Phuket Bike Week

And now for something completely different. Back in 2009, I decided to check out some of the annual Phuket Bike Week event which takes place around the same date as Songkran (April 13th) every year - 2015 was the 21st time the event has been held. During the event, Phuket is full of big bikes ranging from Harleys to big racing bikes and plenty of amazing custom built choppers. There are bikes on show at the JungCeylon mall at Patong Beach, there are usually events/live music/food stalls by the beach in Patong (at "Loma Park" towards the north end of the beach) and bike rides around the island. If you are here, you will almost notice something going on! I'll maybe go back another year and get some new photos. Photos on this page were all taken in 2009.

Phuket Bike Week 2016 will be taking place at Patong Beach from 8th -10th April 2016 plus 2 more days 15 - 16 April in Phuket Town - There's more information on the Phuket Bike Week official website.

Now, I'm not a biker myself. Biggest bike I ever owned was a 125cc Honda Wave... hardly a "Hog", but still a step up from my previous 110cc version! I can see the attraction, but prefer driving a car. However even if you don't wear leather, you will have to admit some of the bikes on show are quite amazing, more works of art than a mode of transport, others are just big fat hogs! I checked out some of the bikes on display at Jungceylon mall...

Phuket Bike Week

Phuket Bike Week

Phuket Bike Week

Laziness set in - the Friday night beach party included a concert by Carabao, a very popular Thai rock band, but my wife and I were too tired... On Saturday afternoon I headed down to Patong Beach with my daughter to see what was going on. There was meant to be a "ride for peace" in the afternoon, with hundreds of bikes riding from Patong to Phromthep Cape via Karon and Kata beaches. I hoped to see the start of the ride and hear the roar of throaty engines!

But first we met Jack Sparrow...

Phuket Bike Week

Along the road were many food and drink stalls selling burgers, phad thai, chestnuts, fried chicken, satay sticks, mango with sticky rice, fresh juices and beers, plus lots of stalls selling leather bikers clothes, tshirts, Bike Week souvenirs and more. Oh, and big bikes too!

Phuket Bike Week

And along with the bikes, the bikers! They come from all over Thailand, and also from Singapore, Malaysia and indeed all over the world. If you want big bikes and fun in the sun, Phuket Bike Week is the place to be! I do like the bikers gear - leather jackets with club membership patches. It all looks very tribal, but I reckon these burly bikers are all jolly nice folk who love kittens!

Phuket Bike Week

Phuket Bike Week

The bikes are a mix of custom jobs, big Harleys, sporty models, some 3 wheelers which are nearly as big as my car, all kind of bikes!

Phuket Bike Week

Phuket Bike Week

A little late, the riders set off from Patong on the afternoon ride. I wish they could have slowed down a bit! You need to be a sports photo pro to snap pictures of these guys (and gals). It took 10 minutes for the convoy to pass. The following night there was more live music at the beach and also the Miss Phuket Bike Week contest at JungCeylon where you find lots of men telling their wives "I'm looking at the bikes, honest"! I might go there next year :)

Phuket Bike Week

It's almost enough to make me want to buy a chopper.. or just a leather jacket.

Phuket Bike Week

Phuket Bike Week

(above) Bikes starting the big ride from Patong down to Cape Phromthep

Phuket Bike Week is well established in the calendar now. If you like bikes or want to find some live music and food on the beach, the Bike Week (well, actually only about 3 days...) has a lot to offer. Most of the events take place in Patong - see here for some Patong hotel suggestions.

Sufferin' Soup

Since I'll soon be writing a story on Bryant Terry's Vegan Soul Kitchen for the Memphis Flyer (the altweekly paper where I work), I'm trying to test as many of his recipes as possible. Last night, I made his Succatoash Soup with Garlicky Cornbread Croutons:

Let me start by saying that this is a damn tasty soup, especially with those crunchy cornbread croutons and broiled corn kernels on top. But I had a bitch of a time trying to make it thanks to my stupid blender. I hate my blender.

After cooking the limas and corn, you're supposed to puree it in "small batches." But I was impatient and loaded the blender at least three-fourths of the way full with piping hot soup. I knew that was a recipe for disaster, but I did it anyway.

