Jamie's Phuket Blog – The Original Phuket Blogger Since 2006
Jamie's Phuket Blog

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2020 - A Year Not in Phuket

Where to begin? How was 2020 for you? It's been a shitty year for many people. If you are one of those idiots who thinks Covid-19 is a hoax, or if you refuse to wear a mask in a shop, or if you are one of those who has been breaking social distancing rules and don't care because you think you are healthy, well you can go jump in the sea. As I write this, 12 days into 2021, I am waiting for a text with my Covid test result. I took a test at a walk in testing center yesterday after a couple of days feeling feverish, and have now taken a couple of days off work, which might well turn out to be more, depends on the results! I have a close connection to Covid-19. Back in 2019, a few months after arriving back in England, I started working at a company called Abingdon Health, and as 2020 developed, the company has grown and is part of a consortium making Covid-19 antibody tests. And we have been very busy, especially over the second half of 2020. So, one plus for 2020 - I have had a good job! We are still living here in York, England. My son should be doing his GCSEs this year, but ... due to Covid, looks like that might be cancelled. My daughter finished a college business course earier this year and has had a few part time jobs, but due to Covid, jobs are hard to find!

Meanwhile, back in Phuket ... we still have a house for sale. My wife is in Thailand right now, been there for like 4 months. She had to do a 2 week government quarantine when she arrived - not allowed to leave the hotel room - thankfully it was paid by the Thai government for Thai nationals. We also have our house for sale in Chumphon. We had hoped to have sold already, but .. yeh, Covid. Travel restrictions in Thailand have been very strict, there are hardly any foreign tourists, and it's tough for local businesses, such as Sunrise Divers where I used to work and my friend's travel company Easy Day Thailand.

How quiet is Phuket? Have a look at the photo below posted on Twitter by my friend Steve who runs the Pineapple Guesthouse in Karon.

Life has kind of been in limbo for a year. Waiting to sell our property so we can buy here in England, waiting to see what happens with Covid-19, and it's got worse again. We've not taken any holidays. I took quite a lot of long weekends during the year, using up my work holiday allowance bit by bit. And of course I cannot really complain. Many people have had a bad year, lost jobs, lost income, lost loved ones. And let's not even get started on the other news of the year. I mean, here in the UK we have had Brexit and Boris, but that pales in comparison to the USA with continued and very justified anger about police killing black people, and then the USA has had a right wing egotistical, narcisistic clown as President, who refuses to admit he is ever wrong, and gosh, let's hope that is all over in 8 days from now on 20 January.

Normally, my yearly reviews over the years - see list at the end of this post - will show all the places in and around Phuket that we visited. 2020 was the first year for me since 1999 that I did not spend any time in Thailand. The first year since 1994 that I spent the whole year in the UK! Getting used to life back here is not so hard. But we really need to sell our houses soon! And I am not sure I like the winter. Some cold days are nice, if the sun shines and it's not windy, but some days are cold, wet and breezy and I wish I was having a cold beer Chang on the beach in Phuket! Anyway, we did not spend the whole year in lockdown. I have half-heartedly started a Yorkshire Blog. And we did have a lot of nice days out during the summer when we all thought Covid-19 had gone away.

(above) Sunset in Knaresborough, June 2020.

(above) Roseberry Topping in the Yorkshire Moors, July 2020.

(above) Out driving in the Yorkshire Dales in August 2020.

UPDATE : My Covid-19 test was POSITIVE! So the kids and I will be isolating at home for another week.

So, please come on 2021, get better soon! I was maybe hoping we'd have a chance to take a Thai holiday in the summer, but we'll have to wait and see. I hope if you are reading this that your 2020 had some highs and your 2021 has some highs!

