change from Phuket!

• Read more about the area here : Khao Sok National Park.

Khao Sok View

(above) View from our room at the Cliff and River Resort in Khao Sok National Park

Lunch stop at Khao Sok

(above) On the lake at Khao Sok National Park


5. Krabi Kayaking and Adventure Day Trip

Krabi is on the east side of Phang Nga Bay, and has some attractions that are a bit too far for a day trip such as the Emerald Pool and the Tiger Temple, plus many small offshore islands. You can also ask Easy Day about tours if you stay in the Krabi area. This particular tour, offered as a private day trip includes a stop at an animal sanctuary, a stop at the very impressive Bang Riang Temple. Then kayaking in the mangroves and a stop at a waterfall. Lots of nature and scenery.

Krabi Adventure Day Trip - More Information

Wat Bang Riang, Phang Nga

(above) Wat Bang Riang

Kayaking Mangroves near Krabi

(above) Kayaking in the Mangroves


6. Koh Yao Yai and more Islands

This is a new tour based on a trip we did in 2016 - see Koh Yao Yai Island. Day trips are possible, taking a boat from Bang Rong pier on the northeast coast of Phuket, but an overnight trip is better. Koh Yao Yai is a quiet island and the views from the east coast are great, looking across the bay towards the Krabi coastline. Tours will also include stops at Hong Island and others. Some more great scenery here. I think you can actually do several day trips in different parts of Phang Nga Bay .. and we have!

Thiwson Resort Pool

(above) View from Thiwson Resort at Koh Yao Yai Island


7. Similan Islands Overnight Snorkeling

The Similan Islands I know very well! I spent many months on dive boats there and I am still manager at Sunrise Divers, booking people for diving trips right through the high season from mid October to early May. So please do contact me at Sunrise Divers for diving trips. Easy Day can book snorkelers on a couple of different trips. Day trips are possible, but are a bit rushed. An overnight trip is much more relaxed. There is an option to sleep in tents, but this is not really comfortable (yes, it's cheaper) or you can stay in aircon cabins on a boat called the Pansa Queen. The Similan Islands really are beautiful!

Similan Islands Overnight - More Information

Similan Islands

(above) Similan Islands "Donald Duck Bay"


8. Surin Islands Overnight Camping

The Surin Islands are quite a long way from Phuket, it's an easier trip if you are staying in Khao Lak. Overnight or 2 night stays are possible, camping in the Surin Islands national park. A day trip is possible too. It's less crowded than the Similan Islands (because it's further away) and there is lots of great snorkeling plus you can visit the Moken Sea Gypsy village. Staying overnight is a real "get away from it all" experience.

Surin Islands Snorkeling - More Information

Moken Village, Surin Islands


9. Racha Yai Island Early Bird

Racha Yai island, also called Raya Island, is a very popular day trip destination from Phuket. There are lots of boats and lots of snorkelers, plus dive boats along the reef and in the bays. I have dived there many times - see : Diving at Racha Yai. And a few years ago we joined the Easy Day folks for an overnight trip - see : Overnight at Racha Yai. To beat the crowds on a day trip, the early bird tour is a must. Hotel pick up 6 - 6:30am means you get to the island a couple or 3 hours before anyone else! Or you can ask Easy Day about overnight options. If you stay on the island and wake up early, you also beat the crowds!

Racha Yai Early Bird Tour - More Information

Siam Bay, Raya Island

(above) Arriving at Racha Yai Island


10. Private Phuket Island Sightseeing Tours

As I mentioned at the top of the page, Phuket Island itself has many attractions and it's a big island! Easy Day do have a few "set tours" (half day, full day, evening weekend market tour), but you can also contact them for a private tour to see whatever you want .. like maybe you want to start with sunrise at the Big Buddha and then visit Chalong Temple, maybe the Botanic Garden, then lunch in Phuket Town, then up a hill, or a stop at the aquarium and catch an evening show at Siam Niramit, the options are more or less unlimited. Just ask!

