BEACHES

Nai Harn Beach

A quiet little spot at the southern end of Phuket, Nai Harn is one of the island’s most beautiful locations and most popular places with in-the-know locals. This quiet and tranquil place has only a few hotels.

Great for swimming from November to April, however care should be take in the low season (May-October) when there can be strong undertows on occasion.

The local restaurants just above the beach make a great place to relax with a sundowner.

Just north of Nai Harn, along the coast, is Nui Beach, small, secluded and difficult to access. Further along is Ya Nui, a sandy cove that attracts snorkelers and divers. Another out-of-the way spot nearby is the tiny beach of Ao Sane, a great spot for snorkeling, reached by taking the dirt road that starts at Le Royal Phuket Yacht Club car par car park.

Ya Nui Beach

Ya Nui lies in the shadow of two of Phuket’s loveliest viewpoints; Phrom Thep and the white windmill viewpoint. It’s a charming little cove featuring good snorkeling, kayaking and fishing. During high season there’s a line of sun loungers for hire (200 baht a set) as well as a stand that rents out masks, fins, kayaks and body boards. At this time of year there are also a couple of ad hoc restaurants. The sand is beautifully soft and children love to collect shells on this beach.

An island called Koh Keyao Noi (‘Small Green Island’) stands 700 metres out to sea and in calm weather yachts moor just off the coast and it is possible to kayak out to explore the coral or to pay a visit to neighbouring Nai Harn Beach. In rougher weather local fishermen climb the rocky promontory to cast off or simply brave the waves with casting nets.

Laem Ka Beach 

Laem Ka is unique for various reasons. First of all it’s the only eastern-facing beach in the south of Phuket that offers good swimming and secondly, it’s a total full-on Thai experience. This sheltered, 150 metre long, boulder-framed beach is the ideal picnic spot as from midday on it is shady and cool. For many locals it offers the opportunity to chat away Sunday afternoon while their children splash around in Laem Ka’s safe and blue waters just metres away. Foreign visitors have a warm welcome here and often locals will ask to take a photo of you posing with them as a keepsake! The views of nearby Koh Bon, Koh Lone, Coral Island and other surrounding islands are stunning, and the afternoon light playing on the water produces a deep marine blue in perfect counterpoint to the tropical green of nearby islands.

It’s just north east of Rawai Beach, between Rawai and Chalong and is not well signposted at all. Do not drive up the road to the Evason resort, which only goes to the hotel. Instead arry on towards Rawai and turn left after the 7-11. There’s no sign to Laem Ka beach.

Its a small road which goes across the headland (the word Laem in Thai means Cape or headland) – very nice area full of coconut trees, but is mostly private land.

Just above Laem Ka beach is a small parking area, and one small building selling some drinks and BBQ pork with sticky rice. You have to go down a few steps to the beach which has some sandy areas separated by rocks and stretches for about 400m.

Laem Sing Beach, Westcoast between Kamala and Surin Beach

Laem Singh Beach is one of Phuket’s most beautiful beaches and hides on the west coast between Kamala and Surin beaches. ‘Laem’ is Thai for ‘cape’ and this 150 meters beach is indeed situated under a steep promontory, nestled in a hidden bay surrounded by palm trees and dotted with giant boulders, it has a feeling of secret beach.

Because of its limited size, Laem Singh gets crowded during the high season but is pleasantly busy during low season sunny days.

Nai Thon Beach, West Coast north of Surin

Nai Thon is a beautiful stretch of sand that for reasons unknown has still been overlooked by large resort developers. Thus it’s an ideal spot to get away from the crowds and enjoy a quiet swim.

It’s a village of two seasons, during the high season the hotels fill up, the sea is flat, calm and crystal clear, beach restaurants appear where you can dine with your bare feet in the sand, very much a stereotypical tropical paradise. In low season the boot’s on the other foot, it’s almost a ghost town with an occasionally raging sea.

The journey to the beach is almost more enjoyable than the beach itself. On the southern approach to Nai Thon, the narrow road leads through some of the island’s last remaining virgin jungle, and winds along a coastline that rivals Cote d’Azur in its brilliant beauty. If driving to Nai Thon from the north, the road takes you through a village then into a lush green valley before reaching the beach.

