I have not written anything about Phuket in a while, because I'am no longer there. But I just got a memo that I have to go there in May, for a week to attend a training course. So, how about a nice video on Phuket from the guys at Best Destination Travel TV.
I was in Phuket couple of weeks ago, and this time, since I'am no longer employed in Phuket, I had to find my own accomodation. For the first night, I stayed at Centara Karon Resort, and it turned out to be a nightmare. So my good friend Dave Chang, the General Manager of Phuket Adventures arranged me a good deal at the new Secret Cliff Resort.
It turned out to a great holiday for me, doing nothing but reading my book and enjoying the sight of the sea and the sound of waves hitting against the rock. I'am not a big fan of the sun nor the beach, I'am the type of person who love watching the waves from a distance and enjoying the music of the waves, running into each other and against the rocks.
Secret Cliff Resort turned out to be the place I wanted to be at for this break from work and other commitments. As the name suggests, the resort is located on a cliff overlooking the sea.
The simple signboard, along the roadside.
A beautiful garden at the entrance.
This is a honeymoon styled suite. (I didn't stay there, i was alone, bah !)
The steep "road" leading down to the unit I occupied.
This is where I spend 3 nights.
The bed, don't mind the mosquito over, there were no mosquitos.
The room comes with a big plasma television.
The balcony overlooking the sea.
See the sights and hear the sounds as recorded from the balcony. This was my companion for 4 days.
The resort restaurant is the Secret Cliff Restaurant. Though the breakfast served was nothing to shout about, but the view from the restaurant was fantastic. I took room service for dinner one night, and the food was nice (sorry, didn't take pics) and the bill was so affordable.
They are located along Pathak Road, in between Patong Beach and Karon Beach, drive along the road leading up the hill towards Karon. It is located on the right side, facing the sea.
Check out their website
Visitors to Phuket, especially the first time visitors are sure to pay a visit to the legendary Simon Cabert, to enjoy the performance of the "beautiful" ladyboys. Most tour agencies offer this as compulsory as part of sight seeing (they earn commission). Tickets to the show is also available at any establishment in the island, hotels to restaurants to the roadside vendor.
The Simon Cabaret show is indeed classy and the dancers are professionals. This is their main livelihood. They lipsync to hollywood hits and even showcase some Asian songs, mainly Korean, Japanese, Chinese and even Indian Bollywood hits.
It is not difficult to find "katoey" entertainment in Phuket. Most of the gay bars in Soi Paradise (Paradise Hotel complex) offer this and their clientelle is mainly straight families, who want to wind down after a day under the sun. Compared to the other bars in Phuket, Simon Cabaret stands out as the most professional cabaret show. Their dancers, costume, makeup, stage props, lightings, sound system etc are of professional quality, you wont regret the 500 odd Bhat you paid to watch the show !
Phromthep Cape is undoubtedly the most popular viewpoint in Phuket island and it gives an outstanding view of the sea and it is a great place to watch the sunset. It is on the top of a cape situated between Rawai and Nai Harn beaches. A very touristy place with numerous shops, restaurants, street hawkers etc.
So on a good sunny day I drove up Laem Phromthep armed with my camera to catch the sunset on lens. Enjoy the pics !
At the view point there is an altar with a four-face Buddha and lots of elephant statues. People burn incense sticks and pray, not quite sure the relevance of elephants. The statues are quite adorable and nicely carved.
After experiencing what could turn out to be Phuket's busiest high season, you get the feeling that Phuket is being pulled in several directions.
On the one side, there is mass tourism, which is the source of most of the money that comes in to Phuket, but is also the reason why much of the scenery has become a concrete jungle. Then you have high-end tourism, which brings in a significant amount of money to luxury resorts and expensive restaurants. Somewhere between the two there is eco-tourism.
If Phuket is to remain the center of attention in the Andaman region, then tourism is going to have to keep up with current global trends. Many tourists are becoming more environmentally aware. As a result, they are beginning to pick and choose their holiday destinations on eco-conscious factors. This type of tourist is often referred to as a “quality tourist”.
