Jamie's Phuket Blog

Jamie's Phuket Blog - Discover The Real Phuket!

Jamie's Phuket Review of 2018

Happy 2019 to everyone! Or, if you are using the old Thai calendar, Happy 2562! Every year on Jamie's Phuket Blog, I have a look back at the previous year. The year of 2018 was mostly good, including a very nice long holiday to England in the summer with my wife and kids. The first time we've had a chance to do this. I had been waiting until both kids were old enough to really appreciate the trip. And then, just as we planned to travel in 2014, my Mum got sick, passed away, and Dad began to suffer from severe dementia that came on very quickly since they had both visited Thailand in 2013. From 2014 to 2017 I made 5 trips to England myself for family reasons. Not holidays, just seeing Mum pass away and seeing Dad and getting him in the right place. Since 2015 he's been in a care home in my home town. I was happy that we could all visit him this summer. I had a feeling we'd not see him again.

Dad passed away on December 17th 2018, so the end of the year was not really happy. I was not feeling at all festive, was very busy in the dive shop and things were a bit of a blur for a couple of weeks. Dad (and Mum) made many trips over the years to Phuket. We did lots of exploring and they enjoyed sometimes just driving around on their own finding back roads and small beaches. Well, I think Mum enjoyed it more than Dad, as he was not really a fan of the hot weather or all the "funny food"! The photo below was taken at the beach in Khao Lak in 2013. I am hoping Mum and Dad are together somewhere like this now, only a bit cooler and with some proper English food available.

Mum and Dad at Khao Lak

The last night of 2018 I did at least feel a bit happier. Happy to have my family with me. Looking forward to 2019.

Jamie Monk and Family

(above) The Monk family, photo taken on Christmas Day 2018

Phuket - New Years Eve

(above) We did New Years at The Beach Bar, Cape Panwa. Food, drinks, fireworks, family.

And now, back to January 2018. Start of a new year, now an old year. During 2018 I did slow down on the blogging. We have not had a huge amount of cash to spare, so have had less trips, have been eating out less, and that trip to England was a wallet destroyer! And I'm getting older and lazier. Must try better! I am pretty active on Twitter - please do follow me @jamiemonk. And I do post on Instagram quite often too - you can find me there @phuketblog.

2018's blog posts began with my usual list of the Top 10 Phuket Hotels (updated every year). If you want to book hotels and want to help this blog, please start by clicking on any of the Agoda links on this blog, so I can make a few Baht, thanks for the help!

I started the year trying to do a lot more exercise and did manage to drop about 8kg in weight though ended up later in the year with a bruised heel and no money to buy better running shoes! I (and my wife) often run, jog, walk at Bang Wad Reservoir in Phuket which is only a short drive from our house. We are lucky to have it there.

Bang Wad Reservoir Phuket

(above) Bang Wad Reservoir

And in February my wife, my son and I all signed up for the Phuket Night Run - a run around old Phuket Town starting 10:30pm. A fun event and very busy with thousands of people taking part. If my heel is better this year I will upgrade to a 10km run.

Phuket Town Night Run Finishers

(above) Phuket Night Run finishers!

Life these days is very normal - it's mostly work and school for much of the year, but we do try and have some days out. We had a very nice day in February heading to Khao Lak, plus Ton Prai waterfall and lunch next to Wat Khao Waterfall. Nothing really planned, we sometimes just "go for a drive"!

Ton Prai Waterfall

(above) My wife and boy at Ton Prai Waterfall

In March I hiked to the Big Buddha from Karon beach again - an older blog post from some years ago needed updating. It's not a super hard hike, but certainly a bit sweaty!

Steep path - hiking to the Phuket Big Buddha

(above) A steep section of the hike up to the Big Buddha

During the first half of the year I did blog about a few restaurants and cafes. There are so many restaurants and cafes in Phuket and we should try new places more often, but I think my wife and I are settling into middle age and we like things that we like! Also, I don't often blog a restaurant on the first try - it has to be a place I have been to a few times. And, in case you are wondering, I don't do paid reviews or take any freebies. A new Italian place opened not far from our house - La Casina Rossa was a place we tried a few times in 2018, very good Italian food, with an owner from Napoli. I also blogged a nice Phuket Town cafe called Bookhemian, good for a drink on a hot day. And I wrote about the Klang Dong restaurant at the previously mentioned Wat Khao Waterfall. 3 very different places. Klang Dong is good for local food.

