Final Thoughts on Phuket

Overall, Phuket was one of the more interesting vacations we’ve taken.  The sights, the sounds, the food!  It was all great!  Also, despite the foul weather, it was relaxing, because all of our worries were, quite literally, hundreds of miles away.

We’re looking forward to being able to go back in the future, hopefully to take advantage of other attractions like the Thai International Boxing, the Phi Phi Island tour, and elephant riding.  (Hopefully with more sunshine than we saw this time too).

The last thing I’d like to touch on is that the attitude of the locals is great.  In a lot of countries I’ve been to in Asia, everything feels forced, or business as usual, even in tourist areas.  Phuket as a whole had a more service-oriented atmosphere, and with good reason, since the economy there relies on tourism.

Here are a few examples of that great attitude:

    Our taxi driver from the airport to Patong Beach had trouble finding the guesthouse we stayed in, but he didn’t charge us extra.  He also gave us his card and agreed to drive back to Patong Beach (45 minutes from the airport) to pick us up when we were ready to leave.
    The owner of the guesthouse we staid in (Som Guesthouse) booked tickets for us to the Simon Cabaret and provided the transportation, all for 100 baht less than the cheapest seats you would pay for at the counter.  Also, the owners of the guesthouse were very friendly and accommodating.  When it came time for us to book our taxi ride back to the airport, the lady used her personal mobile phone to make the call and arrange it for us.
    When we were done eating breakfast at Nicky’s Handlebar on the third day, the waiter went out and flagged down a ride for us, so we wouldn’t have to stand in the rain and do it ourselves.
    The people in general are approachable and not opposed to having a conversation.

Don’t assume that all of the locals are being extra friendly, because some will be trying to rip you off, but overall they want to project a good image, so you’ll tell your friends and also come back yourself.

Phuket Photo Special

I’ve kinda been dragging out my posts about Thailand, so, in the spirit of finishing it up and posting a link in the sidebar to a full list of the posts in some semblance of order, I will be blasting out three posts today.  That includes the one before this and one more after this to finish it all off!

This post is a set of photos that are interesting, but aren’t worth a post all to themselves.  Check them out!

Here’s a fantastic work of art you won’t find in too many bars.  I’m still trying to figure out if it’s supposed to be depicting a woman or a ladyboy.

This monument was sitting down by the beach.  I’m not too clear on its purpose but one of the ladies told me it’s for prayer.

Mutant prawns.  I was shocked to see how big these things are.

The lobsters and crabs were huge too!

This tattooed chick was walking up the street, swinging her upper body back and forth in an exaggerated fashion, presumably to entertain the kid, who cried anyway.  The baby looked like he was mixed.  Actually he looked full on caucasian, but I just assume he was mixed.  As for the identity of the woman, I can only guess.  Nice tats though!

A rip-tide warning sign.  This thing disappeared on the third day when it started flooding.  I don’t know if the sea swallowed it or if it was simply underwater.

There are always Life Guards on duty, just in case you ignore the sign.

This is what happens when you sit on a restaurant chair shortly after taking a dip in the ocean.  And the following image is how you use it to gross out your family (click to enlarge):

Well, hope you enjoyed this photo special!

International Thai Boxing. TONIGHT!

Unfortunately this is one event we didn’t get to see, this time around anyway.

What we did see (and hear) were the boxers riding around on the tops of trucks.  There was a recording playing, lauding the boxer and his achievements and informing onlookers of when the next show would be held.  Louder and more forcefully spoken than any other part was the word, “TONIGHT!”

These trucks were riding all around town and as that word repeated itself over and over it became both catchy and annoying at the same time.  While talking to each other we would sometimes throw that word in, “TONIGHT!”, just for a laugh!

As the trucks ride through town, they’ll stop at busy locations and a guy with flyers will jump down and run around passing them out.  So, if you go to Phuket, you’ll definitely get the chance to see these guys, even if you don’t go to the show.

Here are a few more photos.  As you can see from them, and from the flyers we had, there are quite a few nations represented in the event.  Also there were two women competitors.

This guy was posing on top of the truck for photos.  There were a couple of us there on the sidewalk with cameras ready.

The Food in Phuket (Part 2)

Nicky’s Handlebar

Pretty close to where we were staying there was a restaurant called Nicky’s Handlebar.  As you can probably guess, it was a biker type bar.  It was decorated with a ton of Harley Davidson paraphernalia.

This was my favorite item in the place:

Anyhow, the atmosphere was great.  It had the right look.  It was even playing classic rock songs and the TVs were playing sports and some Harley convention show.

The food is where the authenticity failed to deliver though.  Half of the menu was European food and half was Thai.  I figured I’d try the burger.  I’ve sort of been in search of a great burger since I left the US, along with my search for a great pizza.

I’m not sure what my wife ordered, but it looks good and tasted good too.

