Reading the heading you don’t need to be a genius to tell that this could well be the second post sharing our recent holiday experience in Phuket and you’d be right:-) You can find Part 1 HERE. This is a long read so get a coffee.
For those of you who missed Part 1 and don’t want to head back there using my thoughtfully provided link above I will reproduce my introduction to the previous post to give you some background as follows:
One of the things on my “must do” list here is to take Gaun’s younger sister and her husband, Yuan and Lud, away from the Isaan life for a holiday on a regular basis. This is because otherwise they never stop working seven days a week 365 days a year and their life is no more than farm, home and market in an endless cycle. Not that it bothers them because they are the happiest couple you could hope to meet.
This year I wanted to take them to the beach because neither of them had ever experienced the sea. We had some friends visit us for New Year and they were kind enough to leave us a donation when they left towards the holiday for Yuan and Lud, which kick started my thinking (thank you again Saskia and Gaz).
The early part of this post is more family happy-shots than is normal on my blog because that was what Day 2 was. I hope you enjoy the obvious pleasure the family had in the day. The third day is more touristy again and fills the second half of this post.
So Day 2 and I wanted to take the group on the water to see some of the sights. I had in mind one of the tour companies to do the normal sweep though James Bond and Pi Pi Islands because that’s what you do. I have to say that both of these locations were at the bottom of the things I wanted to see personally. I am sure you have experienced modern tourism in action and the mass crowds at any major attraction in the world all trying to get the best selfie is a far, far distant reality from the images you will see advertised. I personally hate the mass production that is tourism these days and would prefer to stay well away.
Jimmie, the excellent host of the place we were staying, suggested that instead of doing an organised tour she book us a longboat to take us to Coral Island off the coast of Rawai, stay there the day and have it drop us back. Thankfully my Thai family were happy with this suggestion giving more priority to swimming than a photo snap over the shoulder of yet another tourist. My wallet agreed too, although that was never a consideration, with a day tour costing 2,500 baht a person compared to a our own longboat for the day at 1,500 total (A$60.00).
Jimmie drove us to Rawai (remember this is a budget B&B) and refused the first longboat offer as too expensive and got us our 1,500 a day deal. Shortly after we were on our way.
I say early on because the breeze was strong at this part of the day and there was a decent chop to the water further out. Yuan decided on the lifejacket option while Lud hung grimly to the seat and added up his Buddha merit points. I don’t have any more photos of this part of the trip as the spray was soaking us and the camera ended up in the icebox!
Coral Island is just off the Rawai coastline so it is no big deal to get there (and the in-laws were happy that was the case) but it is a beautiful location and gives you the sense that you are separate from Phuket everyday life. It is obviously still a tourist destination but not in the numbers that make it uncomfortable (for me anyway and at this off-season time of year). Swimming was the order of the day and for Yuan and Lud this was their first sea wetting. Did they have a good time? I will let the photos answer that!
They took to it like Isaan frogs to water (maybe not the best image I could have used) and became a couple of kids having the best day. For me watching them have such fun made the whole trip worthwhile. A real highlight of my time here. A winner all round.
Mission accomplished we ended up back at the B&B after a much smoother ride home tired but very pleased with the day.
The first stop for the day was very much for my interests rather than those of my Thai companions and it was the Art Village in Rawai, which you can read about in more detail HERE. I had an overly optimistic view of art and craft when I came to Thailand. I originally had the image of a country where you’d constantly fall over people handcrafting wonderful unique items to furnish a tropical home and garden wherever you went – a bit like Ubud in Bali for those of you who have been there. This is not the case especially where we live in Isaan.
There are certainly handmade items around in Isaan but they are mostly bulk produced handmade aimed at the market, which is low income families. You will see stacks of everyday terracotta pots at roadside stall but nothing that in the west we’d regard as “artistic”. There are glazed ones with the choice of two designs – a flower and a dragon (for the Chinese buyers or maybe they originate from China). Wall artwork is mostly limited to prints of the Eiffel Tower, red London telephone boxes or dead monks and kings! There is timber furniture but it is limited in range and highly varnished, which is not my style but could be yours so I won’t criticise. I am being deliberately harsh but it isn’t too far off the truth.