Pizza at La Casina Rossa Restaurant

(above) Pizza at La Casina Rossa

Yam Gung Siap

(above) Local style dried shrimp salad at Klang Dong

And something I need to do again .. I took the kids plane spotting at Mai Khao Beach - you can stand on the beach right at the end of the runway so the planes fly right overhead!

Plane Takeoff at Mai Khao Beach, Phuket

(above) On the beach next to Phuket Airport.

Also found time in May to walk around old town finding yet more street art - more keeps appearing! Read more @ Phuket Town Street Art.

Old Phuket Town Street Art

Phuket these days has a lot more modern infrastructure and amenities compared to when I arrived in 1999. We have a huge cinema at the Central Festival mall, and that's only 10 minutes from our house :) Went a couple of times to watch movies in 2018 - sorry to say my taste is not so arty. Went to see Solo (Star Wars movie) and of course Avengers Infinity War. And then I wrote a blog post about Going to the Cinema in Phuket.

SFX Multiscreen Cinema at Central Festival Mall in Phuket

(above) Cinema at the Central mall in Phuket

And another enjoyable evening in June was a comedy show at the Marriott Merlin Beach resort featuring a couple of 'Celtic Comedy Legends'. They were pretty good, I hope more of these events happen, although I read that the guy who was arranging it passed away later in the year. Bill Bailey has been on back in April but I could not make that one. Shame.

We were in England for almost a month from mid-June to mid-July. England is not Phuket, so I won't post photos here. Great holiday. Weather was amazing. Well, OK .. 1 photo :

Swaledale, Yorkshire Dales

(above) Not Phuket. This is Swaledale, in the Yorkshire Dales. My favourite part of England.

Back to Phuket! I wrote a little blog post about Phuket Airport. A useful information blog post. Should maybe do more of these.

Flying in to Phuket

(above) Flying in to Phuket Airport from the east over Phang Nga Bay

Our neighbours opened a cafe this year so we have visited quite a few times - Khun Aey bakes all the cakes herself, I can recommend the lemon meringue tart - have a look at Bukit Cuppa.

Coffee and Cake at Bukit Cuppa

Always some new places to explore. A new museum has opened in old Phuket Town - the Peranakannitat Museum found in the old Chartered Bank building, it was still under development when I visited .. was meant to open a couple of years ago, still a work in progress, but entry is free and if you are taking some time to explore old town, do have a look!

Standard Chartered Bank Building in Old Phuket Town

(above) The Peranakannitat Museum in old Phuket Town

With Phuket being big, and with me having limited free time, there are places that I have been to, but not visited for many years. I took a half day to re-visit Ao Sane Beach, just round the corner from Naiharn Beach in the very south of Phuket. It had not really changed in 10+ years! Still small, quiet, one restaurant, a few cheap bungalows for rent. Give me more free time and I'll spend more time relaxing here!

Ao Sane Beach

(above) Ao Sane Beach

And I found a new temple to visit! In the early days of the blog, I was trying to blog every temple in Phuket. Still missing a few. Doi Thepnimit temple opened earlier in the year in the hills above Patong beach. Great view from here.

Doi Thepnimit Temple

In 2017 we'd made 2 trips to Krabi, each for 2 nights and we'd hoped to find tine for another Krabi trip in 2018. We just about managed to squeeze in a 3 night trip in October, before high season kicked off. Another very nice trip. Krabi is quieter than Phuket. I like it for a few days. On this trip - see Krabi Holiday 2018 - we stayed in a nice cheap hotel in Krabi Town again and went to the Emerald Pool, took a trip up the river to Khao Khanab Nam cave, visited Huay Toh Waterfall, ate a lot and just generally had a relaxing time!

Emerald Pool, Krabi

Khao Khanab Nam Cave, Krabi

(above) Exploring in Krabi - Emerald Pool and Khao Khanab Nam cave

In November we floated our krathong for the Loy Krathong festival and I think the highlight of the month was my dear wife, having worked very hard on getting fit in the last couple of years, completing a half marathon! Proud husband!

