Exploring Wat Pho, Bangkok : The Birthplace of The Traditional Thai Massage

One of Bangkok’s oldest temples, Wat Pho is a must visit if you love architecture. Built in the 16th century, this vast royal temple complex boasts a splendid design, with towering spires, colourful glazed-tile roofs and grand halls. The temple is home to the largest collection of Buddha’s images in Thailand (over 1,000), the most famous being a 46-metre-long giant reclining Buddha. It is also the birthplace of the traditional Thai massage, which is offered to visitors as a communal experience at an open-air pavilion.

20191025_145944

The temple complex covers over 80,000 square metres, so it’s best to allocate several hours if you wish to fully explore the place. There are numerous pavilions, hallways, shrines and prayer halls to within, so tourist maps (located at various points throughout the temple) come in handy !

20191025_151352

The ordination hall, or Phra Ubosot, is where monks perform rituals. The hall looked absolutely stunning, with maroon and gold floor to ceiling motifs and a glittering gold and crystal dais, upon which was seated a gilded Buddha dating back to the Ayutthaya period. The statue was ‘shaded’ by a golden, tasseled nine-tiered umbrella, a symbol of Thailand. The ashes of the ruler Rama I can also be found under the pedestal.

20191025_150159

Making our way around the temple complex, we could see influences from various cultures, such as these Chinese-style stone pagodas. There were figures and statues of Chinese deities as well. The colour of the tiles on the roof differed from building to building, but most had orange/gold as the primary shade, accentuated by blue, red, white and green.

20191025_145921

Chedis are an alternative to stupas in Thailand, and there are hundreds of these within the temple grounds. The smaller ones rise up about five metres, and are decorated with floral or geometric motifs from the base to the top.

Beyond being just a religious place, Wat Pho was also intended as an education centre, so visitors will find murals and engravings on granite slabs throughout the complex with texts and illustrations depicting subjects such as history, medicine, health, custom, literature and religion.

20191025_150910

Marble towers called Phra Prang, which are found at the corners of one of the main courtyards.

20191025_152510

Aside from the Reclining Buddha statue, I found the Phra Maha Chedi Si Rajakarn – a grouping of four large chedis – to be most impressive. Located within a courtyard, their sharp spires towering over their surroundings, these 42-metre-high chedis are dedicated to the first four Chakri kings: Rama I, Rama II, Rama III and Rama IV. The chedis each have a distinctive look and are covered in beautiful tiles, in green, yellow, white and blue.

20191025_152738

20191025_153022

20191025_153554

Inside one of the buildings called Viharn Phranorn, we finally came to the temple’s famed golden reclining Buddha. It was humongous, filling up one entire side of the hall, the statue’s long legs stretching from one end to the other. There were nooks all along the passageway for visitors to stop and take photos, while on the right were bowls where devotees can drop coins as part of a prayer ritual. The walls were decorated from top to bottom with elaborate murals, and there were artists doing touch up on places where they had faded.

 

20191025_153648

20191025_153913

20191025_153951

The feet are decorated with laksana, Sanskrit symbols and texts, some of which have been inlaid with mother of pearl.

Wat Pho is located right next to the Grand Palace, so you might want to pair your trip with a visit there. The entrance fee for the Grand Palace is quite pricey, which is why we opted not to.

Address: 2 Sanam Chai Rd, Phra Borom Maha Ratchawang, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200, Thailand

GETTING THERE 

Take the BTS Skytrain to Saphan Taksin, then a Chao Phraya express boat at Taksin pier to Tha Tien Pier.

There is an entrance fee of 200 baht to get into Wat Pho.

Opening hours: 8AM – 6.30PM (daily)

 

We Spent Six Hours At The National Museum in Bangkok, Thailand

Thailand has a rich and colourful history, and it’s chronicled incredibly well at the National Museum in Bangkok.  From the early days of its ancient Buddhist kingdoms of Sukhothai, Lan Na and Ayutthaya to the more modern eras under the Rama kings, the museum offers visitors a look into the history and various facets of what makes up Thailand today – and it’s absolutely fascinating. N and I spent six hours exploring the vast museum grounds, and would have spent more if it wasn’t for the fact that we had other items on our itinerary to go to :’D

20191025_093501

The museum was about 1.5 kilometres from our hostel in Rambuttri, and it was packed with tourists, locals and students, despite being a weekday. From the outside, the museum didn’t look very large, but there were actually many buildings within. There was an entrance fee of 200 baht (RM27) for foreigners.

20191025_100012

Our timing was excellent as the museum was running a temporary exhibition, “Qin Shi Huang: The First Emperor of China and Terracotta Warriors” during our visit. The showcase included historical artefacts and items from the rule of China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, some of which were flown in from Xi’an.

QSH was a bit of an obsessive personality and during his lifetime, drank mercury in an attempt to prolong his life (mercury was believed to be the secret to immortality back then). When he died (presumably from mercury poisoning), he was entombed in a necropolis, complete with 8,000 life-sized terracotta warriors. The mausoleum, which was designed as a reflection of a palace / city so that QSH could continue ruling in the afterlife,  has never been fully excavated due to fears of possible damage.