You will find exceptions, and I have, but it isn’t mainstream unless I have been missing things. I am sure Bangkok would offer more choice because you have people with a higher disposable income there and places like Chiang Mai with a big farang population has greater options but it’s not a central theme of the place.
All of that ramble brings us back to Rawai (finally) and the Art Village. I was hoping to find a Thai art gem hidden away and I had even brought a tape measure with me so I could make sure that whatever that gem might be that I could fit it in my suitcase! Unfortunately the bag returned not with a piece of artwork that now hangs in pride of place in my living room but a concrete chicken, which sits in the garden on top of some plastic eggs. Remember the chicken as you will meet her at the end of this post.
I enjoyed the Art Village. It is very small and hidden away down a very narrow soi (street) off the main road through to Nai Harn shopping/bar/restaurant area. What artwork there was wasn’t to my taste but the whole place had the feeling of people serious about being artists. Maybe they were, maybe they weren’t but it had the LOOK.
Even if we wanted to buy something we couldn’t because most of the artists were setting up for a three day street market at Cape Phromthep, which I will cover shortly. If you are at all arty inclined then this place will give you a welcome break from beaches and bars and I do recommend it as an experience if not for it’s actual artwork. GPS coords are 07 47′ 17.5″ N 098 18′ 58.3″ – trust your GPS because there’s no way you’d find it otherwise.
My Thai travel companions were very patient with me and sat in the shade while I did my odd farang stuff. One of the studios was filled with lots of old “junk” including stacks of newspapers. Later Yuan said to Gaun that she had no idea why they would be trying to sell old newspapers because she could buy them for 5 baht a kilo at Si Bun Ruang markets 🙂
My eccentricities covered we headed back to more conventional activities and went to check out Nai Harn beach rated Number 2 in Phuket Sights and Landmarks by Trip Advisor. This beach ticks a lot of boxes. It has a shaded treed area at the back where you can have something to eat, drink or get a massage. The beach is small enough to feel intimate with lots of greenery and it does get some surf, although dead flat this day.
As I stated in the last post on Phuket the military cracked down on beach furniture and got rid of it all. Since then a compromise has been reached and patches of chairs and umbrellas have made a reappearance. A sensible middle ground.
Just a little ex-insider’s tip. If you drive beneath the Nai Harn Resort literally as it is through their underground carpark, which feels kind of weird, you will find a small road on the other side that takes you out to the headland you can see to the left of the resort in the photo above. There you will find a small beach and a Thai eating place where you can sit right next to the ocean and enjoy a meal and a cold drink. Well worth doing and most people don’t know it exists.
This was an Isaan guy selling cooked corn on the beach. The in-laws were amazed that each cob was being sold for 40 baht when they sell three for 20 baht in the local markets back home! Plans were being made to drive the pickup down filled with corn 🙂
Off the beach for a while. For some reason finding dried jellyfish to take back to the family at home had become a goal for our time in Phuket. After missing out on finding this delectable sounding treat at a local market and a couple of recommended supermarkets we were given a “sure thing” from Jimmie, the lady at the B&B, at the markets in Karon, the beach “suburb” that sits between Kata and Patong. 1,000 baht was handed over (not by me) for enough dried fish to keep the family happy for the rest of the year.
On the way to Karon we stopped off at one of my favourite places in Phuket, a bar/restaurant called Sabai Corner. Now Sabai means something along the lines of “relaxed, peaceful, laidback, calm” in Thai. Sabai, sabai will be said to you meaning to chill out in our terms.
This is another place that is hidden away in this case in the hills before you take the sharp drop to Kata Beach shopping centre. GPS coords 07 47′ 28.9″ N 098 17′ 32.6″ will get you close.
