Jamie's Phuket Blog

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Samet Nangshe Viewpoint - Wow!

There are lots of great views around the Phuket area (see Hills and Viewpoints for more). We have a mix of hills and ocean here (the name "Phuket" comes from the Malay word Bukit which means Hill), and if you climb a hill you can get some great sea views. The highest hills in Phuket are over 500m above sea level, but just a few kilometres from the sea. I do like finding new viewpoints, and earlier this year, I saw an amazing view on Instagram, posted by a Thai photographer. I could see that it was in Phang Nga, just north of Phuket island, and I recognised one of the small islands in the view, as I'd taken a photo of the same island in 2015 while exploring a corner of Phang Nga province that we'd never looked at before. So I figured the photo must be taken from a hill in that general location. Over the last few months I have seen many more photos taken from the same viewpoint, and some showed a sign saying "Samet Nangshe Resort". Really? A resort? We'd just been there 6 months earlier and I'd not seen any resorts under construction. Well, this had to be checked out!

We drove over the Sarasin bridge into Phang Nga province and took the same road as before towards the small village of Klong Kian and then started looking for the viewpoint. We saw several signs saying Samet Nangshe, so we quickly realised this place was being promoted a bit, at least locally because I'd not seen any photos taken by foreign tourists, only Thai people. I was expecting a tiny sign and a little dirt road which our (not 4WD) truck might struggle to climb, but we soon found what we came for and were surprised to find it looking quite busy. A large carpark off the road and quite a few little stalls selling drinks and snacks. And there were several cars already parked there. Looks like a local landowner has decided to make some cash from the view! You don't see any view from road level. A dirt trail, which is wide enough for a car (but we only saw people walking), snaked up the hillside. It was a hot afternoon so we bought some bottled water and then paid a 30 Baht "entry fee" (no extra charge for the foreign guy) at a bamboo kiosk at the bottom of the path. It only took a minute of walking uphill to see the view.

Samet Nangshe View

It was not a hard climb up, but not too easy either! It was a hot afternoon and the track is quite steep. Here's my wife and daughter stopping for a breather ...

Path up to Samet Nangshe Viewpoint

I do wonder if they might make a real road up here sometime. The dirt path is fine for walking and you can see there are steps carved into the dirt, though I wonder what this will look like in the rainy season! We moaned a bit about the heat and the steep path, but couldn't moan too much as we had companions for the walk, much smaller than us ...

Kids walking up to Samet Nangshe Viewpoint

(above) Kids walking up the path to Samet Nangshe Viewpoint. OK, if that little one can do it, let's walk! Actually it's only a 10 minute walk, probably less if you are very fit and healthy. Then you reach a small open area, with a stall selling drinks, and a view ...

View from "Level 1" at Samet Nangshe

Ah! So there is the "resort" sign I had seen on Instagram! And certainly no sign of any resort or hotel here. That is quite a view. Phang Nga Bay is full of small islands, we have done many trips in the area by boat, but it all looks different from up high. I would like to take a helicopter flight over this area, that would be amazing. My family were quite content to see the view from here, but ... just before reaching this viewpoint the path splits and a sign points the other way and says it's only 200m to a higher viewpoint. We could see this higher viewpoint from where we stood. I'm going for it! Anyone else? Just me? Sure it was a bit hot walking up, but nothing serious. So I left the family and headed up. Not too tough really, only another 10 minutes, but it was steep and I was breathing hard near the top - it was a very hot afternoon!

But, wow. Sometimes you do get these WOW moments. No matter what photos you have seen, or how much traveling you have done before. Wow!

Samet Nangshe Viewpoint

View from the top .. and there is no way a single photo can capture the full view. I realised this already, as I had seen photos, but the reality is more. And this is the start. We'll come here again, because the view is looking east. And the photos I saw of the sunrise were spectacular. I want to see that sunrise. Phang Nga Bay is a beautiful place.

Samet Nangshe View Panorama

(above) And looking slightly more to the north across Phang Nga Bay. Wow. One more wow! The view here was fantastic. No way to show everything with one photo, and even though I had seen photos, the real life view was a fantastic thing to see. Nice to know that I can still be impressed by our local scenery. We will return! To get here in time for sunrise we'll have to leave home about 5am. I think an early morning will be very much worth the effort. Of course we said the same thing about Khao Kai Nui viewpoint (also in Phang Nga) that we visited 4 months ago. The Monks are not naturally early risers!

