Jamie's Phuket Blog

Jamie's Phuket Blog - Discover The Real Phuket!

25 August 2016 

Chillva Market

Phuket has many markets that might in some way interest a visitor. The most popular is certainly the weekend market which is open Saturday and Sunday nights near Phuket Town. But it has plenty of competition now. The Indy Market opened a few years ago in the old town area and is popular with young people. And then the excellent Sunday market is on every Sunday on Thalang Road in the heart of old town. If you want a real working market (you know, vegetables, fish, meat, fruit, fresh foods) I'd suggest visiting the main market in Phuket Town or maybe Kathu fresh market. I think what people want is a mix of food/restaurants and bars and stalls selling clothes and arty things. The Sunday market is probably my favourite, but it's only in Sunday! The weekend market is an experience, but can be too busy for me. So, now there's something new!

The Chillva market officially opened at the end of April 2016 with the aim of being a bit more cool and trendy, and without the alcohol free experience of the Indy market, which has many local teenage customers. Chillva has a mix of shops, market stalls, bars, restaurants, food stalls and often has live music too! Some of the shops and bars are open every evening, but the main market is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday starting late afternoon and closing around 11pm. Best to visit from about 6pm. My last visit (to take some photos for the blog!) was about 5pm and that did seem too early, it was very quiet. Gets much busier after dark and has quickly become popular.

Chillva Market in Phuket

(above) View of Chillva Market

Chillva Market at Night

(above) And a very similar view after dark with a lot more people! You can get elevated views as in places there are shops and bars made from shipping containers with seating up top. Cool!

Chillva is located in the Sam Kong area of Phuket Town, which is in the north of town. It's between the Tesco Lotus store and the Bangkok Phuket hospital, close to the Sam Kong Chinese shrine. There's a map below. I avoided the market for a few months mainly because between our house and Chillva is a big messy roadworks where an underpass has been built and it's taken a lot longer to complete than planned. We should be able to drive straight from Kathu to Sam Kong, but for a long time we've had to make a big detour down the bypass road and u-turn back towards town. That is now almost complete.

Chillva Market Phuket

(above) Another elevated view of Chillva market with the live music stage in the foreground and the road to the left. The market occupies a fair slice of land and has quite a large car park too, although one time when we visited the car park was all full and roadside parking there is like gold dust. You could park in Tesco and walk about 500 meters. Moped parking is less of a problem. As it's quite new, it is currently one of the local hotspots :) The various markets do pretty well at not clashing with each other, or are located a fair distance apart (like the weekend market is on the opposite side of Phuket Town).

So, what do we have at Chillva market? Well, first of all (on Thursday, Friday, Saturday) you have the market - lots of stalls selling clothes, arty things, and quite a lot of food stalls. It's not a huge place like the weekend market (where you can easily lose your way!) and is open air. Not too hot after dark.

Busy night at Chillva Market

Chillva Market

(above) Stalls at Chillva market

There are also a fair number of restaurants with outdoor tables, plus a seating area for eating food from the stalls. Anything from burgers to Thai noodles.

Eating out at Chillva Market

Lots of food for sale at Chillva Market

Food stall at Chillva Market

(above) Chillva is great for a cheap tasty dinner!

Aside from the market area, there are some more permanent shops, mostly selling clothes. My daughter found one she likes selling earrings. Yeh, I have a teenage daughter now.

Clothes stalls at Chillva Market

And there is a bit of night life here too! Every time I have been there was some live music, just local musicians playing or another visit there was what looked like a school talent show going on! And there's a little street of trendy bars too. Nice to sit up on the roof with a beer.

Bars at Chillva Market

Bar at Chillva Market

(above) Bars at Chillva Market.

I imagine we'll go a bit more often once all the roadworks are complete, it'll be a very quick drive from home. If someone asks which is the best market to visit, hard to answer. These places are more for locals than tourists, but I'd say try this one, and the Sunday walking street, or the weekend market if you want the big one! As a local, it's good to have these options now. A few years ago, the weekend market was on it's own.

