Jamie's Phuket Blog

Jamie's Phuket Blog - Discover The Real Phuket

La Casina Rossa Italian Restaurant

I have long been a fan of Italian food. I visited Italy a couple of times in the 1990s - friends of mine had (and still have) an Agriturismo farm in Tuscany and I learned to love Italian food even more! Here in Phuket, I think you have to be careful if looking for a good Italian restaurant or a good pizza. Many Thai restaurants advertise pasta and pizza, but finding proper Italian food in Thailand is rather hit and miss. This is Thailand, not Italy! Good Thai food is easy to find :) Over the years I have found several good Italian places and it helps that a friend of mine (Diego from Easy Day Thailand) is Italian and certainly knows what's worth eating.

La Casina Rossa is a small restaurant by the roadside on the backroad in Kathu between Patong and Phuket Town. It's not far from Kathu Temple and not far from the road up to Kathu Waterfall. It's not been open too long, but I have been a few times already with family or friends. It's only about 5 minutes drive from home and, much as I love all kinds of Thai food, I do like something Italian now and then. And I like something better than the pasta that I cook myself at home. And I like pizza, which I can't cook at home. Finding a good pizza can be hard work here. I can't stand the efforts produced by chain restaurants like Pizza Hut or Pizza Company, especially the latter which should not even be allowed to use the word pizza!

La Casina Rossa Restaurant in Kathu, Phuket

La Casina Rossa Restaurant in Kathu, Phuket

(above) La Casina Rossa restaurant.

We'd driven past a few times before having dinner here on my birthday a few months ago. We found it very friendly and the prices are what we expect to pay for "foreign food" here in Phuket. Pizza starting from about 200 Baht (a bit less for a basic Margherita), plus we had lasagna (290 Baht) and pasta dishes from less than 200 Baht. All tasty and the restaurant is well presented too, looks like a little Italian restaurant in Italy.

Bruschetta at La Casina Rossa Restaurant

(above) Bruschetta for starters.

I am glad to have 2 kids who will eat almost anything from spicy somtam to boring English eggs and beans on toast! On the birthday visit, our daughter had lasagna and our son went for pizza. The pizza was a bit too big for him to finish alone - actually a bit too big for me too .. I think my stomach has shrunk over the years, preferring smaller portions of Thai food with rice and less of the bread / potato based European food.

Pizza at La Casina Rossa Restaurant

(above) Pizza Margerita .. the colours red, white and green like the Italian flag.

I was just back at La Casina Rossa this weekend. They have now opened up a new backroom with aircon, and are open for lunch. In the evening, sitting outside is better for me. The road here is not very busy.

La Casina Rossa Restaurant

(above) Table at La Casina Rossa.

Met with friends for pizza this weekend. And we plan to meet again this coming weekend as the owner has promised to make some Southern Italian fried pizza - this is not on the menu .. and I have never heard of it before, sounds more like a Glaswegian thing! I am intrigued. Sounds great - this blog post will be updated!

Pizza Diavola at La Casina Rossa Restaurant

(above) My favourite pizza diavola.

Pepper Grinder at La Casina Rossa Restaurant

(above) There's a giant pepper grinder if you want a sprinkle of pepper on your pizza.

Adding olive oil to pizza at La Casina Rossa Restaurant

(above) Or be very Italian and pour some olive oil on your pizza!

They seem to be fairly busy, always people eating there when we drive past. Glad to have found good pizza and Italian food near our house! And I notice that they'll do pizza delivery too .. :) There's a Facebook page that seems to be updated now and then - see La Casina Rossa.

La Casina Rossa - Location Map





Watching the Planes at Mai Khao Beach (Phuket Airport Beach)

Now here's something I have meant to do for years ... Phuket Airport is located in the north of Phuket island, about 10km from the Sarasin bridge (as the crow flies, or about 20km by road) .. and about 40km from Patong beach. I have known for a long time that you can stand on the beach right under the west end of the airport runway, and so have planes taking off or landing right overhead. I have seen some very cool photos online with planes landing from the west, over the sea, over the beach, coming in very low to land near the start of the runway. If you are flying in to Phuket you'll always get a good view if you have a window seat! The direction of takeoff and landing depends on the wind ... planes take off into the wind, so I think I might need to wait a while to get the landings from the west - it's May now and a light west wind is blowing, so on the day we went to Mai Khao beach the planes were taking off over the beach and landing from the east. It's easy to check the take off / landing direction on the Phuket Flight Radar. Well, this was an exploratory trip and I will return to try and get some cool "airplane over the beach" photos!