Best Wishes from York (England), not Phuket

Previous Yearly Reviews:

2019 - 2018 - 2017 - 2016 - 2015 - 2014 - 2013 - 2012 - 2011 - 2010

Top 10 Phuket Hotels for 2021

Well after a really sh*tty 2020, it's time for a 2021 Top 10 Phuket Hotels blog post. Hopefully Phuket and world tourism in general will be re-opening sometime in 2021, let's hope the Covid-19 pandemic doesn't last for too much longer. I guess nobody much is booking hotels right now, and yes 2020 has been a bad year. It seems a little petty to complain that Phuket tourism has suffered when so many have suffered worse, but Phuket does rely to a very large extent on tourism and I hope things can get going again soon. If things open up, please do visit Phuket! For each hotel listed you'll find a link to check online deals and availability with Agoda.com. The list is based on Tripadvisor rankings which of course may be imperfect and change all the time. Hotels get scores out of 10 on Agoda so you can compare reviews - on Agoda reviews can only be made by guests who have actually booked the hotel, so you can see if real hotel guests agree with TA ratings!

For sure the list is still subjective, your personal choice will depend on many factors, and you can search hotels easily on Agoda to try and find your Phuket hotel. It's a big place, Phuket. Take your time when looking for hotels, check the location on a map, read reviews, figure out if you want somewhere really quiet or close to lots of restaurants and bars. The right hotel is there, but you do have to do some digging! Happy Travels!

1. Avista Grande (Karon Beach)

Avista Grande at Karon Beach leaped into the top 10 last year and now tops the list. The full name is Avista Grande Phuket Karon MGallery by Sofitel .. bit of a mouthful. Sofitel is a chain, part of the Accor group, with MGallery being a more boutique luxury style of hotel. I worked at Karon beach at the Sunrise Divers shop and we had a fair number of happy customers staying at this hotel.

Avista Grande - Information, Reviews & Booking

2. The Cove (Cape Panwa)

The Cove is a smaller hotel (I think it has about 15 bungalows) which has been open for a few years and seems to have suddenly got very popular! It's located in the Cape Panwa area of Phuket which has long been one of my favourite areas miles away from the big beaches, but there are quite a few restaurants and plenty of local life. It's at Ao Yon beach, right by the sand.

The Cove - Information, Reviews & Booking

3. The Chava Resort (Surin Beach)

The Chava was number 1 in 2016, number 2 last year and now number 3 - pretty consistent! Surin Beach always has something in the top 10! The Chava Resort has 2 - 5 room apartments (an "apartment resort"), some are run directly by the hotel, while some are privately rented. Rooms are really big, great for families and groups. It's a place with sea views, slightly up in the hills, not right on the sand but just few minutes walk from Surin beach.

Chava Resort - Information, Reviews & Booking

4. BYD Lofts (Patong Beach)

BYD Lofts has been in the top 5 for 6 years. If you want a room near the heart of Patong Beach, close to the action and in the middle of the busiest beach area in Thailand, BYD Lofts offers serviced apartments with the hotel featuring a rooftop pool (and a view over the rooftops and hotels of Patong). There are 1 or 2 bedroom apartments of various sizes. I rarely used to venture into Patong myself - not my style, but Patong beach is very convenient for visitors, with huge numbers of restaurants plus shops/the big Jungceylon Mall and tour agents near you. And bars and nightlife too.

BYD Lofts - Information, Reviews & Booking

5. Navatara (Rawai Beach)

Navatara is another that remains popular - it has been at number 5 for 3 years running. Navatara opened in 2013, but with hotels opening all the time I'd not even heard of it until writing the top 10 list in 2016! Navatara has 37 rooms, built (I would say) "Thai style". Some rooms have pool access, and all rooms look pretty big. This is a smaller, Thai style resort away from the main beaches, but not too far - many people ask me to recommend a hotel like this or The Cove. Like many of the hotels on this list, it's not on the beach. Navatara is about 500m from Rawai beach and a few minutes drive from Nai Harn beach and Phromthep Cape. One of my favourite corners of Phuket.

Navatara - Information, Reviews & Booking

6. The Surin (Pansea Beach)

The Surin (formerly called The Chedi) reopened with the new name about 10 years ago, but The Chedi had already been in Phuket for years, with it's uniquely excellent location on a semi-private beach between Surin and Bang Tao beaches in the north of Phuket. I'd like to stay here! Another resort that is a little bit remote but you can get to Surin or Bang Tao for restaurant options. Personally, I'd rent a car if I stayed here. And The Surin is not ridiculously expensive compared to the neighbour - the beach is shared with the very very fancy Amanpuri.