More markets in Phuket

Phuket Weekend Market
Sunday Market in Old Town
Indy Market
Karon Temple Market
Phuket Town Fresh Market

Chillva Market - Location Map

17 August 2016 

Maireab Zaap Ver Restaurant in Kathu

The area of Phuket where we live is called Kathu. Actually Kathu is one of the 3 districts (Amphur) of Phuket, and it encompasses a large area including Patong and Kamala beaches. When people talk about Kathu they normally mean the area between Patong and Phuket Town which is largely residential but includes 3 golf courses, several tourist attractions like the Jungle Bungy Jump and the Flying Hanuman and quite a lot of restaurants, mostly catering to local residents rather than tourists. If we are eating out, we most often eat around Kathu or Phuket Town (because it's close to home) although we have some favourites in other parts of the island and some a little off the island too!

Maireab Zaap Ver opened in December 2015, located by the road between Kathu market and Loch Palm golf course, right opposite the office of Easy Day Thailand, a tour company run by friends of mine. Also on the other side of the road is Da Sandro, a very good Italian restaurant which also opened in 2015 and might be on the blog sometime soon! Maireab Zaap Ver is a family restaurant run by 3 sisters called Ree, Boo and Ta. They used to have another restaurant called Krua Maireab, on the road to Kathu Waterfall not far from the new restaurant, but this closed in 2012. We liked that place and were very happy to find they had started again!

Maireab Zaap Ver

(above) Maireab Zaap Ver from the outside.

It's become one of our "go to" restaurants if we want to eat out, not too expensive, close to home and - of course - the food is tasty! It's not a huge place, but I reckon could seat 30 people. It is right by the road, but the road is not too busy, as it's not a main thoroughfare. I don't like to eat next to busy roads if a restaurant is open sided (not aircon).

Maireab Zaap Ver

(above) Looking out to the road.

Maireab Zaap Ver

(above) Inside Maireab Zaap Ver.

Step 1 - take a seat and check the menu which is in Thai and English although a few of the translations are a bit odd. They have "deep fried platypus" on the menu for example. What the? Actually, this is deep fried duck's bills, which may sound odd anyway, but goes well with a beer :) It's not something you find in too many restaurants, but worth a try! I like to get a cold beer of course and wait for the food to arrive, which it does pretty fast.

When I find a regular restaurant I tend to have the same dish again and again, but maybe order something different on the side. The old Krua Maireab used to make the best Nam Prik Gung Siap - Shrimp paste with dried shrimp. It's spicy, salty, also a little sweet and sour (it has raw sugar and lime added). A real proper local southern Thai dish. The dried shrimp are a specialty of the Phuket and Phang Nga area. This may not be to everyone's taste, but I love it. The dish comes with vegetables and you'd normally order rice and maybe an omelette with it too.

Nam Prik Gung Siap

(above) Nam Prik Gung Siap .. I don't tend to eat all the chilies.

It's on the menu at 120 Baht (plus rice and omelette). Again, not something you find at too many restaurants. For something a bit more normal, the Tom Yum is very good here too. A big dish for 120 Baht.

Tom Yum

(above) Tom Yum with chicken.

It's a big menu, so you can find just about any standard Thai food, simple things like fried rice or fried chicken with garlic go down well with the kids, along with the Tom Yum!

Fried chicken with garlic

(above) Fried chicken with garlic + rice and a fried egg on top :)

Kana Pla Khem

(above) A favourite of my wife's - Kana Pla Kem - fried kale with salted fish. You can also get fried kale with crispy pork, which is one of my favourites :)

And (below) another look at Nam Prik Gung Siap, served with an omelette.

Nam Prik with Omelette

Lots of tasty options, and we'll be eating here quite often! An additional note - just a couple of hundred meters away is the new floating market which I will get on the blog once it's 100% finished. See you in Kathu!

