Loy Kratong - Making the Kratong

Loy Kratong is on a different day each year, falling on the Full Moon of the 12th lunar month, which is normally sometime in November. Last year was November 5th, this year (2007) November 24th. Loy Kratong is celebrated all over Thailand with particularly large ceremonies in Bangkok, Sukothai and Ayutthaya. Here in Phuket, festivities are quite extensive at the main beaches such as Patong and Karon, and anywhere else you find water - which is everywhere, being that Phuket is an island. We normally go and float our kratong at Bang Wad Reservoir, which is the largest reservoir in Phuket and is not far from our home in the Kathu area of Phuket. The word "Loy" means Float, and the Kratong is what you set afloat - read on...

Book hotels for Loy Krathong!

Making Our Kratong

Of course there are stalls all over the place on the day selling ready made kratongs, but we decided to DIY this year, ending up with a kratong that just about floated without tipping over! To make a kratong you will need - cut slices of banana stem to make the base, banana leaves to decorate, flowers, incense sticks, candles and pins to hold it all together! And voila - you have a kratong...


Banana Leaves

Flowers for our krathong

(above) What you need to make a krathong - banana stem, leaves and flowers

The banana leaves are cut and folded to shape and pinned to the base... My wife did all the hard work - she had never made one before - I mean, you can buy them everywhere very cheaply ... She made a special double decker kratong. I think it turned out beautifully!

Making the krathong

Making our krathong

(above) Making the krathong - folding and pinning leaves onto the banana stem

Making a krathong for Loy Krathong

(above) We made it a double decker krathong

Add some flowers, and it's ready... Our family kratong! Into the kratong we also add small cuttings of hair and nails from family members which will float out into the water with the kratong. Now we just need to float it!

Our krathong

(above) Finished krathong

Flowers on our krathong

(above) Flowers, incense and candles on the krathong

Well, did it float? Yes! See photos of Loy Krathong day :

Loy Krathong in Phuket 2007
Loy Krathong 2008
Loy Krathong 2015 will be on 25th November

Layan Beach

Layan Beach is not at all well known, so if you want to find one of the quietest and most beautiful beaches in Phuket, try to find Layan Beach. Hard enough to find it on a map! We first found Layan in January 2007 on a rather grey day while driving around the back roads in the North of Phuket. You have a choice of small roads to reach Layan Beach. Most photos on this page were taken November 2007. We drove through the Laguna Resort complex, the road turning from good, to bad, to "oh-my-god-i-wish-we-had-a-4wd". The last 100m took about 5 minutes. OK, that's the back route in, you can also go via Naithon, or via Thalang, following a long twisty road through the villages. OK, enough directions. Go find it! Or there's a map at the bottom of the page.

Seek and ye shall find paradise. Or at least a very peaceful, picture postcard beach. Layan Beach, just North of Bang Tao Beach, has two halves. The southern part (pretty much an extension northwards of Bang Tao Beach) is simply stunning if you like blue seas and white sand. The land is privately owned, well cared for and kept simple. We were there at the weekend for lunch in the high season and I counted about 12 other visitors and I reckon half of them were local residents. You'll find a small restaurant, a small collection of beach chairs, palm trees and the sound of waves gently lapping the shore. Too good to be true?

Layan Restaurant Entrance

Layan Beach (South)

Layan Beach Restaurant

The restaurant has basic Thai food, sea food.. not super cheap, but hey - look at the location. I guess we are used to local prices, so 80 Baht for fried rice seemed expensive! It was tasty food, though and if you are coming for a holiday, lunch for a few dollars is not going to break the bank! Next to the restaurant was a bar called "Beer Conner" :)

Layan Beach - Beer Conner

Just behind the beach, you have a mix of local life and modern development. This stretch of coast is being invaded by a large amount of villas, sea view apartments, hillside condos...and yet you also find scenes like this...