Activities to be enjoyed whilst staying here include exploring rocky coves only accessible by longtail boat and scuba diving which can be arranged by the dive shop at Beach Road.

 

WATS (TEMPLES) AND SHRINES

Wats – or Buddhist temples – are among the most important symbols of Thailand, partly because the majority of Thais are Buddhist and partly because they are so beautiful. In Phuket alone, there are 29 Buddhist temples spread around the island. In fact, this small island is also home to many other religions. There are Hindu and Sikh temples, Christian churches, mosques and Chinese shrines. Outside the wats there are also many more Buddhist shrines.

Wat Chalong

Wat Chalong has been extending a warm welcome to visitors for over a century. Locals come to pray and Westerners come to learn something about Buddhism. The temple is open from seven in the morning to five in the afternoon. Let’s go on a tour of it.

Poh Than Jao Wat is one of the more important Buddhist statues in Wat Chalong. It is located in the westerly old hall of the temple, with two statues of an elderly gentleman called Ta Khee-lek (grandpa Khee-lek), a famous local who won many lotteries after consulting the Poh Than Jao Wat statue. Another statue in this hall is called Nonsi.

One of the temple’s halls features a gilt-covered statue of Luang Poh Cham and this busy hall also contains statues of Luang Poh Chuang and Luang Poh Gleum, all ex-abbots of the temple.

The Grand Pagoda dominating the temple contains a splinter of Lord Buddha’s bone and is officially named Phramahathatchedi-Jomthaibarameepragat. The pagoda is decorated with wall paintings depicting the Buddha’s life story and also features various Buddha images. Take your time in the pagoda; it is a breezy, cool location and one which is very popular with visitors to the temple.

There is also an air-conditioned ‘exhibition home’ of Luang Poh Cham which features lifelike human-sized wax models of Luang Poh Cham, Luang Poh Chuang, Luang Poh Gleum, and Luang Pu Thuad along with antique Thai furniture, and Benjarong (Thai porcelain designed in five colours), while the famous ‘magic’ walking-stick of Luang Poh Cham is kept at the current Abbot’s dwelling.

Loudly Showing Gratitude. When you visit Wat Chalong, you may be startled by the sound of firecrackers. You will see people hanging strings of Chinese firecrackers in beehive-shaped “ovens” near the wat’s sermon hall, then igniting them. Although this is unusual in other wats around Thailand, it is a common occurrence in Wat Chalong. People do this to show gratitude for prayers that have been answered. For example, if a woman is having trouble conceiving a child, she may request help from Luang Pho Chaem. If she subsequently becomes pregnant, she will light firecrackers to show her gratitude. Or perhaps a man suffering from a debilitating illness may go to the wat to pray for a return to good health. When he recovers, he will give thanks by lighting firecrackers.

Do’s and Don’ts: Wats in general are sacred places for local people, so it is wise for the visitor to watch and emulate the way Thais behave inside temples. For example, you will see that people are careful not to stand over, or otherwise position themselves higher than any Buddha images except when pasting gold leaf to them – which in any case happens only in some wats, not in most. Even through Thailand can sometimes be very warm, it is inappropriate to go into a wat – a place of worship – wearing clothes that reveal one’s shoulders, chest, belly or legs. You will be asked to take your shoes off when entering some of the buildings, including the sermon hall and the chedi. It’s best not to wear your most expensive shoes when visiting wats in case someone else mistaken walks away with them – literally! If that happens, and they are not your favorite shoes, then you won’t be too upset.

How to Get to Wat Chalong: Wat Chalong is about 8 km south of Phuket City. Travel along Chao Fah Nok Rd (Chao Fa West Rd) from the Central Festival mall, and you will see the temple on the left side of the road. If you are coming from Chalong Circle, take the same road heading towards town, and you will see the temple on your right.

Wat Phra Thong

Located north of Thalang and about 20 km from Phuket Town, Wat Phra Thong is the oldest temple on the island and was created when Thalang was still Phuket’s capital.

This shrine encloses a golden statue of Buddha that sprang up from beneath the earth long ago. The story is of a young boy who tied his buffalo to what he thought was a post It was in an area at that time given over to the raising of animals. After doing so, he fell down in agony and died.