I held the lid on tight and hit the blend button. But my hand over the top wasn't enough to stop the pressure. Hot soup exploded all over my countertops, my stove, my walls, my floor, my face. Ick! Huge, huge mess. But I perservered by starting over and blending in smaller batches.

Unfortunately, my blender sucks and didn't do the best job pulverizing the cooked limas and corn. Bryant's soup looks much creamier in the photo illustration in his book. But regardless, it was really delicious.

On another note, I just returned home from a rooftop party (that was actually held in a ballroom due to the threat of inclement weather) at the Peabody Hotel. My favorite local band — Lord T and Eloise — played and they were amazing.

Lord T and Eloise

If I had to pick a musical mascot for my blog, they'd be it. They dress in colonial formals and powder wigs and play aristocrunk with rapper Al Kapone ... it doesn't get much crunker than that. Seriously. Crunk. Memphis crunk.

Crocodile Farm - Crocodile and Tiger World

Update - This place no longer exists. Which is probably a good thing! There is another Tiger place and another crocodile place. I won't promote them. Please don't visit.

For better things to do in the Phuket area - see THINGS TO DO IN PHUKET
!

Below - this was written in 2009.

Phuket Zoo is not the only place in Phuket where you can find large and exciting animals in Phuket. The zoo is well known, all tuk tuk and taxi drivers are happy to take you, as they all make commission on the entry fee. But there is somewhere else. I only knew about it recently although it's quite obvious and is near the center of Phuket Town. The "Crocodile and Tiger World" has obviously seen better days.. or never really got off the ground, not sure which! My wife had been last month with the kids and a friend and her kids and they were the only visitors. We went again last week, and were the only visitors.

Entry to the Crocodile and Tiger World

Now, the stated entry fee is 500 Baht. I suggest, if you decide to visit, that you try to bargain. We paid the "local" price. There are supposed to be some crocodile shows at 11am and 2pm - maybe some crowds turn up for this? The place is certainly in decline - we saw only a few staff - 2 at the entrance, one feeding the crocs and one sitting very bored next to a fridge selling drinks.

This place is largely about crocodiles. It's a crocodile farm, they breed crocs here and sell meat and skin (sorry, croc lovers). So... there are thousands of crocodiles here in huge enclosures. Actually quite impressive at times.

Crocodiles

I'll just say again, there are a LOT of crocodiles - and when it's feeding time, and a guy throws baskets of fish into the enclosure, they come a running...

Throwing fish for the crocs

Crocs coming out for lunch

Within a couple of minutes, it's a croc free for all. Does not seem to be enough food, though I guess they get fish thrown at them on a regular basis. Teeth everywhere. You can view the croc enclosures from above, up a few steps, close but not too close...

Croc lunchtime

Crocodiles at the Phuket Crocoldile Farm

It's a bit smelly to be honest - I think croc crap must be to blame! The crocs have plenty of space, well looked after.. except they are destined to be lunch and handbags! I tried croc meat once in Africa and did not think much of it. The zebra was better.

Moving on from the crocodile enclosures we found a few other animals - emu, ostrich and some rabbits (rabbits? wow!). In some large concrete pens were half a dozen tigers, all sleeping in the heat of the day. It looked clean, but I would not want to be one of those tigers. I believe they breed and sell tigers here too.

Ostrich

In a huge indoor area we found 2 young tigers in small cages. Nobody else around except aforementioned girl selling drinks. The young tigers played with us. One of them was very interested in my 4 year old son and appeared to be hunting him. I was a little disturbed by the lack of any staff, anyone looking after the tigers.

Young tiger hunting my son

Young tiger in playful mood

After the tigers we found some gibbons... one of them liked to try and attack us - he would sneakily circle around, not looking at us, then suddenly charge at the cage. I am not sure of the legality of keeping the gibbons here. The cages were certainly clean, the animals looked healthy, but ... read on.

Gibbon

This is an odd place. They have brochures, parking, plenty to see, but we were the only people there. What's going on? My wife reckons the money comes from the crocodile farm, opening to the public is just an extra. Obviously they don't promote the place much. Not much about the "Crocodile and Tiger World" online. I did find a couple of stories in the news back in 2009 about this place. Not good stories.