The authorities in Phuket have said that they want to attract quality tourists to the island to protect the island's natural features, but, as with Phang Nga and Krabi, mass tourism is far outweighing quality tourism. It's a sad state of affairs because, despite overdevelopment in places such as Patong Beach, there is still much for Phuket to be proud of. Places such as Mai khao Beach are practically untouched and yet the way the island is heading, you wonder how long it will be until Phuket becomes another Ibiza.
Cynicism aside, Phuket isn't at that stage yet and there is still hope that sufficient changes can be made in order to retain the orignal appeal of the island.
In Phuket, you can see katoey shows at bars, discotheques, restaurants and they even have the Simon Cabaret. In my opinion, the folks at Boat Bar provide the best cabaret show in the whole of the island. Boat Bar is a gay disco, but straight friendly. They have 2 shows every night at 1145pm and 0130am. The Boat Bar dancers are professionals and dancing is their livelihood. Some of the dancers also perform at Simon Cabaret or at other establishments, most of them working 7 days a week. As gathered from the performers, their makeup, costumes, dance routines, choreography are all done by the performers themselves. Don't be mistaken, some of them are pure men who dress as women for the show.
If you are in Phuket and want to catch some diva's in action, head to Boat Bar, located at the Royal Paradise Hotel complex. There is no entry charges, you just need to buy some drinks, and if you choose not to buy, they dont chase you out. Remember to tip the good performers, beyond the money, it motivates them to feel appreciated ! Believe me, they are good !!
Chalong Temple is dubbed the pride of Phuket, and according to tales, in the old days, the Chinese secret society gangsters started to terrify the locals and they took refuge in the Chalong temple. The abbot of the temple, Luang Poh Cham encouraged and gathered the locals to fight the gangsters and defeated them. The then King of Thailand, King Rama V heard the news and gave the official title of Wat Chaitaram to the temple.
Chalong temple is situated in a large compound, and have 2 main sacred sites. The first one houses the statues of Luang Poh Cham, Luang Poh Chuang and Luang Poh Gleum, all ex abbots of Chalong temple. The grand pagoda contains a splinter of Lord Buddha's bone and the temple's walls are decorated with paintings Buddha's lifestory and images.
The entrance to Wat Chalong.
The main pagoda.
A monk entering the temple.
According to local belief, if you pray for something and get it, you have to come back to the temple and light firecrackers in this special burning place.
Rawai Beach lies on the southern tip of Phuket and is one of the less commercialised beaches in Phuket and is relatively less crowded and quiet. Ironically, Rawai was the first tourist beach in Phuket, as in the older days, there was no road through the mountains leading from Phuket town to the beaches on west coast.
Rawai is home to the sea gypsies of Phuket who are fishermen. Of late they also take advantage of the tourism boom by providing boat transfers to nearby islands on their long tail boats.
The beach is lined with casuarina trees and the longtail boats are found lining the coast. Rawai is a popular spot for people looking for good food and also a cheap place to suntan as there are no vendors renting out sundeck chairs.
Wat Nakaram is situated on the sub-road connecting Chao Fa west and east roads. If you are not sure, drive along the direction from Central Festival shopping centre towards Chalong, shortly after passing Central Festival, turn left at the next traffic light junction.
The main entrance to the temple.
Not sure what this means, but seems like the guy on left is pointing to the main temple.
These are tombs with the ashes of followers of the temple.
I think the monks stay here.
This is an angsana tree? or a banyan tree ? Anyway it looks like a meditation place or a place where people gather to chit chat and have village meetings in the old days.
I made another trip to Phuket Big Buddha and this time I took two videos, one of the road leading up the Nak-Kued mountain to the site of Big Buddha and another one at the top of the Big Buddha. Enjoy and vist the Big Buddha !
Phangnga Bay is the jewel in the crown of Phuket's beautiful cruising grounds. Its clear waters and towering limestone karsts formations rising like jurassic giants from the sea make for stunning scenery.
Click here to read more !
