New Viewpoint at Khao Rang Hill

Something new and rather good has happened at Rang Hill on the north side of Phuket Town. A new viewpoint has been built! Maybe not a huge deal, since Rang Hill has always had a decent view, but it's been done very nicely and with a platform extending out to the south of the hill beyond the tree cover, so the view is now much better and you can see pretty much all of Phuket Town, plus all the way across to Chalong Bay and the hills to the west including the Big Buddha. We've been up Rang Hill countless times and it's been blogged several times, most recently in 2013 (see Rang Hill in Phuket Town). Not much had changed up there for many years. A twisty road heading up from town (actually several twisty roads from different directions) and the well known Tunk Ka Cafe which has been there for .. well, it's been there longer than I've been in Phuket. A new restaurant called Khao Rang Breeze was completed a few years ago (we've not eaten here) and now there are more monkeys than there used to be.

And now .. this new viewpoint is complete :

New Viewpoint at Rang Hill in Phuket Town

Nice! You walk under a white pavilion to reach this open area. When we saw the building going on we thought the pavilion would be like a view tower, but there's no steps to take you up to the upper levels, although it does have a balcony and looks totally like something to be ascended. Someone mix up the building plans somewhere?

Tower / Pavilion at the Rang Hill Viewpoint

(above) Tower / Pavilion at the Rang Hill Viewpoint. Photo by Dawn in Phuket.

Rang Hill is not exactly a tourist attraction. But it's easy to find and with the nice views and places to eat, worth a look if you are exploring around Phuket Town. We stopped at the weekend to check out the new viewpoint and it was all local people up there. And as my daughter noticed, most of them were taking selfies. It's well built and certainly adds to Rang Hill. We did not stop for food on this particular day. We have eaten at Tunk Ka Cafe many times and we also mean to try the Rang Hill View restaurant which is half way up the hill. The Breeze restaurant is a little pricier.

Previously, the view from Rang Hill was more limited looking southwest towards Chalong and the Big Buddha. There were snatches of views to the south from Tunk Ka, looking through the trees, but now with this viewing platform you get a view spanning more than 180 degrees and I think it looks great.

View from Rang Hill, Phuket Town

(above) View from Rang Hill. You can see a full size version here. It was just about possible to see Phi Phi in the distance (nearly 50km away to the southeast). Most of Phuket Town is visible, you can see south to Cape Panwa, southwest to Chalong and (visible on the right side of the top photo of the viewpoint) west to the hills including the Big Buddha and Radar Hill.

Now I need to visit again around sunset time! I think this viewpoint has been done really well. Good job, Phuket municipality! We were just in Hua Hin last month and they have built several viewpoints on top of the hill (Khao Hin Lek Fai) to the west of the town. This viewpoint at Rang Hill certainly rivals Hua Hin. I'll try to get up again soon for a sunset.

More Phuket Viewpoints

Khao Kad Viewpoint
The "3 Beaches" Viewpoint
Phromthep Cape

Little Know Fact about the railroad that runs thru our little village

A STORY OF INTEREST FOR THE TOURIST TO WANG PHO
RAILCAR # 2512

THE RAILCAR OF DEATH

OUR TRAIN STATION AT WHANG PHO



There has been lots of BOOKS and articles written about the famous Bridge on the River Kwai and the Thai-Burma Railway built by POWs and a lot of Asian slave labor , during the Japanese occupation of Thailand during WW II , or as the books and the tourist call it the Death Railroad .After the war the Thai government assigned the officials of the Thai railways to explore the possibility of using what was left of the Thai -Burma railroad for use during peacetime as a means of transportation for the Thai people. One of the little know facts is that it was a death railroad in war and in peace, as some of the inspectors were killed in a tragic accident while inspecting one of the viaducts, I'll let the pictures speak for themselves . I hope you remember these folks too ,when you think of the railroad or when you take a ride or visit the site. Just a little know fact your information . Malcolm

Phuket Town Central Market

I'd been meaning to explore the big central market in Phuket for a long time. I do like markets - it's where you see real local life, or at least one side of local life. The main market is on Ranong road in the older section of Phuket Town, and when I first came to Phuket in 1999, I walked around the town since the first few nights in Phuket were spent in town. The central market back then was an old building, not sure when it was built, but could be close to 100 years ago. I never went inside. The smell was off-putting. This was an old, old, place with old, old smells. Thankfully, the old central market was finally demolished about 5 years ago, and a new one built which finally opened in 2010. There are of course local markets all over Phuket Island, but the main market is still in Phuket Town.

You can't park on the road near the market, it's full of stalls and small shops and local buses and things being loaded and unloaded. I parked on Krabi road near the Thai Hua Museum, and just west of the museum is a very handy alleyway that cuts through 2 blocks direct to the market...

