Jamie's Phuket Blog

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Exploring Krabi Again!

After living in Phuket for so many years I am not sure why it took us so long to start exploring the Krabi area. I think maybe it's the distance .. a bit too far for a day trip really, but when we have a longer holiday we have tended to head further from Phuket to places like Hua Hin, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Chumphon, Kanchanaburi ... Last year we finally decided to try Krabi and booked a 2 night trip in April 2017 (see : Holiday in Krabi) and we liked it so much that we did another 2 nights in July (see : Another Krabi Trip). In 2018 we spent all our holiday time and money on a trip to England in June/July. But we just about managed to squeeze in a 3 night Krabi trip in October 2018 before the high season kicked off. Another very nice trip, very relaxing, explored some new places, nothing too strenuous! We had thought about another hike at the Tiger Cave Temple, but laziness got the better of us (plus a bit of rain put us off).

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We arrived late afternoon and checked in at Just Fine Hotel in Krabi Town. It was only 700 Baht per night for a room, cheaper than when we stayed there last April! Location great for us, with parking, right by the river, lots of food / street stalls nearby. In the evening we took a walk along the river where (just south of the hotel) there are lots of food stalls and seating. I just got myself a roti (pancake) ...

Roti (Pancakes) for sale, Krabi Town

Just a snack before dinner! We'd found some very tasty noodles last year and the same place was still there - just a simple mobile cart plus a few streetside tables and chairs. I had noodles with beef, my wife had noodles with chicken. 50 Baht, no extra charge for drinking water. My kind of dinner! Krabi Town is small and easy to manage and has everything you need.

Beef Noodles in Krabi Town

Next morning .. we planned to get out quite early to visit the Emerald Pool again. Sky was blue, perfect weather. Getting my family up early is a challenge. 2 teenagers!

Just Fine Hotel, Krabi Town

(above) Blue skies over the Just Fine Hotel

The Emerald Pool opens 8am and we already knew we had to get there fairly early - last year 9:30am was OK, and this year we managed to get there a little after 9:30am. We're planning our next Krabi trip and next time we WILL get to the Emerald Pool at 8 and have the place to ourselves! As it was, we arrived before the crowds and for a few minutes we had the pool to ourselves. Photos below taken when we arrived.

Emerald Pool, Krabi

Emerald Pool, Krabi

It really is a gorgeous place when nobody is there! Over the next 30 minutes people arrived slowly in small groups. Lots of local visitors as it was during school holidays. Then 1 big group of Europeans arrived and suddenly the pool looked busy and the water was already starting to lose it's clarity as everyone stirred up the sediment. The photo below was taken about 40 minutes after the photos above ...

Emerald Pool, Krabi

By 10:30am we were walking out and passed about 100 people on the way in. Like many popular spots, if you visit during "tour time" like 10am - 4pm you are likely to see plenty of other people. Same goes for plenty of other very popular places around here like James Bond Island, or the Phuket Big Buddha. Back to town for an easy lunch of Khao Man Gai (chicken on rice) - a new shop had opened up right by the river road about 30 seconds walk from our hotel. More cheap and easy food! Much of the afternoon was spent at the hotel dozing .. or in my case answering emails for the dive shop. I sent 54 emails that afternoon! Then another nice walk by the river ...

Krabi River early evening

(above) Looking up river from Krabi Town. The 2 little limestone "mountains" jutting up by the river make the view very scenic and there are caves too. The mountains are called "Khao Khanab Nam" which means something like "mountains surrounding the water". I had been wondering about asking a longtail boat at the riverside about taking us there, so we asked. They said 500 Baht for an hour (for the boat, not per person). Deal! It was getting dark and the longtail guy asked "you want to go now?". Very funny! We said we'd find him in the morning.

Walking path along the river, Krabi Town

(above) Early evening, plenty of people go walking or running by the river in Krabi Town

That night, 17th October happened to be the last night of the vegetarian festival. I figured they'd be doing something in Krabi, although probably not as big as Phuket (for more about the festival see Phuket Vegetarian Festival). During the night a procession was walking all around the town. We were eating noodles when we heard firecrackers coming along the street ...



Next morning .. no rush, it's holiday! No harm in having a lie in now and then! After coffee and breakfast we walked to the river and were quickly approached by a longtail boat guy. Same price given as the guy we saw yesterday - 500 Baht for the boat for an hour to ride up river and visit the Khao Khanab Nam caves, then he said we'd head downriver and cruise along a mangrove creek. 5 of us for that price seemed like a good way to spend the rest of the morning and do something new.

Boat Trip on Krabi River

(above) heading up river from Krabi Town. It's a short ride, about 1.5km to reach Khao Khanab Nam where there's a small wooden pier and a path leading to the caves. Entry fee is 30 Baht per person. Thai or foreign. There's a little hut with someone collecting money and handing out tickets. And there were quite a lot of monkeys too! Very quiet and well behaved monkeys.