Not sure if this explains the lack of visitors, or if that is just due to a lack of marketing. There are parts of the farm we did not see, if the map we were given is accurate.. so I might go again sometime to find baby crocodiles. There is certainly a lot more to see at Phuket Zoo, but based on my experience of both the animals seem just as well or better looked after at this "Crocodile and Tiger World". But do bear in mind the news story above if you think about a visit.

In case you missed the note at the top of the page, this place no longer exists, but it does pop up on Google seaches!

Kaewjai Bakery and Restaurant (Phuket Town)

It's not always 100% true, but I reckon that if you want good local Thai food, then you have to eat where the locals eat. We have been checking out some restaurants in Phuket town recently, helped by my wifes sister who works at a bank in town and has been giving us hints for the best lunch spots. If a restaurant is full of local people it must be good local food.. and most of the time quite a bit cheaper than Thai food at beachside restaurants. It's up to you - as a visitor to Phuket maybe you prefer to eat by the sea, make the most of your holiday - I also like eating by the sea, but I am not on holiday so have to find good Thai food without tourist prices! Thus a lot of the restaurants on this blog are more local style with prices to match. We like to eat out and if you find the right restaurants in Phuket, eating out is very cheap. Yesterday we spent 240 Baht on lunch for the family...

The Kaewjai (แก้วใจ) Bakery and Restaurant close to the Phuket Town bus terminal has been a popular local eatery for years. The menu says something about "since 1961". The area is busy with banks, businesses, the bus station etc.. so you get plenty of office workers and such taking lunch there, or just local folks popping in for a coffee and a cake. You can tell its not a tourist restaurant, as I can hardly find any mention of it (apart from this blog) on Google unless I search in Thai! We stopped in for lunch yesterday with the kids. It's on the south side of Phang Nga road, just west of the bus station, very close to the Royal Phuket City hotel.

Note : This blog post was written in 2009, updated 2013 - the prices at Kaewjai have hardly gone up. Just ate there recently (January 2013) and my main dish was 65 Baht.

Kaewjai Restaurant, Phuket Town

It's not a huge place, could maybe seat 30 people max. Aircon inside, and there are a few outside tables too. The coffee and cakes are easy to find, and without seeing a menu you might think that was all they had. The cakes and snacks are right inside the door at the counter.

Kaewjai Restaurant, Phuket Town

And behind the counter just coffee and drinks. The kitchen is out the back out of sight.

Kaewjai Restaurant, Phuket Town

The menu is simple, basic Thai food, all the lunchtime favourites. Our kids love chicken fried with garlic (gai tod kratiem), I had a tasty fish with black pepper, my wife had a fried rice made with tom yum seafood. Plus drinks. As I said, 240 Baht. That's why you see so many Thais eating out! At that price you hardly save by cooking at home!

Kaewjai Restaurant, Phuket Town

Kaewjai Restaurant, Phuket Town

So now we have another restaurant for lunch in Phuket Town. I have aimed over the years (with the blog in mind) to try lots of new places to eat, partly to add to this blog and partly to stop me being lazy. My wife and I do like to play it safe sometimes and have a tendency to go to the same places where we know the food is good. Hopefully some more new restaurants coming soon!

More places to eat in Phuket Town:

Rimtang
Uptown Noodles
Kopitiam
Dairy Hut
More Phuket restaurants

Kaewjai Restaurant - Location Map


View Kaewjai Restaurant, Phuket Town in a larger map

Leaving Questions Unanswered...

Seeing that the resent surge in hits from Thailand ISPs has subsided, perhaps it is safe to once again come out to play.  Tempests in teacups, disgruntled detractors, all hopefully faded to nothing more than an unpleasant memory.  I am sometimes drawn to see what lies beyond my field of view.  To venture on foot or by vehicle, even metaphorically, to explore what lies around the bend.  Often one has a very good idea ahead of time, what is there, but to see it first hand does lend a measure of authenticity and veracity. 

With 30 plus years in Bangkok, one might safely assume that I have had a smattering of experience with expat circles.  I thought it perhaps presumptuous on my part to assume, however, that my observations were universal.  I therefore set out to see if expat fauna of the Rai differed from that of the Big Mango.  Not unexpectedly, I found evidence of the usual suspects.  Ranging from the dregs to the do-gooders, they were not hard to spot, even with the variance in dress code afforded to this less than urban environment.