Phuket Sightseeing - More Information

Phuket Big Buddha

(above) The Big Buddha

Phuket 3 Beaches Viewpoint

(above) View at Karon Viewpoint

Walking Street Market in Phuket Town

(above) Sunday Market in old Phuket Town

More Services by Easy Day

Airport Transfers
Transfer to Phi Phi Islands
Phuket Cooking Class
Sailing Cruises

Of course, you can't see it all, which is why I do find that many people come back to Phuket. If you have a couple of easy beach days and a few tours that's a week gone and then you start to realise that there is a lot more here! For trips, tours, transfers, please do contact Easy Day Thailand. The trips above are suggestions, some of their best sellers and trips that get the best feedback. If you have questions you can ask them or you can post a question on my Facebook page. See you in Phuket!


Top 10 Trips and Tours from Phuket  |  Jamie's Phuket Blog




8 March 2017

Koh Sirey Temple (Wat Koh Siray)

Koh Sirey (or Siray or indeed Si Ray) is a rather forgotten corner of Phuket, located to the east of Phuket Town, over a small bridge past the Rassada Ferry Terminal (from where you get boats to Phi Phi and Krabi). We first went exploring in Koh Sirey many years ago and it was very quiet. Now there are quite a few "seaview developments" and one big resort - the Westin Siray Bay which opened back in about 2010.

This is an updated post which was first blogged back in 2006! I added some newer photos in 2011 and now some even newer 2017 photos!

Koh Sirey Temple

(above) View of the temple from below next to a small klong (canal).

Much of Koh Sirey is undeveloped with lots of rubber plantations, coconut trees, a sea gypsy village, a few big houses, a school, a fair number of locals and a temple on the hill. The temple is just past the school. You pass through an entrance by the road up a slight hill to an open area, turn right and the road carries on up. Not much parking space (park where you like, it is unlikely to be busy) and head up the steps lined by 2 dragons. Inside the main temple building (if it's open) you find a large reclining Buddha. We've been maybe 8 or 9 times over the years. It's really nice but could be amazing with a bit of investment. On a hill, great views, big Buddha .... win! We always leave a donation.

Reclining Buddha at Koh Sirey Temple

Big Buddha at Koh Sirey

You can also walk around the outside of the temple before climbing the steps - the road winds right around the temple which is surrounded by hundreds of other Buddha images. It's really quite beautiful. And yet every time we have been there have never been more than a handful of visitors.

Koh Sirey Temple, Phuket

Buddhas

Sirey Temple Road

NEW - I think the last time we visited Sirey must have been about 2013. Something new has been added here since then ....

Copy of Kyaiktiyo Pagoda Golden Rock at Koh Sirey Temple in Phuket

(above) Replica of Kyaiktiyo Pagoda, also known as the Golden Rock. The original is in Myanmar, in Mon state northeast of Yangon. It's one of the most important Buddhist pilgrimage sites in Myanmar. So why is there a replica in Phuket? Well, there are plenty of Myanmar folks living in the area. We saw several Burmese girls visiting while we were there last time.

And the views ... Although the temple does not sit on a big hill (only about 60m above sea level) there are some lovely views all around. Phuket is full of great views!

View from Koh Siray Temple

View from Koh Siray Temple

View from Koh Siray Temple

(above) Views from Koh Sirey Temple

Certainly worth a visit - Koh Sirey is a few km to the east of Phuket Town, easy to find, but aside from the temple and the views, not a lot here! I'd like to take some photos around the sea gypsy village one day. But the temple is certainly nice, with one of the lesser known Big Buddhas of Phuket!