20191025_101615

Although it said ‘life-sized’, I felt like the sculptures were actually taller than normal, averaging about eight feet.

The original statues that were discovered were actually coated in paint, so they weren’t all grey and dull looking. The paint evaporated into the air after the mausoleum was excavated.

 

 

20191025_101146

Terracotta horse-drawn chariot.

Beyond just his odd practices of drinking mercury and burning books, SHD was an extraordinary figure who united China’s many warring factions under one banner. The exhibition also detailed this, explaining the economic and political reforms that took place during his rule, as well as cultural and historical impact that can still be felt two millennia later.  On display to tell the narrative was advanced weaponry, decorative statues, household items, ritual objects, and more.

20191025_101228

A distinctive stone armour worn by soldiers, made up of hundreds of interlinked stone pieces connected by bronze wire to offer more flexibility.

20191025_102335

Decorative / ritual objects in the shapes of farm animals like horses, cows, goats, pigs and sheep; or scenes from everyday life like a rice mill, shrines and small houses.

20191025_103740

N was fascinated, and I had to literally drag him out to the main courtyard (lest we stay there the entire day). We next ventured into the Buddhaisawan Chapel. Built in the early 18th century, the main hall houses one of the most sacred Buddhist images in all of Thailand, the Phra Buddha Sihing.

The vast hall had sleek wooden floors, with a red ceiling and walls decorated with images of the Devas, as well as old paintings telling Buddha’s story. Some of these were faded with age and were difficult to discern, but you could still see the meticulous attention to detail poured into creating each one.

20191025_104308

20191025_104814

20191025_105718

The entrance to Buddhaisawan Chapel is guarded by garudas – mythical creatures in Buddhist and Hindu mythology that sport avian and human features.

20191025_105847

Another building you can check out within the museum is the vibrant-looking The Red House. Constructed from teak, it was originally the private living quarters of a princess. Today, it houses items used by royals in the past, including those of Queen Sri Suriyenda.

20191025_111113

A beautiful gold pavilion with intricate decorative features and exquisite detailing on the ceiling.

20191025_112418

The halls within the museum seemed to go on forever – there were just so many things to see. There were sections dedicated to Buddhist art from Thailand and neighbouring regions, the evolution of the country’s monetary system and currency, paintings, weaponry, clothing worn by royals, palanquins which were used to mount onto the backs of elephants, war drums, dioramas and much more.

 

20191025_112806

Royal throne. The colour gold is prevalent in Thai colour, as it is an important colour in both Buddhist and Thai culture.

20191025_115307

Life-sized replica of an elephant with a palanquin strapped to its back. Elephants are the national animal of Thailand.

20191025_115953

20191025_120011

Students writing notes down as they observe a diorama, complete with war elephants, cavalry, foot soldiers and archers

20191025_123346

Thai royals were a fashionable lot, with ceremonial and everyday costumes featuring rich fabrics, elegant colours, beautiful detailing and patterns, and slim silhouettes.

20191025_121812

Everyone likes beautiful things – and there were sections detailing Thai art, such as how artisans apply mother of pearl to everything from furniture to sword scabbards; as well as a section for enamel pottery.

20191025_124511

20191025_132114

Another impressive section was a hall containing numerous royal funeral chariots. Built from teak, the chariots were ornately carved, painted and gilded in gold, with mythical / religious figures and decorative fixtures such as nagas and devas.

Thais have deep respect for their royalty (they have some of the world’s strictest lese-majeste laws), and they revere them as much in death as they do in life. When a member of the royal family passes, the chariots are pulled by hundreds of men in a parade down the streets with the urn carrying the ashes of the deceased royal sitting atop a tall roofed shrine.

20191025_132404

20191025_132439

Grand send off.

The Bangkok National Museum is, by far, one of the most impressive museums I have been to in Southeast Asia, and it’s definitely worth checking out if you love history and culture. Allocate at least half a day for the place if you’re planning to have a more in-depth experience.

BANGKOK NATIONAL MUSEUM 

Na Phra That Alley, Phra Borom Maha Ratchawang, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200, Thailand

Opening hours: 9AM – 4PM (closed on Mon – Tues)

 

What To Do At Khao San Road: Bangkok’s Backpacker Mecca

So after years of incredulous looks whenever I tell friends I’ve never been to Bangkok (“but it’s so near!”), I finally got to visit Asia’s City of Angels, The Big Mango; or more notoriously, Sin City. It was a short trip and we barely scratched the surface of what the city has to offer – but N and I enjoyed our time here immensely. Now I see why everyone was like “why haven’t you been to Bangkok yet?!”

