Category Archives: Travel – Phuket 2008

Tales of Phuket 2008

View from After Beach Bar

And so, finally I am done with my Phuket posts. You can read all about my fifth trip to the sunny island here…

… and view the collection of photos here on Flickr.

The last trip was enjoyable, albeit a bit too predictable to have that edge to keep me interested in coming back again. Some new experiences this time. I would want to come back – for nostalgia sake – but the next time must be accompanied by someone.

Traveling alone to such a familiar place can become a (dare I say it) bore.

But I will miss Phuket. In my heart, I will miss the people I got to know, the sandy beaches, the delicious food, the exciting night life.

I wonder when will I set foot there again?

Tales of Phuket – Third, and Last, Night in Phuket

And so… the final night of my Phuket trip beckoned. As I need to start my journey to the airport next morning at 7 a.m., I knew I couldn’t afford a hectic night out.

So my plan was simple. A massage. A dinner. A drink. And then back to hotel.

Headed to Wanida again, and to my delight the next therapist in line was the pedicure lady whom I mentioned in my earlier posts. As usual she was very cheeky with me, but I didn’t mind. Her skills in foot massage was… phenomenal. Easily the best I had. I was so relaxed and pleased that, when she was doing my shoulders and neck, I asked if she does Thai massage as well.

Of course she does. So I said, let’s do another hour of Thai massage.

That would be the first time I did a body massage at Wanida, so I didn’t know what to expect. Would it be sleazy? I doubt so… considering how the girls here were dressed – simple T-shirt and jeans. The pedicure lady (of whom I still don’t know the name!) led me to the upper floor, into a dimly lit room. Some mattresses were on the floor, separated from view of each other with a curtain.

And so she did me. LOL, that sounded dirty.

But she did me good. I was groaning and panting a bit as she cracked and worked on my tired body. I can hear giggles from other “mattresses” – obviously I was pretty loud – but I couldn’t be bothered.

At one point my right leg was folded on top of my left knee, and my left leg was raised high up, the sole of my feet facing skyward. The cheeky lady said, “You must give me big tip ah… if not I can kill you now!”

As if to demonstrate her threat was real, she pressed on my feet. It was painful.

But I decided to play along. I said, “No tip for you!”

Cue more giggles and laughter from the others that I couldn’t see. And then she pressed harder on the sole of my feet.

The pain was excruciating! Then I said, “OK! OK! Big tip!”

That was fun. I planned to tip her big anyway, and I did. The grin she had as she ushered me out of the shop was worth every baht. I hope she will be around when I visit Phuket next.

After that I went to have a simple dinner, again at The Orchid. After that I took a nap, before went to find Yot again. It was almost like a repeat of the previous night, only more relaxed, more cosy with friends.

It was almost 3 a.m. in the morning when I went back to my hotel. As I drifted off to sleep, I was hit with the realisation that, again, I will Phuket when I leave the next morning. But this time, I will be able to get over it quickly.

Tales of Phuket – Road Trip to Central Phuket

After the rather successful roadtrip yesterday, I decided to continue on my journey, this time into central Phuket, away from the beaches. The last time I did this was during my third trip, with the help of the map. This time, I ditched the guide, and followed the road signs.

It was proven to be a good decision.

After a quick breakfast, I hit the road, heading towards Phuket Town. My intention was to look for Wat Chalong first. I have been there before, the biggest temple on Phuket island, but this time my aim is less spiritual. I wanted to get some souvenirs! I figured that other places will be way too touristy, so I decided to get some gifts from the stalls at Wat Chalong. Took some really nice pics, and bought some nice, unique stuff at very good price. My advice – the next time you want to buy gifts, head to the temples. The sellers there are less likely to rob you. For obvious reason, LOL.

Wat Chalong

Wat Chalong

Stall @ Wat Chalong

More photos from Wat Chalong here.

After that, I took the exhilarating ride up to Big Buddha of Phuket, a 45 metre high Buddha located on top of the hill, still under construction. The ride was especially thrilling as it winded up the hill, and the road was less than perfectly safe. The last time I was here, again my camera battery was flat, so I didn’t manage to take any pictures. This time round, I took plenty, including those “shit-shaped” pieces of marble, which I later discovered mean to be the hair of the Buddha. Bought two special gifts from here, and donated a marble tile with my name on it for 100 baht.