This is the burger I got.  It wasn’t quite up to par.  First off, they served it with the bun put together, with the veggies inside already, but with the meat pattie sitting off to the side.  So, I had to take the whole damn thing apart and put it back together.  Presentation is only important if it doesn’t create hassle for the customer.  Also, the meat looks a little pale to really be beef so I wonder if it was mixed with pork.  The taste was decent, but not great.

The search continues.

The following morning we dropped by there again, because it was convenient, and we had the Thai omelets.  They were actually pretty good.  The filling was mostly ground pork and it had a sweet taste to it.

The above image is a glass of sweet tea that I ordered.  The orchid along the rim was a nice touch and it tasted good.

Overall, Nicky’s Handlebar is a 7/10.  The atmosphere is nice, most of the food we ate is nice, and the drinks are nice.  I would just recommend sticking with the Thai menu though.

Street Vendor Crepes

We found this guy along the road that fronts the beach.  In the top right of the shot you can see the ocean.

He was selling crepes for 30 baht.  Some might have been a little less or more.  I don’t recall.

This was a great snack to munch on while walking down the road … looking for dinner!

Mama Mia’s

I can’t really say much for this place.  We totally weren’t impressed.  We both decided to try local dishes and got yellow curry.  I had the chicken and my wife had the shrimp.  The overall taste was bland.  If bland were a real ingredient, I would say they used too much.  Isn’t curry supposed to be spicy?  Plus, the food had no texture to speak of and you couldn’t taste anything except the bland curry.

The only thing good about this place is that the beer was cheap:

San Mig Light is a popular beer both in Thailand and in the Philippines.  I think in Thailand it’s #3 and in the Philippines, where it originated, it’s #1.

Pizzaria Fresca

This is another restaurant that was on the road fronting the beach.

This place was great!

This is the dish my wife ordered.  It’s a traditional pasta from Italy called Putanesca (Whore’s Pasta).  The story behind it is that Putanesca was a cheap dish prepared in Italy by prostitutes.  It was served to ‘clients’ after the deed.  Now that’s customer service!  Over time, the dish became a national favorite and is now served in many restaurants.

Ham, mushroom and green pepper.  It cost about 13 SGD I think and was the best pizza I’ve had since leaving the US.  It still doesn’t hold a candle to New York City pizza, or even to fast food pizzas like Papa John’s, but it beats out anything I’ve had in Singapore so far.  I think the cheese was a bit off though, or maybe something in the sauce?  My stomach was going nuts later that night.


The last two items aren’t anything special or specific to Thailand.  They’re just things that we really enjoyed eating.

We found an Au Bon Pain at the mall in Phuket.  Imagine that!  I’ve only ever seen one and that was in New York City.  I got a poppyseed bagel with Philadelphia Cream Cheese and my wife went nuts over it.  Apparently she’d never had a bagel before.  It’s interesting how we keep introducing each other to new foods.

Muay Thai, not just a boxing event!  I’d never had one before and decided to try it for the first time while sitting at the bar at the Simon Cabaret while waiting for the show to start.

Dunkin’ Donuts!  Until a week or so before we left on our vacation to Thailand, Singapore didn’t have a Dunkin’ Donuts.  So, we really enjoyed this chance to buy and eat a few.  We bought some a few hours before our flight to take back to Singapore with us.  The only Dunkin’ Donuts in Singapore is located in the downtown area and I have a feeling it’d be a lot more expensive.

The Food in Phuket (Part 1)

One of the best parts about this trip was running around town finding different foods to eat.  While we were there we ate at quite a few different restaurants, not all of them Thai.  I think we probably could have found better food if we’d gone to a less touristy part of Thailand, but we made do with what we had available to us.

We weren’t sure where to go on the first day we were there so we wound up walking around quite a while.  We finally wound up eating in the restaurant where we took the cat photos in the previous post.  I still don’t know the name of the place.  We couldn’t find it again.  It was nice though:

The sad thing is that the food from this place was great, and I’d liked to have gone back.  Here are some pictures of the dishes:

This one is yellow curry chicken. It was a lot better than I expected. In the photo, the chicken somehow came out looking crisp, but it was actually tender. There was no coating, other than the curry sauce. I think it looks like that because it was torn by hand before being cooked. The noodles were al dente. I liked that. I can’t stand mushy noodles. Oh, and she let me choose how spicy I wanted it, so I went with ‘medium’ to be on the safe side!

This dish is called sukiyaki.  My wife says it’s actually a Japanese dish, but she wanted to try out the Thai version of it.  She didn’t have any complaints.

Later that evening we were looking for a snack when we saw something familiar.  It was a hawker style eating area.  There were only two stalls and a seating area, but they were serving chicken & rice and roast pork & rice.  We decided to give it a try to see how it compared with what we were used to eating in Singapore (those are very common dishes in Singapore but in Singapore the names exclude the ‘&’).