Bangkok at night 01 (MK)
Mathias Krumbholz [CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D
We didn’t do much research prior to going (a mistake seasoned travellers should avoid!) so I wasn’t sure which area would be a good place to stay. Bangkok is a huge city, divided into many subdivisions, each with its own attractions and experiences. We were on a budget so I picked the cheapest accommodation I could find that wasn’t a hostel. I found one near Khao San Road, a backpacker’s paradise. The only problem? We aren’t exactly party people, so I wasn’t sure what we could do around the place. Turns out, plenty.

Bangkok, like Kuala Lumpur, has two major airports: Don Mueang, which services low-cost airlines, and Suvarnabhumi, which is about 20 km away. Traffic can get pretty bad in the city so always allocate plenty of time going to and from the airport.

HOW TO GET TO KHAO SAN ROAD from DON MUEANG AIRPORT 

The night before we were due to depart for Bangkok, I scoured various websites for info, but there seemed to be no easy way to get to Khao San from Don Mueang. If you’re landing at Suvarnabhumi, things are much easier as there is an airport rail that goes directly to the city centre. The worst case scenario (for our budget, anyway) was to take a taxi (900 baht (!!!) (RM 121) from the official taxi stand inside the airport).

I wasn’t about to spend a good chunk of the money I brought for one taxi ride, so I stubbornly went to the tourist information counter to ask if there was any other way to get there. Lo and behold – the airport runs shuttle buses to various tourist-centric areas within the city ! The A4 bus would take us directly to Khaosan Road and it only costs …. 50 baht! (RM6.77). That’s like a 95% cheaper alternative! 

20191024_144751

The A4 bus runs every 30 minutes. You need to wait for it at the airport’s Exit 6, which is just after arrivals. If you have a lot of luggage, this might not be the best mode of transport since you’ll have to lug it on and off the bus, then up to wherever your hotel is.

The coach was air conditioned, clean and cosy. We got on around 2-ish, and it was quite empty so we had a lot of space to ourselves. From the airport, it took us about an hour to reach Khao San Road.

20191024_171229

We hopped off near Banglamphu, because our hotel/hostel was actually on Soi Rambuttri, just off Khao San Road. Rambuttri is a good place for people on a budget who want to be close to the action, but not at the centre of it. The place is much quieter, with a quaint hipster vibe. The streets are well paved, there is very little traffic except for the occasional bike or trike or two, and there are loads of shops that mirror the ones you find at Khao San, but with less crowd.

20191024_171415

Rambuttri is known for its chill cafes, bars and restos, with large and shady trees and greenery.

 

20191024_171533

There are street stalls as well, peddling souvenirs, cheap clothing, bags, shoes, and more.

20191024_171801

Street massages are a thing. No one bats an eyelid if you’re reclined in full double-chin glory with your feet exposed by the side of the road. An hour-long foot massage will set you back around 250 – 300 baht.

20191024_173354

Exploring the Banglamphu area

20191024_174055

We took a short cut that ran through a covered area, which had more souvenir shops and massage parlours, but also some interesting gems like indie bookstores

20191024_181142

Cue N pushing me past this 2nd hand bookstore really quickly lest I stop to look (after which he wouldn’t be able to get me out of there again)

20191024_174103

Souvenirs for sale. Many sold the standard stuff like fridge magnets and T-shirts saying “I Love Thailand”, but there were also some interesting pieces like paintings, decorative wall hangings and handmade items.

20191024_175230

Finally emerging into the 400-metre-long Khao San Road, we were greeted by dozens, if not hundreds of signages proclaiming various services, from bars and massage parlours to jewellery stores, fashion and retail centres, tattoo studios, restaurants, money changers and supermarkets. Not to mention the many street stalls selling food and clothes on the pedestrian-only main thoroughfare. Loud music blasted from every corner, vendors shouting cheap beer! massage! exotic show! party! fun! It seemed like if you had the money for it, you could find anything along Khao San Road.

20191024_174654

Bangkok’s famous tuk-tuk 

20191024_174810

Khao San felt like a riot on the senses. The swirling colours, the different faces from all walks of life in every shape, colour and size, the smell of barbecued meat and steaming corn wafting into the air, whole barbecued crocodiles and exotic insects on sale, touts shouting “Ping Pong Show!” while holding up placards of sexy women, open air bars where the music was so loud the ground felt like it was shaking slightly.

There were tall blonde Westerners dressed in strappy spaghetti tops laughing boisterously over drinks as they flirted with the tanned, handsome bartenders, petite Thai college girls giggling with their friends as they checked out merchandise, young local women clinging to the arms of older white men, old Japanese tourists, families, students. An essayist once wrote that Khao San was a ‘place to disappear’, and she wasn’t wrong.

20191024_175820

20191024_174726

Even the McDonalds here has a Thai flavour ! (pun)

It was fun for awhile to observe the goings-on at Khao San, but also draining for introverts like N and I lol. We retreated back to the Rambuttri area for dinner. Popped into one of the nicer restaurants, which was still reasonably priced.

20191024_183408

Can’t come to Bangkok and not have a coconut shake

20191024_183432

Cheese-filled wontons

20191024_183556

Chicken tom yum for that spicy kick

 

20191024_183635

Gotta pad thai like a basic tourist. It was great though!

