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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 !

 

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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

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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!

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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).

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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.

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Luxury shower amenities.

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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!

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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.

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Is this not the life?

DINNER AT ORIENTASIA

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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.

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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!

 

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

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Chicken Vindaloo was a tad too oily for my liking.

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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!

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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 

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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.

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

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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.

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Cheeses and cold cuts.

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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. 😛

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FACILITIES

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Garden Villas. 

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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! 

 

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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 

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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.

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

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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 

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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 

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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 

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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 

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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.

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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 

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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.

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N in the corner for size comparison, lol.

12.30PM – Lunch at Mor Mu Dong 

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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 

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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

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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

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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 

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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 

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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! 

Last Day in Phuket – Jungceylon, Bangla Road and Patong Beach

Time sure flies when you’re having fun! It was already H & I’s last day in Phuket. Since our flight was only at night, we planned to make the most of our time on the island. On we hopped onto our bike again!

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First order of the day was brunch! We returned to Thanon Ratuthit Songroipi Road to get some lunch at Jungceylon Shopping Center. It was much quieter during the day.

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Since it was our last day, we were running low on funds. We decided to get a cheap meal at the mall’s underground food court. Purchase a reload card at the cashier and simply swipe it at the food stalls. The balance will be refunded at the end of your meal.

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The place was nice and clean, with a big selection of food to choose from.

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I was curious as to what Deep Fried Godzilla was, but I didn’t get to try it. 😦

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Chicken and fries for 90B. The chicken had a teriyaki flavour, but was a tad too sweet.

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Shared a fried oyster omelette with H. It had a mushy, gooey texture – quite different from the Malaysian Chinese version – but was loaded with ingredients. Almost every mouthful had oysters in it! It did get overwhelming halfway through as the item is quite greasy. 100B.

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My last Thai Milk Tea in Thailand. 😥

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After brunch, we decided to walk through Bangla Road again. The place was a shadow of itself in daytime, devoid of dancing girls, street walkers, loud techno music and flashy lights. The clubs were replaced by souvenir and clothing stalls.

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A few bars were open but you can tell that there was no life to the party..

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Just a short distance away was Patong Beach – one of Phuket’s most famous (and most commercialised) beaches. If you’re looking for calm and tranquility, this is not the place for you. The beach was crowded with tourists from all over the world and water sports enthusiasts. Although relatively clean, it lacked the pristine clear blue waters we saw at Phi Phi Islands. 

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Beach was occupied with umbrellas and mats. There were many white tourists. Let’s just say I don’t envy how they burn in the sun. Some were really sunburnt but were still lying there to tan like there was no tomorrow.

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Patong Beach was one of the worst hit areas in Thailand during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, but has bounced back with tourists flocking to the place. Looking at the line of hotels, hostels, restaurants and bars lining the beach, it’s hard to imagine that this was all almost flattened by natural disaster and has seen many lives lost, once.

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After chillin’ on the beach for a bit, we made our way back through Bangla Road to where the bike was parked.

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Stopped by for some fresh fruits from an Indian peddler.

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Wanted to get these as souvenirs, but was really running low on money by then..

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Said goodbye to Thailand’s unique tuk-tuks.

We got back to the hotel and waited for our taxi to pick us up and drive us to the airport. The sun was setting as we drove past the winding, hilly beach roads, casting a beautiful orange light across the island.

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Goodbye, Phuket. It has been amazing.

 

 

PS: H & I thought we had set aside just enough for our taxi trip, but it turns out we mistook some other currency for Thai baht ! O-O Good thing we had just enough money to pay the taxi guy, or we’d be in trouble… but that meant that we had no money to eat dinner (there were no money exchange booths in the airport wut??) until we got back to Kuala Lumpur. We were left with just 70B, and the cheapest food there (instant noodles) cost 80B.

Interesting experience, to say the least.

Bangla Road, Phuket’s Red Light District

Sundown is when the party starts at Bangla Road, Patong. 

Notorious as Phuket island’s red light district, the place comes alive each night with neon lights, loud music and sexy girls at every corner. This is where members of the oldest profession in the world openly ply their trade along the 400m long street, amidst a backdrop of sleazy strip bars and clubs.

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Although the arch says ‘Patong Beach’, this is really the entrance to the infamous Bangla Road. H & I were immediately accosted by dozens of people toting placards for ping pong and tiger shows. “Free entry! Free entry! Just buy drink only!” one girl nearly screamed in my face as I tried to rush past.

There were vendors selling cheap Winston cigarettes, people selling souvenirs, and transgenders dressed up in elaborate stage costumes, whom you can take photos with for a fee. At first glance and from afar, most wouldn’t be able to tell them apart from real women – until you see their Adam’s apples bobbing up and down their throats.

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In steamy bars, men (and women) sat around sipping cold beers, watching as scantily clad dancers gyrated around glowing poles. Sex was everywhere.

It was all quite overwhelming, the easy way sex was bought and sold in this place. Sex was a service, and the girls (and guys) could love you long time –  for a fee. Even though I was at the heart of it all, it was still odd to see all these big, burly white men walking with small, busty Thai chicks. Knowing that later that night, they would go back to the hotel and fuck. The guy would pay her, and they’d go their separate ways. Heard the phrase mixing business with pleasure? Here, pleasure was a business.