Maireab Zaap Ver - Location Map

5 August 2016 

Little Amazon River Tour at Takua Pa

Last weekend we took a drive off Phuket, over the bridge heading for Khao Lak. Our original plan was to check in to a hotel and relax, but plans changed :) First we detoured for lunch and took a look at Thai Mueang Beach, which is between Phuket and Khao Lak. No hotels there, just a few restaurants and a small turtle sanctuary and several kilometers of beach. I'd like to stop there again and write something on the blog. Then, rather than check in to a hotel, we decided to drive past Khao Lak another 30km to Takua Pa. We have explored this area before, notably the old town which has a Sunday market. From our house it's about 2 hours to Takua Pa. We had checked out the "Little Amazon" location last year, but did not do the tour as the weather was not great. This time, the sky was partly blue and we decided to try something new. On arrival at the car park, we were the only people there and we wondered if it was closed, but a guy appeared to help and my dear wife negotiated a price of 1,000 Baht for 2 boats (4 of us, 2 per boat). I was not sure what the trip would be like or how long it would take. I imagine if you book in advance, they'll be ready for you. For us, we had to wait a while as the guy called a friend who turned up with small longtail engines for the little boats and after about 15 minutes waiting, we were ready to go.

Little Amazon Tour - Entrance

Little Amazon Tour - Entrance

(above) At the Little Amazon entrance. The sign below says "Welcome to Thailand river jungle version of the Amazon. Here you will experience ancient Banyan trees, exotic animals, and other beauties Thai nature has to offer." We were not sure what to expect. I was hoping for some big snakes!

The first section of the river took about 45 minutes, sometimes using the engine, sometimes just a wooden paddle. It was a narrow, jungly tributary of a larger river that leads to the sea at Ban Nam Khem. We moved slowly and after the first few minutes where we followed a road, we were really "in the jungle" :) While being on the lookout for giant pythons, we checked out the jungle scenery.

Little Amazon Tour

My daughter and I shared a boat and we loved the aerial roots hanging down from the trees. We were at low tide and you can see that the roots would dip into the water at high tide. These are banyan trees? I'm not sure!

Little Amazon Tour - In the Jungle!

(above) Paddling down the river

Little Amazon Tour - Enjoying the ride!

(above) Father and daughter time! We enjoyed our little boat ride. Oh, yes and we did see some snakes, and a fleeting glimpse of a few monkeys and some crabs :) I should have brought a decent camera with me, because the snakes we saw were all in trees and not easy to photograph with an iPhone! If you want photos, bring something with a good zoom lens.

Little Amazon Tour - Spot the Snake

(above) Can you see the snake? We did see quite a few, all lounging around in the trees.

When I check the map, I can see that this 45 minutes only took us a short distance - less than 1.5km from the starting point, so we were indeed going slowly! We then hit a much wider river, about 30 or 40 meters wide, and turned left downstream towards the sea. As the boatman said - go this way to Phuket! And we turned on our engines and got some nice breeze blowing. It had been a bit hot and sweaty there on that little jungle river!

Little Amazon Tour - Boats on the river

(above) Zipping along the "big river"!

And we had company on this bigger river. There is a network of rivers in the area. If we had turned right we could have joined a bigger river, headed further north and ended up at the sea 15km further north. Takua Pa actually used to be a well known port for traders hundreds of years ago. The wide rivers provided a safe, sheltered place to anchor, just as the sheltered east coast of Phuket did, and Phuket was also an important trading port. Bt we didn't see any big boats here, only little longtails like the one below ...

Little Amazon Tour - Speed Longtail!

We passed under a road bridge, somewhat destroying the illusion of remote jungle. Next to the bridge was a small fishing village, which is actually only a few km from Takua Pa town. Indeed if we carried on the same road from Takua Pa, passing the entrance to Little Amazon, we'd have arrived at this village :)

Little Amazon Tour - Fishing Village

And then we had a little photo stop on a sandbar in the middle of the river. Just around the corner from the bridge and village and probably about 4km from our starting point. Hey this is not actually the Amazon, just a Little Amazon! The boat guys took some nice family photos for us.

Little Amazon Tour - Sandbar

The trip back the other way was faster, only about 20 minutes all the way home. In all, the trip was about 1 hour 20 minutes.

And here's a nice little video showing some of our trip ...

I found out later that this Little Amazon trip can be booked via my friends at Easy Day Thailand, so I do recommend contacting them. This can be combined with other places and attractions in the area like Khao Sok National Park, white water rafting or some waterfalls. It's easy enough as a day trip from Phuket, though better as an overnight trip and a day trip is even easier from Khao Lak.