The father of the boy dreamed that the reason his son had died was for he sin of tying a filthy buffalo to a sacred object, that what the boy thought was a post was in reality the golden peak of the Buddha’s conical cap.

He told his neighbors the dream and they all went out to dig up the statue but had no success. Later, at the time of Thao Thep Kasatri’s heroic defense against the Burmese in 1785, the invaders tried to succeed where the villagers had failed their intention was to take the statue back to Burma.

Sacred objects and slaves were then the most sought after spoil for armies. Holy statues brought good luck to their possessors and the slaves were used for work and to populate places that lacked inhabitants a frequent problem for rulers in Southeast Asia who had a great deal of land but very few subjects.

The Burmese, however, were unable to retrieve the golden Buddha despite several attempts. They were finally driven off by a swarm of angry hornets.

After this the villagers decided to protect their miraculous statue by covering the part that stuck up from the ground with a plaster cast of Buddha’s head and shoulders’ which is the way it is today. Located north of the traffic light on the outskirts of Thalang Town. A large sign shows the entrance.

How to get there: Wat Pratong is Located north of the traffic light on the outskirts of Thalang town. A large sign shows the entrance. 2 min form traffic light Wat Pratong is on the right.

Wat Phutta Monkonniment & School, Dibuk Road, Old Phuket Town

Monks are living at this temple. We have been lucky to enjoy their evening prayers at sunset.

Chinese Shrines in Phuket Town

Phuket has a large percentage of Chinese residents descended from those who emigrated from southern China a few centuries ago to work in the tin mine business as coolies.

These people brought with them their rich culture and traditions and these influences are evident in the number of Chinese temples and shrines around the island and more markedly so in the yearly Vegetarian Festival.

Their religion was and still is predominantly a mixture of Buddhism incorporating with Chinese as well as Taoist gods. Red and yellow are the main colours used and animals such as dragons, lions and monkeys are also important symbols, seen around Chinese temples and shrines.

 

OTHER THINGS TO SEE

Sea Gypsies Village, Rawai

It is hard to separate the Sea Gypsies and Rawai from each other. They have been settled in Rawai since way back – on the seafront, left side of new pier. Most are fishing for a living but a few work as island tour guides or run small stands selling seashell souvenirs. Everyday in the early afternoon, they bring the fresh catch of the day to the Rawai fish market, just to the left of the pier.

Phromthep Cape

The island’s most photographed and perhaps best-known location. Every evening, large tour buses, scooters and private cars sweep through Rawai and up the island’s southernmost hill to Phromthep Cape. On the top of the hill stands a busy car park where the vehicles disgorge crowds of people that come from every corner of the world. Cameras flash, fingers point and lovers cuddle as Phuket’s most fabulous free show is re-enacted nightly – the sunset.

Elephant Shrine at Phromthep Cape

Up the steps from the car park is a shrine to Brahma that is surrounded by thousands of wooden elephants of every size. It’s all meticulously taken care of and the arrangement is photogenic, colourful and impressive.

Phuket National Parks

Phuket’s parks are oases of relaxation and if you’re a nature lover expect to be surprised by the depth and width of the flora and fauna on show here. It’s certainly not like back home! Riding an elephant through the jungle can be a dream come true and wallowing in an ultra-cool waterfall the very best way to get to grips with the midday tropical heat. Phuket also has beachside parks that combine the best of the shade with cooling sea breezes. And of course don’t forget the sensational viewpoints that afford sweeping vistas over this green island.

Visiting a national park in Thailand is not free. The rates are 200 baht for foreign adults,

Bang Pae Waterfall

Bang Pae is Phuket’s biggest waterfall but by international standards it’s quite a small affair, but visitors appreciate the cool water and shade and use the site as a picnic place, as well as enjoying a meal at the restaurants near the car park and by the lake and outside the gates. In the rainy season this 10-metre high waterfall is quite precipitous but if you visit from December to May it slows down a little yet you still can ‘go native’ and take a refreshing dip in one of its drop pools or at the main drop itself. It’s best to wear good shoes as the path can be slippery and if you expect to be there late afternoon take mosquito repellent as the jungle is quite dense.

