Kathu Tin Mining Museum

The Phuket Tin Mining Museum in Kathu district is now open (more or less). There is still work continuing, it's not 100% open, maybe by the end of 2010, but anyway, I decided to go check it out with my kids on Saturday. It's not the easiest place to find unless you know the back roads. Coming from Kathu you have to take the back road around behind Loch Palm Golf Club that heads through the hills to the British International School. It's often used by taxis and minibuses as a shortcut between Patong and the airport. I guess the museum was built here because they needed lots of land, so had to find a place where land was not too expensive.

• Update - I blogged the Phuket Mining Museum again in January 2011

Kathu Tin Mining Museum Entrance

It's been years in the making. We first went to have a look more than 2 years ago - you can see a photo here on my weather blog. That was October 2007, the main building was ready and it looked like the museum might open in 2008. Since then we have looked in several times to see if anything was happening - we use the road as a handy shortcut from Kathu towards the north of Phuket.

So now it's January 2010 and I am happy to say you can now visit the museum, and happy to say that I think they have done a very good job - we'll be back for sure later in the year. There were not really any staff around when we went. A guy gave me a ticket with a 200 Baht price and charged me 100 Baht, free for the kids. Another older guy wandered around and showed us a few things and opened up a door to a display that seemed shut and shouted at someone to turn the lights on! There were actually a few other visitors, but given that the museum has cost 50 million Baht to build, it's going to need more than a few tourists to pay that back!

I am also happy to say my kids enjoyed the museum - I was worried they might find it boring, but actually there is a lot to see here. We started just inside the entrance with some rooms full of antiques and photos. The museum building has been built in the old "Sino Portuguese" style that is common in the older areas of Phuket Town.

Inside the mining museum

Display of antiques at the mining museum

Old photos at the mining museum

Then we entered the geology section... maybe my daughter will be a geologist... although I did get calls of "Boooring!" when I started to explain about Igneous, Metamorphic and Sedimentary rocks :) This section of the museum is educational with displays about rocks and evolution and such.

Kathu Tin Mining Museum

My kids, bored with the difference between intrusive and extrusive igneous rocks, walked off ahead, only to come back screaming with fear and hiding behind my back.. I wondered if there was a snake or something around the corner, but no...

Scary caveman

It was a scary caveman :) Around the next corner we started with dioramas showing early mining techniques progressing to more modern tin mining methods used in Phuket. It was tin mining that made Phuket a rich area, as well as rubber plantations, fishing and the fact that Phuket was an important trading post. Tourism is bringing new wealth, but Phuket has a lot of "old money". Tin mining was an important industry in Phuket since the 18th century. The last mine closed in 1992.

Early mining diorama

Early tin mining techniques

The miniature diorama below shows an open cast mine, Many of the mines in Phuket were like this - you cannot see any now, or can you? In the Kathu area there are many lakes and ponds - all were former tin mines. My kids liked this display - just like the mini people in the movie "Night at the Museum" :)

Mining diorama at the Kathu Tin Mining Museum

Tin dredging technique

(above) My son looks at a display about tin dredging - bucket dredgers started operation in 1909 and operated for over 80 years. We then move on to a (not quite complete) display about tin processing where my daughter enjoyed looking at rocks under a microscope and my son enjoyed banging rocks with a hammer :)

Checking rocks with a microscope

The museum building is done in that old style with a huge courtyard and rooms all around. Many of the rooms are as yet undeveloped, and we thought we were all done until the man appeared and the lights came on and we entered a new section built like old Phuket streets with shops and houses, a shadow puppet theater, a Chinese shrine... cool!

Shrine at the mining museum

I think only because we were almost the only visitors were my kids allowed to play with the shadow puppets.. not sure they'd want each and every kid to mess about, but my 2 enjoyed it :)

The kids playing with shadow puppets

Shadow puppet display at the mining museum

My daughter also enjoyed pretending to make clothes in an old Chinese house..

My daughter at the old sewing machine

Again, once the museum is 100% open I don't think they'll want people touching everything, but exceptions were made here.. the old dude seemed to be the museum curator and he said it was fine for the kids to explore. I am happy they enjoyed the experience and they already want to go back. Good, I'll make nerds out of them yet. A bit of history, a bit of geology, a bit of engineering. A lot to see and learn at the Kathu Tin Mining Museum and looks like there will be plenty more once everything is finished. Still more to play with outside - an old Chinese style rickshaw. OK kids, I'll give you 20 Baht to pull me home....

Milk

I bought 2 pints of milk this morning and the milk lasts longer than my stay in England. Yay, it's so close I can almost smell the traveller's B.O. under my arm pits.