Me to waitress: I don’t want beansprouts.

*Waitress does not understand.*

Me: You know, the long white things.. vegetables

20191024_193823

Walking back to our hotel we came across this souped up van that was converted into a mobile bar, with seats on the pavement and a TV installed into the boot. If you like your alcohol, I think you’d be very happy at Rambuttri / Khao San.

20191024_195325

There was still some time to kill so we had a massage (in the shop rather than on the street). Wasn’t much in terms of privacy as everyone was chatting away, but still relaxing.

20191024_205806

Ended the night with a banana nutella pancake!

FOLLOW ME ON SOCIAL MEDIA 

Thanks for reading! I’m trying to grow my social media, so any likes and follows will be appreciated! You’ll also be updated on what I’m up to on a daily basis. 🙂

facebook.com/erisgoesto 

twitter.com/erisgoesto 

instagram.com/erisc.mogol

Exploring Phuket’s Historical Old Town District

Phuket may be known for its beautiful sandy beaches and party scene, but if you’re into culture and heritage, then Phuket Old Town is a definite must visit. Comprising several roads including Dibuk (Thai for ‘tin’), Thalang and the narrow but extremely popular alleyway called Soi Romanee, the area is a haven of old shops and hipster cafes, selling everything from artisan ice cream and drinks to cheap clothing, accessories and jewelry.

20190411_145459

Before it became a popular island destination, Phuket’s riches were founded in tin, and in the late 18th century, Hokkien Chinese immigrants made their way to its shores, establishing themselves in the trade centres which would later become bustling towns. As such, the architecture is reminiscent of regions in Southeast Asia with a similar ethnic heritage and past, such as Penang in Malaysia as well as Singapore. The architecture style, dubbed Sino-Portuguese, features colourful facades and elaborate decorations, blending both traditional Chinese /local elements with European touches.

20190411_145501

While small and narrow, Soi Romanee is perhaps the area’s most popular (and Instagrammable) street, flanked on both sides by cafes, hole-in-the-wall eateries and boutique inns.

20190411_145734

20190411_155752

Apparently a great place to get ice cream (especially in Phuket’s scorching weather!) is this ice cream parlour called Torry’s.

20190411_145744

20190411_152936

Also like Penang and Singapore, the area has been spruced up with large and colourful murals adorning the sides of several buildings – bringing together the old and the new.

20190411_153057

Crossing over to Thalang Road, which boasts the same neat and colourful buildings with shaded five-foot walkways.

20190411_154245

Parts of the walkway are occupied by pop up stalls selling clothing and jewellery. If you’re a fashionista, this would be a great place to get some unique pieces that you won’t be able to find back home – and at cheap prices to boot.

20190411_154251

20190411_155340

20190411_155021

Reflecting its Chinese heritage (Thailand has the largest population of overseas Chinese in the world), many of the shops here have been running for generations and still carry Chinese names. Next to swanky cafes and cool eateries sit generation-old businesses such as gold shops, optical shops and traditional medicine stores.

20190411_155006

There’s actually plenty to do in the area but we were pressed for time and missed out on alot of places.

Some notable spots for a half-day tour include the Thavorn Hotel Museum (as the name suggests, an old hotel turned museum), The Memory at On On Hotel (where they filmed The Beach starring Leonardo di Caprio), Thai Hua Musuem ( a museum on Chinese heritage in Phuket/Thailand), Jui Tui Shrine (a Chinese temple), Blue Elephant (where you can have cooking classes), and many more.

 

Exploring Karon, Phuket After Sundown

Some cultures might find it disrespectful to have a market selling food / knick knacks / random items at a holy site. Not in Phuket though! Held on Tuesdays and Fridays, the Karon Temple Night Market is located within Wat Suwan Khiri Khet at Karon, and is a great place to explore if you’re looking to immerse yourself in the local culture and nab yourself some tasty street food, snacks and souvenirs.

20190412_121157

The temple itself is beautiful, with a main shrine sitting on an elevated platform, guarded by two nagas (mythical serpents). The architecture is distinctively Thai, featuring a tiered roof and intricately carved golden motifs.

20190412_174320

The market offers visitors a bit of everything – from trinkets and cheap T-shirts to handmade crafts and souvenirs, such as these lovely soap carvings. There were also many stalls selling snacks and local products, such as coffee, biscuits and other snacks. There’s also a food section with both halal and non-halal food options. If you’ve never been to a night market in Southeast Asia, then definitely visit to experience the sights, smells and sounds !

 

20190412_174723

An assortment of snacks on skewers – fishballs, hotdogs, meat balls, crab meat sticks, dunked into a sweet and spicy hot sauce. There’s also pad thai fresh from the wok, and local favourites such as stuffed squid, barbecued moo ping (pork on skewers – a must try!), sausages stuffed with glutinous rice, mango sticky rice, fried oyster omelettes and many more.