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I’ve read many books written by former sex workers on the sex trade in Thailand. How some of these girls are emotionally and psychologically damaged beyond repair because of what they are subject to. Clients who torture them, who think they can do whatever they want to because they pay them.  And I count my lucky stars. If I had been born under different circumstances, who’s to say I wouldn’t be among them?

I don’t think I could ever do that for money, but then again, I’m more fortunate than most people. Some of these girls have no choice, while some choose it for the quick and easy money.

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We sat down to people-watch and have some drinks. I don’t drink (Yeah. I’m a prude and I don’t drink. I’m ‘uncool’ like that) but I didn’t want to be a killjoy so I ordered one with the least amount of alcohol – something called Spy. It’s this sickly sweet lady beer that tastes like soda. H had a Pina Colada.

The bar girls who prepared our drinks were all dressed sexily. Some (but not all) will be available for sexual favours, but clients will have to pay the bar for the amount of time that they take her out (it’s a loss of business when there are no bar girls working, see).

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H poked me in the arm.

“I think those are prostitutes,” she pointed at a pair of girls, who were just standing and waiting. One was dressed sexily, but the other had jeans and a long-sleeved blouse on.

“What makes you say that?”

“They haven’t moved from that spot for some time now. The girl in pink keeps checking her makeup in the mirror.”

There were two older ladies with super thick make up hovering nearby. I assumed they were mama-sans. The modus operandi went like this: the two mama-sans usually targeted men walking alone, whom they would drag towards the girls. But despite the big crowd, it must have been a slow night because we sat there for 45 minutes and the girls didn’t get even one successful ‘transaction’.

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If you’re just looking for good, clean partying, there are a couple of bars that offer live bands or sports TV, with no dancing girls. Note: A beer is priced at a minimum of 80B.

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Further down the road were more ‘family-friendly’ shops. After all of that, I saw a Starbucks and nearly burst out laughing. Even in the middle of all this, you can’t escape….

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All that walking and people watching was tiring, so before we hopped back onto our motorbike, we stopped for a crepe snack.

Okay, so I stopped at this particular stall because the guy was cute. He had dimples omg. No, I did not take a picture of him because I was shy lol.

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Our Nutella and condensed milk crepe was thin and crispy, almost like a wafer. Costs 80B (yeahhhh pricey but what the heck).

Walking down Bangla Road was an eye-opening experience. Will I come back again? Maybe not. It was interesting though.

Here’s an informative article if you’d like to read more about Bangla Road and the different bars/clubs there. Link: here.

 

 

Bike Adventures in Patong, Phuket

I’ve never ridden on a motorbike. 

Even though bikes are common in Malaysia,  mum has never allowed me to get on one (let alone ride one) because she says it’s dangerous. I think accidents happen no matter what vehicle you’re driving, so everyone just needs to be more careful on the road.

Now, travelling around Phuket is convenient with taxis and tuktuks, but 200-300B per ride for short distances can really add up and blow over your budget. The best way to get around (and if you’re feeling adventurous) is to rent a scooter or a motorbike. Our hotel had bikes for rent for 250B (24 hours), so off we went to explore Patong! 

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It was a good thing H knew how to drive a bike. The traffic on Phuket’s roads can be pretty crazy, with vehicles weaving left and right, loads of other bikes and pedestrians crossing the road everywhere. Sitting pillion was the best because I could take in all the sights and sounds! The roads on Phuket island are well paved with virtually no potholes. Something Malaysia, supposedly ‘more developed’, can learn from.

PS: Attempting to selfie while on a moving bike is extremely dangerous. please do not try this at home 

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Where to park ? Everywhere. As long as you see a bunch of motorbikes parked by the side of the road, simply squeeze your own bike among them. Unless there are people in blue vests hanging about – those are motorbike taxis. (Motorbike taxis ferry you around just like regular taxis, but obviously they can only do so one at a time. Good for short distances).

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We parked somewhere along Thanon Ratuthit Songroipi Road, which is the road next to Patong Beach, and started looking for dinner. There were dozens of restaurants offering different kinds of food: Thai, Chinese, Indian, Western, Japanese, you name it, they got it. Waiters stood outside each stall and brandished menus in our faces. We picked one at random because the prices seemed pretty standard.

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Fried squid topped with fragrant fried garlic. It was very fresh – bouncy and succulent. The coating was crispy without being oily/soggy, and the generous serving of fried garlic added an oomph to the dish. Good stuff.

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Also tried the famous Thai Green Curry. It was good: I could really taste the blended spices in the curry, which was strong, creamy and perfect with rice. My only qualm was they had too much eggplant. Not my favourite vegetable 😛

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To wash it down, coconut shake.

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We walked across the road to Jungceylon, a large and air conditioned shopping mall. There were shops selling clothing and souvenirs, as well as restaurants and a food court. It was just like any other mall, but if you’re looking for a good place to cool off from Phuket’s humid weather, stop by for a bit.

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An open air area in the middle of the mall. My jaw dropped when I passed by a McDonalds – it was so expensive! The cheapest set was like 210B (RM24 wtf??). I can get two meals for that price at a McDs back in Malaysia. I thought franchises should have standard prices. Anyway, there’s abundant and delicious Thai food everywhere so I don’t see why people would wanna eat McDonalds.

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An interesting display at the mall is the life-sized barge in the middle of a dancing fountain.

 

We’re not done with Patong yet, so stay tuned! 🙂