This is a very sabai sabai place to have something to eat and drink and soak in that view on a day like this one. Maybe I should have retired in Phuket……………
On the way back from Karon loaded up with dried jellyfish we headed for a lookout I had read about in my research prior to going called Radar Hill Viewpoint. If you read the article HERE and see these photos you will understand why I wanted to see it.
However things are no longer quite as stated due to tropical growth or maybe the guy writing the story had access to a camera drone. It was a longer drive than I thought to get there and this is my single photo of the views you get once to arrive. A glimpse of Patong and otherwise just a wall of greenery. Very disappointing.
Ready for a diversion from the topic? We haven’t had one in a while so………I mentioned in my first post on this Phuket trip that we rented a car from Europcar, which ended up being a Nissan Altera. Now a word of warning on this car if you need to go up a hill, a steep driveway or even a large bump in the road 🙂 I have just picked out a review for this part of the post and it says this about the Nissan “Perhaps the bigger news is the addition of the much-cheaper 1.2L MT variant, powered by a 1.2-liter DOHC CVT engine rated at 78hp. It may not pack a lot of horses, but it should be more than enough for city motoring”.
City motoring is the key here people. Now firstly I didn’t know engines were made that small for today’s cars, secondly the engine is woefully underpowered for a decent sized sedan with four people and thirdly it incorporates CVT, which is like a gearbox when you don’t have a gearbox. Another review of CVT states ” When driving up hills, where traditional automatics can struggle, a CVT can seamlessly provide power without shifting.” Well for the first time in over 40 years of driving I had a car come to a complete stop going up a hill. I never knew that could happen 🙂 Maybe there was something I should have pushed or switched to get more power out of the thing but other cars just shift down a gear and keep going!
So if you do end up with one of these things for the first time please ask where the turbo boost is hidden. Maybe someone reading this knows. Honda or Toyota next time for me.
Giving up on views that were no longer there I hoped that my next idea was a better one. I had also read about a hidden beach called Laem Beach, Rawai in my research GPS 07 46′ 42.2″ N 098 20′ 14.4″ E and as this was to be our last beach time I hoped it was as nice as it looked in the photos.
This is a huge open area that has an abandoned resort overlooking the water at the end. I wonder what happened because there was a lot of money spent at one time and the land must be worth an absolute squillion.
I prefer the smaller more intimate beaches like this one rather than the Australian sized ones preferably with somewhere you can sit in the shade and this one fitted my order perfectly.
Our final daytime stop was at Cape Phromthep (do you remember I said we would revisit it earlier in this post?) to catch the Village Art street exhibition that was being open by the mayor of Phuket early afternoon.
The early evening finished with a meal on the Rawai waterfront.
Our final activity for the holiday was a late night out in Patong, the adult party town. This was to be the biggest eyeopener for Yuan and Lud as you can probably imagine and ended up being one of the highlights of the trip for them. What happens in Patong stays in Patong, we all know that, so I can’t share more on this part of the trip unfortunately. The stories brought back to family and villagers has kept everyone well amused.
And what did you bring back from your holiday in Phuket? A concrete chicken!
For some unknown reason a couple of months ago Gaun bought some plastic eggs at one of those 20 baht shops and ever since we have looked for the chicken that would complete the picture. We have been into many garden statue places but no luck. Then of all places we came across just the right thing in a Phuket backstreet on the way to Radar Hill Viewpoint. Luckily we had some spare weight allowance and the chicken has now made our garden its home and the eggs are coming along nicely.
To add to the oddity the chicken was made in an Isaan city called Korat (full name Nakhon Ratchasima), which is where Lud was born, and shipped to Phuket.
Well what a perfect three days this ended up being. I went to Phuket with some reservations but we all had such a good time as you can tell from the photos. I had all the photos printed and put in albums for Yuan and Lud and they have been shared widely since out return. Happy memories.
Thanks for reading.