Waterway near Layan Beach

A little further North, Layan Beach is split by a small island (Koh Kala) and a sand bar, creating a semi enclosed lagoon and a natural paradise. A sign at the edge of the beach says this area is to be made a National Park.. although I read recently in the local news that a marina might be planned for this location. It's a beautiful spot. I'd like to walk out along the sand spit to the island, but not with the little kids - it's quite a hike on a hot day. We've been here for beach BBQ's a couple of times. Not a swimming beach, but of you walk 15 minutes south you get to the beach by the restaurant.

Layan Beach Panorama

(above) Panorama of the north end of Layan Beach - click to enlarge.

Layan Beach (North)

You'd hardly know it, but there are 2 small, quite exclusive, very nice looking resorts in this section of Layan Beach. They blend in with the scenery, offering beachside or hillside bungalows. If you like a bit of seclusion, the Anantara Resort or the amazing Trisara (on the headland just north of Layan) might be for you.

Anantara Layan Resort
Trisara Resort

Layan Beach is perfect for me and the family as a little getaway for a couple of hours - we like the small scale, the little restaurant, the fact that the beach is clean and hard to find. How we never found it until 2007 is beyond me.... Well, I guess we are not on holiday so can't be out exploring every day, but it's pleasing that after many years here Phuket still manages to surprise me.

Update August 2014 - Just went to Layan for the first time in years. A "beach club" called Nikkis has been built next to the little restaurant, looks ugly from the outside, fancy from the inside. And playing quite loud music. Beach looks great aside from the usual washed up flotsam which you get in low season. No further development around the lagoon area. Still very quiet.

(above) Layan beach August 16th 2014

New blog post : Layan Beach 2014 Update

Layan Beach - Location Map

View Layan Beach Phuket in a larger map

Writing at the House ...

We are presently blessed with power and some furniture, making it possible to write in relative comfort while also being able to oversee the finishing touches to the house. The kitchen counter top has been a major stumbling block as well as some of the bathroom and kitchen plumbing. I’m not an expert so usually rely on the word of the contractor or subcontractor about their ability to do something. Sometimes it becomes quite clear, after the fact, that they have done it wrong.

It is not all that difficult to look at something and see how it is supposed to work based on the design. The problem is, that it does appear to be difficult for the workers sometimes and by the time I catch it things have probably gone too far. Then the question is how significant is the mistake and what can be done about it, if anything. Sometimes you have to rip it out and do it again, as with the kitchen counter. That entails reordering materials and waiting for delivery while delaying all other work that depends on that being done first. Other things you just do the best you can and live with the results.

While everyone else is sitting around pointing fingers of blame or making excuses I trying desperately to get people thinking about what can be done and how to fix it. We all have our little pet peeves and the blame game is one of mine. People waist valuable time going into the minutia of who did what and who said what to whom and how nothing is their fault because someone else did this or that. Alternatively they simply tell you what can’t be done with no interest in exploring the alternatives. I just want them to shut up and deal with the here and now. After you have fixed the problem, you can take all the time you want figuring out what went wrong and how to avoid the same mistake in the future.

I’m beginning to compare the house to a beautiful woman, who may not possess a single remarkable or perfect feature, but while beholding the entirety of her being, you cannot help but be struck by her presence and beauty. My wife worries, this thing or that thing, isn’t quite perfect. I figure no amount of worry will change it and prefer to look at the bigger, overall picture. In the eye of this beholder, that picture is indeed worthy of a long lingering gaze.

We put on a small party for the workers in conjunction with the contractor and his wife. There were various outside contractors and workers on the job that day as well who were able to partake of the food and drink after they finished their respective tasks. The curtain lady brought her little boy, who attempted to walk or climb on everything in the house.

Watching him try his best to destroy all that lay before him, brought nightmares to mind of the traditional Thai housewarming party. If one little boy and twenty or thirty drunk workers could do this much damage, then what in the world would happen to our beautiful home with a few hundred drunk villagers and all their children and dogs? The thought of all the subsequent repairs that will be needed in the aftermath, as well as all the expense and preparation beforehand, makes me desperate to find a way out of this obligation to throw a party.