20190412_175136

We found a stall selling fried insects and decided to give it a try. We got the mix (50 baht) of three: crickets, grasshoppers and silkworms. They also had scorpion but these were pricey at 200 baht each (about RM27).

20190412_180004

I think the hardest part about eating something ‘exotic’ is that your brain simply isn’t used to it. I remember eating balut (duck embryo) for the first time and was grossed out by the fact that it had feathers on – I felt like gagging when I bit into it – but once it was in my mouth it didn’t taste bad at all lol. 😀

The same thing with these fried insects: my first instinct was to gag, but after popping one in, it didn’t taste all that bad. The texture was very similar to eating small, crispy fried fish, like whitebait. There wasn’t much flavour except for salt and whatever spices the insects had been tossed in. I actually preferred the silkworms because they had a slightly chewy skin and a little bit of mushiness on the inside.

20190412_183815

After exploring the market, head on out to the streets of Karon, which are lined with plenty of restaurants and bars, as well as massage and beauty parlours.

20190412_184609

Walked all the way to the roundabout to see the gorgeous sunset.

20190412_190403

Back to the beach in front of our hotel, there was a game of volleyball going on between locals and some foreign visitors.

While Karon is not as ‘happening’ as Patong, it’s a nice place for families and those who aren’t part of the party crowd. Consider booking a stay in the area if you prefer a more subdued, relaxing atmosphere.

Review: Mor Mu Dong, Phuket – The Michelin Bib Restaurant In A Mangrove Swamp

When I went to Phuket recently, I wanted to look for off-the-beaten path experiences to write about, rather than the usual attractions. That was how I stumbled upon Mor Mu Dong, a hidden gem in the Chalong district that apparently has a Michelin Bib Gourmand (it’s kinda like a ‘budget’ Michelin star award).

Because it’s far from commercial centres and rather difficult to find, not many foreigners frequent the place. It is, however, very popular with the locals – which is always a sure sign of a winner!

20190411_135758

Our driver took us through small roads past quaint housing estates, until we pulled up to a …mangrove swamp? The place looked trippy: there was a garden filled with shrooms (mushroom shaped buildings, that is) and various nipah huts, some floating over the water’s edge, others on stilts over the sand. You dine cross-legged on the floor in the private huts, while the larger huts have simple plastic tables and chairs.

 

20190411_140124

20190411_125311

Despite the scorching weather, it was surprisingly cool inside one of the larger huts. The rustic settings were quaint and charming – from the old-school calendars (the type where you have to tear off pages each day), to the standing fans set up at strategic corners for better ventilation and cooling. Peering up, we noticed that the inside of the roof had been covered with cartoon bed sheets, presumably for an extra layer of protection against the heat.

20190411_125232

View from our table!

It was lunch time and the restaurant was filled with locals, mostly families. There was only one other foreign couple. There are waiters here who speak English though, and the menu has an English translation. Food is Thai style and they have lots of dishes, from chicken, pork and beef to seafood offerings, veggies, tofu and egg.

20190411_131321

 

If you like spicy food, their signature is the Pla Tu Yat Sai, or boneless mackerel. This tedious dish involves deboning the fish and blending the scraped flesh with chilli paste and curry powder, before stuffing it back into the fish and deep frying it. When we ordered, the waitress cautioned it would be spicy, but thankfully my Malaysian palate held up well (ie some sniffling but no pain in the ears or crying). Really liked how crispy it was on the outside, and packed with the flavour of fish and spices on the inside.

20190411_131150

We also ordered stir-fried squid with garlic (fresh and garlicky!), flambe-style morning glory and Tom Kha Gai (chicken boiled with coconut milk and galangal), which was good but not as good as the one we had at OrientAsia @ Movenpick Karon Beach. The dishes were served with pineapple and guava slices as well as cucumbers and long beans with a sweet and sour dipping sauce.

While the settings are rustic and the service is basic, Mor Mu Dong is a must for those looking for an unconventional dining experience – and prices are reasonable too!

HOW TO GET THERE 

Look out for Phuket Zoo as a landmark. Turn left down the last road before Palai Seafood on the beach and  carry on until you see a blue Luk Lay restaurant sign. Keep going straight and turn into the first lane heading right.

MOR MU DONG 

9/4 Moo 3, Soi Pa Lai, Chao Fa Road, Mueang, Phuket

Business hours: 10AM – 9.30PM (Daily)

Tel: +66 (0)76 282 302

Hotel Review: Movenpick Resort & Spa Karon Beach Phuket, Thailand

Hey, guys!

I recently had the pleasure of staying at Movenpick Resort and Spa Karon Beach, a leading luxury resort in Phuket, ie Thailand’s largest island. They were kind enough to host me for several nights in exchange for a review (while I ran around the island sniffing out stories for work), so a big thank you, especially to the marcomms team!