The end of the year - back to the work and school routine and wishing we had more money! Had a nice day out at the end of November revisiting Samet Nangshe Viewpoint in Phang Nga and testing our non-4WD car to it's limits on a hill up to Kuan Ta Eiam Viewpoint! Another one of our "take a drive and see what happens" days. Good days.

(above) At Samet Nangshe Viewpoint

After Dad passed away, I was thinking I'd need to fly to the UK for Christmas, but it's worked out that his funeral will be January 11th. The Christmas period for me was just about work, having 1 nice day with the family on the 25th and lots of communication with family in the Uk about my Dad, about the funeral and being very thankful that I have a large family some of whom are very kind and able to arrange things locally, while I feel a bit useless being so far away! I was glad of a distraction on December 29th - a Phuket Instagram Meet Up in Phuket Town, a walk around, meet new people, have a few drinks, take some photos, an enjoyable afternoon.

One of many great examples of street art in Phuket Town

So we reach the end of 2018 - a sad end. I am flying to England in a couple of days for about 2 weeks. End of an era for the Monk family. I end my 2018 review with another photo of Dad in Thailand.

2019. Welcome. Let's see what happens. The world is changing. Best wishes from Phuket.

Previous Yearly Blog Reviews : 2017 - 2016 - 2015 - 2014 - 2013 - 2012 - 2011 - 2010

Phuket Instagram 'Instameet' December 2018

Had a very nice afternoon a few days before New Year wandering around old Phuket Town taking some photos and even finding some street art that I had not seen before. This was the second time I have met people for an Instagram meet-up, the first being back in 2014 (see Phuket Instagram Meet Up 2014). Both were arranged by Amy, who has lived here for many years and she uses the Instagram username phuketstagram. It was good to have a day off in the middle of peak season after a lot of busy days in the dive shop, the weather was very warm and sunny, and I enjoyed meeting some new people and realised I'd not wandered around town taking photos for quite a long time - I used to do this a lot! Probably I'm getting old and lazy, and days off in high season are often spent relaxing at home. Glad I made the effort this time!

Instagram - I guess most people are aware of Instagram? I have been uploading photos from my iPhone since I first got an iPhone in March 2013. Sometimes I post daily. Sometimes less often if all I'm doing is working every day! I suppose a good New Year's resolution (aside from drinking less beer and exercising more) would be to try and post on Instagram daily. You can find me with the user name phuketblog. Please do follow!

We met at the Phuketique Cafe, right on the corner near the main Phuket Town market. I've not been in there before - I'm not really the type to hang out in cafes, normally drink only 1 coffee per day, although Phuketique does have imported bottled beers too which is of interest even if imported bottled beers tend to be a little pricey here! Right next door is a small, very local style restaurant called Naowarat which I have eaten at many times with the family. On a busy Saturday afternoon in Phuket Town I had to drive around the block a couple of times looking for parking spaces before eventually parking in Mongkhon Nimit temple (parking fee 20 Baht) and walking a couple of blocks to Phuketique. A fair crowd of people were there and we all introduced ourselves briefly before wandering off towards the market just along the street.

Tuk Tuk at the circle near Phuket Town central market

(above) Circle at the junction of Ratsada Road and Yaowarat Road.

Phuket Town fresh market

Limes for sale at the market

(above) At the fresh market in Phuket Town.

There's a section of the fresh market leading north to Krabi Road. Just before you reach a narrow alley leading into Krabi Road you see this street art ...

One of many great examples of street art in Phuket Town

Instameet Group on Krabi Road, old Phuket Town

(above) Some of our Instameet group on Krabi Road next to the alley leading to the market.

Reflected old street in tailors window

(above) Reflections of shophouses in an old tailors on Krabi Road.

Old tiles in old Phuket Town

(above) Old tiled floor outside a house on Krabi Road.

Wandering along everyone was taking their own time, so I would be chatting with one person then meet another who had stopped to take photos, while others moved on ahead. I do admit that sometimes my life is rather hermetic, and meeting a lot of new people these days is hard work! But this was a very pleasant afternoon. Among the Instagram users with us, please do follow phuketpaparazzi, pimmmchanok, bikkiebites, maireadmcgowan, girl_with_bear, sindbadthebiker, tobias___k, fitness.criminal, ojash008, ghislainebovy, bestlifephuket and I am sure a couple more and if I forgot sorry!