I have suggested that my wife could explain, that her husband’s custom is to wait three years before such celebrations. My tone was that of jest but in my heart I was deadly serious. Why would anyone, in their right mind, open up their immaculate home to the marauding hordes to trample and destroy? Anything clean or pretty seems to present an irresistible challenge to break or soil and make it look like something familiar.

Perhaps I could resort to the Thai technique of saying that the party will happen soon (a blatant lie) and then continue postponing it until people get bored and move on to something else. In the process, I would be avoiding any direct confrontation. If it works for them, maybe just maybe it could work for me too.

CC`s Hideaway Hotel

CC's Hideaway has been recommended to me several times by customers from our dive shop who give it rave reviews - friendly staff, attention to detail, beautiful decor and "that something extra" that makes CC's Hideaway (previously called CC Blooms) more than just another hotel. OK, it's not by the beach, but the location in the hills of Karon is just as nice. Plenty of fresh air, great sunsets, nice and quiet. There is a free shuttle access to Kata Noi, Kata and Karon beaches.

The original name of the hotel was CC Blooms, which came from the Bette Midler character in the movie "Beaches" (I must say I have never seen it, but might just try to find it at the local video shop now...). Beaches seems to be a very popular movie with gay people, and indeed CC Blooms was promoted as a gay, or "gay friendly" hotel. My customer said he had met the owner, a gay American man and maybe the "gayness" of the hotel gives it the unique style. Of course you don't have to be gay to stay here. Read the reviews on Agoda (see link below) - the hotel is rated very highly by just about everyone. The hotel still mentions being LGBTQ friendly, whatever that means anyway! I think you can take that to mean that everyone is welcome, as everyone should be everywhere. The name changed in 2012 to CC's Hideaway when the hotel was completed renovated and refurnished with hand crafted furniture and original artwork.

It's nice to hear of a different kind of place to stay in Phuket, just the kind of place that Jamie's Phuket is looking for, something off the beaten track, a hotel with a bit of character.

Most of the rooms do have a sea view, just the sea is not right out of the window. The hills above Karon are very scenic and very ... what's the word ... green ... jungly. There are double or twin rooms and all have satellite TV and high speed internet access.

CC's Hideaway Hotel - Booking and Reviews

CC's Hideaway Rates and Reservations at Agoda.com
CC's Hideaway Reviews

CC's Hideaway - Photos

Phuket Hotels - More Info & Online Booking

Jamie's Phuket Hotel Recommendations
Top 10 Phuket Hotels 2016
Book Phuket Hotels at Agoda.com

Phuket Island View Hotel at Karon Beach

Karon Beach has many small scale resorts along the beachfront, along with a couple of big ones like the Hilton and the Thavorn Palm Beach Resort. For location, I can recommend them all! Just be aware, that apart from the Beyond Resort and the old Ruam Thep Inn, none of the resorts have direct beach access - you have to cross the road first.

The South end of the beach is a little quieter than the North end, and you are within about 10 minutes walk of Kata Beach too. There is decent snorkeling around the rocks and you can even do scuba diving off the beach there. You'll find several hotels near the Karon football stadium, and to me they are all "much of a muchness", except I got a recommendation from a customer this week who went to look for a hotel room on arrival and he stayed at the Phuket Island View. Main reason was the friendliness of the staff and the fact that they made him feel welcome and treated him as a valued guest rather than just a name in the register. Phuket Island View has quiet rooms, 2 pools (but you are just a couple of minutes walk from the beach anyway) - a good mid price hotel in a good location.

Phuket Island View Resort - Booking and Reviews

Phuket Island View Rates and Reservations at Agoda.com
Phuket Island View Hotel Reviews

Phuket Island View - Photos

Phuket Island View Hotel Phuket Island View Hotel

Phuket Island View Hotel Phuket Island View Hotel

Phuket Hotels - More Info & Online Booking

Jamie's Phuket Hotel Recommendations
Top 10 Phuket Hotels 2016
Book Phuket Hotels at Agoda.com

Wat Ladthiwanaram

Wat Ladthiwanaram can be found along Chao Fa Road between Phuket Town and Chalong, a little after the turn off to Phuket Zoo and before Land and Houses Park. It's a rather unique temple, with a small lake between the temple grounds and the road.