PS: Since I’ve already published the hotel review for my magazine, this will be an honest review of my experience in my own style of blog writing + unfettered by print limitations like word count or whatnot. Let’s hop into it! 🙂 

CHECK-IN 

1 Hotel Lobby

Checking in at the lobby, N and I were welcomed by a warm and inviting space – modern with an open layout but with Thai touches. As most of you might already know, Movenpick is a Swiss brand, and the Karon Beach resort prides itself in “Swiss efficiency, with Thai hospitality”. Check in was seamless, and we were given welcome drinks to cool off from the sweltering Thai heat, then shown to our room, which was a short walk away from the lobby.

ROOMS & AMENITIES

20190410_161721

There are various configurations to suit different budgets and needs, from Family Suites to Deluxe and Superior rooms, all furnished in a modern, contemporary style. Despite it being high tourist season, they managed to get us a Plunge Pool Villa (thank you, Ryatt!), which was extremely spacious and cosy.

20190410_161801

I loved that they used lots of wood, from the lanterns to the work desk, walk-in wardrobe and furniture, which really added to the tropical resort vibe. Do note that because there are so many trees and plants within the resort grounds, there are also lots of mosquitoes (!) An electric mozzie repellent device is provided, but I recommend closing the blinds and doors when you’re in the room. The bathroom features a window that you can open and close for privacy, making it perfect for couples and honeymooners (winkwink).

20190410_161901

A bathroom that’s larger than my bedroom at home, lol. Shower aside, there was an extremely large stone/marble tub that could easily fit two people in it, and a closet on the right.

20190410_161936

Luxury shower amenities.

20190410_161810

We also got a welcome basket of tropical fruits, and Movenpick’s signature chocolate cake. PS: If you don’t already know, Movenpick started off as a chocolate company, and they are world renowned for their exquisite chocolates!

20190410_162015

And then of course I made a beeline for the outdoor plunge pool. This became my go-to place throughout the stay – whenever I wasn’t exploring the island, I’d go back and take a dip with a book (yes I brought a book with me into the pool). I think N got tired of having to call me to get out so we can have lunch/dinner or whatever, lol.

20190411_173309

Is this not the life?

DINNER AT ORIENTASIA

20190410_181551

Food options aplenty at Movenpick Resort & Spa Karon Beach, most of them facing the beautiful Karon beach front. On our first night, we dined at OrientAsia, which serves authentic Thai and Indian cuisine. Warm shades of red and beige, coupled with low ambient lighting made for an elegant and intimate setup.

20190410_185605

Maybe I’m not looking in the right places, but it’s hard to find good shrimp pakora back in Malaysia. The version here was nicely battered and seasoned, with large, juicy and sizable chunks of fresh shrimp which went well with the mint dip. Despite being deep fried, it was not greasy at all – perfect appetiser!

 

20190410_185636

Stuffed crab shells with a sweet and sour dip was excellent as well.

20190410_193527

Chicken Vindaloo was a tad too oily for my liking.

20190410_193425

The star of the night was the Tom Kha Gai, ie chicken in coconut milk soup. Milky and savoury with a spicy kick, the flavourful broth paired really well with rice. The lemongrass flavour stood out to give it a sour note which was very appetising. The fact that N and I finished it to the last drop is testament as to how delicious it was. 11/10!

20190410_195237

Finishing off the meal on a sweet note, we tucked into a scoop of Movenpick’s signature chocolate ice cream. Just the right amount of sweetness and creaminess to end the night.

BREAKFAST AT EL GAUCHO 

20190411_075733

By night, El Gaucho serves up hearty cuts of steak and grilled items, but they also serve buffet breakfast for resort guests during the day. The restaurant’s outdoor seating offers beautiful views of the beach front, so you can dine with a view.

20190411_075439

Sandy white beaches and swaying palm trees – a scene straight out of a postcard.

20190411_075633

A respectable selection of breakfast items, with local and intercontinental dishes: Salads, fresh fruits, cereal and juices, cold cuts, pastries, and Asian staples of rice and noodles.

20190411_075752

20190411_075830

Cheeses and cold cuts.

20190411_075854

Malaysian hotels have to adhere to halal standards, so whenever I’m travelling overseas, I load up on the bacon! PS: I like mine soft rather than crispy. 😛

20190411_080454

FACILITIES

20190411_085028

Movenpick Resort & Spa Karon Beach spans a hefty 9 acres, with beautifully landscaped grounds that take luxury resort living to heart. Tropical palm trees line the paved avenues, and there are lovely gardens at every corner, interspersed with buildings featuring traditional thatched roof designs. In total, the resort boasts 362 rooms, suites and villas. It’s also kid-friendly, with facilities such as a Little Birds Club that has a large play area and a range of programmes and recreational activities to keep the little ones entertained.

20190412_111633

The grounds are so massive it takes a good 15 minutes to walk from the lobby to the beach front! Fret not though – they’ve got buggies at the ready to take you where you need to go.

20190412_094544

For those who want to go swimming, the resort has three pools. The main one is near the lobby and comes with a waterslide for the kids and a swim-up poolside bar. The Coconut Grove Pool (pictured above) is exclusively for Villa guests, but it’s also super deep and does not have lifeguards on duty so I’d suggest going only if you’re a strong swimmer (I’m not. lol). Alternatively, you can work out at the well equipped fitness centre next to the lobby, where there is also an area with a pool table.

