Radar Hill - Highest Road in Phuket
Until a few years ago, I thought Radar Hill was the highest point in Phuket - the highest hill. Everyone who comes to Phuket will see Radar Hill (real name Khao Mai Tao Sip Song) - it's the big hill behind Patong Beach with the radar dome on top and can be seen from much of south Phuket. BUT it's not actually the highest hill. Another hill a little to the North above Kathu Waterfall tops out around 30m higher (543m) - and I hiked up there in September 2009 - see Hiking to the Roof of Phuket.
But even if Radar Hill is the second highest hill, it certainly boasts the highest road. You can drive all the way to the top.. almost. You cannot quite hit the summit since the radar is a military installation, so when you are 95% of the way up you reach a gate and armed soldiers. The road by the gate is just about half a kilometer above sea level. We've been up here plenty of times and I first blogged about it back in 2006, but one day in 2010, we thought "we've not driven up this hill for a while" and we had an hour to waste while our son was at school football practice. The weather was a bit wet, but I figured we'd still get some great views on the way up before entering the cloud line. Actually, it turned out to be great, our daughter loved being "in the clouds" and our son was quite upset to hear that we'd done such an exciting thing without him! A bit of rain does not stop a good time!
The road up is in good condition, but steep in places. The start of the road is off Chao Fa West Road about 1km north of Chalong Temple. Follow the sign that says "Villa Zolitude". You go past a small golf course and then pass Villa Zolitude as the road starts to climb. Keep going... you wind up into the hills, it's very green, and views start to appear through the trees.
(above) this is Bang Wad Reservoir and beyond is part of Kathu. In fact we could see our house from here.. if we had a very good telescope!
As we climbed higher, we entered the clouds. Unsurprisingly, we were the only people up here looking at views. Indeed any time we come up here we are the only people... everyone else goes up to the Big Buddha or Rang Hill (in Phuket Town).
We stopped right by the gate where there is space to turn around easily. From just below the gate you get a view over Patong. There are signs to remind you that this is a restricted area and just past that sign you see the southern part of Patong through the trees, and in this case, through the clouds...
A little black cat came to say hello to us. What the hell are you doing up a 500m high hill, cat? We thought about taking him home.. but he wandered off into the trees... and about 1 minute later we heard the sounds of a cat fighting. And then silence. We reckon he might have got ambushed by a big snake. We saw a snake one time as we drove up this hill, a rather nasty pit viper. Oh well, RIP cat, I think.
From the road near the gate, the top of the Buddha hill is visible. Well, it should be.. On this particular morning it was in the clouds, but there were fleeting glimpses of the 45m high white marble Buddha through gaps in the clouds...
A little below the top, around 370m above sea level, there is a small parking spot on the left side as you come up and just as the road does a series of sharp curves. It's pretty steep here, but you can park by the side of the road where you can get some views over Patong; and in the other direction you see hills and can see over to Chalong Bay too. We stopped on the way down.
First thing I saw was not the view, but this huge monster:
A most impressive beast for a macro lens! Oh yes, and a view over Patong, better from here, less trees and no clouds in the way...
Road here is very steep - I think the photo below shows that. A Honda Wave 125cc would be straining up this one! And if you come up in a car make sure the brakes work! And on a bicycle? Well, be sure to take some special Lance Armstrong tea before trying that ;)
And this view from the same stop, looking away from Patong towards Phuket Town with heavy clouds threatening. A bit of rain and cloud does not stop us! Don't be stuck in your hotel room moaning if the sky looks dark. Yes, it rains here sometimes! How do you think everything gets so green? Get out and about. Hiring a car is a good idea in Phuket, it's a big island, go and explore. Even on a rainy day, it's not going to be wet all day, and it's not going to be wet everywhere on the island.
Over the years I have enjoyed many days when we just drive around and follow back roads. Phuket is full of surprises, and it's on these back roads that you find the real Phuket rather than the Phuket-by-the-sea of the tourist brochures. There's more to Phuket. Always more.
Radar Hill - Location Map
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