Related links on Jamie's Phuket

Phang Nga Bay Tour
Khao Kai Nui Viewpoint
Exploring Phang Nga Province
James Bond Island
Tours with Easy Day Thailand

Samet Nangshe Location Map

Samet Nangshe Viewpoint - Wow!  |  Jamie's Phuket Blog

Lee Coffee Restaurant at Benyaran Museum

This place is a bit of an oddity that we need to check out again. Just over the bridge from Phuket, to the east of the main road, there's an area of land that lies between the sea and the road that joins Phuket to Phang Nga Town. A big area, like half the size of Phuket. It was in 2015 that I first looked at this area on Google Maps, and thought "maybe we should take a little drive" .. So we did - read about it @ Exploring New Roads in Phang Nga. Very nice, some pretty views, I was glad we went exploring. Then in 2016 we heard about a new viewpoint opening in that same area, so we went exploring again and found Samed Nangshe Viewpoint. And then later in 2016 we found that a small fishing village that we'd seen in 2015 had organised a village collective to run boat tours into Phang Nga Bay - see Exploring New Islands in Phang Nga Bay. So over the last couple of years this area has woken up to tourism. Nothing huge yet, I hope the area does not get spoiled. I feel like we're growing up with this area of Phang Nga, having seen it virtually tourism-free and now seeing the development of small scale tourism (viewpoints, boat trips) .. no hotels yet, but that IS changing.

We have stopped a couple of times at the Benyaran Museum. It's on the road heading towards these new tourist attractions, and there is a museum of sorts there, but until now we've not actually looked inside the museum. We will. We only stopped there because once you're off the main road there's no restaurants in the area until you reach this museum. The first time in 2016 we stopped there to see what food we could get and were surprised to find a nice looking place, with aircon and inexpensive Thai food. So we have been again :) Benyaran Museum has a Facebook page here. And I found a little interview with the owner on the Bangkok Post website here. We chatted with the owner, Mr Ronnachai Jindapol, on our last visit and as it turns out his son vaguely knows my son, as they are at the same school! Sir, we will visit the museum soon! The name 'Benyaran' comes from combining the names of his mother and father - Banya and Aran.

Lee Coffee Restaurant / Benyaran Museum

(above) Benyaran Museum and Restaurant. Easy to spot if you are driving past. There's a map at the end of the blog post. When we ate here in 2016 we thought it amazing to find a nice aircon restaurant in the middle of nowhere! But I think that Mr Jindapol and other entrepreneurs in the area are pretty smart. Mr Jindapol told us that he's the one behind a new "boutique resort with camping" on the same hillside as Samed Nangshe Viewpoint, with almost the same view. We did have a quick visit and will visit again when it's all ready. Looked impressive, but is it the start of "too much development"? That's for another day. The restaurant at the museum seems to be called "Lee Coffee". There is a sign outside with that name. On our fist stop we found the food to be good and reasonably priced and on a hot day finding aircon was a very pleasant surprise!

at Lee Coffee Restaurant / Benyaran Museum

at Lee Coffee Restaurant / Benyaran Museum

(above) There's a bar area outside and also some outdoor tables, because some people don't like aircon.

at Lee Coffee Restaurant / Benyaran Museum

(above) And indoor seating with aircon - that's the owner and family sitting there. The menu is mostly simple Thai dishes. A few of our lunch items below ...

Phad Gaprao at Lee Coffee Restaurant / Benyaran Museum

(above) Pad Gaprao with chicken

Shrimp Omelette at Lee Coffee Restaurant / Benyaran Museum

(above) Omelette with shrimp

Tom Yum at Lee Coffee Restaurant / Benyaran Museum

(above) Tom Yum

All tasty and we'll eat here again along with a visit to the museum. A little searching online shows that the museum has all kinds of odd assorted junk collected by the owner over many years. There's old coins, old kitchen appliances, and even an airplane! Hope to post the museum on the blog sometime soon.

Toilets at Lee Coffee Restaurant / Benyaran Museum

(above) The toilets are nice too!