Gibbon Rehabilitation Centre

This is also home to the Gibbon Rehabilitation centre and the sound of the gibbons through the jungle is eerie. Even though they are kept in cages, humans are not allowed to go very close to them. Just by the rehabilitation centre is a sign saying “No Food and Drink allowed around the Waterfall Please.” Pass the restaurants and food stalls and follow the trail for 10 minutes and you will soon come to the waterfall. Entrance to the National Park for foreigners is 200 baht. Keep the ticket; you may need it later if you visit the other waterfall at the park. The trail heading through the jungle is ‘helped along’ by some concrete reinforcements but you still have to duck under fallen tree trunks and although you don’t have to swing like Tarzan from creeper-to-creeper, it still is physically demanding.

Phuket Canopy, 232/17 Bansuanneramit, Moo 8, T. Srisoonthon, A. Thalang, Phuket 83110

Cable jungle adventure is a total new challenge that allows you to fly through the jungle in maximum safety. Strapped in harnesses you run with a pulley on cables linked from tree to tree. Accessible to everybody after a preliminary briefing where on a test cable you practice the flying position and the braking technique you will be ready to enjoy the wild thrill of flying through the uncontaminated nature at altitudes where only birds normally fly.

How to get there: Drive north to Thalang towards the Airport on the by pass. In Thalang take ton sai waterfall turning, then follow the signs to the cable jungle.
RESTAURANTS

The Light House, Chalong, north from Chalong Pier

This seafront restaurant with a decorative lighthouse on its roof is – amazingly enough – called The Lighthouse and is a popular meeting point for cruising yachties and locals. The Lighthouse serves European and Thai food in a cozy ambience. Many expats make this restaurant their daily destination for a hearty breakfast. It is a friendly place to chill with a beautiful teakwood bar looking out over Chalong Bay. Reasonable prices.

Kan Eangs, Chalong, just south of Chalong Pier

Chalong boasts two Kan Eangs, and both are on choice seafront land, both serve fresh seafood, and both are large affairs. Kan Eang@Pier (KEP), however, has had a major overhaul and oozes class, tasteful design and dining comfort. Oh, by the way, Kan Eang roughly translates as ‘easy going’

Friendship Beach Waterfront Restaurant, 27/1 Soi Mittrapap, Friendship Beach, Phuket

Down Soi Mittrapap, is Friendship Beach where Sunday brunches are also served up as well as Thai and American food. Its beach/poolside dining location draws many expat families on weekends when live bands perform. If you are looking for a lovely quiet/romantic dinner with great seafront views, weekdays might be a better option. Prices are reasonable.

The Tulip Mangosteen Restaurant, west side of Viset Road, towards Rawai

About five km along Viset Road heading to Rawai after the Chalong Circle, follow the blue sign on the right to the Tulip Mangosteen Resort and you will discover a popular Sunday Brunch venue with a fabulous 360-degree view of southern Phuket. This attractive resort also has live music, a competent wine cellar and good cuisine.

Laem Ka Noi Seafood, east side of Viset Road towards Rawai

A fascinating but out-of-the-way restaurant in this area is Laem Ka Noi Seafood. To find it, pass Soi Saliga on the left-hand side of Viset Road in Rawai just before the Evason Resort and Seashell Museum and continue south, looking for the signage that says ‘Kanoi Cape’ then turn left and drive as far as the road will take you … and it will take you quite a distance. The quaint, isolated seaside setting is the starting point for an enjoyable evening’s dining.

Norbu’s Steakhouse, Rawai, 184/2, Soi Wat Rawai, Moo 6, T Rawai, Phuket, www.norbusteakhouse.com

With an interesting interior with strong colour use, big Roman columns and lot of chandeliers, it is hard to believe that this restaurant is actually located in Phuket. But when it comes to steak, Norbu’s is definitely one of the best places to go on the island. Their menu also consists of Thai and many European dishes as well as a good wine list.

Mando’s Steakhouse, Rawai, middle of beach front

Mando is located right next to Rawai Beach Resort on the Beach Road. As the name suggests, their main offering is steaks of all kinds. Still, their menu features some well-known Thai dishes too, such as tom yum goong and massaman gai. You can start with an aperitif at the lovely bar next door which is also a part of Mando before moving to the steakhouse for an enjoyable dinner. Prices are more expensive than the rest of beachfront dining venues but still are affordable.