I'm enjoying how everyone at work says they're really pleased for me that I'm going then smiles through gritted teeth. I know that no-one wants to hear too much about any great experiences I have because you're not sharing them so I'll try to keep most of my posts about the morons and eccentric mentalers I'll inevitibly meet as well as any scary and crazy situations I get myself into.

Visited my Grandma last week and she said that if I was writing about my travels I should stick to facts about where I am and what I'm doing and not write about my thoughts about them because no-one will care what I think! Thanks Grandma.

Yearly Visa Renewal in Mae Sai ...

We don’t often have the occasion to drive the 111 km to Mae Sai on the Burmese boarder, but at this time of year, it is a necessity. The yearly visa renewal thing, you know. Well, an extension of stay based on being married to a Thai, would be more correct. Events normally proceed quite smoothly with a little patience and a smile. With very few people there on the day, no waiting in line this time.

Chiang Rai being the small yet spread out place that it is, we were not overly surprised to bump into a couple we know. Being able to visit a bit while the wheels of bureaucracy turned heavily but surely, made things that much more pleasant.

Finished before noon, we headed back to Chiang Rai, with an eye out for someplace to eat. Have to keep the wife well fed or she gets moody. Some things change little on the drive. The mountains, sometimes more visible than others. The tobacco growing in the fields beside the road. Vendors selling strawberries, pineapple and other fruit from their roadside stalls. A price check, confirming that the prices are better at Makro and the roadside scales are a little light.

The proliferation of new trendy coffee shops along the way is apparent after not having passed this way for a while. Some are modern, of glass and steel, while others are more arty and boutique like. We stopped at a place we like more for the decor than anything else in particular. Across the highway we noticed a shop and decided to visit there after lunch and coffee.

As fate would have it, there was a sign of interest to us, between the u-turn and the shop. It said Golden Retrievers, so we turned up the soi and found some of the most adorable GRs we have seen. It was all we could do, to leave there without adding to our collection of dogs and a cat. The two puppies were so cute at two months old. The owners were quite interesting too and we had a lively and entertaining visit, before escaping the tug on our heartstrings.

With a little time to kill, we decided to take a new way home. It ended up being more of an adventure than a viable shortcut. Much of the way was very narrow and required pulling over, to pass an oncoming vehicle. At one point we came upon a bridge so narrow that one could not possible open the doors and get out while crossing. We nearly turned back at that point but a farmer assured us we were on the right track, so we continued. Afterwards we very much regretted not having the forethought to document our crossing of that bridge with a photo.

Home at last, we will have to make the trip again in twenty-nine days, to pickup the completed visa extension. We are already considering which side roads we might explore at that time.

Jamie's Phuket 2009 Best Bits - Part 2

Seems there was a lot said in 2009, so this blog summary for the last year has been split into 2 halves. This is Part 2, following on nicely from Part 1. The second half of any year begins with July. Here in Phuket, July is pretty quiet - we are in the "low season" although weather is often pretty nice actually. For more on the weather, please do look at and bookmark the Phuket Weather Blog. Thank you.

July - We started with a little restaurant that we often drive past but rarely stop at - if it has a name, I don't know.. something like "Good Food, Nice View" - great view actually from Cape Panwa across Chalong Bay.

Paradise Beach, Phuket Good Food, Nice View

Then one of our favourite low season haunts - Paradise Beach, a small stretch of sand just outside Patong. Too busy for me in high season, but nice in July. A little restaurant, safe beach for the kids and cold beers for the dads!

On July 18th I took part in the Phuket Photo Walk, part of a worldwide photo event for people to take photos of their home town. About 40 people showed up for the walk around Phuket Town.

Old Phuket Town

In Phuket Town - this photo was reprinted in the local Phuket Gazette

August - I wrote about another local event - the Phuket Flower Fair. A huge variety of plants and flowers for sale, and prizes for the best orchids.

Orchid at the Phuket Flower Fair

In the north of Phuket there is a Muslim community called Bang Rong - there is a small restaurant there floating in the mangroves. We have been many times and noticed they rent kayaks to explore the mangroves.. so we went kayaking :)

Kayaking in the mangroves in Phuket

Later in the month I saw signs around our area of Phuket promoting a local festival. There seemed to be no promotion elsewhere and when I turned up for the opening evening I was the only foreigner present! A great little street procession with painted faces, I was very glad to have made the effort to go along...

Street festival in Kathu village, Phuket

In September, having been in contact with a mountain-walking, marathon-running American guy who lives in Phuket, I went along with him one morning with the aim of hiking up the highest hill in Phuket, well over 500m above sea level. A very hard hike, reaching the top at 542m with views over the ocean and across Phuket's hilly centre. I do intend to do some more hiking soon, starting with a trek up to the Big Buddha sometime in the coming weeks.

