Monday, August 26, 2013

Phuket- once is good enough!

Phuket- the one place to see one live show that I'd probably not see anywhere else in the world. Initially, we were looking for soft, white sandy beaches but didn't find any except for the stretch in front of our hotel. Most beaches were littered with unsightly trash. Stayed in a beachfront villa at Imperial Adamas Spa and Resort. Great place to relax. We had rented a car but traffic in Phuket is almost as chaotic as Bangkok. It's the scooters, the road constructions and traffic jams that made driving in Phuket such a hassle. We prefer to stay in at the villa most of the time.
Villa's patio and private pool area overlooking the beach. Not overly luxurious but wonderfully comfortable for our family.
Our home for 5 days nestled amongst the coconut trees- miles of beach to walk on during low tide. Almost  paradise. We had to wade through a creek to go to the restaurants on the beach (about 15 minutes walk away) for dinner a couple of times during our stay. It was low tide when we went, but on the way back one night, the water in the creek had risen to 3 feet high. Not wanting to get my capris wet, I had to get rid of it before crossing the creek to get back to the villa. My husband lost one of his sandals while crossing, too. I think the resort should build a small bridge over the creek for the convenience of their guests.
Dinner on the beach at one of the restaurants close to the resort. Very good green curry and stir fried morning glory. Went well with the fragrant jasmine rice.
                                                                 Lovely tiger prawns.
                                          Steamed blood cockles- nice chili sauce.
                                    Family of hermit crabs looking for their dinner at night.
Sawasdee Village- came here for their cooking class. Beautiful place with nice Thai decor throughout the resort.
                                              Liked the ambiance of  the garden and pool area.
Getting ready for their cooking class- ingredients laid out for papaya salad, tom yum goong and massaman curry. A short class (about 1 1/2 hours) that included a trip to a small local market, cooking and eating the dishes at the restaurant.
Wished the chef had shown us the prep work instead of preparing the ingredients ahead of time for us. All we had to do was cut up a Thai chili and throw in the rest of the ingredients into the mortar to be pounded and stirred occasionally.
Papaya salad- shredded green papaya, raw long beans, tomatoes, shrimps, shallots, garlic, crushed peanuts and fish sauce. Sweet, sour, spicy, nutty and refreshing.
Tom yum goong- secret ingredient was a tablespoonful of condensed milk. I had no idea. Tried making this at home with the ingredients as stated by the chef but failed- too sweet and not sour enough.
Delightful tom yum goong from cooking class- spicy and sour with sweet shrimps.
Massaman curry with pork. Used both coconut milk and coconut cream. Bring all the ingredients except the pork to a boil in a pot then add the pork and simmer for 10 minutes. I was hoping the chef would show us how to make the curry paste but no such luck.
Quite good but taste wise, its on the lighter side. I personally prefer my curries to be slightly stronger in taste and thicker in texture. The chef was trying to have us do paper thin slices of kaffir lime leaves as condiments for the curry. But, after seeing our terrible knife skills, he ended up slicing the leaves himself. Ha ha!

Phang Nga Bay- fisherman in his boat. It was cloudy and foggy that morning. Because of the weather, we didn't get to see the crystal clear water and the scenery was less than expected. We took a private tour in a long tail boat to visit James Bond Island,  Koh Panyee and the Wat Suwan Kuha (temple) . Paid 9500 baht for the four of us and we felt the tour was just average.

James Bond island- overrated. Stalls selling various merchandise lined the small beach in front of the island plus the beach was littered with trash- it's an unpleasant experience.

Kayaking through the caves at Phang Nga Bay- touristy. We were dropped off by our tour guide on a kayaking platform where we paid 300 baht pp to get on 2 kayaks with 2 local paddlers. Before getting to the caves, the paddlers kayaked us to a boat vendor selling drinks in the middle of the bay. They then requested that we buy drinks for them and ourselves at 80 baht each. We were not thirsty but what to do? They had the paddles and we were in the middle of the bay. We obliged. The kayaking tour was over in 20 minutes. I'm sure this area is rich with geographical and historical information but we did not get any. Right before kayaking us back to the platform, the paddlers asked us for tips. Of course, we obliged again. Like I said, they had the paddles and by this time, we were fed up with the experience. It's not much money, just left a bad overall impression of the area. 
Next up is the Koh Panyee, Malay village on water. Very touristy too. You can tell by looking at the rows of large restaurants on the docks catering to tourists and again, souvenir stalls everywhere. True, it's a real life working village with locals going about their daily lives and I'm sure most of them depended on tourism for their incomes. This village tour might work better for first timers wanting to take a glimpse of a Malay village. We walked around the village for 15 minutes and were done with the tour. We've been to Malay villages before, this one just didn't sit well with us.
One of the few traditional houses with side wall made from coconut leaves. After lunch, we went to the Suwan Kuha Temple in Phang Nga province. Small temple with nice stone formations inside but not worth making a special trip for. It is also home to hundreds of wild monkeys who liked being fed by the tourists.

Old Town Phuket- very chinatown-like and quiet on  a Sunday morning. Most stores were closed except for a few textile shops and cafes.

                                                          Old Town Phuket

Bangla Street in Patong Beach.
Went to Patong Beach twice and that was enough. One time to para-sail during the day and another to see a live show at night. Parasailing was quite an experience- all hooked up and towed into the air by a speed boat with a guide behind me to maneuver the direction of the para-sail. I was nervous floating in the air. But, it was all over in 2 minutes for 1200 baht. The next guy paid 800 baht for the same ride because he bargained at the lower price and we didn't. Original price was 1500 baht. We needed to work on our bargaining skills, I guess.
Same thing with the live show at the Wake Up Club. Original price was 2500 baht and we paid 1800 baht at the entrance while a couple of tour booths on the streets were selling the same tickets for 1500 baht. Located inside a plaza opposite of Bangla Boxing Stadium- entrance looked like a night market. Walked through the market, and there were 40 or more tour buses parked in the parking lot- all there to see the live adult show inside the club. Fun and gross at the same time. Once is enough.

Rental beach chairs for 100 baht each at Patong Beach. Not ideal for relaxation as we get pestered by vendors (adults and children) selling trinkets, sunglasses, toys, food, etc the entire time.

Rubber plantations around the northern side of Phuket island- designated by the government as to keep the development of hotels and resorts under wrap in the area.

Ramadan bazaar selling mostly food for Muslims to break their fast after sunset. We took away some food from several stalls and bought a bottle of red wine from a local supermarket. Had a nice dinner back at our villa. Wanted to bring home some of the spices and curry pastes but can't.
Vegetarian popiah or spring rolls with radish filling- tasted ok. 

Sunset on Naiyang Beach- not the most spectacular but the best that we can do as it was cloudy all the days that we were in Phuket.

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