Wandering onwards, after a quick look at Soi Romanee, a very popular little street connecting Thalang Road with Dibuk Road. At the east end of Thalang Road, we headed south, passing Phang Nga Road ...

Phang Nga Road looking west from the old Chartered Bank

(above) Looking west along Phang Nga Road in old Phuket Town.

Singer Electronic Display in old Phuket Town

(above) Singer Electronics display in one of the old Electronic stores in town.

Graffiti / art by Mue Bon on an old gate in Phuket Town

Graffiti by Mue Bon on an old gate on Phuket Road .. you can also follow mue_bon on Instagram!

And then, some new street art .. or at least something I did not know about. I have blogged about Phuket Town Street Art, and sometimes I hear about new paintings or see that older paintings have gone. These paintings are in an abandoned building on Taling Chan Road close to the Surin Circle close to Yameay Mosque.

Graffiti or Art in Phuket town

Graffiti or Art in Phuket town

Graffiti or Art in Phuket town

(above) Street Art in an abandoned building in old Phuket Town.

Heading back to the start point .. back up to Ratsada Road and lo! Hidden down a side street behind the Siam Commercial Bank building is an old mansion from the tin mining days, probably built around 100 - 120 years ago when Phuket Town was in it's heyday.

Abandoned old mansion in old Phuket Town

And then a small detour onto Phang Nga Road to visit the Shrine of the Serene Light which used to very very hidden away down a narrow alley, which got widened in 2013 to allow easier access to the shrine.

Shrine of the Serene Light

Next to the shrine is a very good secondhand bookshop, Southwind Books. I have been in here many times!

Southwind Secondhand Bookshop

By this time we'd all been walking around for 2 hours on a hot Phuket afternoon. Drinks needed! Phuketique, our start point, is a small place, so I suggested we check Kopitiam, which has been a favourite of mine since 2011. They are often very busy, but luckily had space for our group. Kopitiam has great local food and a huge drinks list. Naturally I just had a Chang beer (or 3), but they have a long list of herbal drinks, teas, coffees. A nice relaxing place to finish the Instameet and you can also follow Kopitiam's own wiwan_view on Instagram.

After chatting during the walk it was time to chat with a drink. A pleasure to meet everyone on the meet up. Should do it again on a more regular basis!

Please do follow me - phuketblog - on Instagram!

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 Thai plus we enjoy exploring on our own. On many of the pages on this blog 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 so many 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 Easy Day Thailand here and say Jamie sent you!

Easy Day Thailand Tours

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 brochures. A lot more! Rather than "my" top 10, I asked the Easy Day team for a list of their 10 best/most popular/ recommended tours. The list is not in any particular order.

1. Exploring Phang Nga Bay

This would normally be the first trip I would suggest to anyone. We've done Phang Nga Bay trips many times, most recently in 2017 - see here : Phang Nga Bay. Great scenery, several iconic views. You can do trips like we've done by longtail boat in private groups visiting places like Panyee village and James Bond Island (see photo), or there is a very popular (and lower price) tour including sea canoeing around several islands and caves. 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 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 Private Day Trip - More Information
More Phi Phi Islands Tours
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 Tours with Easy Day

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 Trips

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, but some are also available from Phuket. There are various tours available such as a 4 Island Tour, Sunset Cruises, Phi Phi Tours and the very popular Hot Spring Spa.

Krabi Tours Overview
Waree Raksa Hot Spring Spa

Kayaking Mangroves near Krabi

(above) Kayaking in the Mangroves near Krabi

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 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 coast. Tours will also include stops at Hong Island and others. Some more great scenery here. You can actually do several day trips in different parts of Phang Nga Bay .. and we have!

Contact Easy Day for more info about Koh Yao Yai

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'm 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 used to be an option to sleep in tents, but it was not really comfortable and the national park has (since 2018) stopped overnight stays on the islands. But you can stay in aircon cabins on a boat called 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. 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 few 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
Weekend Market Tour

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 beach days and a few tours that's a week gone and then you start to realise that there's 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!