It seems to be pretty much the same, except there are two choices (though extra small portions) of vegetable and a quail egg.  Instead of a broth soup, there was a dip for the meat.  The table also had other sauces, chilis, and dips to choose from.  It was significantly cheaper though at 40 baht (1.17 USD / .82 EUR / 1.69 SGD).  The same meal is about twice as much in Singapore, probably due to import fees placed by companies and the government.

Even later that same night, we decided to go out for a late dinner (at midnight) and some beers!  So, we stopped at one of the street restaurants.  These places set up every evening and pack up everything when they close, including tables, chairs, and cooking equipment.  The food was better than I expected it to be.

This is chicken, pork, and beef satay with peanut sauce.  It was hard to tell the difference between the three meats, and I teased my wife that maybe it was all cat.

This was grilled squid and was really really good!  It came with a spicy dip that I wish I knew the recipe for.  I would go back to this place just for this dish.

We topped our meal off with two Heinekens and then called it a night.

I would say our first day, as far as meals go, was a success.

Thai Ladyboys At The Simon Cabaret

One of the main attractions of the Phuket area is the Simon Cabaret’s Ladyboy show.

Yup, ladyboys.

We’d seen a few of them walking around the town.  We even saw a white guy walking down the street holding hands with one.  I don’t know if the guy knew he was with a ladyboy, but he was on the other side of the street, and I wouldn’t have burst his bubble anyway.  If he didn’t know, imagine how exciting it was for him to find out that night!

Anyhow, the Simon Cabaret raises the bar on ladyboys and presents you with a show of fancy sets, fancy costumes, and dancing.  The singing is all pre-recorded and lip synced.  I imagine at some point it was all authentic, but they do multiple shows per night, every night, so it’s probably more practical to just lip sync it.

I went into this with an open mind but I wasn’t expecting a whole hell of a lot.  I certainly wasn’t expecting to be impressed, laughing, or leaning forward in my seat to catch all the details.  Not that I was looking for those details, but most of them did just about have their boobs falling out.  I suppose that’s just part of the show’s appeal.

I thought of taking photos while in the cabaret, or taking video, but there are signs everywhere saying that if caught you can be prosecuted and fined up to 50,000 USD.  It wasn’t worth that much to me.  Apparently some other people thought it was worth the risk because there’s plenty of clips on YouTube.

Here’s one act, which we saw when we were there, of the ladyboys ‘singing’ Nobody, by Wondergirls:

And here’s a clip from YouTube of the official Simon Cabaret promo DVD:

Keep in mind that all of the ladies on the stage were born men. Most of them take hormone supplements and inhibitors and have had their … junk whacked off. That’s why there’s no tell-tale bulge. There’s nothing there to bulge.

After the show, the ladyboys all line up outside for pictures. You can stand back and grab a few shots, but if you want to get your photo taken with them, be prepared to pay. I read a blog that said the ladyboys asked for 40 baht each for photos. I should’ve checked the date. They tried to stiff us for 100 baht each. I checked the internet later and saw that was the ‘standard’ pay-off, so I didn’t feel so bad afterwards. Oh, I heard that if you’re not careful, they may just grab whatever you’re holding, so be careful how much you take out of your wallet around them.

Here’s someone else’s video of the ladyboys lined up outside for photo ops:

And here are some pictures I took:

Hanging Out on Patong Beach

It wasn’t a total loss when it came to the beach.  We couldn’t sunbathe, seeing as how it was overcast for the whole trip, but that didn’t stop me from splashing around in the ocean like a fool.  I hadn’t been to the beach since I was a little kid, so bad weather or not I was damn sure gonna take a dip!

Luckily, my wife has a waterproof camera so I was able to get these kick-ass shots while out in the ocean.  I’m just glad none of the murky underwater photos showed a big eye or something.  That probably would’ve freaked me out.  I’m always worried about going too far out where there might be sharks and who knows what. It seems like some new weird fish from the depths of the ocean is turning up on shore and being discovered every week.

As far as beaches go, and I’m basing this mostly on what I’ve seen on TV, Patong Beach is average.  It might be great when the sand is dry.  Also, the storms churned up a lot of the silt from the seabed along the shore so the water wasn’t very blue, except on the far right side where we were when we took these photos.

The weather kept us from going to Phi Phi Island to check it out, which we’d planned on doing, so it looks like we have an excuse to go back.

After I took a short dip we walked along the beach for a while and as we got closer to the middle of the bay the water turned an ugly brown and there was trash on the beach.  I can only assume that during better weather that’s kept clean for tourists.  There weren’t too many people on the beach while we were there.

A few interesting things to note are that the beach chairs provided aren’t free.  Someone will come along and try to charge you 100 baht to sit in the chair, so just bring a beach towel.  Also, be wary of the guys renting out jet skis.  I didn’t deal with them but heard they try to rip off tourists, especially with supposed maintenance requirements at the completion of a rental.

