My favourite places: The Beach Bar

Phuket can be whatever you want it to be. Phuket is bars and girls. Phuket is crowded beaches and jet skis; shopping and good food. Phuket is groovy nightlife with trendy people. Phuket is a luxury getaway at a 5 star resort. Phuket is an island full of history and interesting culture. Phuket does have all this and more. Me? I am not into nightlife, clubs, bargirls and not rich enough to pamper myself at a fancy resort. Don't need a hotel anyway. Phuket is home. Phuket is where I work, where my kids go to school, and when I have time off work, I try to explore, which is what this blog is mostly about really. You can look other places for nightlife information, and if you want full on tourism, watersports and more food than you can eat, stay in Patong Beach, by all means, but do try to get out and explore some!

This blog is "my" Phuket (not actually mine, but you get the idea) and I give thanks to all readers and people who email or come to see me to say they've enjoyed the blog. If you can find some useful information here among all the "normal" tourism websites, great. Hope you may get some ideas of things to do - things that may otherwise have been unknown. The blog has been going for 4 years now, and there's plenty more to be added. More restaurants I want to try, more trips to take just off Phuket to small islands or attractions in nearby areas. Always new things to see - and at the same time, there are some places I/we (the family) keep going back to. Some days, especially in high season, a day off is very welcome, and all I want to do is relax. We have some favourite places to go, and The Beach Bar is maybe top of the list.

The Beach Bar

Sunset near The Beach Bar

The Beach Bar is a small, cheap, friendly, rather basic restaurant right by the beach at Cape Panwa, overlooking Chalong Bay. It's just along the beach from the Panwa Beach resort, which sounds developed but you can't even see the hotel from the restaurant. There are some holiday apartments a bit further along called By The Sea. Many of the customers come from these 2 places, which helps explain why The Beach Bar closes during low season. It's normally open from about October to the end of April. Open for lunch or dinner, great for sunsets like the one above. Can be combined with a visit to the nearby Phuket Aquarium.

It's a family run restaurant, don't expect white suited waiters and silver platters here. We like the simplicity. We found the place back in 2006 and now we always enjoy a chat with the owners and have seen their kids growing up, as they have seen ours. The kids get on great. My wife and I like that - we can sit quietly while the kids go off and play on the beach, looking for shells or hunting crabs. I like to go in the late afternoon. By around 5pm they take all the tables out onto the sand, so you can sit right by the sea and wait for sunset.

Tables on the sand at The Beach Bar

Kids love it there, they are more or less free to roam, and it's safe. There is no road, no jet skis, no big crowds. If we're sitting out on the sand we can keep an eye on them if they wander along the beach. This year we did our son's birthday party there, which he and all the kids loved.

Our son at The Beach Bar

What? Oh, go on then, here are some more sunset views from The Beach Bar...

17th April 2010

(above) Sunset 17th April 2010

15th November 2008

(above) Sunset 15th November 2008

The beach itself is not perfect - pretty good for swimming at high tide, but totally rocky at low tide. Still pretty views, as you can see from the sunset pictures, but you can only swim at high tide, when things look more like this - much more like it!

View along the beach at high tide

The food at The Beach Bar is quite simple. They do seafood - lobster, crab, fish, prawns, it's maybe a bit cheaper than the main beach areas. We often just get "normal" Thai food. They do good Chicken with Cashew Nuts, Tom Yum, Glass Noodle Salad, and one of my favourites - Chicken wrapped in Pandan leaf ("Gai Hor Bai Toey"). Most of the easy dishes are only 70 - 80 Baht.

Yam Woonsen (glass noodle salad)

Fish dish at The Beach Bar

Prawns with cashew nuts

Last year we also went there for Loy Krathong, as we'd had enough of heading to the more crowded places and having to push our way through to the water. At The Beach Bar it was just us and a few other people plus the owners family launching our Krathongs into the water for good luck. I reckon we'll go there again this year.

Loy Krathong

Our boy running on the beach at The Beach Bar

Digging for shells

(above) our daughter and her Grandma help the owner digging for shells

But what I really enjoy is the relaxed atmosphere, no rush, no noise, it's a place that I can feel totally at ease for a few hours, watching the sun set, watching our kids play and drink a few cold beers. Yes, one of our favourite places.