Hiking to the roof of Phuket

Now, I tend to concentrate on this blog on things to do, places to see, hotels, eating out.. it's not really a news blog, but sometimes I like to report on local stories. In September, Jet Skis were in the news for all the wrong reasons (they like to rip off tourists) and thanks to pressure by various people, newspapers, embassies and tourists, some agreements were finally reached on insuring jet skis. Will this end the problem? (big shrug)

Phuket has a real mix of culture. In September I blogged about the highly rated Mom Tri's Villa Royale hotel and it's restaurant Mom Tri's Kitchen.... in between, a visit to Luang Pu Supha temple, home to (yet to be ratified) the oldest man in the world, the Monk of the same name. I reckon he has lived all his years without stuffing his face full of profiteroles, and is highly respected for his continuous work for charity. Sometimes you have to take a step back and think about life from another angle.

Talking of stuffing my face...

Breakfast at The Coffee Pot, Kata, Phuket

I ate several times at The Coffee Pot on the back road in Kata, Phuket. Big breakfasts, good coffee, like it.

But for me, October is all about the Phuket vegetarian festival. My absolute favourite thing in Phuket. The festival lasts for 10 days. I stuck to the diet this year and even managed to drink no beers. Paid several visits to shrines in and around Phuket Town such as Kathu Shrine and had 2 fantastic mornings at Kathu Shrine and Jui Tui shrine watching the processions, pierced faces, entranced minds, I really recommend you see this!

Candles at Kathu Shrine in Phuket

Phuket Vegetarian Festival

Lots of Photos here: Phuket Vegetarian festival photos 2009

And then suddenly it's high season! Less time to blog, no holidays, less chance to get out and do things. If we've not been out doing things like we do in low season, I add more general information on the blog such as the Best places to book Phuket Hotels online. Did hotel review in November for the La Flora Resort in Patong Beach which opened in 2008. A bit of an oasis in the middle of the madness! Also visited Mai Khao Beach, right in the north of Phuket where you find the Seaside Cottages - cheap huts right by the beach, an extreme rarity in Phuket!

Room at the Avista Resort

Huts at the Seaside Cottages, Mai Khao Beach

(above) contrasting accommodation - Avista resort and the Seaside Cottages

December already! I blogged the Phuket Post Office Museum, one of many small museums in Phuket. It's in the old town - an area full of history. The next blog posts were reviews of brand new hotels - the Avista Resort and the Ibis Resort both at Kata beach.

And then another great little street festival to round off the year - work has been going on in old Phuket for 6 months to rid Thalang Road of all overhead wires. This local life festival was partly to celebrate the completion of this work and to promote old Phuket town as a place to go for an evening - there are lots of small bars and cafes, a refreshing change from the main tourist beaches.

Street festival in old Phuket

Old Phuket Town street festival

So... 2010 is here. I have many ideas for blog posts, and just need to find time! Won't be this weekend for sure... a friend's birthday party tonight and then tomorrow a little party at the beach for our son, 5 years old. 5 years gone so fast. And 10 years I have been here in Phuket. Here's to the next 10. Happy New Year.

Best of Jamie's Phuket 2009 - Part 1

Wow. 2010 already. Anyone else feeling a bit shell shocked? I have been in Phuket just over 10 years now, arrived in November 1999. No plans to stay, just looking for work as a dive instructor. Fast forward 10 years, happily married, 2 children, lots of bills to pay (house, car, school).. is this not just like any normal life anywhere else? Not quite. I am very happy living in Phuket, although at times in the high season (that's now!) there is not much time for relaxation - running even a small dive shop needs fairly long work hours, 6 days a week. Family has to come first, so the poor Phuket blog does get neglected at times in the high season. I still try to update this blog about once per week, and the weather blog maybe a bit more often.

2009. Good Year. A quick look back at some of the more interesting places, restaurants, hotels and things to do that were on Jamie's Phuket last year...

January - as I said, it was just over 10 years ago that I got to Phuket, the main aim was to find work on a liveaboard dive boat - so I wrote something about that : Liveaboard Diving from Phuket. Photo below... me 9 years ago in the Similan Islands.

Jamie in the Similan Islands, year 2000

Next, a review of the luxury Sala Phuket resort, one of the best hotels you can find here. I try not to add too many hotel reviews on the blog, but occasionally, when we've not had time to really get out and do anything much, I'll add in a hotel... always looking for new or interesting hotels to review.

Same with restaurants - although we are getting a bit middle aged and tend to eat again and again at the same places, I try to get to new restaurants and sometimes we find good ones like the Uptown restaurant in Phuket Town, a big local favourite with a huge menu of different noodle dishes.

Also in January, I had a quick visit to the new Phuket 91.5FM radio station which over the year has established itself as probably the No.1 station for Phuket.