Just a short walk to find the cave. There are a couple of ways into the cave, the entrance is above ground level ...

Khao Khanab Nam Cave, Krabi

And once inside the Khao Khanab Nam cave is quite impressive ...

Khao Khanab Nam Cave, Krabi

Khao Khanab Nam Cave, Krabi

(above) Inside Khao Khanab Nam cave. The cave also has a few "educational" displays ...

Khao Khanab Nam Cave, Krabi

Certainly worth a little visit. And the scenery is great!

Boat Trip on Krabi River

(above) Heading back towards Krabi Town with Khao Khanab Nam behind us. We passed the town and into a small side channel in the mangroves. I thought this was just for sightseeing, but there was actually a small village and looking at the map I can see that it's actually on an island with the main river on it's west side, another mangrove river on the east, the narrow channel to the north and open sea to the south. The island is called Koh Klang and from Google Earth you can see it has several small villages, lots of agriculture and shrimp farms. Boats are hopping across from Krabi Town all day and we heard longtail boat engines after dark too. We did not know there were a couple of restaurants there and our longtail boat stopped at one of them. We'd had a late breakfast, but nonetheless the kids ordered food - not expensive at all, and we all had a cold drink too. Quite a nice place and another we can re-visit next time!

Restaurant in the mangroves near Krabi Town

(above) Restaurant in the mangroves at Koh Klang near Krabi Town. By the time we were back at the pier in town nearly 2 hours had passed, but the longtail boat dude only asked us for 500 Baht (though he had said 500 for 1 hour). As it was such a lovely sunny day we asked for an extra night at the hotel (midweek, low season, plenty of space). In the afternoon we drove north of Krabi Town a little more than 20km in search of a waterfall that we'd seen on websites and looked fairly impressive. Huay Toh (or Huay To) Waterfall is located in Khao Phanom Bencha National Park. Easy to find and thankfully no silly foreign entry fee - just 100 Baht for me. There's parking and a small restaurant at the entrance and a little walk of about half a kilometer, maybe a little more to reach Huay Toh Waterfall. The path near the falls is narrow and rocky. I found a rock to sit on and admire the falls from below .. rest of the family continued up a narrow path to the next level of the falls where the kids did take a little dip in the water.

Path to Huay To Waterfall

(above) Walking to Huay Toh Waterfall

Huay To Waterfall, Krabi

(above) Huay Toh Waterfall. There are several levels. The photo does not really do it justice. Beautiful and peaceful. Only a few other people there.



Our day of exploring was cut short by rumbles of thunder. Thunderstorm coming! We just made it back to the carpark before the rain started and got heavy, so we sat in the restaurant, ordered a few drinks and then since my wife and I had eaten a late breakfast, but no lunch, we decided to have an early dinner right there. And of course the kids ate too. Rain continued for an hour as it often does at this time of year, and then the skies cleared as we drove back to town. Another evening stroll by the river and we started to think "we could live here"! No time for beaches this time although I really loved visiting Railey and Phra Nang beaches last year. I like to have a mix of relaxing, revisiting places we've seen before and discovering new things to see. Krabi is now firmly in our minds as a great place for a long weekend. And I am sure we'll be back yet again!

Map of the Krabi Area



Top 10 Phuket Hotels for 2020

Yes, it's 2020 and it's time for a new Top 10 Phuket Hotels blog post. Hopefully Phuket and world tourism in general will be re-opening in the next few months, let's hope the Covid-19 pandemic doesn't last forever ... There are 4 new entries compared to 2019. Last year's number 1 (Ayara Kamala) has disappeared - was ranked 12 on TripAdvisor at the time of writing, and so there is a new top hotel this year and a number 2 that was not on the list before. For each hotel listed you'll find a link to check online deals and availability with Agoda.com or Booking.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

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

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)

Chava Resort

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

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

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

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)

Marina Phuket

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

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)

Kantary Bay

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)

Chanalai Hillside Resort

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 2020. 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!

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Welcome To The South! Thai Hip Hop From Phuket!

This is a Thai hip-hop song called 'Welcome to the South' by a group called Southside who are from (or some of the members are from) Phuket. Now, Phuket is well and truly in the south of Thailand geographically and politically. The 'South' starts a bit south of Bangkok - when you drive south into Chumphon province there is a 'Welcome to the South' sign above the road :) Southern Thai people have a different dialect and different food too. My wife is from Chumphon.

This video is shot 100% in Phuket with locations including Old Phuket Town, Phromthep Cape, the wind turbine viewpoint near Naiharn Beach, the well-known Karon Viewpoint and Sarasin Bridge.

It's quite a good tour of Phuket! Except in hip-hop video style, the picture changes every half second! Enjoy!