I went with the kids on a sunny Sunday. Had no idea exactly how to get to that section of beach .. last time we drove to Mai Khao Beach was years ago! I tried following Google Maps, but ended up driving into the West Sands Resort and sending a security guard into a bit of a panic when I kept driving down towards the beach - can't go that way! Then tried a dirt road that quickly became sand and my truck is not 4WD! Managed to get out of that with a little wheel-spin and then asked directions - you need to find Maikhao Soi 6 and drive down to the beach next to the small Coriacea Boutique Resort. It's a small road with limited space for parking. I guessed we were a bit more than 1km from the airport / runway. First surprise - it seems quite a lot of people do this! We found a bunch of motorbike taxis with sidecars ready to take us along the beachfront to see the planes. They said 1.8km so I paid up 20 Baht per person for the ride.

Beachside Taxi at Mai Khao Beach, Phuket

Just a 3 or 4 minute ride along a wooded path in front of the West Sands Resort and then we could see the end of the runway. Definitely less than 1.8km, and although this little taxi ride only cost us 60 Baht for 3 people, we decided we could walk back. Much of Mai Khao Beach has forested land right behind the beach. The end of the runway is about the only unforested part of the beach along it's 10km length. The txi dropped us in the shade where a number of drink stalls had set up, again showing that plane watching seems to be quite popular!

Drink Vendors at Mai Khao Beach, Phuket

There's also a small canal emptying into the sea right here, so it's not the prettiest section of beach - the canal water did not look so clean. Nevertheless, people were lying on the beach sunbathing right here by the airport - an odd choice given that most of Mai Khao beach is clean and quiet and large parts are still undeveloped.

Mai Khao Beach, Phuket

(above) Mai Khao Beach right in front of the runway / Phuket airport

I am sure that I recall Phuket Airport 10 - 15 years ago being rather quiet. Not many flights. Well now it's very busy, and has recently been redeveloped (that was well overdue) with an International terminal and domestic terminal, but only space for 1 runway. There are flights coming and going every few minutes, so although we only stayed on the beach about 20 minutes we had 5 or 6 planes take off over the beach (over us) and several landed too. What I wanted was a photo of the kids with a plane overhead, but not too high .. smaller planes took off and were already airborne halfway down the runway, so flew over us already quite high .. not good for a photo. We waited for a larger Thai Airways plane .. could see it taxiing so we knew it was coming .. Larger plane needs more runway so would be lower when it flew over the beach ...

Plane Takeoff at Mai Khao Beach, Phuket

(above) Take Off from Phuket Airport!

Pretty cool. But it'll be cooler when I can be there with planes landing over the beach. Now we know where to go. I reckon we could also park further south at Nai Yang beach and walk north. The little taxi ride from where we'd parked our car was very nice, but we walked back .. only about 1km and it's a very nice pathway in front of the West Sands resort.

Pathway at Mai Khao Beach, Phuket

Actually the West Sands Resort looks nice - these big rooms / villas (below) are facing the pathway, so you can just walk out of your room down to the beach. Of course hotels round this area are a bit remote, I'd have my own transport if I stayed here .. not many restaurant options nearby, but there is a waterpark!

West Sands Resort at Mai Khao Beach, Phuket

Mai Khao Beach stretches from the airport 10km north to the very north of Phuket island. Much of the beachfront land is undeveloped, although there are some big resorts like Marriott and Holiday Inn. We detoured off the beachside path onto the beach .. it's really nice! Miles of beach, hardly any people anywhere.

Mai Khao Beach, Phuket

(above) Mai Khao Beach, Phuket

Happy to have finally visited this part of Phuket with added plane-spotting value. Hopefully I'll visit Mai Khao again soon. Need that iconic "plane landing over the beach" photo! Or an ideal place to bring a beach umbrella, beach towel and ice box full of beers :)

Mai Khao Beach Location Map





Another Trip to Krabi!

