Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Ten phenomenal places to make photographs in Phuket

The Beach at Cape Panwa Hotel
There are dozens, if not hundreds of places in Phuket to make a memorable photo, but to make things easy on you we’ve created a general list of 10 amazing places to let your creativity run wild.   

One of the Temples at Wat Chalong

1. A Buddhist Wat 

In Thailand, the Buddhist Wat (or temple) is an ideal place to take a photograph.  These serene monuments to the divine are definitely both works of art and sacred places of worship. The candles in the dimly lit prayer rooms, the statues of various deities, the detail in the woodwork and tile mosaics, and even the monks, present a myriad of opportunities to make amazing photographs. 

Please remember to take your shoes off when you enter each temple and kindly leave a donation when you leave.

Cape Panwa Promenade
2. A Sunset

Close to the local village promenade near Cape Panwa Hotel is a view point named Khao Kad.  While standing at this viewpoint during the right time of day it is possible to make a glorious photographs of the sun as it sets over the large Buddha statue in the distance.  

Simply breathtaking.

3. A natural waterfall

There are three natural waterfalls in Phuket; Ao Yon, Bang Pae and Ton-Sa.  Each waterfall is a marvel of the natural world and will make for an amazing photo, granted that you have a tripod and a keen understanding of your camera.

4. A traditional market

An early morning jaunt to the traditional market in Phuket Town is a fantastic destination for making great photographs.  The mix of foods, fruit, clothes and the mosaic of Thai faces exuding various expressions provides you with multiple subjects to photograph.

5. Phuket Old Town

Phuket Old Town is a great place to take a lackadaisical afternoon stroll with camera in hand. The Sino-Portuguese buildings lend to great images because of their beautiful patterned doors, windows and detailed woodwork. 

Another place of interest in Old Town is the nearby Amulet Market, which runs alongside a small klong. While on your journey there are a number of photogenic places that you will likely find; Buddhist Wats, Chinese Shrines, Chinese medicine shops, traditional noodle shops and much more – definitely worth the day out.

After wandering through Phuket Old Town and photographing the exterior of antique colonial shop houses, it is wonderful to actually walk into one.  This exquisite colonial home - with its ivory columns, intricate woodwork and antique furniture - allows you to document the work and living quarters of the Chinese Tin Merchants that lived in Phuket.

This exotic spot on Phuket Island offers three ideal spots to take photographs. Monkey See is an area where the main road runs next to a mangrove swamp.  Here there is a small spot to throw food to the wild monkeys, and photograph them.

Located on top of the hill, Wat Koh Sirey (accessible only by foot) is home to a Golden Reclining Buddha and the most breathtaking views of the beach.

Another place to make great photographs is the Sea Gypsy Village – inhabited by villagers adhering to a very traditional, pre-industrial way of life.

The Beach at Cape Panwa Hotel
8. A beach

There are plenty of beaches in Phuket to photograph, but in order to get an amazing shot of the waves rolling onto the coast, go out at either dawn or dusk to make your images.  The lower the sun is positioned in the sky, the more dramatic the image will.

Tha Rua Chinese Temple 
9. A Chinese Temple

There are a number of Chinese Temples throughout Phuket, and like the Buddhist Wats are a joy to visit and photograph. Many of the temples have been on Phuket for decades and are community hubs for the local population.

10. A festival

There are several festivals that take place in Phuket throughout the year, all of which  – the Por Tor Festival (held late August to early September), Chinese New Year Festival (February 19, 2015), Mooncake Festival (September 8),  and especially the Phuket Vegetarian Festival (September 23 to October 1) – will make great opportunities for capturing amazing moments with your camera.

And remember, always do research about each festival before you go and take a photograph.  Know the subtle cultural nuances that dictate proper behaviour at each festival can make the difference between blending in and making great photographs, or embarrassing yourself and insulting your hosts.


Friday, May 2, 2014

5 Thai Desserts to Try – and where to get them in Phuket

Thai Deserts are typically not the point of discussion when reading travel guides about visiting Phuket, but ordering a dessert you know little about may leave you with a sour taste at the end of a delicious meal. We’ve rounded up some of the tastiest treats of Thailand (in our opinion of course) so that you can try them fearlessly next time you see them on the streets!