After the trip, we actually decided to drive home and save money rather than staying in a hotel :) There's actually rooms right there (sorry, don't know the price!) and a restaurant. We had an early dinner there (decent enough Thai food at a decent price) before driving home to Phuket. I think if we get some English visitors who want a little jungle experience, we'll come again.

Little Amazon - Location Map

27 July 2016 

One Chun Restaurant in Phuket Town

One Chun Cafe and Restaurant has been open for a few years now, but we just ate there for the first time in June 2016 and decided it was good, so we've been again in July. My wife and I did have a coffee there a couple of years ago, but didn't think it was anything special. Since then it has been expanded and redecorated and we heard a good review from friends, so we finally visited. There are quite a few places we like to eat around Phuket Town. This is our area of Phuket as we live in Kathu just a few kilometers from town. One Chun will be another we add to our list of favourites.

The name "One Chun" is a transliteration of the Thai name - วันจันทร์ - which means Monday in English. I'd normally write that as "Wan Jan", but it's up to them! It seems to be open daily for lunch and dinner and can get busy. On another occasion we went there, but it looked too crowded for my liking. I know that means it's popular, but I like a bit of space and a staff who are not rushed off their feet so you get better service! It's in the old town on Thepkasattri road near the corner of Dibuk Road and close to Thalang Road.

One Chun Restaurant

(above) View of One Chun from the other side of Thepkasattri Road

There are several rooms inside and space for at least 50-60 people. Everything is decorated in a kind of "olde style", which mostly means buying up some junk and sticking it on the walls and all around the rooms! Tables and chairs are all different sizes for different size groups. I'd suggest you try to get a window table and watch the world go by.

Inside One Chun Restaurant

(above) Inside One Chun. A nice window seat!

Table next to old movie projector

(above) Or you may get a table next to an old movie projector! There are odd decorations everywhere like old records, old clocks, random kitchenware and a wall full of radios (below).

One Chun Restaurant Decoration

The food is mostly Thai with lots of local southern Thai dishes like a crab curry with coconut milk or various spicy salads. There's not too much in the way of foreign food. I did see spaghetti on the menu, but if you come to a local restaurant in town, best to eat local food. I have noticed groups of Thai people from outside Phuket eating here and I am guessing it's got some reviews on Thai websites. On our last visit a group of 10 Bangkokians were at the next table. Here's a restaurant to try something different. On our 2 visits we've ordered a number of different dishes. On both visits we had 'Nam Prik Gung Siap' - a small spicy dish made with dried shrimp, shrimp paste, onion, chili, lime and palm sugar. I love it, although I sometimes find places make it too salty or with dried shrimp that are a bit old and not crispy as they should be. It's one of my Thai food addictions. The dish comes with some boiled vegetables and you normally eat with rice and maybe an omelette too. It's very local, you can really only find it in Phuket or Phang Nga. And they do a very good one here for 150 Baht.

Nam Prik Gung Siap

(above) Nam Prik Gung Siap

It's not the cheapest of Thai restaurants. Basic dishes start at 90 Baht. Most of the main dishes are around 150. You can get whole fish cooked in various ways too.

Tom Som - Sour Fish Soup

(above) Tom Som Pla - a kind of sour soup with fish and vegetables, made with tamarind, maybe some shrimp paste, onions. Again, it can vary from place to place, but I always like it! Not really spicy, and a flavour that is very different to Euro food.

Gaeng Liang (a kind of spicy soup)

(above) Gaeng Liang is a spicy soup made mostly with vegetables, but often with shrimp added too as with the dish here. Again, a new taste to try!

And the menu has many things I want to try. Last time I ordered a grilled pork salad, but that turned out to be just some basic salad (cucumber, tomato, lettuce) with some grilled pork. I was hoping for something with flavour. Will sample something new next time. We liked the mango salad with cashews and crispy bacon. Damn tasty!