Benyaran Museum - Location Map

Lee Coffee Restaurant at Benyaran Museum  |  Jamie's Phuket Blog

Kuan Ta Eiam Viewpoint (ควนตาเอี่ยม)

We love hills and great views, so we're very lucky living in this hilly part of south Thailand. Phuket has lots of amazing views and hills over 500m above sea level. To the north of Phuket, over the bridge, you have Phang Nga province, which is largely rural and also hilly. Although this is the "Phuket Blog" there's a lot on here about neighbouring provinces too! Viewpoints have been opening up to the public on privately owned land over the last few years. In early 2016 we found Khao Kai Nui, which had not been open that long, and then later in 2016 we visited Samed Nangshe, which really is gorgeous. And just recently we visited Black Rock Viewpoint in the south of Phuket, which has been there but rather secret for a few years and now has an improved road and some signpost (in Thai only!) It seems that anyone who owns land on a hill is opening up their land. So long as it's kept neat and tidy, I'm all for it. If the hillsides in rural areas start getting lined with sunset bars, hotels and bus loads of Chinese tourists, maybe not so good.

So last week we took a family drive into Phang Nga. I had seen a viewpoint called 'Kuan Ta Eiam' on an Instagram post by some local video makers (Fat Mango Videos). The pictures looked like Phang Nga, and they sent me a location, thanks! Just a few kilometers from Samet Nangshe, so our little drive had 2 objectives .. to find Kuan Ta Eiam and also to re-visit Samet Nangshe and see what had changed since last year. We stopped first for a late breakfast at the Benyaran Museum, which is on the way, a place owned by a local landowner, and we really should visit the museum sometime soon. But the museum also has a decent restaurant with inexpensive, tasty Thai food and aircon and we have eaten there a few times. It will be blogged!

After eating we headed to Samet Nangshe ... I want to blog more about this because there is a new place opening a couple of hundred meters along the hill and we had a look - a boutique hotel with camping and a small restaurant. It's being tastefully done, the owner is the same owner as the Benyaran museum. We plan to return and hire a couple of tents for the night when it's 100% open. Right now it's open, but with builders! Tents for the night I think they said 600 Baht for 2 people. This is for the future ...

Kuan Ta Eiam we found to be unsignposted. But it is marked on Google Maps, so we found the correct side road and then guessed the right dirt road heading uphill.

Heading towards Kuan Ta Eiam

(above) Driving towards Kuan Ta Eiam - looks like it must be up on that hill ...

Road up to Kuan Ta Eiam

(above) Dirt road heading up .. it was dry, easy to drive (we don't have a 4x4), but if the road was slightly wet I would think twice about trying this! There were no signposts at all, but at the top we found a large parking area, benches, and it's obviously being set up as a viewpoint, but as yet there is no entry fee, not even a drink stall, and there were no other people at all. I actually wondered if we should be up there. Maybe a farmer would shout "Get Of My Land!"

Looking in one direction there are hills and fields ...

Kuan Ta Eiam Viewpoint

And looking the other way ...

Kuan Ta Eiam Viewpoint ควนตาเอี่ยม

(above) Our own view .. you can see this image full screen here.

Kuan Ta Eiam Viewpoint

(above) My wife and our daughter find some shade while I wander around taking photos. You can see that the top of the viewpoint is ready for visitors with a bench and a swing and rocks painted with the name of the viewpoint in Thai - ควนตาเอี่ยม). The name of the viewpoint .. "Kuan" is a south Thai word for hill, and "Ta Eiam" means "Grandpa Eiam". I am not sure who Eiam is! But it's his hill.

Kuan Ta Eiam Viewpoint

(above) Enjoying my own viewpoint. Maybe this place will have to play second fiddle to Samet Nangshe, as the view from there is slightly more spectacular. But we very much enjoyed this little afternoon of exploration, as we often do. This part of Phang Nga is quickly becoming a popular attraction. We first drove around here in June 2015 and there was really nothing developed. The Samet Nangshe viewpoint opened in 2016, and then the fishing village of Hin Rom started a village collective, with longtail boat trips and a small restaurant later in 2016 - we did a trip exploring caves and islands in November 2016. I feel like we have grown up with this area. And we plan to be back again and sleep in tents at Samet Nangshe for a night! Very nice to find Kuan Ta Eiam and have the place to ourselves. Another nice little family day out :)

Heading down from Kuan Ta Eiam

(above) Kuan Ta Eiam - the road is rather scenic on the way down too!

Kuan Tai Eiam Viewpoint - Location Map