Sirey Island Temple - Location Map


View Koh Sirey Temple, Phuket in a larger map


Koh Sirey Temple (Wat Koh Siray)  |  Jamie's Phuket Blog




21 February 2017

Top 10 Best Phuket Hotels 2017

It's time for a 2017 version of the Top 10 Phuket Hotels list! As before, it's based on Trip Advisor rankings which may not be perfect and I know the site has it's issues with fake reviews ... There are again a couple of new hotels in the list, but much of the top 10 is similar to 2016. For each hotel there are links for checking online rates and availability - I suggest using Agoda.com or Booking.com to book your hotel in Phuket. There are links to reviews for each hotel - mostly from Agoda where possible. Hotels get scores out of 10 on Agoda so you can easily compare, and reviews can only be left by people who have booked the hotel, so you can see if real guests agree with the TA ratings!

Top 10 Hotels in Phuket

1. The Chava Resort (Surin Beach)

Chava Resort

The Chava hit the top 10 in 2015, and was number 2 last year. Now it's hit the very top! Surin Beach always has something in the top 10. The Chava Resort is actually a collection of 2 - 5 room apartments (they call it an "apartment resort"), some are run by the hotel, some privately rented. Rooms are enormous, not normal hotel size, good for families and small groups. Again, it's a place with views, slightly up in the hills, not by the beach but really only a few minutes from the sea.

Chava Resort - Reviews and Booking


2. Trisara Phuket Villas & Residences

Trisara

Trisara was top of the top 10 for 3 years running, they might be disappointed to be number 2 this year! I'd love to stay here a few days and do nothing at all! Trisara features private pool villas by a private beach to the north of Bang Tao beach in the north of Phuket island. Trisara is a "private, luxury, amazing view, relax and unwind" style hotel. Only 48 villas, lots of space, no crowds. There are also some "private residences" with 2 - 6 bedrooms, ideal for families or big groups, or even weddings. Or just for a relaxing getaway for a romantic couple. The location is miles from any busy areas, so you will need your own transport or get taxis everywhere.

Trisara - Reviews and Booking


3. Andara Resort and Villas (Kamala Beach)

Andara

Andara stays at number 3, same as 2016. This is a 5 star resort, on the hillside near Kamala Beach, another one with luxury villas. It also features on my best family hotel list, but with individual villas and private pools, will suit couples as well as families. Andara resort is in the hills, not right by the beach. Some (not all) of the villas have superb sea views. There is a trend of non-beachfront luxury in recent years. Maybe because the beach areas - certainly the main beaches - are too full, and also because beachfront land is impossibly expensive. If you want luxury and seclusion, Phuket has it, but not right by the beach!

Andara Resort & Villas - Reviews and Booking


4. BYD Lofts (Patong Beach)

BYD Lofts

BYD Lofts certainly seems to be popular - it's been in the top 5 for the last 4 years. If you want something near the heart of Patong Beach, close to the action and in the middle of the busiest beach area in Thailand, this hotel offers serviced apartments (again, you see - apartments, rather than just rooms), featuring a rooftop pool (and a view over the beautiful concrete jungle of Patong). There are 1 or 2 bedroom apartments of various sizes. I hardly ever visit Patong myself - it's not my style, but for sure Patong beach is very convenient for visitors, with huge numbers of restaurants plus shops/the Jungceylon Mall and tour agents near you. And bars and nightlife too.

BYD Lofts - Reviews and Booking


5. Como Point Yamu

Point Yamu Resort

A very new resort (opened in 2014) with a great location, if you don't mind being miles from anywhere! A few years ago when Cape Yamu started being developed we took a drive to explore and I was not happy. A beautiful natural headland covered in concrete and cranes. Of course now it looks totally amazing and I'd be very happy to stay a night here. Oh, by the way - it's not cheap! Cape Yamu is on the east coast of Phuket, and the views are superb. There are 79 rooms plus 27 private villas. It looks great. Did I say that already?

Point Yamu Resort - Reviews and Booking


6. Navatara (Rawai Beach)

Navatara

Navatara appeared on the list at number 7 last year. Another fairly new hotel, it opened in 2013, but I'd not even heard of it until doing last year's list! Navatara has just 37 rooms, is built "Thai style", some rooms have direct pool access, all rooms look pretty big! A small, Thai style resort away from the main beaches, but not too far - sounds like what a lot of people ask me to recommend! Not by the beach, about 500m from Rawai beach and a few minutes drive from Nai Harn beach and Phromthep Cape. A very nice corner of Phuket.