As the pot was stirring recently, over I know not what, emails were exchanged that I naively thought were addressed to one individual.  I opted not to use the bully pulpit of my blog and instead resorted to emails that were promptly forwarded to a half dozen other individuals.  A more sophisticated approach would have been for others to use the bcc: function in the letterhead of the email.  That way, I would have been none the wiser.  Subsequently they had me at a disadvantage, knowing what I was saying while I knew nothing of what they were discussing amongst themselves.  It all leaves me wondering what could possibly be in it for me, to revisit a repeat engagement. 

In a round about way this got me reexamining my readership and from whence it comes.  The majority are from English speaking countries, and many but not all, have some sort of Thailand connection.  The total number of countries represented is impressive and some seem to use translations.  I often wonder how well my words cross from one language to another.  I am clearly not someone who picks his topics from news services or other bloggers and therefore I post at irregular intervals.  That leaves me wondering why there are so many of you who click so regularly on my page.  An RSS feed, set up in one of the many Readers out there, would surely be more functional and alert you to any new postings.  Some seem preoccupied with downloading every picture I post, to which I do not object.  But then again, one does wonder what is being done with them. 

The software which is supposed to tell me who you are and where you are from, leaves me with many more questions than answers.  While many of you have been in contact there is an equal number who still lurk in the shadows and keep me guessing.  Perhaps that is as it should be.  The urge to answer all questions and remove all mystery could lead one down the path to a dreary, less colorful tapestry of life.  So part of me wants to know, while another part of me does not.  If recent events are anything to go by, perhaps it is best to leave some things to the realm of imagination.

Kamala Beach

We used to visit Kamala beach quite often, we had quite a few friends living there, we liked the quiet beach and the little beachside restaurants - we knew a couple of the owners of these restaurants too. But friends who lived there moved away to be closer to the center of Phuket. Kamala beach is a bit off the main road, and it has remained that way. Not a trendy beach, a bit of a backwater, not many bars as it's a Muslim area, and it always seemed to me like a bit of a drive to get there. Somehow, Kamala still has a quiet feel unlike any other area in Phuket and yet has quite a lot of hotels and restaurants.

Kamala Beach

Kamala Beach Hotels - Check at Agoda.com

And then there's what happened on December 26th 2004. Kamala beach was hit quite hard, and took time to recover. But Kamala was not mentioned nearly as much as Patong just down the road. More talk of the tsunami on these pages: Kamala Temple, and 4 Years After the Tsunami. We were all on the beach at Kamala on December 25th 2004. So Kamala has some memories for me. Lots of "what if?" thoughts.

One morning in April 2009, I drove to Kamala in the early morning sunshine for a walk along the beach. The photos on this page are all from that morning. It's about a mile along the beach starting from the temple at the south end passing fishermen and their longtail boats, then the main beach with beach chairs and small restaurants. The northern section is very quiet, as a large part of the land behind the beach is a Muslim graveyard. There are still a few little beachside shacks selling drinks. It's not most people's idea of "busy" Phuket!

I started the walk at the temple...

Kamala Temple

The temple end of Kamala beach is not so good for a swim, as a couple of canals drain into the sea there - all the chairs and hotels are further up the beach. Not far from the temple there were longtail boats and fishermen cleaning their nets. I guess they had already unloaded the catch - you have to wake up really early to catch a fisherman in the act!

Kamala Beach Fisherman

Before 9am the heat is not too bad for walking, and there are patches of shade on the beach, shadows cast by trees, not by tall buildings - you don't see any huge hotels here, even the larger hotels at Kamala are quite low key. Beach chairs were empty, although some of the restaurants were busy serving breakfast.

Kamala Beach, Early Morning

The "main drag" along Kamala beach is a narrow path lined with small restaurants and hotels. The traffic mainly passes through on the main road which is about 500 meters away from the beach. Most of the population of Kamala lives along roads to the east of the main road, rather than near the beach. The school is close to the beach, but if you wanted to see more local life in Kamala you'd have to get off the beach.. much like anywhere else in Phuket! Much of the local population lives inland towards the hills.