Of course, the view from up here was absolutely phenomenal. The Buddha, went completed, will command a perfect view of the vista that is Andaman Sea. My camera couldn’t even begin to do the panorama justice.

But I tried. More photos from Big Buddha of Phuket here.

Big Buddha of Phuket

Big Buddha of Phuket

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Tales of Phuket – The Second Night

After a quick perk-me-up at the hotel to wash away the dust of my road trip, it’s time to explore Patong again. Earlier in the day, I was reading a publication that says “many tourists decided to spend their entire holiday at Patong Beach, as it is very well equipped to entertain their every whims and fancies”

Hmmm… that was kinda true. So I decided to spend my nights at Patong. Went to hunt for a night roadside stall, and found a place that looked good.

Patong Night Market

What I didn’t realise was that the food stalls were actually part of the Patong Night Market. I discovered a whole side of Patong that I never seen before as I walked beyond the stalls.

Patong Night Market

Endless cute hut-like bars, with half-drunk tourists playing games against their hostesses. Rows upon rows of stalls selling every touristy trinkets imaginable. The market wasn’t crowded, as the evening was still rather early, but I had a good time trawling along side the few early birds. In the end I didn’t buy anything, but had a satisfying dinner at the stalls.

After my little adventure, I decided to return to hotel for a little nap before the clubbing begin. It was almost 11 p.m. before I head out to find Yot at his place, which is located above a karaoke bar.

And he brought along his sweetheart – a little Chihuahua named Kwai Jin! The name means “homeless” in Thai. I wasn’t a fan of Chihuahuas, thinking that they are all yelping and biting little dogs of terror… but Kwai Jin proved me wrong. She was a sweet little thing. And I was very sure she has taken a liking to me.

Kwai Jin & Me

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Tales of Phuket – Road Trip to Southern Phuket

I woke up at close to ten. Actually, I felt like sleeping till much later, but I thought I should waste to glorious sunshine peeking through the curtain of my room.

And so, off I went for a hearty breakfast at The Orchid. Oh god that was worth every single cent. Or baht. Hehe.

Breakfast on Second Day

While having my breakfast, I referred to my trusty guides to think of what to do today. After the mini trip to the spa at Kathu, I thought a little road trip down south towards Kata and Karon beaches would be nice. Plus I can visit The Sense Spa again.

So off I go again, taking in the sight and sound and sunshine that was Phuket. I stopped briefly at Kata Yai, which was in front of Club Med. Didn’t intend to stop for sunbathing, as I suddenly crave for yet another massage!

Kata Yai Beach

Had a simple lunch at this tourist “trap” right behind Club Med. The weather was so hot, and the place so stifling, the food was so-so… the entire lunch had me squirmingly uncomfortable. I can’t wait to get to the spa! Of course, having my holiday read with me helped things a lot. I was so engrossed in the story I didn’t realise my sweat was dripping onto my rice. Haha.

Lunch on Second Day

Lunch on Second Day

The Sense Spa has been on my travel itinerary for the longest time. I liked the professionalism of the staff, and you can always count on your experience to be at least a pleasant one. For pictures of the spa, you can look at this post – just scroll all the way down.

This time round, I opted for an hour of hands and foot massage. The therapist was strong. I would have enjoyed it if I had the sense to clean my feet properly. There were still grains of sand on it, so when you have strong strokes massaging your feet – it was like having a scrub. Painful, prolonged scrub. Argh! After she was done with my left feet, I quickly get up to wash my right feet first.

After that, the remaining session was a bliss. Ah….

The remaining afternoon was spent riding along the southern perimeter of the island. The weather was perfect, and so was the scenery. It was… breathtaking, as usual. Not that I have never seen it before, but to witness it again with my own eyes had a calming effect on me.

I guess, that was one of the main draws Phuket had on me.

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Tales of Phuket – The First Night

After the massage session, I rode back to Patong Beach to see if my room was ready. By then, Khun Oui was there already, and we spent some happy minutes chatting. Room 301 was just the way I remembered it to be – clean, cosy and comfortable.

I felt very much at home, already :D

Khun Oui and I

The time was about 4 plus, the sun started to set, but I really don’t want to miss any opportunity for sun tanning. So off I went to the beach, and gosh!!! The sun was dazzling, the sea was at low tide (it was weird) and the beach was surprisingly uncrowded.