After many years of avoiding Krabi, we made 2 trips in 2017! We had 2 nights in April (See : Holiday in Krabi) and we liked it! So we decided another 3 day/2 night trip in July would be a good idea, trying some new places and re-visiting others. And we enjoyed it again, so we're planning yet another trip! We decided a midweek trip is best, as some of the local attractions like the Emerald Pool get quite busy with locals at the weekend, so we drove from Phuket to Krabi on a Monday. From our house it's about 2 ½ hours, but we took a little detour via Phang Nga, as I'd read about a viewpoint north of Phang Nga Town .. This turned out to be nothing special really, but even with the detour and lunch on the way we still arrived in Krabi Town by 1pm. The hotel we'd stayed in last time (Just Fine Hotel) was actually fully booked, quite a surprise! So we booked a place just over the street called River View Hotel, 1000 Baht per room per night including breakfast. And we did have a river view (out of the side window)!

Krabi River View Hotel Room

Krabi River View Hotel

(above) Krabi River View Hotel can be booked online here. There are some slightly more expensive rooms facing the river. Our room was decent enough and we got eggs, toast and bacon for breakfast :) The first afternoon we had no real plan, just relax and wander around Krabi Town, along the river. It's really quite pleasant, although it does lack the old town style of Phuket Town. But it has the river to make up for that!

The Crab Statue by the river, Krabi Town

(above) Black Crab statue by the river, Krabi Town.

Wat Kaew in Krabi Town

(above) Wat Kaew in Krabi Town

Durian at Krabi Town Market

(above) Durian for sale in Krabi Town market

For dinner, I had been given a recommendation by several people for the same restaurant - you must try "Ruen Mai"! It's outside town on the way to Ao Nang and the sign is easy to miss. We got there early, I think it might be best to eat there after dark, as it looked prettier when the lights were turned on just when we were leaving! I could tell from the clientele that this was a restaurant for well-to-do local folk, and the prices confirmed this! A little bit over our normal budget, all very tasty, but I think we preferred the Anchalee Restaurant that we tried in April.

Ruen Mai Restaurant, Krabi

Tom Som Pla at Ruen Mai Restaurant, Krabi

My boy at Ruen Mai Restaurant, Krabi

(above) At Ruen Mai Restaurant

Day 2 ... After breakfast at the River View Hotel, we drove east to the Emerald Pool. We visited here already in April, but it was a Friday afternoon during Thai school holidays and, although very pretty, it was certainly quite busy. So this time we went earlier, arriving there about 9:30am. It actually opens about 8am, and on our NEXT visit we'll go super early! Arriving early means you miss the tour groups who will always be at tourist attractions from about 10:30am - 3:30pm. After paying the entry fee (200 Baht for the dirty foreigner who has lived here 18 years, working, paying tax ... and 20 Baht for Thai people). We took the quicker 800 meter walk to the Emerald Pool this time rather than the scenic 1400 meter route we took last time. Arrived at the beautiful green clear waters .. we were not the very first there, but almost. I counted just 4 other people.

Emerald Pool Krabi

Emerald Pool Krabi

Other visitors started to arrive and after about 45 minutes we walked back to the entrance. And I think along that 10-15 minute walk we passed about 100 people heading towards the Emerald Pool. If you want to see a tourist attraction without tourists - get there early, or get there very late when all the tours have gone home!

A Quick Visit to Koh Lanta

After the Emerald Pool we thought about driving as far as Trang Town, about 100km .. maybe a bit far. Or maybe just back to Krabi Town. We planned to visit Railay Beach the next morning ... so what to do this afternoon. I looked on the map and realised that Koh Lanta was not too far away - only about 50km from the Emerald Pool to reach the ferry over to Koh Lanta Noi island, which is then connected by a bridge to Koh Lanta Yai. I have wanted to check out Koh Lanta for a long time, so we took a drive with the idea of taking a quick look at Lanta and (if we liked it) planning a longer trip later. I always thought Koh Lanta was a long way to drive from Phuket, but I think we could reach the ferry in about 3 hours. Or of course you can get a ferry from Phuket!