Baan Haad Rawai, Rawai Beach Front

The furthermost restaurant on Rawai Beach is Baan Haad Rawai – a large seafood affair dealing mostly in tourist groups. Don’t let this put you off though, as it really is quite good and actually has a wine list. This pleasant outdoor restaurant also has a children’s playground. With large parking space.

Phromthep Cape Restaurant, south of Rawai

Phromthep is busy at most times of day and frankly gets pretty manic at sunset but then all of a sudden everyone leaves and peace reigns once again on this breezy hill. For those who like dining with a view there is the Phromthep Cape Restaurant with its vista of Nai Harn Beach lights twinkling below. Reasonably priced, this restaurant is an excellent place to enjoy the cool evening air along with a great view. Big parking space.

Maggie and Mario’s Pizzeria, Nai Harn

Some claim that this is where to find the best pizza in Phuket and M&M is certainly worth a try if you are in the area. Some recommendations are the caprese salad (tomato and mozzarella), quattro stagioni pizza and the ever-popular homemade ravioli stuffed with spinach, not forgetting tiramisu for dessert. This place is extremely popular with both Thais and expats and for good reason; its prices are very reasonable – especially for the house wine.

Location: 200 metres on the right after the three-way intersection leading to the beach/Rawai. Take the beach turning
Tel: +66 (0) 81 5696244

Da Vinci Italian Restaurant, Nai Harn

Italian food is universally appreciated and, like Thai cuisine, it travels well. To sit under the stars on a tropical night and tuck into Italian delights with a bottle of good wine is an unforgettable experience. Spacious, well appointed and tasteful, Da Vinci specializes in genuine Italian cuisine served in a sophisticated manner. With a bevy of beauties for a wait staff (even the pizza chef is a pretty girl) Da Vinci has certainly got the aesthetics right.

Davinci Restaurant Phuket
28/46 Moo1 Rawai
Nai Harn Beach, Muang Phuket 83101 Thailand
Tel: 076 289574
Fax: 080 525 1400
E-mail: mark@davinciphuket.com
Web address: www.davinciphuket.com

Banana Corner, Nai Harn, 43/47 Saiyuan Road, Moo 1, Rawai

A garden-style restaurant serving authentic Thai food, Banana Corner is a place you should try some local favorites such as tom ka gai (coconut soup with chicken), spicy glass noodles with seafood and seafood BBQ. Prices are affordable, with ample parking space.

“This is where we are, just south of the intersection of the main road that connects Rawai with Kata or Patong is the main landmark. If you are coming from Chalong Circle, when you come to a stop sign, turn right. Then keep a lookout for our sign immediately on the left. Don’s Cafe is a good landmark, they have lots of signs. You will know you are close, go west around a couple of corners and then left at the intersection.”

L’Orfeo Restauran & Lounge, 95/13 Moo 7, Sai Yuan Road T. Rawai, A. Muang 83100

www.orfeo-phuket.com

L’Orféo is frequented by many international local residents. There’s an attractive range of dishes here with some eclectic food preparation and some old favourites, too. L’Orféo has a decent wine list with seven reds and eight whites drawing from several countries and continents, as can be expected as this is a French-International Restaurant.

Siam Cottage, Thai, Viset Road, Sai Yuan 1, Rawai, Mueang Phuket, 83100

Family run Thai Restaurant, Excellent Curries, especially Panag Curry,

“if you’re driving down Sai Yuan going towards Visit, after Don’s Mall there is a sharp left-hand bend – it’s the road that goes off to the right with the big ditches on the left-hand side. The place is almost to the end of that road on the left approaching Visit Road”

Hen Chef, Thai-Italian fusion

Hen Chef has two restaurants – the first between Nai Harn and Rawai near TescoLotus Express and one on Visit Road. The Visit Road location has a nicer location but both offer good value. The menu has more Italian dishes than Thai. The spaghetti carbonara is excellent as are most of the pasta dishes. Prices are very reasonable.