More photos of The Beach Bar (on my Flickr pages)
More of our favourite restaurants

The Beach Bar - Location Map


View The Beach Bar, Cape Panwa, Phuket in a larger map

Taupo

Beautiful place. I checked in to my hostel and not wanting to break from tradition, went for a walk around the lake. Branching off along a riverside track I saw what looked like a man floating down a river on a ring of inflated bin liners. When I caught up to him it really was a man floating down a river on a ring of inflated bin liners, beer in one hand, fag in the other. Because I was staring at him the man shouted out in a Spanish accent 'how you doing?'
'I'm good thanks. Are they bin liners?'
'Yes, it's cheap'
I'm not sure why but it seemed appropriate to take off my cap, bow down and say 'Sir, you are a genius'.
I passed the man and carried along the path but a few hundred yards later it finished. There was no path on the other side of the river either so how the hell the man was going to get back to his car I don't know. Unless, perhaps, he had concealed within his vessel a paddle made from lolly sticks (and I wouldn't put that past him, it would have taken a fair amount of Blue Peter skills to attach the bin liners leaving room for a person in the middle.
Back at the hostel I played scrabble with 3 English girls and a 17 year old German and had to hold on to some monster scores because I didn't want to look like a dick playing words like ee which I know is a word but justifying it would have meant admitting that I play on-line. That and the fact that one girl got away with words like zam meant that I finished third. I am ashamed to say I didn't like this and was a poor loser.

Next day I researched some long walks in the area and booked a trip for 5 days kayaking the Whanganui river. This had taken weeks to do as no companies would rent to someone who wanted to do it on their own, they were all guided trips. In the afternoon I walked out of town to a great free attraction, a hot spring fed pool 30 degrees in temperature, then past that to Huka falls and Aratiatia dam (both pictured below)

Day 3 in Taupo. Got drunk with some people who were celebrating finishing work the day before. It was a mexican themed party which consisted of eating some quesadillas and the 4 of us writing sombrero on stickers stuck to our caps. It was good fun but to be somewhere so beautiful and do something I can do at home felt very wasteful.





More Wellington

Decided I would like to see the Weta cave, home of Peter Jackson's studios where they did the CGI and prop making for Lord of the rings. It was a couple of hours walk out of Wellington and on the way I passed a woman taking a bite out of a potato. The Weta cave itself advertised the part open to the public as a mini museum. It was the size of my bedroom but there were just enough props and swords from the films that it made the trip worth while for a geek like me. There was also a film that talked through the work they do at Weta but as Mum has the extended 600 hour special edition box sets of Lord of the Rings it wasn't anything new.

Day 5 in Wellington was the day I'd been waiting for. New Zealand Black caps v Australia in the fifth One Day International. I walked to the Westpac stadium (known as the Cake Tin) via the art gallery and spent a day watching the black caps stuff Australia, the highlight being Ricky Ponting getting out for a golden duck. Even better than that, he was caught off his helmet so shouldn't have been out.

Hotels in Phuket Town

Phuket is of course more known as a beach destination, and I would guess 99% of visitors will want to stay close to the water. There are plenty of hotel recommendations on this blog, mostly hotels near the beaches - Phuket's west coast is all about beaches, from the overdeveloped madness that is Patong (yeh, some people like it, I know) to much quieter locations like Naithon or Kamala. There are some hotels inland away from the water, or on the far less developed east coast, and there is also plenty of accommodation in Phuket Town.

Phuket Town (officially called Phuket City, but it certainly feels like a town), is the main business center of Phuket and the provincial capital. There's no beach, but staying in town gives a totally different experience of Phuket. Sure there are some tourism oriented businesses, but mostly it's local life - markets, small interesting shops, Chinese shrines, day to day life going on all around, historic buildings, museums, local restaurants and a nightlife that is quite separate to the bars 'n' girls at the beaches. It's the place to be to enjoy festivals and local events such as the Phuket Vegetarian Festival or the Sunday Walking Street Market. I like Phuket Town, and there's plenty of space given to it on the blog. If you have a longer stay in Phuket and want to experience more than just mainstream tourism, why not stay in town for a couple of nights!

For a full list of Phuket Town accommodation look at Agoda.com. Everything from backpacker to nicer hotels.

Some Recommended Phuket Town Hotels

Casa Blanca Boutique Hotel

A fairly new hotel right by the old town on Phuket Road, just round the corner from Thalang Road, restored old shophouse, with all white exterior (thus the name). Only 17 rooms, and good price too.

Casa Blanca Boutique Hotel - Rates and Reservations
Casa Blanca Boutique Hotel - Reviews

The Memory at On On Hotel

Way back in 1999, when I first arrived in Phuket, I stayed 1 night at the old On On Hotel. It was built about 100 years ago. I think the beds were maybe 100 years old. The floor shook whenever someone walked past outside the room. It was the hotel used for filming 'The Beach' movie. A great backpacker hangout with a little cafe too. Renovations started a few years ago and it re-opened in 2013 as "The Memory at On On Hotel" with suites and nice rooms. Still has dorms and a nice aircon cafe.

The Memory at On On Hotel - Rates and Reservations
The Memory at On On Hotel - Reviews

Chinotel

Newly opened in 2010, Chinotel is on Ranong Road right next to the central market. Rates only 600 - 800 Baht per night with aircon, TV and you're right in the old town.