We got to the Lanta ferry by about 12:30, only a short 10 minute wait, drive on to the ferry, it's inexpensive, and the ferry takes about 20 minutes over to Lanta Noi island, which you drive across in a few minutes, then over the bridge to Lanta Yai. I have read that in peak season, at peak times, there can be a big queue for the ferry.

Koh Lanta Car Ferry

Welcome to Koh Lanta

(above) Car ferry to Koh Lanta .. Welcome to Lanta Island .. Island of Happiness, they say! We only had a few hours for a quick look around, and I wanted to try the east coast first - not much in the way of beaches, but there is an "Old Town" and the road carries on almost to the southern tip of Koh Lanta, so we headed south .. also, we needed lunch, and we figured the old town would be a good place to try!

Koh Lanta East Road

(above) Koh Lanta Road to the old town. Much of the 25 minute drive looked like this. Very quiet. Very little traffic. A few tourists on mopeds.

Right as we hit old town, we saw a promising looking old noodle shop, and they also had "Khao Ka Moo" (rice with steamed pork leg). Big portions and tasty.

Lunchtime Noodles in Koh Lanta Old Town

A big plate of Khao Ka Moo

(above) A simple lunch in Koh Lanta Old Town. There did not really seem to be much to the old town, quite a few souvenir shops, but no tourists, a few small restaurants, a few actual houses and a Chinese shrine. My daughter and I took a walk along the street. Wife and son were lazier and drove a few hundred meters to meet us!

Koh Lanta Old Town

Koh Lanta Old Town Chinese Shrine

(above) Koh Lanta Old Town

We followed the east coast road as far south as possible with some very nice views, then double back past town, to where a road heads over the hills to the west coast. The hills in Koh Lanta are quite high, up to about 400m above sea level. If there are any hiking trails, I bet there would be some amazing views.

Koh Lanta View, South East of the Island

(above) East coast of Koh Lanta

Now the west coast turned out to be a bit disappointing. The beaches we saw very very dirty. I know it's low season, I know the wind blows trash onto the western shore, but it seemed like no effort had been made to clean up. And it was also very difficult to get to, or even see the beach, as all beachfront land was occupied by businesses, hotels, restaurants. The whole place seemed rather neglected. Has to be better in high season and, I don't know, maybe we'll try again when the winds blow the other way. We spent about an hour driving up the west coast with a few stops.

Klong Nin Beach, Koh Lanta

(above) Klong Nin Beach, Koh Lanta

Klong Dao Beach, Koh Lanta

(above) Klong Dao Beach, Koh Lanta

Then a quick drive back to the ferry and about 1 hour drive back to Krabi Town. And rather than a "nice" restaurant we walked around town and found some very tasty chicken noodles for dinner. Always happy when we can get tasty, cheap street food and the dinner bill is less than 200 Baht for the family!

Visiting Railay Beach and Phranang Beach

Day 3 ... And we did a lot before heading home to Phuket! I really wanted to visit Railay Beach. In all these years I have never been there. My wife was not too bothered. Just another beach? Well, I can say we really liked it and if we're planning yet another Krabi trip, Railay is on the list again. From where we stayed in Krabi Town at River View Hotel, we had to walk just a couple of minutes to get a longtail boat from the river to Railay Bay. Price each way 150 Baht per person.

Longtail boats from Krabi Town to Railay

(above) Longtail boats by the river in Krabi Town. The trip to Railay took about 30 minutes in calm seas. Boats arrive at a large floating pier which is at Railay Bay East - not much of a beach here, more mangroves. To reach West Railay it was a few minutes walk down a narrow alley, a gap between hotels, a bit smelly in places. We bought water in a minimart - everything double the normal price because everything here has to be brought in by longtail boat. Small bottles of water - 20 Baht.

Longtail boat approaching Railay Bay

(above) Approaching Railay from Krabi Town

I took a LOT of photos this day, and I have written a separate blog post about Railay and Phranang Beaches. As soon as we got to Railay Beach, we were confronted with a spectacular view and lots of people unloading supplies by hand from longtail boats. Plenty of work goes into that 20 Baht bottle of water!