Walking street along Kamala beachfront

It's very low key along the beach at Kamala, not flashy or over touristy. Small restaurants, guesthouses, hotels, bars and tour desks, and all kind of holiday related things for sale. No traffic noise, no jet skis and (maybe because it was early) I was not hassled once to buy this, try that, have a drink, massage etc... I enjoyed my little morning walk. Should do it again sometime!

Side Seaing, Contact Hear

Coconuts Oil for sale

A sign helpfully points the way to the beach, just in case you hadn't noticed the sand and the blue ocean right next to you!

To The Beach

Here's one of the little beachside restaurants. Nice. Simple. Unpretentious. On the sand. There must be at least a dozen all looking similar, I can't recommend any particular one, but I would recommend heading to Kamala beach for a sunset one day, a cold beer or a cocktail and an evening meal right by the sea as the sun sets.

Beachfront Restaurant

Cocktails by the beach

Once I reached the north end of the beach near the aforementioned graveyard, the sun was heating up. Not many people up this end but still a few little shacks selling drinks and signs to a restaurant way up at the far end of the beach where you find a shady forested area.

Kamala is like the forgotten beach of Phuket. The local Muslim community kept things quiet for a long time. When we visited friends there 7 years ago it was hard enough to buy a beer in a local shop. There was no 7-11, and the "main" road was a fairly narrow 2 lane street. Things changed a bit when Phuket Fantasea opened - Phuket's largest "tourist attraction" is just at the north end of Kamala, but on the main road, not on the beach. A wider road was needed for all the tours and minibuses coming from Patong. There are now 7-11's and some bars, some new hotels have opened in more recent years, but Kamala is still quiet. Well worth a visit even if you are not staying there, and worth considering for hotels if you want some peace and quiet... and Patong is only about 15 minutes away by car if you do need a crazy night out!

Recommended Kamala Beach Hotels

Aquamarine Resort and Villas
Cape Sienna
Andara Resort
The Palms Hotel
The Trees Club Resort
Kamala Beach Resort
Swissotel Resort (formerly Marriott)
Print Kamala Resort
Layalina Resort
Kamala Beach Estate Hotel

Rehashing the Hash ...

I can’t imagine that there are many individuals who head off to a social gathering hoping that they will not meet anyone new or find anyone to talk with.  Yet it seems to be the nature of many expat groups to be less than welcoming to strangers.  Responses can range from looks, to avoidance, to dismissive monosyllabic answers, when attempts are made to break the ice, with the established members of a group.  Then again, I could be lacking in social graces, since I have led such a charmed existence, where jobs, friends, women, all seemed to present with little or no effort on my part.  It could also be the transient nature of expat existence.  People come and go from our lives with such regularity that perhaps calluses are formed in places one cannot see and it takes time to size one up as worth the effort of befriending.

And so, I left the Hash last week feeling less than satisfied and completely unaware that a chain of events had been set in motion.  A chance encounter, beside a babbling brook, of two individuals feeling a bit on the fringe of an event.  Few words were exchanged as we crouched at the waters edge.  I basked in the simple pleasures of Cookie lying in the cooling waters.  Next to me a proud father stood guard as his beautiful young son frolicked in those same waters and caught Cookies attention.  As fate would have it he read my blog and was gracious enough to email a kind remark and remind me that our paths had crossed, if ever so briefly.  Emails went back and forth, and culminated in an invitation.  My wife and I became last minute additions, to an informal dinner party.  We knew one other couple, and they were quite surprised to see us there, as they had no idea we even knew the hosts.  I was perhaps just as surprised to be there, considering the way it all unfolded.

It was a perfect evening in a good location, with good food, good people, good conversation and gracious hosts.  No one could have asked for more.  We were the first to arrive and the last to leave of the farang guests, though I’m sure that Thai family and friends kept things going a bit longer.  An evening that will not soon be forgotten.