Mango Salad with Crispy Bacon

And wash it down with a cold beer - only 60 Baht for a small Chang :) Yes, we'll be eating here again. The old town area is actually a great place to stay and with lots of food to discover. Yeh, it's not by the beach, so it's not what people expect in Phuket, but as I have tried to show for many years now - there is a lot more to Phuket than beaches!

More Restaurants in Phuket Town

Tunk Ka Cafe
Eleven Two & Co
Zaab Kafe
Abdul's Roti Shop

One Chun - Location Map

14 July 2016 

Mosques in Phuket

Over the years 10 years this blog has been online I have blogged about many temples in Phuket including Buddhist Wats, Chinese Shrines and even a Sikh Gurdwara. Phuket also has a Hindu Shrine, and various Christian places of worship. Phuket has a long history as a safe port where traders from Arabia, India, China and Europe did business with local Malays and Siamese. Phuket's population changed over the centuries, with different people and cultures being dominant, but in general Phuket and Siam (Thailand) always stayed open to all religions. Thailand is a secular country, the laws of the country are not set by any religion and there is freedom of religious practice. The south of Thailand has a large Muslim population and this includes Phuket. I have never seen exact population figures, but everyone seems to agree that about 25 - 30% of the local population in Phuket is Muslim. Some parts of the island such as Kamala, Rawai or large parts of the north of the island have a large Muslim population. I've been here so long that the mix of people is normal. I know it surprises some visitors who may be expecting Phuket to be all Buddhist. Some Muslims here dress in western clothes, though you may see people in more traditional Muslim clothes around the island.

So I realised that despite the large Muslim population here, I have rarely mentioned Islam in 10+ years of blogging! I did once write about a Halal festival, and Muslim owned/run restaurants such as Abdul's Roti Shop or the Bang Rong Floating Restaurant. You may find quite a few restaurants in Phuket that don't have pork on the menu as they are Muslim run. People do ask me sometimes to recommend Halal restaurants. I don't really know about this. But if you eat somewhere near a mosque in a Muslim area, you will probably be OK!

Anyway - this page is not meant to be a discussion about Halal food or Phuket history or Islam. I wanted to blog about mosques in Phuket and have been out and about recently taking photos, although I realise that there are many mosques that I have not seen, especially in the north of the island. The map at the end of the page shows the location of 27 mosques. I think there are a few more. But you can see there are mosques all over the island and I had some comments on Facebook and Twitter from Muslims who have visited Phuket and not found a mosque. Well, now you can find one! They are often a bit hard to find! I have enjoyed taking some little drives to find mosques and discovering hidden streets and different corners of Phuket. As there are many more mosques than those I photographed, I think some more exploration trips are needed.

Let's start with the south of Phuket island. I have driven past the entrance to this mosque (below) in Rawai many times, but never stopped.

Rawai Mosque, Phuket

(above) Nurut Diniya Mosque between Chalong and Rawai.

And just a little close to Rawai, a side street down to the sea. I had never been down here before.

Rawai Mosque, Phuket

(above) Aowalul Hidayah Mosque by the sea. Very nice!

There is one more mosque in the backroads between Rawai and Naiharn beaches, but otherwise the whole south of Phuket (Chalong, Kata, Karon, Naiharn) has no other mosques that I know of.

Patong - the biggest, baddest, most touristy part of Phuket. Nightlife, hotels, bars, sea, sun, sand and .. mosques? Many years ago (around the year 2000) I lived in a now-demolished apartment at the north end of Patong, with a Muslim restaurant over the street and a mosque just a couple of hundred meters away. Yes, Patong has a Muslim community too. A new mosque was built a few years ago, I think it was completed in about 2011.

Patong Mosque

(above) Patong mosque is located by the main road out of Patong on the north side of town.

If you head north from Patong, pass the Novotel and Diamond Cliff resorts, you reach Kalim, home to several hotels and fancy restaurants and - up a small side road which I'd not explored until a few days ago - a mosque!

Street View - Kalim Mosque

(above) Looking up the narrow street to Kalim mosque.