The last cool thing about the beach is that it’s literally right along the road.  You step off the sidewalk and onto the beach for most of its length, so when you’re done you can walk to a restaurant in just a few minutes.

Thais Love Animals

The first time my wife and I walked around Patong looking for a place to eat we happened on a nice restaurant on a side street.  There’ll be more on that later, but when we were seated we looked around and realized that we were surrounded by cats.  It was kind of funny that the first place we would eat would be owned by a cat lover, given my wife’s love of cats.

Ya, the cat in the last photo hopped up onto our table and had a look around.  She seemed particularly interested in the plastic bag we had carried bottled drinks around in.  The cat was very friendly so I didn’t shoo it away until it was almost time for our food to arrive.

After seeing all of those cats we kept our eyes peeled and we saw quite few more pets and strays in the area.  Strangely, I never saw another cat.  I don’t want to make any guesses as to why that might be, but there were plenty of dogs around.  It seems like dogs are much more popular in Patong and you can see them alone or in groups roaming the streets.

I can’t say they were the cleanest looking animals, but not a one of them was in danger of starving.  We saw places where food was put out for them and, like the guy in the last photo shows, they were given attention not just from tourists with cameras, but by locals as well.  Not a one of them ever so much as growled at us, even as we stepped around or over them, or dashed across the road behind them.

More than anything, these dogs (and the cats from the restaurant) added flavor and liveliness to the scenery of Patong and were sometimes even a cause for a good laugh, like with the first dog pictured.  His balls are huge!

Not all of the dogs we saw were strays, though.  There was a booth with a girl who had her dog sitting on the counter.  I don’t remember what she was trying to sell, because I wasn’t interested.  I just stopped to look at her dog.  It was friendly, and I guess very obedient.  It wasn’t leashed.  It could’ve hopped down and ran off, but it was perfectly content to just sit there and watch the tourists.

I kinda want one for myself now.  Maybe in a few years!

Not Quite What We Had in Mind

Going to Phuket was something my wife and I had really been looking forward to.  We were excited about the beach and the food and whatever entertainment we could find.  We got a few suggestions from friends as well.  We started making plans well before we went, but somehow those plans wound up getting thrown out the window.

The problem was the weather.  We booked our tickets and accommodations about a month in advance so there’s no way we could have foreseen what was going to happen, but we made the most of it.

The trip from Singapore to Phuket was standard.  Nothing special.  It’s a short flight.  There is a time zone change of one hour, but that’s not too bad.

When we got to the airport in Phuket we had to get past the horde of people trying to sucker us into taking a ride in an expensive taxi.  Just outside the door there were people holding laminated signs advertising their services.  Most of these guys want 600 baht.  I recommend going to the right just outside the door and walking straight until you cross a small road and are at a taxi stand.  The official airport taxis are multicolored (red/yellow I think) and have set fees and set maximum fares for destinations.  You’ll pay about 400 to 450 baht for most destinations there.  No point in letting yourself get ripped off unnecessarily.  The airport taxis are new and clean as well.

Once we got underway I was surprised by how similar Phuket was to the Philippines.  Even the driving style was similar.  Apparently the lines on the road are just a suggestion in Thailand.  Also, when we started following the coastline the driving barely slowed, despite the severe curves and the fact that we were just a few feet from long drops down to the ocean.  At least the roads themselves were in good condition!

Patong Beach could’ve been a town in the Philippines.

The architecture was a bit different, but the feel of the place was similar.  It really reminded me of Antipolo.

As for the weather, it got progressively worse.  When we first arrived it was overcast and drizzling.

Throughout the day the rain would lighten or stop, then come down in heavy showers again.

The second day was about the same.

By the evening of the second day though, the rain started coming down more and more heavily and it was nonstop.  I can’t be sure but it seemed like every time I woke up that second night it was raining, and the whole third day it rained too.  About an hour before we left for the airport the streets started to flood.

This set the tone for our trip and we spent less time on the beach (because there was no sun and the surf was rough from storms) and more time exploring the town and eating.

Of course, we didn’t get to see everything and we’re definitely planning on going back.

(More on Phuket tomorrow)

Home From Phuket

Last night my wife and I got in from Phuket, Thailand, safe and sound.  Somehow I was both relieved and dismayed to be back.  It’s always sad when a vacation is over!

The trip was only three days long, but those three days were very full!  We did quite a bit, some unexpected, and we also didn’t get to do a few of the things we were hoping for.

Without going into the details (yet), I will say that we’re planning on making a repeat visit sometime soon, after we swing by Bangkok.

Over the next few days I’ll be posting stuff about our trip, including the accommodations, food, scenery, the beach, and… even some ladyboys.  There are some pretty good photos, so keep checking back!