Wat Ladthiwanaram as seen from the road

I must have passed this temple hundreds of times, not knowing what lies beyond the entrance... Phuket has so many small local temples, any one of which is worth stopping to visit if you happen to be passing by. Or if you are a temple lover you can carefully map out a drive around Phuket taking in as many temples as possible! The hell with beaches and bars, if you want to see the real Phuket, try temples, markets and quiet back roads.

Wat Ladthiwanaram is quite pretty. If you are anywhere in the area, stop for a look!

Wat Ladthiwanaram entrance

The Red Door Buddha Image at Wat Ladthiwanaram

Prayers at Wat Ladthiwanaram

Lots More Phuket Temples!

The Truth about Village Life ...

Some old Thai hands find comic relief, while others become incensed by the new kids on the block. They arrive with a pair of rose colored glasses, a dream, a phrase book and an abundance of hormones. In ten days or so they have discovered the “True Thailand” and become evangelical in their promotion of this newly discovered world. The cynical old farts, like myself, are told that we need to get to know “real” Thai people and that if we don’t like “everything” about Thailand perhaps we should go home. Regardless of the fact that this is our home and we have lived here longer than we have lived anywhere else. Sometimes longer than the newbie has been on the planet.

Having been escorted to a bargirl’s home village for a brief stay, some newbies are enamored by village life and wax poetic about the peaceful tranquility of the rural environs. As with most things nothing is all that simple. The truth is, no two villages are alike. Regional differences can be dramatic with their difference in language, customs, food, environment, crops, infrastructure, work ethic and source of income.

In the early years, one of the many villages I visited, only had access through a rough dirt road and riding in the back of a produce truck. I vividly recall sitting on a load of those little red onions to get back to civilization. I have stayed in three walled structures where, after a meal on the floor, you would brush the leftovers through the ample gaps in the flooring, to be cleaned up by the animals waiting eagerly below. Water often came from a bucket hung precariously on the end of a bamboo pole. The technique of catching the lip of the bucket on the well water’s surface was exacting. I found to my chagrin that being off fractionally left the bucket at the bottom of the well. Believe me it is no easy task to recover an object from the bottom of a deep dark hole.

I’m sure there are still place like that but there are also villages with 7-11 stores, internet cafes, karaoke, gas stations and access to much of what is deemed necessary in the modern world. We still don’t have landline telephones in our village but you can get western TV on UBC and internet on IpStar. People where I live are not very sophisticated and take little pride in their environment. They are not very entrepreneurial and are slow to adopt new ideas. On my long bike rides I pass through neighboring villages that are quite different to the one I live in.

The devisions and differences in villages are often not visible to an outsider. Often what looks like one village is actually two or more. For example our village is divided into moo 5 and moo 13. There is a definite sense of “them and us” despite proximity and no visible separation. While sitting with the village headman recently, to get a house number or address for our new house, I was interested to see what number we would be assigned. The process is quite simple. Regardless of location you are given the next number on the list. Our half of the village now has over 170 homes but I am not sure about the other half. I’m also unclear as to exactly were the line is drawn. It seems very clear to them, however.

I am sometimes surprised at how little they trust each other in the village. They worry incessantly about theft and fully expect anything that is not locked up will be “borrowed” by a neighbor who covets the item and sees no harm in appropriating it for his own use. My wife has tried to explain this local reality to me and has also assured me that a gate will be necessary on our road. Otherwise our private road to the house will be seen as a nice public area for kids to play, to dry produce and park vehicles, thus blocking access to our own home.

Our village also has its fair share of functionally illiterate souls among the older generation. It is not surprising that change is slow when the teachers who taught my wife are still teaching her friends children. A few people went to work overseas in the past but you would never know it. The money didn’t last long upon return and they spent all their time overseas in a Thai work camp and never saw anything except other Thais, the airport and the work site.