The scene was surreal as I rode a car to the jetty in company of my dive instructor in persistent drizzle. There I noticed schools of fish in crystal clear water. Was I dreaming? In the absence of strong wind and choppy waves the sea was calm as if this wasn't monsoon season.
I was visiting Ko Racha Yai, 25 kilometres south of Phuket and its sister island of Ko Racha Noi a further six kilometres adrift, unseen havens of stunning beauty and pristine wilderness.
As I jumped into the water, I knew I wasn't dreaming. Hills on Ko Racha Yai are a natural shield against wind for dive sites around the island. A stone's throw from the jetty a gentle wind was rising and the view under the sea at some points was as clear as it is on a sunny day.
Less than five minutes later my instructor was pointing to what looked like a dull brown rock at the bottom of the sea. After staring it for a while, I saw a set of eyes open and then it gently slid way from me.
It was an octopus the size of a football. I had watched Pirates of the Caribbean the night before and was rather scared by the gigantic creature featuring in the movie, but the one I saw here seemed rather timid, even cute in comparison and that helped exorcise my fear.
A few metres away was a tiny nudibranch in black and bright yellow and giant clams showing off their violet muscles. Looking around, I found myself among countless marine life forms amidst colonies of staghorn coral reefs that extended over 500 metres south of Ter Bay.
Schools of red-tailed butterfly fish gathered above the reef. Flutemouth fish gave me curios looks, while groupers of various size hid under thick reefs totally oblivious to my presence. View of the reef and the life it supported was so clear that I found it difficult to believe I was out diving on a cloudy day in the middle of the monsoon season in the Andaman Sea.
"The seabed becomes clearer after monsoon rains end," said the instructor, and I must say I envied him because that is when this place turns very busy. November to April boats carry hundreds of tourists to sandy beaches and stunning dive sites around the island.
Situated some 25 kilometres south of Phuket, Ko Racha Yai and Ko Racha Noi are rather isolated, which explains why the sea around them is unbelievably clear. In the absence of regular boat service from Phuket, Ko Racha Yai, with only a handful of standard resorts, presents superb tranquility. The resorts occupy only a tiny area leaving most of the tropical wilderness untouched. I was staying at The Racha.
One evening, a resort staff led me to explore the wild side of the island on the ATV all-terrain vehicle. A short distance from the resort was a natural pond in which lazed water buffaloes, while cattle grazed freely in pastures surrounding it, and colourful birds flew merrily between coconut plantations and the jungle next to them.
"Most of the island is still covered in wilderness dotted with waterfalls. Do not feel scared if you come across dogs or monitor lizards," said the staff, steering his ATV past dense bushes. "Most of the residents here are Muslim."
We rode past coconut plantations, dense jungle and crossed a stream that opened to a wide beach on the northern tip of the island.
"This is Siam Bay, the widest beach that stretches some 400 metres and gently slopes down to the sea," he said.
Extreme quietness blanketed the vast sandy beach. I could not believe my eyes as there was not a single tourist on view. The only sound breaking the quiet was the revving of my ATV engine.
Far from the reach of normal tourists, Ko Racha Yai remains an untouched natural gem boasting an excellent beach and coral reefs, thanks that it has been spared the fate dogging more popular destinations. Its inadequacies in terms of accommodation and tourist facilities have effectively insulated it from change and modernisation.
Having explored Ko Racha Yai, my next stop was Ko Racha Noi, a sister island a further six kilometres adrift. It took me 30 minutes to get there by speed boat. The azure sea glistened as my boat approached the sparsely inhabited island. By now the cloudy sky was replaced by bright sunshine.
The sea was again crystal clear and after taking pictures from the boat I went for a dip. I soon found myself drifting above a colourful coral reef and as my feet touched the seabed I spotted several forms of marine life moving in all directions in the depths.
Most conspicuous among them were the puffer fish, fat and slow moving, which the staff chased and succeeded in catching and presented them to guests. These fish, the staff told me, were spikeless. I hung around feasting my eyes on treasures of the sea before exploring a few underwater caves that were basically an extension of large colonies of coral reefs.