Amalfi Ristorante & Pizzeria, Opposite Crepes Village on Sai Yuan Road

If you are a fan of pizza, you will not be disappointed by Amalfi in Nai Harn. This lovely open-air restaurant with a big parking space offers all sorts of Italian pizzas and pastas as well as delightful espresso and cappuccino. Don’t miss their yummy tiramisu. Takeaway service is available too.

Mom Tri’s Kitchen at Villa Royale, 12 Kata Noi Road, Kata Phuket, 831009, tel 076 333 569

info@momtriphuket.com

This is fine dining in elegant surroundings. Situated in Mom Tri’s Villa Royale Resort, the restaurant has stunning views of Kata Noi Beach and sunsets over the Andaman Sea. With an award-winning wine cellar and regular appearances in ‘Best of’ restaurant listings, you can be sure of a special evening out here. Reservations recommended.

Joe’s South, Kata Gardens, 1/34 Kata Noi Road, Kata Noi, Phuket5 82100, Tel: 076 285 385

reservation@joesphuket.com

www.joessouth.com

From delicious tapas for a starter or light meal, to fresh salads, seafood, grilled favorites plus home made desserts, Chef Aaron Hooper’s creations make the culinary offerings at Joe’s on par with its sister restaurants as Phuket’s ultimate dining experiences. Enjoy Joe’s for lunch or dinner seven days a week.

The gourmet deli offers a variety of imported delicacies from around the globe: cold cuts, olives, cheeses, caviar, sundried tomatoes, olive oil, fresh bread and much more. These items along with fine wines and imported beers can be purchased to enjoy later in your apartment or hotel.

Joes South is a small restaurant that is located in Kata Noi beach Phuket, the restaurant is under the Baan Rim Pa restaurant group that owns numerous high-end restaurants throughout Phuket. We have dined in this restaurant a few times; they serve some pretty good International and Asian cuisines. The best timev to visit this restaurant is during the lunch hour, the tapas are pretty good and very worthwhile.

China Inn, Thalang Road, Old Phuket Town, Phuket

If you enter the front room at 20 Thalang Road in Phuket you may be tempted to sit down in the lovely red sofa there and stare in wonder at the beautiful Chinese artifacts, figurines, lacquer work, textiles and fabrics… but don’t. This is because the sofa, a ‘Thairalia’ seasoned hardwood goose and duck feather-filled marvel, is for sale.

Still, you’re more than welcome to walk through this long shop-house to the backyard restaurant, where there are several table-and-chair sets, and take a pew.

Welcome to China Inn Café & Restaurant, a beautifully restored example of what people can do with a rundown old building if they possess dedication, patience and an unswervable vision.

The restaurant stands in the heart of Phuket’s old town; a place brimming with history and tradition. This is where Phuket’s heart of commerce beat over 100 years ago when tin was in great demand and Chinese labourers flooded in from both north and south to fill the labour shortage on the island.

Lim Ros Restarant, Surin Road, on the corner or Surin Road and  Phang-Nga Road Phuket Town

Some of the greatest steamed fish we have had on Phuket.

 

SHOPPING

Tesco Lotus Supermarket:

Just across Viset Road – the main road leading from Chalong Circle to Rawai. Good and well stocked supermarket.

Villa Market at Homepro:

Just north of Chalong circle at Home pro mall. Coming from south to Chalong Circle take 2nd exit. Villa Market is an expat supermarket with  all the western goods and brands at expat prices. So if you miss something at Tesco Lotus, you should be able to find it at Villa Market.

Central Festival:

Big and impressive shopping mall with broad range of goods and brands. Coming from south to Chalong Circle take 2nd exit and continue on the same road towards the north. On the way you will pass Wat Chalong. When you come to a very traffic light, you will see Central Festival on the left hand side. To drive to car parking turn left and drive 200 metres west, whereafter you will get to a u-turn lane to drive back towards Central Festival. You will see a parking entry sign on your left hand side.

Phuket Outlet Centre:

Outlet mall with many western surfer, sports and golf brands. Also clothing and shoes.

From the Central Festival intersection continue straight towards the north on the Phuket by pass. You will pass the Phuket Outlet Centre on the right hand side after about 10 minutes. Use U-turn to drive  back to parking entry.