The road from Patong, passing Kalim, winds up and down and round many bends on its way to Kamala beach, which is largely Muslim, or was ... I remember 15 years ago Kamala was quite un-touristy, no bars, hard to get a beer! The beach area is now quite busy, but you still have a Muslim graveyard taking up a huge area of beachfront land, and that is not going to change despite the price of property! The main Kamala mosque is inland towards the hills and there's a smaller mosque too which has a fancy new mosque being built next to it, also on the back roads.

Kamala Mosque

(above) Kamala mosque

New Mosque in Kamala

(above) New mosque being built (July 2016) in Kamala.

Moving away from the west coast .. The area around Phuket Town is a real mixed bag of cultures and religions. There's a street close to the old town which features a Chinese shrine, a mosque and a Catholic church within about 300 meters. The Yameay mosque is the only one near the center of town, which does tend to have a much more Chinese-Thai population.

Yameay Mosque

(above) Yameay Mosque in Phuket Town

To the south of town, the Cape Panwa area is largely Muslim and there's one big mosque (Issatul Islam Mosque) close to the deep sea port on the way to Phuket Aquarium. There is also a smaller mosque on a side street which we pass on the way to The Beach Bar (one of our favourite hangouts).

Cape Panwa Mosque

(above) Mosque at Cape Panwa, to the south of Phuket Town

On the east side of town close to the main port is a new mosque, the Al Madinah Mosque. Many of the Muslims in the Phuket area were (or still are) fishing folk, so it's no surprise to find a mosque in this area. Looks like this mosque is almost complete. There was scaffolding around the golden dome when I passed recently.

Al Madina Mosque at Rasada, Phuket Town

(above) Al Madinah Mosque in the east of Phuket Town

And a little north of town, another Muslim fishing community is found at Laem Hin - home to Laem Hin Seafood, a favourite restaurant or ours, and you can also get a longtail boat over to several floating restaurants from here. To reach the restaurant and jetty you pass the mosque, which is another that has been recently rebuilt.

Laem Hin Mosque (Kamaliah Mosque)

(above) Kamaliah Mosque at Laem Hin, to the north of Phuket Town

Heading north from Laem Hin you pass the Boat Lagoon and there's a Muslim school on the east side of the road which has a mosque in the grounds. I did stop here to take a photo, but the school gates were closed. There's another (I found on Google Earth) not much further north. Actually I found about 10 mosques on Google Earth which I have not seen or photographed. This page will be updated over time!

Reaching the Heroine's Monument (a statue/shrine at a main road junction between Phuket Town and the airport), if you turn left, the road heads back to the west coast via the Cherng Talay area, before reaching Surin and Bang Tao beaches. The mosque close to Bang Tao (Mukaram Mosque) is quite impressive.

Bang Tao Mosque, Phuket

(above) Mukaram Mosque near Bang Tao and Surin beaches.

North of this point there are at least a dozen mosques in the northern part of Phuket, of which I have visited two! Back to the Heroine's Monument, if you take the road east you can get to Bang Pae Waterfall and the Gibbon Rehabilitation Center. Just after this you reach the Bang Rong community, yet another Muslim fishing village. There's a floating restaurant in the mangroves and a jetty for boats to Koh Yao Yai and Koh Yao Noi islands.

Bang Rong Mosque, Phuket

(above) Mosque at Bang Rong in the northeast of Phuket.

The map below shows that there are many mosques in the north of the island. At least 5 north of the airport and several along the main road in the Thalang area or close to the airport. I think I need a little trip in this direction to take a few photos. The only one I stopped at was the Darul Itihaad Mosque just south of Thalang town. The Thalang area also features several interesting Buddhist temples. I did not realise before searching closely that there were so many mosques in the north of the island. I thought there were just a few, but there seem to be about 10 north of Thalang town!

Mosque in Thalang, Phuket

(above) Darul Itihaad Mosque by the main road south of Thalang.

I hope this page is useful and / or interesting for Muslim visitors to Phuket and for anyone (like me) with an interest in culture and history. The map below shows locations for most mosques in Phuket. I may have missed a few small ones. I have a feeling that a similar blog post about Christian churches might be in the pipeline. For now, thank you, shukran and see you in Phuket!

Mosques in Phuket - Location Map