20190412_094340

20190412_094443

Garden Villas. 

20190411_084659

For an indulging experience, head on to their spa for top-to-toe pampering. N and I were ushered into a couple villa for our one-hour full body massage. The couple villa was beautifully furnished, and our skilful and professional therapists were so good at kneading out our tired muscles that we both fell asleep during the treatment.

MOVENPICK CHOCOLATE HOUR! 

 

20190412_154224

A fun signature activity at all of Movenpick’s hotels and resorts is the Movenpick Chocolate Hour, where guests are invited to indulge in a free flow of snacks and chocolates at the lobby. It was just what we needed after our massage. It’s a small gesture, but such a significant one as it shows their brand of warm hospitality.

LIVE MUSIC, DRINKS AND FOOD AT MINT 

20190411_192405

There is no shortage of things to do at night in Phuket, but if you’re not looking to explore, you can wile the night away at MINT, which serves drinks and dishes such as pizza, pasta and snacks. The atmosphere is relaxing, as the resto is located just steps away from the beach and they have a live band playing music.

20190411_192534

20190411_193953

One does not simply say no to wood-fired pizza, and they had my favourite – parma ham with arugula. 

20190411_195443

The buffalo wings were nice, but the scallops were overcooked and rubbery.

All in all, we had an awesome time at Movenpick Resort & Spa Karon Beach – at times, we didn’t even feel like leaving the resort at all! Ideal for families and leisure travelers alike, it’s a great place to unwind and conveniently located just across the street from one of Phuket’s most beautiful beaches. Service is warm, friendly and personalised, the food is good and there are plenty of top notch facilities to enjoy.

MOVENPICK RESORT & SPA KARON BEACH 

509 Patak Rd, Tambon Karon, Amphoe Mueang Phuket, Chang Wat Phuket 83100, Thailand

Reservations: Website or call +66 76 683 350. 

Prices start at RM440 (USD100) per night.

 

 

 

Travel Guide: What To Do In Phuket, Thailand – A 12-Hour Itinerary

Surrounded by the azure blue waters of the Andaman Sea, Phuket is the largest island in Thailand, and one of the country’s most popular tourist spots, renowned for its resorts, beautiful beaches and gorgeous diving and snorkelling spots. My first visit was back in 2015, and it was one of my most enjoyable trips – the island has something catered to everyone, whether you like partying, beaches, culture or food.

Four years later, I’m back for work – tasked with writing an article on what you can do in Phuket when you only have 12 hours. I’ve re-purposed it a little for this blog, so I hope you’ll find this guide useful when planning your own trip.

8 AM – Breakfast 

20190412_125257

Throw a rock anywhere in Thailand, and you’ll probably hit a 7-Eleven. They’re found at almost every street corner, and they take their ‘convenience store’ label very seriously. Thailand’s 7-Elevens are foodie heaven, with a MASSIVE selection of snacks, beverages, cakes, hot meals and whatever else you can think of.  I can think of nothing better to start the day off than with a bowl of Mama instant noodles, a bottle of Betagen (their version of Yakult) and a CP Shrimp and Fish burger. If you’re pressed for time, you can eat at the store itself, where the workers will even heat up your burgers/whatever hot meals you need for you. Talk about service!

9 AM – Karon Viewpoint 

20190411_093345

Known locally as the Hill of Three Beaches, Karon Viewpoint is one of the must-visit spots on any tourist itinerary. From a small area atop a hill, visitors will be able to see three of Phuket’s main beaches on the west side, namely Kata Noi, Kata Yai and Karon, which form a fork-like shape when viewed from a distance. Of course, you’ll be getting panoramic views of the sea and lush green hills as well. Entrance: FREE 

9.30 AM – Windmill Viewpoint 

20190411_095632

A short drive away is Windmill Viewpoint, so called because of a giant windmill that powers electricity around the island. This viewpoint is not as popular as the other, but no less breathtaking, which makes it ideal for photos (if you wanna capture a shot without crowds). There’s a gazebo here if you need to shelter from the hot tropical sun. Entrance: Free.

10 AM – Promthep Cape 

20190411_102135

Welcome to the southernmost tip of Phuket. Promthep Cape is particularly popular for its sunset views, but visiting during the day offers a different experience. There’s a lighthouse-cum-museum that you can explore, a shrine surrounded by elephant figurines, a restaurant serving seafood and Thai dishes, and a large old Bodhi tree within its grounds.

20190411_101932

Hundreds of elephant statues and figurines both large and small, surrounding a four-faced Buddha shrine. Apparently the locals leave their own figurines here for good luck. Entrance: FREE. 