Bangkok friends ask how I can live around people like this. It can be hard to explain to someone who demands a homogeneous environment with like-minded people to reinforce their beliefs. I am quite happy to let people get on with their lives no matter how pitiful they may be. It is not part of my mandate to change everyone else, to fit into my view of how things are “supposed to be.”

A healthy dose of “live and let live” seems more appropriate in my humble opinion. I figure it is kind of like, pushing a piece of string. Your not going to get very far telling people that they have it all wrong. On the other hand if you, pull the string, by living a good life and setting a good example, you are providing an alternative role model for the next generation. It can be hard for people to change if they are unaware of alternatives.

Some villages have local role-models, while others are closer to towns or cities, making progress easier for them. I guess what I am trying to say is that visiting one Thai village does not make you an expert on all Thai villages. Not every village experience is the same. Sometimes you will feel like you are camping out in a raw natural environment, at the mercy of the elements, while a short distance down the road there are people living a comfortable almost luxurious lifestyle. No two people will have the same experience here, whether in a city or a village environment. Just accept that and get on with your own life. It is really just that simple, if you let it be.

I must say the silence was deafening after my last post. I suppose it was to be expected since I voiced a nonstandard view of a biological imperative. I did not intend insult to those who have a different view but at the same time I do not apologize for seeing things from an alternate perspective. It is to be hoped that your life choices work as well for you, as mine do for me.

Wat Manik

I imagine Manik temple and the surrounding Manik area of Phuket is not on most visitors "must see" lists, but if you are passing this area near Cherng Talay, on the road between the Heroine's Monument and Surin Beach, you can find a very nice local temple and a very green and as yet relatively undeveloped area of Phuket. We took a drive around this area a few weeks ago - it's a habit of ours to follow back roads, plus I had read about a waterfall in the Manik area, so we tried to find it...

We followed one dirt side road for several miles up into the hills. The road became narrow and twisty and steep. And we don't have a 4x4. The hillside was covered in rubber plantations and in the valley below was a small waterfall, though I guess not the one I had read about. The road suddenly ended and I had to make something like a 15 point turn to point the car back downhill!

Oh well, no waterfall, but the surrounding scenery is lovely in this part of Phuket.

Scenery in the Manik area

Manik view

Being a fan of temples, I wanted to stop at Manik Temple (Wat Manik) for a quick look. Another well cared for and peaceful local temple. You can't find much information about it, though apparently several dogs that live at the temple are looked after by a local dog-lovers club. Can't say I actually saw any dogs, but I did like the temple. Just down the road a few km is Cherng Talay temple, and also along the same road is Bang Tao Mosque - the largest mosque in Phuket. So, if you like religious architecture, this is a road worth exploring... We'll have to try another time to find the waterfall, though.

Wat Manik

Manik Temple Buddha image at Manik Temple

Manik Temple

Buddhas at Manik Temple

Do you like temples? Read about more Temples in Phuket!

Mediocrity ...

In the vast, dark sea of human mediocrity and misery there are on occasions, brief moments of blinding light and hope. Actions that raise all 6.5 billion of us above and separate us from, the beast of burden and our wild forest brethren. This sadly is not one of those eventful moments in the history of humankind.

We have just taken delivery of a two month old baby boy. Before I get into that, it might be helpful to set the stage by providing some relevant background information. My wife has two younger siblings, a sister and a brother. A little more than nine years ago, as a teenager, the sister decided she was ready, willing and able to produce offspring with her high school boyfriend. 

One guess as to how that all worked out. The two kiddies who were performing the “most wonderful, natural and fulfilling act” in the life of a human being, (producing yet another miserable life to be lived) changed their minds and moved on to something else. As is typical in the village, Granny inherited the burden produced by her irresponsible offspring. For the last nine years Granny has done a good job of spoiling and producing a regular brat.