And that marked the end of this dive excursion to Ko Racha Yai and Ko Racha Noi islands. I left with a tinge of sadness, not sure whether they and their pristine wilderness would still be intact when I visit them next time.
Ko Racha Yai is approximately 25 kilometres south of Chalong Bay, Phuket, about 35 minutes by speed boat. There is no regular boat service between the island and Phuket.
The Racha is the only luxury resort on Ko Racha Yai. For more information, call 076-355-455 or visit http://www.theracha.com.
Ban Raya offers comfortable bungalows in coconut plantations. For more information, call 076-224-439 or visit http://www.banraya.com.
Source : The Bangkok Post, 08 November 2007
© Copyright The Post Publishing Public Co., Ltd. 2007
One-Two-Go airlines crashed in Phuket around 1600hrs local time.
All flights were suspended as airport is closed until tomorrow morning. All passengers were understanding and we moved them to hotels. Nothing else to say. Sombre mood.
Ironically, the airport authority just conducted a crash exercise one week ago and we all participated in that. All airlines participated, having fun, laughing, enjoying the company of the other airline colleagues, taking pictures and enjoying a good lunch after the exercise.
It did not cross anyone's mind that all the actions we saw will be real in a week's time. On a bright note, the crash exercise did play a part in the crisis management for this incident. Else, the horrors would have been far worse.
I have some exclusive pictures taken from the crash site, but as a mark of respect to the victims, i shall not make them available for public viewing. I shall not try to profit from someone else's tragedy.
This year's Phuket Vegetarian Festival will be held from 11 to 19 October.
This festival is an annual event held during the ninth lunar month of the Chinese calendar, which normally falls in late September or early October. Though the origins of the festival are unclear, it celebrates the Chinese community's belief that a strict vegetarian diet will purify the mind and body and constitute merit making.
The most popular and best-believed tale is that a wandering Chinese opera group fell ill with malaria while performing on the island. They decided to adhere to a strict vegetarian diet and pray to the Nine Emperor Gods who would ensure purification of the mind and body. After doing this, they members recovered miraculously. On recovery, the people celebrated by holding a festival that was meant to honor the gods as well as express the people's happiness at surviving a fatal illness.
The present makeover of this festival involve sacred rituals performed at all Chinese temples in Phuket followed by processions. The processions from each temple show spectacles of strict vegetarians, known as devotees, ostensibly possessed by gods, piercing their tongues, cheeks and other parts of the anatomy with sharp implements. The devotees apparently feel no pain and show no sign of real injury. This has some similarity to the Hindu festival of Thaipusam held in Singapore and Malaysia by the Tamil Hindu community.
So if you are planning to visit Phuket in October, plan a date with the devotees. Processions are held during the 9 days, along the roads of Phuket town and be armed with your camera. The last day is normally the best day to watch the procession.
For more information, visit the official website :
Here is the schedule of this year's processions :
Here, you can see some pictures and videos from previous years’ celebrations :
This website have some gory pictures, not for the fainted heart though !
Came across an article about Phuket, not the normal type that you read about Phuket on the beaches or the nightlife or the high-end hotels or resorts. This article tells the reader about the little wildlife left on the island, an the Gibbons.
Click here to read the article.
Khao Phra Thaeo National Park is the last rainforest in Phuket and this national reserve conserves the last of several species of wild animals such as langurs, barking deer, mouse deer, bears, wild boar, monkeys and gibbons. The forest, which consists of huge trees, creepers and climbers are home to hundreds of different bird species. From the entrance of the national park, you can have an elephant ride up to the entrance to the Bang Pae waterfall. The national park also houses the Gibbon Rehabilitation Centre and the objective of my trip was to visit these Gibbons. As usual, i was accompanied by Tor, who has started to complain that i never mention about him on my blog.
There are some eating houses at the entrance of the rehab centre, and i thought, hmmm have a good meal before visiting the Gibbons. But big mistake ! After having a sumptous late lunch, we proceeded to the rehab centre, only to be told by a Caucasian who spoke in very perfect Thai that visitors are not allowed inside after 4pm. Damn my lunch ! So perhaps another time, with an elephant ride !