The Surin - Information, Reviews & Booking

7. Marina Phuket Hotel (Patong Beach)

Quite surprised to see a hotel like Marina Phuket Hotel in the top 10 - a block by the side of one of Patong's back roads, a fair walk to the beach, not really a pretty area, but it does seem to have a lot of good reviews on TA and on Agoda (see link below). And it does have a rooftop pool and bar/restaurant. And the price is pretty good.

Marina Phuket Hotel - Information, Reviews & Booking

8. Renaissance Phuket Resort (Mai Khao Beach)

Renaissance is one of several Marriott resorts north of Phuket Airport at Mai Khao Beach. Renaissance has been on this blog before as part of the Best Luxury Phuket Resorts list and was in the Top 10 Hotels for 2019, 2018 and 2017. Mai Khao beach is still really quiet and unless you stick to the various Marriott hotel restaurants you'll need transport or taxis to get to other places. Rent a car, explore, drive just a few minutes from here and you're over the bridge into Phang Nga province. Ideal for relaxation and a quiet base for exploring the greater Phuket area!

Renaissance - Information, Reviews & Booking

9. Kantary Bay (Cape Panwa)

Another hotel in the Cape Panwa area to the south of Phuket Town and a long way from the busy main west coast Phuket beaches. Kantary Bay is part of the Cape and Kantary group which have very nice hotels all over Thailand - the nearby Cape Panwa Hotel is also theirs. It's located right by the Phuket Aquarium on a quiet road with a few nearby restaurants and there are often lots of local food stalls on the roadside. Nice view across the bay, but there's not much beach there. The hotel cafe is apparently very good.

Kantary Bay - Information, Reviews & Booking

10. Chanalai Hillside Resort (Karon Beach)

And another at Karon beach! There are several Chanalai resorts in Phuket (Garden, Hillside, Romantica, Flora) and all are in Kata or Karon. Note - if you stay at one of these, be sure if you book tours that you know which Chanalai you are at (I speak from experience booking people for dive trips!) Chanalai Hillside is .. you'd never guess, on the hillside - about 5 minutes walk to Karon beach.

Chanalai Hillside Resort - Information, Reviews & Booking

And that's the Top 10 hotels in Phuket. Maybe. Have you stayed at a hotel that's not listed, but you think it should be? Go and give it a big review and get it's TA ranking up! Phuket has been on the mainstream tourism route for 30+ years now, and there is a great mix of old and new resorts (hard to keep up with openings and re-brandings!), big hotels, guesthouses, villas, apartments, hillside, beachfront, busy areas, quiet areas. There really is something in Phuket for everyone!

Railay Beach and Phra Nang Beach (Krabi)

Yes, this is the Phuket Blog, but Krabi is very close to us ... We had a 2 night trip to Krabi back in April 2017 and I really wanted to visit Railay Beach. I'd been in Phuket since 1999 and somehow never really checked out Krabi until this year! Well, we never got to Railay in April, but we saw enough of the Krabi area to plan another trip, so we had another 2 night trip in Krabi in July 2017. Railay was very much on my must-see list despite my wife thinking it would be just another beach. And although we only spent a couple of hours checking out Railay beach and Phra Nang beach (right next to Railay) we really like it and we are already thinking of our next Krabi trip and will spend a bit more time at Railay.

Krabi Travel Tickets

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We were staying in Krabi Town at the River View Hotel, which is right next to the river. The pier for longtail boats to Railay Bay (or Ao Nang) was just a few minutes walk from the hotel. And the boats are not expensive - just 150 Baht per person each way.

Longtail boats from Krabi Town to Railay

(above) We got a longtail boat from the river in Krabi Town. The trip to Railay is about 12km and took about 30 minutes on a lovely sunny morning with calm seas. Our boat arrived at a large floating pier at Railay Bay East - not much of a beach here, it's mangroves and a bit muddy. West Railay Beach is the place you want to be! We first bought some bottles of 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. Note for next time - bring some water with us from town (small bottles of water can be as cheap as 7 Baht). Jeez, I sound like a cheap backpacker!