Navatara - Reviews and Booking


7. The Pavilions (Layan Beach)

Pavilions

The Pavilions previously appeared on my Top 10 Romantic Hotels page a few years ago. The resort promotes itself heavily as a couples place - with a tagline "Where romance blossoms", and it's a no kids resort. Located on a small hill with sea views towards Bang Tao and Layan beaches, but not really near the beach. There are apparently 2 award winning restaurants and (quote from their website) the largest hotel pool in Phuket.

The Pavilions - Reviews and Booking


8. The Shore at Katathani (Kata Noi Beach)

The Shore at Katathani

The Katathani Resort has been open for many many years at quiet Kata Noi beach to the south of Kata beach. The Shore is their newer luxury "pool villa" development, which opened in 2010 catching the popular wave of private villa style hotels - as you can certainly see from this top 10! And these villas look great. They are all private pool villas, some with seaview (note: if you read the reviews, you can see that the view does vary from villa to villa). A great hotel for couples. Most of the reviews are from couples and I see lots and lots of honeymoon reviews. Well, you have to spoil yourselves once before real life starts!

The Shore at Katathani - Reviews and Booking


9. Amari Phuket (Patong Beach)

Amari Phuket

The Amari Phuket Resort was one of the first big resorts in Phuket, opening way back in 1984. For an old hotel like this to make the top 10 is quite an achievement! But they do keep renovating and adding to the resort. Great location to relax at the far south end of Patong Beach away from the madness, but you can walk to the busy center of Patong in 15 minutes. A new "ocean wing" opened in January 2016. Work never stops, there are continual improvements and last time I looked it, everything looked perfect. Yes, we would like to stay, please!

Amari Phuket Resort - Reviews and Booking


10. Renaissance Phuket Resort (Mai Khao Beach)

Renaissance

Renaissance is one of the Marriott owned resorts north of Phuket Airport at Mai Khao Beach. It's been mentioned on this blog before as part of the Best Luxury Phuket Resorts list and was in the Top 10 for 2014 too. Mai Khao beach is really quiet and unless you stick to only the various Marriott hotel restaurants you'll need transport or taxis to get to other places. Ideal for a few days of relaxation and not going anywhere!

Renaissance - Reviews and Booking


That's the Top 10 hotels in Phuket as of January 2017. Have you stayed at a hotel that's not listed, but you think it should be? Go and give it a big review! Phuket has been on the mainstream tourism route for well over 20 years now and you can find a mix of old and new resorts, big hotels, small guesthouses, villas, apartments, hillside, beachfront, busy areas, very quiet areas. It's not a cliché .. There is actually something here for everyone and at any budget, but doing some research is very important especially the hotel location. Look at a map, please! In recent years many new top class resorts have opened in more secluded areas and the trend is for sea view hillside (not on the beach) villas. Land prices and rents are so high that beachfront is a mega investment. Phuket has a big luxury market now, and most of this top 10 could be called luxury by my standards (!) but at the same time small hotels, guesthouses and "backpacker price" places are also flourishing.

I suggest that you check agoda.com or booking.com for hotel booking. There are many reviews on agoda for most of the hotels listed on this blog, and please do read the reviews, and do think carefully also about what suits you - location, resort size, hotel style, price(!), do you want something for couples, or suitable for families / kids, close to the airport or close to nightlife etc. Some like it quiet and secluded, others want noisy fun. If you get it wrong, you might end up leaving bad review because you chose the wrong place for you. Questions - got something to ask? Please do ask on my Jamie's Phuket Facebook Page. See you in Phuket! Happy Travels!


Top 10 Best Phuket Hotels 2017  |  Jamie's Phuket Blog




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