Alley to the Market

And it's a busy little alleyway! I hung around for 10 minutes to take a few photos. Big pick up trucks were squeezing through, heading out from the market, with only a few inches to spare on each side. These streets were not built with a Toyota Hilux in mind! Phuket Town has a lot of little shortcuts, and this is one of the most useful.

Market Alleyway

Approaching the market down this narrow street, you first come to an outdoor market area. The streets around the main market building are full of colour, stalls selling fruits and vegetables. People were loading vehicles with baskets full of bananas, papayas, oranges, pineapples, coconuts ....

Fruit Paradise

The streets in this area of course get a bit scruffy, but help is at hand. The market area keeps itself as tidy as possible. I saw several people hard at work inside and outside ...

Cleaning Up

The alley leads right to the entrance of the central market, though of course you can also get there along Ranong road. I had originally intended to get there earlier, but it was after 10am, and already hot with the sun high in the sky. It would be better to get there a bit earlier for photos and to avoid the heat. The street outside the market is a continually moving ballet.

Phuket Town Market

So I wandered inside. The main entrance has several sets of stairs leading to 3 different levels. There are signs in English which is very helpful for non Thai speaking market enthusiasts. I like to find a place to watch people coming and going. Markets are great for people watching. The egg man arrived with a pick-up full of eggs, and he took repeated journeys between truck and market stall. Down all those steps. With all those eggs. It's all about balance.

I am the egg man

Most of one floor seems to be all about meat of various kinds. Phuket of course has plenty of seafood available. Our family eats lots of fish. It would take a fair sized family to manage one of the fish on the stall below. Most local markets in Phuket also sell fish, prawns, squid and shellfish. The people of Phuket, Phang Nga and Krabi areas have long been fishing folk. As a diver I wish they'd fish a bit less in some areas, but seafood is a traditional staple for locals and in demand from tourists so the fishing industry remains strong.

Fishmonger

The fish and seafood stalls need ice. Fresh seafood is great. Old seafood is a disaster. I had to dodge out the way of the ice men several times. Buckets full of ice arriving to keep those fish cool....

The ice man cometh

Any market anywhere is a riot of colours, smells, people, and things you don't get "back home". Thai cooking is more about the herbs, spices and special blends of ingredients that can be added to vegetables, meat, maybe coconut milk, and wow! You get a wonderful variety of tastes. This stall below is selling a lot of things used in local Phuket cooking - dried chilies, dried shrimp, dried fish combined with the right spices can make all kind of dishes. The dried shrimp in particular is an oft-used ingredient in Phuket and Phang Nga.

At Phuket Town Market

And this shop (below) adds the spice - several different curry pastes for sale, the magic ingredient in Thai curries. People do sometimes make their own curry paste, but it's actually not that easy, and most people buy the curry pastes from a specialist in the local market...

Curry Paste

And the market is also the place to pick up some vegetables and a smile ...

Vegetables!

Outside the market on Ranong Road is where local buses are found, destination anywhere! It's a shame that Phuket does not have a comprehensive public transport system. You can get a bus from Phuket Town to all over the island (and from there, back again). But from Karon to Patong beach? From Patong to Surin Beach? No bus. Only taxis and tuk tuks. Well, I hope that will change. From the street outside the market you can head out all over Phuket ...

Bus to the end of Phuket!

The bus above? Takes you to Sarasin, where you find the bridge to the mainland. The bus below? Heads off to the northeast coast to Bang Rong, where there's a great floating restaurant in the mangroves. The old central market in Phuket Town is still the center of Phuket for local people.

Bus to Bang Rong

This is not at all a tourist market, this is the center of Phuket life, well it certainly was until 15 years ago. A traditional market with fresh produce has to compete with supermarkets, and Phuket has a lot of these now, mostly opened in the last 10 years, but the local markets seem as busy as ever, a great place to get a taste of the real Phuket.

Phuket Town Market - Location Map


View Phuket Town Central Market in a larger map

Golden Corral, Whitehall, Pennsylvania

The Golden Corral restaurant in Whitehall, Pennsylvania, just east of Allentown, is just a couple of years old. We were there about a year ago for the first time and in that article I had mixed feelings. We went back again recently and we were quite pleased.