Longtail boat approaching Railay Bay

(above) Approaching Railay from Krabi Town

Railay Bay East

(above) Floating Pier at Railay Bay East

Railay Beach Alleyway

The walk from Railay East to Railay West is down a narrow path passing the backside of a couple of hotels and restaurants, not that pretty, but arriving at Railay Beach, we were confronted with a truly spectacular view. Although I had really wanted to visit I was prepared to be disappointed, as often happens with very touristy places. But this really is a beautiful place and I think it helps that this was low season and we arrived by about 10am - you can certainly expect more people later in the morning and during the afternoon. I wonder if we might stay here next time rather than in Krabi town ...

Railay Beach

Railay Beach (west) Krabi

(above) Railay Beach (West). It gets lots of hype, so I was expecting something less, but it really is gorgeous. I am not really a beach person, I don't "go to the beach", but I think I could stay in a hotel here for a few nights and just enjoy the scenery, the sand and the sea (and a few beers). It was quiet when we arrived and that certainly helps. There are only a handful of hotels (check hotels at Agoda), many people visit from Ao Nang and other nearby areas (Krabi Town or even from Phi Phi) during the day. Also at Railay West we saw plenty of supplies being unloaded by hand from longtail boats. Plenty of work goes into that 20 Baht bottle of water!

Unloading supplies at Railay Beach West

(above) Unloading supplies at Railay Beach

Railay Beach West

(above) My boy could run around at Railay Beach all day I think! We have to come here again. On this trip we had limited time, as we needed to be back in Krabi Town by about midday or 1pm to check out of the hotel. From West Railay, to get to Phra Nang Beach you have to walk back to East Railay and then turn right until you find the path to Phra Nang. Not a long walk, just a few minutes. Heading to Phra Nang Bay you walk past caves and stalactites for a couple of hundred meters. There is a sign to a viewpoint that we'll have to explore next time.

Phranang Bay is maybe even more beautiful than Railay, but smaller. It's hemmed in by high cliffs and as you can guess the only access is by foot, plus we saw that some tour boats drop people directly here rather than Railay. It was about 11am when we got to Phra Nang and it was noticeably busier than Railay West. But anyway. Wow.

Phra Nang Beach, Krabi

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

Phra Nang is certainly a place we could stay for a while, bring a picnic, swim a bit ... it's on the list for next time! There are several points of interest here aside from the beach, the sea and the views. Right by the beach you can find a cave which features an extremely unusual shrine. Offerings are made hereto the princess of Phranang cave in the form of lingams. What are lingams? They are phallic symbols resembling the male organ (ha ha, won't get me to say penis here!) The offerings are said to bring good luck, wealth and fertility to the local people. It seems these beliefs are still held today, as there are plenty of new phallic offerings.

Phra Nang Cave, Krabi

(above) Our daughter checking out the shrine at Phra Nang Cave

Cave and Beach, Phra Nang, Krabi

(above) Looking out from a cave at Phra Nang Beach (not the willy cave, it's the next one). There are a few caves here and I saw someone crawling up a narrow passage, but where to? Gosh we really do need to come back and explore more!

Phranang Cave

(above) Lots and lots of lingams. Yeh, you don't get this on any other tourist beach!

Phra Nang (and Krabi in general) is also well known as a place to go rock climbing. Krabi is a good place to learn/try climbing, and there are plenty of cliffs if you are an experienced climber. We found a load of climbers next to the beach. Some looked like novices, others were climbing higher.

Rock Climbing at Phra Nang Beach

(above) Rock climbing at Phranang, Krabi

Our longtail boat driver was waiting for us at East Railay and it was already midday by the time we walked back from Phra Nang. I am glad to say this area has surprised me. I am sure it can get crowded at times, but there's a lot of natural beauty here and now we're planning our 3rd Krabi trip and will spend more than a couple of hours at Railay and Phra Nang!

More about Krabi

Krabi Hotels (Booking at Agoda.com)
Krabi Tours - contact my friends at Easy Day Thailand
Tiger Cave Temple
Emerald Pool
Our Trip to Krabi in April 2017
Our trip to Krabi in July 2017

Railay Beach and Phra Nang Beach - Location Map