I ventured into the sea a couple of time to cool off, and it was kinda scary. Being the monsoon season, the tide was unpredictable, and the wave was strong. At times, I was completedly knocked off my feet with crashing wave, sometimes reaching way above my head.

I can’t imagine the horror it was when tsunami hit this place in 2004 :(

After the beach session, I went back to hotel, showered and changed, then headed for a foot massage and a pedicure at Wanida, the same massage chain located a few shops away from StarOrchid. The staff, as usual, was very friendly, but I was particularly taken by the lady who did my pedicure. Her English was good, as she can tease and joke with me, and her pedicuring skills were superb. I was more relaxed with her chipping away at my toenails than when I was having my foot massage.

After then 1.5 hour session or so, I walked opposite to The Orchid restaurant, a popular place with tourist mainly because of their superb food at reasonable price. I had the charcoal-grilled prawn and beancurd soup – delish! And half way through my dinner, the pedicure lady walked over and admonish me for forgeting my book, which I left at the massage seat. Ooops! :D

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Tales of Phuket – Hiranyikara, Spa for Men

I read about Hiranyikara in the Phuket Gazette during my last visit here. The direction available in the brochure I picked up was a bit ambiguous. I knew I will need to travel towards Phuket town, and so on the way I decided to find an authentic Thai lunch!

On the way to Kathu

What do I mean by authentic? It is nothing like what you would expect to find in a Thai restaurant in Singapore. I was looking for a place similar to the economy rice stalls – dishes upon dishes of Thai food displayed for you to choose from, often at rock bottom price. Served with white rice and a plate of vegetables. The latter was important to me. I loved gnawing on fresh vege! It was so refreshing.

And so I found one nondescript place near to Kathu. My friends will shudder at the thought of dining at such a dingy stall, but not me. I liked it. Why behave like a tourist when you can live like a local?

Lunch on First Day

Lunch on First Day

After lunch I continued my journey to find Hiranyikara. As I said, the map was a bit misleading, so I ended up traveling more than 10 km in the wrong direction, hitting Phuket Town before making a disgruntled U-turn.

Eventually I managed to find the place. If you are thinking of visiting, remember this – if you are riding from Patong Beach direction, when you hit Caltex on your right, turn right immediately. If you are coming from Phuket Town, turn left when you see Caltex in front of you. After that, the map will make sense.

Hiranyikara Spa
133 Moo7 Vichitsongkram Rd., Kathu, Phuket 83120
Tel. +66 76 203280-1, (0)81 370 0202 (Eng.speaking)

Hiranyikara Spa for Men

Hiranyikara is tucked away some 100 m away from the main road, surrounded by greeneries and woods. I guess it was an old mansion converted into a spa, with privacy as their top priority. Even their entrance was discreetly hidden behind some bamboo trees, blocked from view to anyone riding in from the main road!

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Tales of Phuket – Getting Started @ Patong Beach

And so I have touched down at Phuket! Excitedly I looked around the arrival gate, and there he was! Khun Sombat has been my personal chauffeur (hehe) ever since I started my Phuket craze. He always picked me up at the airport, and on the last day he will pick me up at my hotel to go back to the airport.

We chatted a bit in the cab. He told me for the past few days, it was raining quite heavily in Phuket. Surprisingly today the sun was out, and everything was bathed in glorious light. I smiled inwardly. I knew I was lucky. Everytime I came to Phuket during the low, monsoon season, the weather will hold and become all sunny.

For those of you who wants to have a personal pick up, here’s Khun Sombat contact details. You can email him your name, contact number and flight details for booking. The price for one way trip is 600 baht, a slight increase from before because of the increase in fuel price.

Sombat Munfeuk
Mobile: 081-8958925
Home: 076-379544 (night time)

I felt asleep in the cab for a bit. I was so tired because of the (stupid) early flight! But soon I arrived at Patong. The sight of the glorious sea when we make that turn down the hill (when you come from Phuket Town direction) always, always cheer me up, and made me happy about my decision to come to Phuket. Again.

For accommodation, I stayed at the same place as my last trip – The StarOrchid Guesthouse. For photos of this place, you can check out this post. My usual contact, Khun Oui, wasn’t in when I checked in, and I was given a room at the 4th floor as some guests were still occupying my room of choice.