Being illiterate herself, she couldn’t have been expected to help much with schoolwork or life knowledge. We have paid the bills and made attempts at correcting behavioral problems. The birth mother has made appearances from time to time. We sent the mother to university for many years, allowing her to be the first graduate in the family. The only tangible result being that my wife felt better for having tried her best to “fix” her sister.

Now it is the brother’s turn. He has generally followed in the footsteps of his father. A mean drunk who morphs from a quiet shy guy into Mike Tyson. A womanizer who thinks with a particularly fickle part of his anatomy. He has been with the latest girl for two or three years but at the time of conception was sleeping with at least a couple of other girls. Now if I were the suspicious type, I might wonder it this child were an attempt to “keep her man.” Why she would want to, is anyones guess!

There were many tears and much anguish about leaving her baby with her mother in law. Her own mother, however, was already taxed by bringing up her other child from a previous relationship. I just love how people make horribly stupid decisions again and again, and then piss and moan about it. Asking “why me?” and asking for sympathy and help to solve the problem. Their problem is a clear lack of common sense and good planning. The time to solve the problem is before the act, not after. If your decisions are controlled by your glands, hormones, and emotions then it is sensible to expect difficulties.

People here seem know they will bear no responsibility and the family safety net will clean up their messes. The village as it is, consists primarily of grandparents and grandchildren. Not many of the present generation want to farm rice, going off to the city to find work better suited to their modern sensibilities. Some manage to build a new life in the city while others fail miserably and return to the village to live off the generosity of their extended families.

I suppose my wife being a baby sitter from time to time is still better than being a mother. Moving to our new house in a couple of weeks will provide a little distance and privacy, allowing my wife to choose, to some extent, how involved she wishes to be. Without us, I sometimes wonder how any of them would survive. We have discussed how my wife’s efforts to “fix” her family have perhaps had the opposite effect much of the time. Something like giving drugs to a drug addict. It relieves the immediate pain but perpetuates the problem.

Her biggest disappointment was her father and he had the gall to die before she could resolve her issues with him. I do my best to repair the damage done to her by her family but only time will tell how things play out. As caring and wonderful as my wife is, her family is equally dysfunctional. The more depressing thing is that we are seen as the strange or abnormal ones. Dysfunctional is normal. Thinking about consequences and being responsible is far too tedious. It is much better to breakout the local moonshine or white lightning and go for a high speed ride on the motorbike.

Phuket Vegetarian Festival Photos 2007

I have to say, as a seasoned traveler, and 8 year resident of Phuket, the Phuket Vegetarian Festival is a real buzz. The street processions are so full of life, full of noise, full of people, full of magic... and what goes on in the temples at night is almost other worldly. There is something special going on here, this is no show, this is not make believe. This is very real.

I would still like to see more in the future, there is so much to experience during the festival. Over the last week I have been sticking to the Jae food (albeit washed down with a few beers), and I have been into Phuket Town on 2 mornings for the street processions. The processions start early, around 7 - 7:30am, nearly every morning during the festival. In the evenings at various shrines are such activities as fire walking and "bladed ladder climbing", but I never seem to have time to see all that.

I took more than 250 photos, so this blog post might get a bit long.... I will try to be selective. These pictures were all taken during the processions on 17th and 18th October from the Jui Tui Shrine and Kathu Shrine. Oh, and if you don't have a fast internet connection, sorry. Get one.

For more information about the festival and links to my photos and blog posts over several years - see Phuket Vegetarian Festival Introduction



The photos above were all from the 17th - the street procession from Jui Tui shrine, one of the largest in Phuket, found near the market in Phuket Town. The following day was the procession of Kathu Shrine. They actually walk from Kathu into town (about 7km) before starting the walk around town. I followed this procession last year (see Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2006). Next year I really must get to the shrine at 5am and see what goes on in the wee hours before the procession.

On with the show....


After all that, I am quite exhausted! Now that the festival is over, I must say a steak would be nice. The Phuket Vegetarian Festival is something not to be missed - dates for 2008 : 28 September - 7 October. Hope to see you in Phuket!

(Added 2008):

Phuket Vegetarian Festival Pictures 2008