Living as we do, scattered over the Rai in sometimes distant locals, finding friends and meeting new people takes more effort than in a city.  No doubt luck plays a major part as well.  Though I have lived in Thailand for a very long time, I am still a newcomer here in the Rai and am still trying to strike a balance between being both old and new.  Somewhat reluctantly I must revisit the Hash and give more credit where credit is due.  We received good exercise on the day and explored new trails and while not enthralled with every aspect of the day, did in the end in a somewhat circuitous manner, make new friends. 

My apologies to those hashers who found my words disrespectful and irreverent.  If as I have heard, the official scribe can fall afoul of the faithful, then what hope have I to escape their wrath, however.  My only true regret, being my detractors lack of eloquence in articulating their displeasure.  Though some may not be pleased to see me, I am not dismissing a second coming, depending on the host and location of course.

The Yorkshire Hotel (Patong Beach)

There are a few reasons for writing about the Yorkshire Inn (well, it used to be called that, now it's the Yorkshire Hotel), even though it's right in the middle of Patong, just a few minutes walk from Soi Bangla, the nightlife center. Normally this area is off my list. Patong is not my cup of tea. BUT I do recognise that many people like Patong, so you will find some Patong Beach hotel recommendations on the blog already such as Amari Coral Beach and Burasari.

Reasons for including the Yorkshire Hotel on Jamie's Phuket... Well, firstly it's a great location if you want to stay in Patong. The street (Soi Sansabai) is just to the east of Bangla Road and yet is much quieter. I won't promise 100% noise free nights, but a few hundred meters can make a big difference. Second - recommendations from customers who have stayed there - I keep hearing how friendly it is, like a home from home, how the Yorkshire Hotel makes you feel like part of the family. Thirdly - the price. Check the link below for booking/rates on Agoda. I have had a few comments recently asking for more mid price hotel recommendations rather than the slightly fancy places I tend to write about. Yorkshire Hotel is a bargain. Fourthly - I lived in Yorkshire for a few years. Sentimental value. Fifthly - I used to work at a dive shop on Soi Sansabai and indeed met my wife at said dive shop. Double Sentimental value!

So, great location (if you want the Patong vibe), good price... also, friendly personal service. This is not a chain hotel, this is a one off. Rooms look decent and the pool great... and the food... Yes I know you are supposed to eat Thai food here, but the Yorkshire Hotel is not just a place to stay but has a well known restaurant which does good old traditional English food, just in case you miss home.

A final word on the location - less than 10 minute walk to the beach, just a few minutes to the Jungceylon Shopping Mall. A few more things - free internet, free sauna, 2 restaurants, poolside dining... If you want a good price in Patong, I recommend the Yorkshire Hotel.

Yorkshire Hotel - Booking & Reviews

Yorkshire Hotel - Rates and Reservations at Agoda.com
Yorkshire Hotel - Reviews
More Suggested Patong Beach Hotels

Yorkshire Hotel - Photos

Yorkshire Inn - Appartment Yorkshire Inn - Deluxe Room

Yorkshire Inn - Sports Bar Yorkshire Inn - Poolside Dining

Phuket Hotels - More Info & Online Booking

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

Going to the Beach ...

Seeing the word beach, one could be forgiven the jump to corresponding imagery of ocean, sand, surf, coral reefs and gently swaying palm trees.  The beach in landlocked Chiang Rai is a somewhat different set of images, however.  In Chiang Rai proper, there is indeed a location called “Hat Chiang Rai” or Chiang Rai Beach.  That is a place for city folk, in my opinion, and far too commercial and accessible.  For us in the hinterlands, the beach is a place to be found at the end of a road to nowhere.  A place where the road comes to an abrupt resolution, and where someone once said, here be Thailand and there be Laos.  To be sure there is sand a plenty, at least when the river is low.  There are rocks and sandbars and isolated wading pools.  Boats pass by taking our imagination with them as they navigate the narrow and treacherous currents between rocky outcrops.  Larger craft taking tourists to Luang Prabang, perhaps.  Smaller craft support a lone fisherman plying his trade.  At this time of year, the sometimes mighty Mekong River, is a tamer, gentler beast and the perfect playground for kids and dogs.  As they romp in the refreshing waters of the Mekong, the adults sit back and indulge their senses with good food, good views and a mix of good conversation and quiet contemplation.

My words on the day seem to lack the imagery I seek so perhaps a picture can express what I cannot.