The restaurant in is located in the back of the parking lot for a large shopping mall - Lehigh Valley Mall. We went on a Wednesday night

The Coconut Factory












I have already posted pictures of the trip to the coconut farm , but I forgot to post a few pictures I was able to shoot at the coconut factory . This place was amazing , I never knew they did soooo much with the coconut , the tree , the leaves , the husk , the fiber , the meat , the juice , they even make charcoal and mulch for gardens out of the husk , and ship to other countries , and when the trees get old they saw them into lumber to build homes , and as you can see in the pictures , the ladies working there bring their babies with them .A must visit if you ever get a chance







A Visit to a coconut farm

My best friend B-Bie , manager of the Big Sheep Resort here in Wang Pho , was raised in Prachuap Khiri Khan, he still has a Mom and brother and lots of family that live there now . We were talking one day and he was telling me about growing up in Prachuap and that his family owned a coconut farm and that his childhood was spent on a coconut farm , well this was all very interesting to me as I had no idea about raising coconuts for commercial use.And all the many uses of the coconut and the tree and all the bi-products made from it. I guess I was asking to many questions , and B-Bie said ," next week we go to Prachuap and see my Mom and the coconut farm and my friend coconut factory and then you see for yourself and don't have to ask , and you can stay at my friends little resort on the beach and we will drive around the country and you can take lots of pictures."Well I could hardly wait till time to go , it is a seven hour drive from Wang Pho and a very beautiful drive to say the least . Was a easy drive, as far as directions go , from Wang Pho 321 to right before Bangkok turn right on Hwy. # 4 and away you go .We left home about six o'clock a.m.and,we got there just in time for lunch . We checked in at the resort and headed straight for a little beach side restaurant , that was one of B-Bie's favorite , and as it turned out will be #one on my list on our next visit also.From there we went to the country side for a beautiful drive and then , a long trip down a dirt road to the family coconut farm , you will not believe it, but it was harvest time on the farm and they were cutting the coconuts from the tall and I mean tall trees and bringing them to the house to be sorted and counted and ready for the factory truck to pick up the next day. I thought that you got coconuts once a year like any other crop , but nooooo they can harvest them every month , and lots of them too,as you will see in the pictures . After the harvest and show and tell and join in the work time ,it was time to eat and our little resort had a great cook ,and we ate our dinner right on the beach again. Now the great thing about this beach is there was noone else and no other resorts around for miles we, were just like on a Island all to our selves . What a great and relaxing evening we had . At night the squid boats were out in force, right in front of the resort a couple of hundred yards,. out , but we could see their lights and watch them pulling in their nets. it was breath taking to say the least , next morning breakfast at another restaurant right on the beach again with very few folks around, and a great view as you will see in the pictures. and then off to the coconut factory, but not before a great foot massage , to watch the process from start to finish .I could almost write a mini BOOK about the experience there , but will just show pictures and let you see it in action.I would like to say that it was a high light of times in my travels around Thailand.That afternoon ,after it cooled down we were off to a Thai Temple that was located way up on a mountain top , were you could really as they say "see for miles ". so much to tell , but again will let the pictures speak for themselves . Then before going back to the resort B-Bie suggested we go to his favorite spot , known by few , and have a cup of coffee before dinner .I tried to buy a small little house that was empty , just so I could live there part of the year and have it for friends, the rest of the time . But they have big plans for the area if the economy picks up again , and said no , I hope somehow it never happens for this beautiful place as it would be a shame to spoil it at all , even tho they have started a little already . Then off to the resort for dinner and , this evening a swim in the ocean for me and feet wet for Ciejay, a good nites sleep and then breakfast and a nice drive back home . Needless to say this place called Prachuap is a beautiful place to visit and on our list for a longer stay this summer . Thanks to my friend B-Bie for this wonder ful experience and for being a great tour guide. Malcolm










Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2014 - Part 3

My favourite Phuket event finished on October 4th and there are already 2 blog posts online about the 2014 Phuket Vegetarian Festival - see Part 1 and Part 2. I wanted to see lots of the festival this year and thus we need 3 blog posts :) Part 2 covered the big street processions in town for the Bang Neow and Jui Tui shrines. Those are the biggest of the morning processions, and really are quite a buzz for me, even after many years. It's not to everyone's taste, can cause some traffic issues and some people just don't get the point of all the face piercing. Well, it's not your culture. This festival dates back about 190 years, is certainly not a tourist event and if you stick around the main beach areas of Phuket, which most visitors do, you really won't notice anything. The big events happen at Chinese shrines around the island and the biggest street parades are in Phuket Town. It all started back in about 1825 when members of a visiting Chinese theater got sick when entertaining tin miners in the Kathu area of Phuket to the west of Phuket Town. Kathu is where this began, even before Phuket Town existed as a town. And Kathu Shrine had it's procession on October 1st. I tend to visit this shrine every year since it's very close to my house. Every year I try to get there really early, like 6 - 6:30am, and then realise that's not early enough. So, this year I was there at 5:30am. It was already crowded. The whole local community takes part as Kathu is very much a Chinese-Thai area and takes pride in being the origin of the festival.