Chinotel - Bookings at Agoda.com
Chinotel - Reviews

Sino House Hotel

A couple of blocks North and East of old town, Sino House is an apartment style hotel and includes the highly recommended Rain Tree Spa which my wife and I mean to visit one day soon!

Sino House Hotel - Rates and Reservations
Sino House Hotel - Reviews

Baan Suwantawe

Located next to the Queen Sirikit park, and right over the street from the Indy Market that takes place on Thursday and Friday evenings, this is quite a new place which has standard hotel rooms and also apartments for longer term rent.

Baan Suwantawe - Rates and Reservations
Baan Suwantawe - Reviews

Bhukitta Hotel

Right next to the bus terminal, 5 minutes walk to old town, lots of local restaurants close by. Reading the reviews, you can see some common "problems" with hotels in town - things like "too far from the beach" - well, duh! And no nice views - well it's in the town, and maybe staff not speaking the best English, yeh, if they did, they'd work in a 5 star resort.

Bhukitta Hotel - Rates and Reservations
Bhukitta Hotel - Reviews

Phuket Center Apartment

Right in the center close to old town, the Phuket Center Apartments are serviced apartments with kitchens. A cafe serves breakfast and lunch, but then again, you are within a few minutes walk of many restaurants in town.

Phuket Center Apartment - Rates and Reservations
Phuket Center Apartment - Reviews

Lub Sbuy Guesthouse

A budget place, again very close to the bus terminal with lots of local places to eat nearby and 5 minutes walk to the old town. Odd spelling, Lub Sbuy means "peaceful sleep".. guess I would spell it Lap Sabai, but each to their own!

Lub Sbuy Guesthouse - Rates and Reservations
Lub Sbuy - Reviews

Dara Hotel

A real oddity, this place. Location - on the edge of town close to the Central Festival Mall, not far from the weekend market either. I'd only stay here if I had some transport, but it's kind of unique - very colourful and modern.

Dara Hotel - Rates and Reservations
Dara Hotel - Reviews

Thavorn Heritage Hotel

The Thavorn Heritage Hotel (or just Thavorn Hotel) is a bit of Phuket history. It's not that old, opened in 1961, but was officially Phuket's first 5 star hotel. It's not so fancy now but the lobby looks great and there's a small museum inside. They do rooms for as litle as 600 Baht, great location right in the middle of town.

Thavorn Hotel - More Information
Thavorn Hotel - Rates and Reservations

Phuket Town may not be your cup of tea, but this blog does tend to be read by people who like all kinds of tea! Aside from the hotels above, Phuket Town has lots of low budget guesthouses and backpacker places - more info here: Cheap Places To Stay in Phuket.

More Hotels in Phuket Town

Phuket Town Hotels at Agoda.com

More About Phuket Town

Walking in Old Town
Old Phuket Town Festival
Kopitiam Restaurant on Thalang Road
Rang Hill
Thai Hua Phuket History Museum

Wellington

Got the ferry from Picton to Wellington heading out through the unsurprisingly beautiful Marlborough sound.
Day 1: Couldn't be arsed to be sociable so went and watched Avatar in 3-D (Terribly brilliant or brilliantly terrible, 4 stars)

Day 2: Visited the excellent national museum where my personal highlight was bizarrely their Anne Frank exhibit. Bought a ticket to the 5th one day match between NZ and Australia and so had to book a further 3 nights in the hostel. In the afternoon I saw a middle aged woman smiling broadly and I was tempted to tell her how good it was to see such an uninhibited smile. I didn't though and I regretted it, everyone likes a compliment and if it's well received it is as much fun to give one as receive one. Mymind then wondered to other compliments for other people and I began to play a compliments game. The rules, I decided, were that every person you pass you have to give a genuine compliment to. Men and women old and young... not kids though, telling an eight year old she has good posture is creepy.
I chickened out of playing the game out loud but played it in my head and had a lot of fun imagining what I would say. The compliments started out quite mundane 'Nice tattoo', 'I like your socks' then after a while I got a bit carried away. 'You conduct yourself with an air of coolness', 'You're amazing I want to be you, then I'd want to be another you so that I could be you, hold you and be held by you'. It was for the best I was only playing the game in my head.

Day 3: Walked around the city and botanic gardens then to the pub for the 4th one dayer, New Zealand lost. I stayed on at the pub for a pub quiz. The couple I joined told me they were waiting on a friend, a serial dater, who had been on a date. I conjured up the image of a desperate girl with a personality disorder who I would endup flirting with anyway. I wasn't far off the mark. She was good fun but I'm glad I didn't know her for any longer. We came 2nd last in the quiz so didn't even win the booby prize of a round of drinks.

Cycling trip to Koh Yao Noi