Unloading supplies at Railay Beach West

(above) Hauling supplies up the beach at West Railay

Railay Beach Krabi

Railay Beach West

(above) Raily Beach (West). It gets lots of hype, so I was expecting something less, but it really is gorgeous. My boy just had to run around in joy :) Now, we got there fairly early, about 10am. I have heard that it's busier in the early afternoon as lots of people arrive from Ao Nang, more from Krabi Town, some from Phi Phi too. Just like the Emerald Pool, getting there before the crowds is a big help! There are of course hotels at Railay Beach - have a look at Agoda. We might look into staying there next time.

We had limited time, and had only planned a quick look around before heading back to town and checking out of the hotel, but this really is a beautiful place. Another trip is needed! From West Railay, we walked back to East Railay and then took another pathway heading to Phranang Beach. This path winds around caves and stalactites for a couple of hundred meters, arriving at Phranang Bay which is truly wondrous .. and already quite busy when we got there at about 11am.

Phra Nang Beach, Krabi

(above) Phranang Beach - click photo to see a bigger version (opens in a new browser window)

Phranang is a place we could stay for a while, bring some drinks and snacks, take a swim ... next time. There are a couple of points of interest here. I know there is a viewpoint that needs a bit of climbing to reach. We did not have time for that. But right there on the beach is a cave featuring an unusual shrine to the princess of Phranang cave. Offerings are made here in the form of lingams ... phallic symbols resembling the male organ. This is said to bring luck, prosperity and fertility to the local people.

Phra Nang Cave, Krabi

Phranang Cave

Phranang is also well known for rock climbing. Krabi is the place to be if you want to learn/try climbing, or if you are an experienced climber. Just along the beach from the cave we found many climbers and ropes.

phra-nang-climbing

(above) Rock climbing at Phranang, Krabi

Revisiting Tiger Cave Temple

Our longtail boat was waiting at East Railay and we headed back to Krabi Town at midday, checked out of the hotel and thought about driving back home to Phuket. But first .. I wanted to visit the Tiger Cave Temple again. Last time we hiked up the 1,237 steep steps to the top of the temple, amazing view from there. But I realised that we had not actually seen the cave after which the temple is named. Apparently tigers used to hang out around here and locals would hear them. But according to what we read, some Monks went to live in the cave in 1975 and since then no tigers have been seen. I don't think there are any wild tigers around these days. The last wild tiger caught in Phuket was back in the 1960s.

Tiger Cave at Tiger Temple, Krabi

Cave at Tiger Temple, Krabi

(above) Exploring at Tiger Cave Temple, Krabi

And then, right at the far end of the temple, we decided to have a look at a big statue of Guan Im, the Chinese goddess of compassion .. and past her was a steep stairway with a sign saying "Wonderland". Say what? Wonderland? Did we want to hike up? Well, OK .. about 100 steps up, enough to get sweaty in the middle of the day. And then .. steps going back down the other side into the jungle. With caves. There's a pathway which loops around passing 4 or 5 different caves, plus this is where some of the monks live.

Monks House at Tiger Temple, Krabi

(above) Monk accommodation in the jungle

Cave at Tiger Temple, Krabi

(above) Shrine and Buddha in "Wonderland" at the Tiger Cave Temple

Huge Buttress Roots

(above) And we were also very impressed by giant jungle trees with the biggest buttress roots I have ever seen! So, yes it was worth getting achy legs going up and down the steps to this area! We did not leave Krabi until after 4pm, making it a full day and a full 3 day trip. But now we've done a couple of these trips, Krabi seems much closer to us in Phuket. The drive is not too long - maybe a bit far for a day trip, but a weekend trip, just 1 night would certainly be possible. Not sure when the next trip will be, but soon.

More about Railay and Phranang beaches
More about the Emerald Pool
More about the Tiger Cave Temple
Trip to Krabi in April 2017
Tours and Excursions in Krabi with Easy Day Thailand
Krabi Hotels @ Agoda.com

Krabi Area - Location Map