Say a Little Prayer

(above) Saying prayers at Kathu shrine - this photo taken at 5:40am on 1st October.

I have taken plenty of the face piercing photos over the years and Kathu has plenty of that. This year I wanted to try and capture what was happening inside the shrine as the entranced Ma Song came to the shrine before heading outside to get pierced. Managed to find a photo vantage point next to the main "altar". I think video would be better, will try that next year. The Ma Song are sitting around the shrine and then suddenly, one by one or in small groups, they start to grunt and shake their heads and in some cases dance wildly, slam their hands down on the altar and are dressed in their ceremonial outfits by their helpers. Hard to get a photo in the dim light with the camera I was using (an old Panasonic G1). The experience was worth more than the photos.

2 Ma Song inside Kathu Shrine

Ma Song at the shrine getting prepared for piercing

(above) Ma Song at the altar inside Kathu shrine, about 6am on 1st October

Outside things get real busy after 6am. Ma Song are exiting the shrine every minute and finding a place to sit and get pierced. There are male and female Ma Song here at Kathu although most of the ladies are not pierced. It was not long before the procession started to form up and get ready for the walk to Phuket Town - it's something like 7km from Kathu, quite a walk on a hot day especially if you are carrying extra weight.

Face piercing at Kathu Shrine

(above) Face piercing at Kathu shrine, about 6:20am 1st October

Not long after the above photo was taken, the Ma Song start the walk to town. The procession seems a bit random, with people setting off when they are ready. I waited a while outside the shrine, as my favourite part of the procession is in the rear - groups of guys carrying statues of the gods, and local residents throw firecrakers or hang long strips of firecrackers on bamboo poles and dangle them overhead as the gods are carried past. If you get in the middle of this, it's best to wear ear plugs and a mask.

Gods coming through!

Firecrackers in Kathu village

(above) Carrying the gods through the firecracker storm in Kathu village. This is still before 7am. The streets get carpeted in red firecracker debris. I'd forgotten to get a mask and a couple of times had to beat a hasty retreat as the smoke was too much.

"Old" Ma Song near the rear of the procession

(above) The rear of the procession. This particular Ma Song, a young guy, seems to take on the form of a bent old man, walking with a stick. It is said that the Ma Song are possessed by spirits. I have no idea what is true, I have no reason to doubt what I see with my own eyes. If not true, there are some damn fine actors in Phuket!

On the last night of the festival there is a huge procession in Phuket Town with Ma Song (not pierced) and hundreds of god statues being carried through the streets. I had never been into town on the last night until this year. Earlier in the evening all the shrines have a ceremony called "Crossing the bridge for purification" - we'd been into Kathu for this a few years ago and it was a lovely evening (see here). The crazy last night procession always seemed a bit too crazy to me, but this year, properly equipped (long trousers, running shoes, long sleeved white shirt, facemask, cotton wool plugs for the ears) it was time to get a new experience. And it was worth the effort. I will certainly go again next year, armed with a better camera I hope and a better knowledge of where to get the best views. I went in with the family although my wife and kids soon retreated to a safe distance, and met Tim along Phuket Road near the large roadside shrine set up by the Phuket Town municipality. At one point with the smoke getting too much I retreated behind this shrine and found myself standing net to the Mayor of Phuket Town!

A few photos ... I tried to get close to the action!

Have some of that!

Running the Gauntlet

Not a job for the boys

Move Move Move

The procession goes on from about 9:30 / 10pm until midnight or later. As I was there with the family, I did not stay too late - the photos above were all taken around 10pm. It gets wilder later on. I think I better aim to be in town until after midnight next year. This was just a taster! While waiting on Phuket Road for more of the procession to pass I became aware through the constant din of firecrackers that the next street over (Montri Road) seemed noisier, so I found a shortcut and found myself in the middle of a firestorm! Along with the firecrackers, piles of paper were being burnt in the street as the gods were carried past. Chaos and one facemask was not enough! But as the madness eased for a second I got one of my favourite photos from this year's festival.

Prayers in Phuket

Finally a short video. I was using a very basic Lumix camera on this last night, but I think with a little preparation, like wrapping the camera up in cloth and plastic, a nice camera would probably survive! Anyway, the Lumix had a video setting, so here's a little burst of madness ...



And that just about does it for the 2014 Phuket Vegetarian Festival, except there is a second festival this year from 24th October until 2nd November, as there are 2 ninth lunar months. I have no details of what will happen during this second festival. I get the impression that the answer is "not much" except for maybe another 9 days of vegetarian food for the faithful? I'll post any info that arises on my Facebook Page or you can follow me on Twitter for Phuket news and more. See you in Phuket!