February - another new Phuket Town restaurant - Rimtang specialises in local dishes, and another hotel review - Boomerang Cottages in Kata, not on the beach, up on the hillside, and always gets good reviews it seems.

Later in February we headed out of Phuket into Phang Nga province just over the bridge and found a great restaurant called Sam Chong Seafood. Not far from there, the temple of Wat Suwan Kuha which is built into a cave.

Wat Suwan Kuha

View from Sam Chong Seafood

March - a quick visit to a temple in Phuket Town - Wat Vichit Sangkaram - eventually I will try to blog all the temples in Phuket! I did a review of the new TravelFish Guide to Phuket, a review of the Agoda hotel booking website.

Found time to try the new Phuket Brewery just outside Phuket Town which has a microbrewery and live music with big name Thai stars performing almost every weekend. We also went to Cape Phromthep - not for the first time but amazingly the first time I had been there for the sunset.

Sunset at Phromthep Cape, Phuket

Beers at Phuket Brewery

April, come she will. Kamala Beach - I think kind of the forgotten beach of Phuket, still very quiet, it's just North of Patong, but about 500 times less crazy!

View of Kamala Beach

Phuket Town - for me, the best bit of Phuket, lots of hidden surprises, and a few were uncovered in April. First, yet another very popular restaurant with locals called Kaewjai, just a block from the bus terminal, been there for nearly 50 years and my wife and I have been back several times during the year. Then there was the Crocodile Farm... not for animal lovers and I read things about them keeping some animals illegally. Lots of crocodiles. And some tigers, and a few other animals.

Phuket Crocodile Farm

Later in April I finally found the not-easy-to-find Shrine of the Serene Light, in the old part of town. Very beautiful old Chinese shrine.

Altar at the Shrine of the Serene Light in Phuket Town

But April of course is best known for Songkran - the traditional Thai New Year. This year on April 13th we loaded up our pick up truck with barrels of water, drove around Patong and the whole family had a fun time - photos here: Songkran 2009 in Patong.

And you also have Phuket Bike Week just before Songkran, I went to see some bikes this year down at Patong Beach and in the JungCeylon mall.

Songkran family fun

Big Bikes at Jung Ceylon Mall in Patong, Phuket

May - I enjoyed looking around the Phuket Halal Expo, held at Sapan Hin, a large recreation area in the south of Phuket Town. Lots of food and smiling faces - the event was to promote Phuket's large Muslim community.

Phuket Halal Expo

I like to find simple and not (too) expensive restaurants on the beach - found one at Nai Yang Beach called Batik Seafood. Nai Yang is pretty quiet and there are many small restaurants. A few days later and we ate at another new restaurant called Lakeside, way off the beaten track and run by a former neighbour of ours.

Green Curry at Batik Seafood

Tofu with Tamarind Sauce at Lakeside

The Big Buddha in Phuket.. still not finished.. indeed we were just there a couple of days ago and there is loads to do.. the main 45m high Buddha is all but ready, but the surrounding area needs a lot of work - photo below taken in May:

Phuket Big Buddha

June - halfway through 2009 - and I think I better add a "Part 1" on the title and carry on with Part 2 in a couple of days... way too much to talk about on one blog post! We took a very interesting trip by longtail boat from Rawai Beach to Koh Kaew Yai, a small island just off the end of Cape Phromthep. Stories say that the Buddha visited here before landing in Phuket at Rawai.

And not long after we were at Sapan Hin again for the One Tambon One Product Fair - lots of food, drinks and crafts. There are regular events at Sapan Hin, always worth a visit.

Juices for sale at Sapan Hin My son and Buddha image at Koh Kaew Yai

To round out the month, a visit to Phuket Aquarium. We go quite often, entry fee is cheap and we like the Cape Panwa area of Phuket where the Aquarium is located. My kids always enjoy learning about the fish and other marine life from "Dad the Diver" :)

My kids at Phuket Aquarium

Jamie's Phuket 2009.. Part 2 here.

Happy New Year!

Pictures to Begin the New Year ...

The lush sea of green that so recently surrounded the house has faded to a sandy, slightly ruddy brown, with burned out patches of ash.  The once narrow trail, turned roadway to the dam, has yet to show signs of regrowth along the edges.  The drainage gates on the floor of the reservoir are no longer visible but the water level is still precariously low with little sign of recovery before the middle of the next rainy season.

Cookie and I are, however, free to walk where we will.  Along the road or through the fields, there is little impediment to our progress.  With still cool temperatures and clear skies the year is starting off good.  Here are some updated photos of house and trail and dam.

Bus Pass Booked

I've booked my bus pass and got a bargain with a 60% discount - $349 which is less than £200. If you want to know the route I'm taking click on this. Also booked my first 3 nights accomodation in Christchurch costing £11 a night