Instead of turning back, we decided to check out the waterfall. Tor, who had been there many times before, promised feast to the eyes. So i stretched my legs and started climbing up the slippery stones up to the mouth of the waterfall. The place was filled with locals (perhaps being a Sunday), with naked kids running around, some plunging into the water from the rocks above, and some just wading in the water. I can see and sense the water is very cold. Even the droplets that fell on me was so cold !
The uphill walk through the shady forest is very pleasant and challenging. The path is not intentionally built and it is very slippery and there are no handrails for safety. It is rustic and so down to nature. Well, we climbed higher and higher and higher, perhaps a good 2km till we reached the top. Though quite a small cascade, this is Phuket's largest waterfall. I was a bit dissapointed to see a small stream of waterfall from not a big height. Nevertheless, i enjoyed the sight and sounds.
The base of the waterfall
Kids are always kids !
That's me on top of a rock, holding my breath and hanging on to my life
That's the waterfall
Well, since i cant show you the real gibbons, how about a human gibbon named Tor ?
Two weeks ago, I was driving towards Phrompthep Cape, when I saw a Buddha like statue on top of a mountain. The sight made me curious and I asked around and came to know that a project is underway to build the world's largest meditating Buddha statue in Phuket on top of the Nak-Kued Mountain. It is accessible by road and I decided to make a visit to the site.
The Phuket Big Buddha project is undertaked by Thailand's Department of Forestry, Kata's Kitisangkaraam Temple and Phrabuddha Mingmonkol Sattha 45 Foundation and is endorsed by the Thai Royal Emblem. The project covers over 6 hectares of forest land on the top of the mountain and includes the building of 2 Pangmarnvichai Buddha images. The bigger Buddha image is built with cement and will be 25.5 meter wide, 45 meter high and 1000 tons when complete. It is touted to be the largest meditating Buddha image in the world and is being built as a 80th birthday present to his Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the Monarch of Thailand. The smaller one is a gold-alloy Buddha image which is 5.5 meter wide, 12.5 meter high and weighs 22 tons (now completed and on display for public), which is dedicated to Her Majesty Queen Sirikit.
This is at the foot of the mountain, some 6km away from the top, where the Buddha statue is being built.
At the top of the mountain, base of the Buddha statue. Work in progress.
The Royal Emblem is in place.
The vision of the project.
The finished Buddha statue will look like this. See the 2 nagas by the side of Buddha.
The finished smaller Buddha statue made of Gold
Another smaller Buddha statue in the vicinity
A Buddha shrine at the vicinity
The mountain is located between Chalong and Kata, which provides a magnificient view of Chalong Bay on one side and the other direction is the Andaman Sea. You can see the whole of Phuket and nearby island from atop the mountain. In simpler words, the mountain top is priceless and magnificient, the best view point to enjoy the beauty of the Andaman coast !
More information on the Big Buddha project can be found at the following links :
Sunset at Maikhao beach, Phuket
Here is wishing you a great 2007 !
the new year here was a bit low key due to the Bangkok bombings. Another bomb went off at Chiangmai few hours ago.
Strict instruction from head office to avoid crowded places. Heck it, i still went to patong beach to enjoy the fireworks ... 45 mins non stop all along the beach and from the hotels and the hills ! Fantastic !! Then i drove back home and slept through the night.
Sigh! i hope no bombs in phuket :(
On x'mas eve, went to the local catholic church for x'mas mass. funny mass in thai (with some english). they sing the carols in thai.
The light in the confession box was on and there was noone in the queue. On the spur of the moment, i stepped into the box and did my confession, after five years. I dunno what got hold of me, but my words kept flowing and they came straight from my heart and i went on and on ... only to realize tears are flowing non-stop. The priest was good with his words and gave me some sound advises. After doing my prayers, I took part in the mass and received holy communion. Felt so blessed, relieved and in full of peace.