And so I checked in. At first I thought it was okay, despite that I have to climb flights of stairs. But soon I discovered things were very dirty, and dusty. The floor, the toilet… I guess they seldom use this room.

Although I paid very low rate for my three nights of stay (only about S$70+ for the entire trip), I won’t stand being treated this way. And so I went down to the reception, spoke nicely to the girl, and asked to change. She seemed angry with the cleaner who was supposed to make sure my room is clean. It wasn’t my problem, really. So I requested for my old room – Room 301. I told her I will go out first, and return to check in to the new room later when it becomes available.

Left the guesthouse, and walked along Patong Beach to soak in the sight and sound. Had a Thai iced tea along the way – only 20 baht!

Roadside Hawker @ Patong Beach

I realised that it is indeed the low season. The walkway was not crowded with tourists as it probably would during the peak in December. Even the number of hawkers touting their fares was not a lot. In a way it was pleasant. I didn’t feel hassled or rushed. Perfect for a little getaway holiday :)

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Tales of Phuket – The Tiger Airways Departure @ Budget Terminal

Here’s the beginning of my “Tales of Phuket” series, which will detail as much as possible on my fifth (and most likely the last for a long time) trip to Phuket. Well, let’s get started on the flight, shall we?

Usually I take JetStar, but for some reasons they no longer have flights to Phuket. As I am traveling alone, I don’t qualify for any of the other normal airlines – like SilkAir – so I have to go for Tiger Airways. Which was very expensive, considering that it is a budget airline and will be flying out of the Budget Terminal. I paid over S$450 for it.

I was decidedly not looking forward to the Budget Terminal. I love airports, and it pains me that I will not be flying off from Terminal 1 or 2.

And so on to my first day. My flight was scheduled at the ungodly hour of 8.15 a.m., so I have to be at the airport at 6 plus! I was prepared for the worst, really, that it being the budget terminal, but I was in for a surprise.

Budget Terminal, Singapore

The budget terminal is really just like a huge warehouse, renovated just nice enough to be comfortable and not enough to be consider as “luxurious”. As there were only two airlines departing from this terminal, and my flight being so early, there whole place was practically empty. Which was good news for me. Check in was quite a breeze. The staff were friendly and efficient. And the passengers didn’t really threw up much fuss.

Except for this duo of women with two children. They were… exuberant. I was just being polite. They were noisy! Ah well… I should be more understanding.

Budget Terminal, Singapore

The custom clearance was quick – too quick actually. There were three counters in operation, and I was the only passenger going through. Naturally that made me nervous. But no one gave me a hard time. They were just being efficient.

And so on to the facilities. Well, I expected all of them are being one grade down from the remaining airport terminals, and I was right. Shopping options were similar to heartland malls, and the food outlet was designed like a food court. Everything else is minimal – toilet, water cooler, ATM… just enough for you to get your pre-flight errands done.

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Tales of Phuket – The Night Before

Work and life had been so hectic and stressful for me recently, that I couldn’t appreciate the fact that I am going to Phuket for a holiday… until now.

Yes, folks, yours truly the self-proclaimed Phuket master will be paying yet another visit to the sunny island (you can read some of my more complete blog series on my Phuket trips here and here. Let me see… this would be the fifth time since my first trip in December 2006.

Some notes before I get started on the trip:

1) I booked my tickets from Tiger Airways. I usually travel by JetStar, but apparently they are no longer running flights to Phuket. And the bloody tickets cost me more than S$400! Ridiculous… and tomorrow morning will mark my first visit to the Budget Terminal. I am decidedly not looking forward to it.

2) Will be staying at StarOrchid Guesthouse, the same place I stayed the last time. Maybe it is really low peak season, but my total cost for three nights stay is only… S$70 odd. LOL. And the place is like 50m away from Patong Beach

3) Booked my usual cab driver to pick me up from airport. 500 baht one way. Cheap.

4) Found a money changer at Lucky Plaza who gave me really good rate. I checked at some other places – most quoted me 23.9 – but this place give me 24.3! And most importantly, she always give me a mixture and big and small notes. I likeeee.

Speaking of money, I was talking to a friend and was doing some budgeting for the trip, to make sure I have enough for everything….

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