Monday, March 10, 2014

Phuket - 4 nights in Rawai

We arrived at the Rawai Palm at about 9pm after a drama free pick up from the airport that took about half an hour. My review of the Rawai Palm is on TripAdvisor in the hotels section, but we really liked it. After a quick change, we headed to the Coconut bar for a beer and snack before bedtime. It’s a relaxed place with lots of local ex-pats and friendly service.

Day 1, we simply walked from one end of Rawai beach to the other, stopping along the way for refreshments. The pier offered a lovely view back to shore and over towards the near by island and cape.

The hotel ran a free shuttle to Nai Harn beach that we took to have lunch. After a walk along the length of the gorgeous, but crowded, beach, we had lunch at one of the cafes that are set up just behind the rows of sunloungers (it may have been Yoma or Yama). The service was prompt and friendly. My sandwich and lemon juice were lovely, but J’s crab dish wasn’t the best. Nai Harn beach is truly stunning and would be so nice in a quieter period. But when we were there, every sun longer was occupied, side by side, with music and noisy people everywhere, it would not be my idea of a relaxing afternoon on the beach. We caught a seong teaw back to Rawai for 200 baht. It’s about 10 mins around a lagoon that’s between the two beaches and the streets are lined with guesthouses and restaurants. We relaxed by the hotel pool, happy for some peace and quiet.

Nai Harn Beach looking left

Nai Harn Beach looking right 

On our trip 7 years ago, we ‘did’ the old Friday night BBQ with Richard and the Sunshine bar. So it was a priority to check it was still there. So after an uninspired dinner at Nikitas with terrible service in a gorgeous setting, we headed straight to Sunshine bar, promptly downing a few margaritas. To start with, we were nearly the only people there. But it wasn’t long before the dancing and songs started, and a few more margaritas later, I was up dancing with the lady boys (one thing that didn’t change after 7 years!) By 10pm the place was jumping and full of fun songs, J and I had a great time talking with others and drinking a bit too much. We left at close, like everyone else, and had a great night. Needless to say, the next morning was a little, um, what would you call it, ah - slow.

Day 2 we had our driver Lek and first stop was the Big Buddha. 7 years ago it was only a frame without much else. Its still not finished, but it looks awesome and the view still spectacular. We did see a lot of other tourists arriving in singles and short shorts and were pleased to see attendants at the entrance making them cover up. After all, it is a temple. We spent a good half an hour walking around (feeling a little seedy) and were happy to be back in the air conditioned car. 

The sign above says some Buddhist words of wisdom:
When time passes, and the man is older:
Thing which must be increased is 'maturity';
Thing which must be decreased is 'emotion';
Thing which must think about more is 'public';
Thing which must think about less is 'privacy';
Thing which must speak more is 'it's alright';
Thing which must speak less is 'what do you want''
Thing which must do more is 'to give'
Thing which must do less is 'to get'.

Next was the Gibbon project (also reviewed under attractions), and I was thoroughly moved by the individual gibbons’ stories. We read the boards and spent some quiet time sitting quietly watching the gibbons as they played around and sang to each other. That haunting ‘whoop whoop’ is a delight! I sponsored ‘George’, a young male who they hope may partner up with a female and start a family soon, and then later be returned to the wild. Truly, a most worthwhile cause and I recommend a visit and donation. We chatted with the young French volunteer for a while and learned a lot about their great work and care for these beautiful and intelligent animals. NEVER EVER have your photo taken with any wildlife on the street. Report any traders with wildlife to the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plants by filling in the form at: (just use your browsers translate function if you need). It’s a practise that must be stopped.

We then had an average lunch at the Phuket town view restaurant, after which we were ready to go back to our hotel to recover further from our previous night out. Lek was fantastic, with excellent English, new comfortable SUV, and he’s a very friendly guy. He suggested a few other things for us to do, but we weren’t keen on shopping etc – not to mention our little hangovers. We helped him with some English terminology and had a really nice day with him.