11 AM – Big Buddha 

20190411_115148

Moving on to one of Phuket’s main attractions, the Big Buddha on Nakkerd Hill is one of the island’s most iconic fixtures. Towering 45 metres high atop a hill overlooking the entire island, the statue is made from Burmese white marble, which glitters as the sun reflects off its smooth surface. When I last visited four years ago, the place was still pretty quiet – but now there are hordes of tourists, so there goes the tranquility. It’s still worth visiting; just don’t expect to meditate in solitude here. There have been a couple of additions, such as a wide marble staircase flanked by nagas, and two stone Buddhas at the back of the main statue, which remind me of the temple of Abu Simbel in Egypt.

20190411_114123

N in the corner for size comparison, lol.

12.30PM – Lunch at Mor Mu Dong 

20190411_135838

Before the trip, I scoured the Internet for local places to eat at, and one of the suggestions that popped up was Mor Mu Dong. Apparently the place has a Michelin Bib, and even had celebrity food host Andrew Zimmern visiting it once. It still isn’t super well known among tourists, so come for an authentic experience. What makes Mor Mu Dong unique is the setting, as it sits next to a mangrove swamp, and you basically dine in these little huts by the water. They also have tables in larger elevated huts with super quirky ceilings – they seem to have stitched blankets/bed covers together to keep out the heat. I think the resto warrants a separate review on its own, but definitely try the stuffed fried mackerel if you can take spicy food! Prices are also very affordable.

2PM – Cashewnut Factory 

20190411_141544

Cashew nuts are grown in Phuket and the southern provinces of Thailand, and they make for great souvenirs to take home (if you’re from a Western country, they’re much cheaper here too). Phuket’s largest cashew nut factory is the curiously named Sri Bhupara Orchid Co Ltd. Owned by a Thai Chinese family, the business started off as an orchid farm, hence the name. You get a sticker when you enter and there’s a corner with staff skilfully removing the shells (they’re poisonous). It’s a lot of work, which is why cashew nuts are pricey. Aside from the original cashews, there are also loads of flavours such as wasabi, chocolate coated, lightly salted, honey glazed, tomyum, BBQ (my personal fave!) and more. Do all your shopping in one go as they also carry other products, most notably local snacks. PS: Prices are fixed, so no haggling. 

3PM – Phuket Old Town

20190411_145816

The best place for a dose of culture and heritage is at Phuket’s Old Town, which comprises several streets and alleyways. Like Penang and Ipoh in Malaysia, Phuket prospered because of tin mining in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. which drew Chinese immigrants to the area. As such, Chinese names are common for businesses here, and the Sino-Portuguese architecture featuring bright, vividly decorated facades are prominently featured in its buildings. In recent years, the old town has become a hodgepodge of old businesses, hipster cafes and artisan coffee places, with plenty of stalls selling everything from jewellery to cheap clothing.

5PM – Karon Beach

20190412_090553

You can’t go to Phuket and not experience at least ONE of its famed beaches. Patong is the beach for partygoers, but if you prefer a quieter, more family-oriented beach, Karon Beach is a much better alternative. White sands and crystal clear waters await! Because there aren’t many boats here, it’s much cleaner and safer as well. Entrance: FREE. 

7 PM – Karon Temple Night Market 

20190412_175136

Plan your visit to fall on either a Tuesday or Friday, because that’s when the Karon Temple Night Market takes place. Located within the temple grounds, the market features stalls selling cheap goods such as T-shirts, souvenirs and snacks. Of course, being the foodies that we are, we made a beeline for the food stalls, which sell everything from grilled pork skewers to halal food by Muslim traders, padthai fresh from the wok, and bugs. Tried some and it was surprisingly not as gross as I thought it would be – quite tasty, even! Entrance: FREE. 

8 PM – Drinks and Live Music 

20190411_192534

If you’ve had your fill of snacks and food at the market, then adjourn for drinks along Beach Road in Karon, which is lined with pubs, bars and eateries. We spent the night enjoying the sea breeze and live music at MINT by Movenpick (where we stayed – review up soon!), which serves cocktails and good wood fired pizza. Alternatively, head on to Karon Bazaar down the road for seafood fresh out of the tank and grilled over a charcoal fire.

OTHER TIPS  

  • Public transport in Phuket is not very convenient, so I suggest engaging a local driver for the day (average price 250 – 280 baht for 8 hours). Alternatively, if you know how to ride a scooter, most hostels/resorts offer scooter rental services for much cheaper. Tuktuks can also be quite pricey for short distances (average about 200 baht from Patong to Karon, which is just a few minutes away from each other). 
  • Weather in Phuket is cool and dry from November to February, which is high season. Hot season is from March to May (during our visit temperatures hovered above 30 degrees and can get very humid. N and I are both from tropical countries and even we had a hard time being out in the sun for too long), while rainy season is from May to October. PS: If you’re visiting the waterfalls, rainy season is ideal because they dry up in the hot season.  
  • Currency is Thai baht. Money changers are available throughout the island. 
  • Be mindful when visiting temples and sacred sites. Most temples will loan you sarongs at the entrance to cover up before entering if you’re wearing shorts or sleeveless shirts, but your own scarf will come in handy. 

Happy travels!