On Tuesday nights, the hotel ran a free shuttle over to Kata, 6:45pm pick up from Rawai and 10pm pick up from Kata. So we took the opportunity (instead of paying 600 baht each way). As soon as we got to Kata, we were so glad we didn’t stay there. The sidewalks were full of people, hawkers trying to get you into their restaurant or shops, traffic and noise. So much busier than quaint, quiet Rawai. We had dinner at an Italian place (can’t recall the name – but it’s off the main road down a small side alley with a silver shop directly across the lane). Pizza was delicious and service was great. The Italian owner (may have been Tony) came and talked to the guests – he had a broken arm so wasn’t in the kitchen. It was a really good meal.

After dinner, we walked the street and hit the shops to see if we could find Mr J some flippers and me some ‘stuff’. I bought some cotton, ‘hippy’ style shorts form one of the shops in the little ‘mall’. So much of the tees and pants were nylon/rayon even though the sellers tell you that they are Thai cotton, the labels show otherwise. You really don’t want to be wearing rayon long pants in the Thai heat… so do check the labels… Many of the sellers were from Myanmar, and we said “Mingalabar” and chatted to them about our visit there in May last year while we finished our purchases. They were surprised that we had visited their country and we caused a little buzz in the complex. J also found his flippers. The other shop we visited was ‘The Asian Collection’, a air-conditioned store on the main street full of goods from around Asia, mostly hand made textiles and crafts. I loved many of their carpets and wall hangings, finally paying, um, let’s call it a lot, for a stunning ‘jewelled carpet’ wall hanging. It’s a colourful, Indian (I think Kashmiri) traditional woven / embroidered piece set with semi-precious stones. Each one is unique. Though not Thai, it was my arty purchase of the trip. We had a beer at one of the street front cafes before our 10pm pick up and had an early night back at peaceful Rawai.

Day 3 we spent the morning over at Yu Nui beach (via the hotel shuttle) and enjoyed seeing the fish right off the beach in the crystal clear water. Sure, there were rows of sunloungers, but it was quieter than Nai Harn and much smaller. 

Yu Nui Beach looking over towards Nai Harn

Yu Nui looking out to sea - crystal clear blue water

Yu Nui beach - small but lovely

Yu Nui Beach

Yu Nui Beach - white sands
After a couple of hours swimming and relaxing, we went back to Rawai for a late lunch at a French bakery (can’t seem to find it in the restaurant section but it was near the coconut beach bar), which was delicious. Another walk up and down the palm lined road of Rawai beach in the afternoon, with a stroll down the little street to friendship beach, before returning to the hotel for some more swimming and relaxing. Dinner was at Monsoon restaurant that was the best meal we had in Phuket. Yummy Thai dishes, good service, and not hard on the wallet.

Rawai main street
Our last night was pretty early as we had a 7am pick up for the ferry over to Krabi the next morning. Lek had booked ‘Ao Nang Travel & Tour’ on the Ao Nang Princess for us during our day trip and the pick up was prompt in an air conditioned van. The guys carried our bags on/off the boat which was great, as you do have to ‘jump’ across a few boats’ to get to the one you need. We took a seat inside where it was cool and shady for the 1.5-2 hour trip across the Andaman Sea to Krabi. The trip was smooth and uneventful. At Krabi, the boat stopped in a few places where it was met by longtail boats to ferry passengers to Railay beach, Lanta or other day trips, but for Ao Nang, the boat docked at a solid pier and we got a seong teaw to our hotel.

View from Nikitas to Rawai pier
We mused about how much Phuket had been developed since our previous visit. As mentioned, I was very happy with staying in Rawai, heaps of restaurants and a few shops along the lovely tree-lined road. Relaxed atmosphere and quick and easy to get to the other beaches. And it’s not that much further from the airport and close to Kata etc if you really want to do some serious shopping. In summary, we still love Phuket, but will probably not return unless it’s a transit stop to return to Krabi or Khoa Lak. If we do come back, we will stay in Rawai again for sure.

Bell offerings at the Big Buddha
- K

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