Mango and Sticky Rice 
(Khao Niaow Ma Muang)

Mango and Sticky Rice is a classic Thai dessert, which is enjoyed both the locals and travellers. The dish is created by placing sliced mango and sticky rice (sometimes of a different colour) adjacent to each other on a plate. Usual toppings include coconut cream poured over the top and with toasted sesame seed scattered over everything. The local markets and street vendors will be selling Mango and Sticky rice mainly when the mango is in season, but many restaurants including Panwa House sell the treat all year around. 

One can stop by Rimtang’s restaurant on the outskirts of Phuket Town and try the famous Mango and Sticky Rice while in the area. It’s a very popular spot among the locals, especially school children from around the corner.  

Oh Aew

Oh Aew is a unique dessert dish favourite among Phuket locals. It’s the perfect treat to help you cool off the humid summer heat. It’s essentially a jelly dessert made with flour, banana and gelatine. Seaweed is sometimes added to give the dish a sticky texture – I know seaweed in a dessert might sound absurd, but trust me, it’s actually quite good! Different toppings like red bean paste, shaved ice, red syrup (flavoured liquid sugar) and condensed milk can be added creating a pyramid of icy dessert paradise.

Oh Aew is a relatively inexpensive dish costing between 10 and 20 Baht a bowl and can be found throughout local Phuket markets, but a popular place is on Soi Soon Thit, adjacent to Yaorawat Road. 

 Bua Loy Nam Khing 

Different from the previous two, Bua Loy Nam Khing is served at a number of locations throughout Phuket.  

This is a very simple dish of small flour dumplings filled with black lotus sesame butter and served in a ginger soup. The soup is quite ‘invigorating’ by itself – it packs a pretty powerful punch. Then when you bite into the small dumpling, the sweet flavour of the sesame bursts out into your mouth creating a perfect compliment. 

The dessert dish can be found in various locations, but the Local Food stalls opened from early afternoon until the evening behind Robinsons Department Store are known for their top-notch Bua Loy Nam Khing. 

 Tub Tim Krob 
(Mock Pomegranate in coconut milk - ทับทิมกรอบ)

One of the oldest recorded Thai desserts, Tub Tim Krob is believed to be a ‘cure-all’ in the hottest of weather.

The ‘pomegranate’ is actually water chestnuts that are covered with tapioca dough and served with iced coconut syrup. The nickname ‘Crunchy Ruby’ was given to the dessert, because vibrant colour of the little bite size ‘pomegranates’.

The place to try Tub Tim Krob is at a small roadside stall called ‘Down Town’ (ทับทิมกรอบ), which is a very popular spot among the local Thai people and seems to have a stream of customers. It can be found near the Phuket Town bus market opposite the Phuket Old-Time Square. 

Lod Chong Nam Ka Ti
(Pandanus noodles with coconut milk)

The last must-try Thai dessert is Lod Chong Nam Ka Ti. Lod Chong Nam Ka Ti is a rice flour pandan dessert that looks like short green noodles. The chewy noodles are then mixed with sweet palm sugar syrup, shaved ice and coconut milk that are meant to be eaten all together.

The best place for this is the local food stalls. There’s a wonderful local restaurant in Phuket Town, ก๋วยเตี๊ยวดู๋ดี๋, where there is usually a small stall outside where they will prepare this special dish for you.

While in Phuket, make it a goal to try some or all of these delicious dishes. If you can’t make it out to town, the buffet at Cape Panwa hotel also has these dishes and more each Monday evening if you wish to try.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

5 must visit Buddhist Wats in Phuket

Much is written about the beauty of the Buddhist Wats around Thailand, especially in Bangkok and Chiang Mai; but did you know that there are a few that you must also experience in Phuket? From spectacular to relaxing to downright strange, here’s a list of the best to visit Buddhist Wats in Phuket.

Wat Thepkanjonjit

This Buddhist Wat is in the heart of Phuket Old Town and is on the side of Rang Hill. The temple is split into two sites.

The first site is the more traditional Buddhist temple where there are daily offerings made to a Buddhist monk. This temple has the traditional ‘Luk Si Mah’ (metal globes) hanging outside, a popular Ganesha statue and then there is an enormous Golden Buddhist statue on top. The Buddhist statue may not be as big as 'Big Buddha' in Chalong but this Buddha shines and you are able to walk beneath it!

Adjacent to this there is a traditional Wat which can be reached by climbing up a set of steep stairs which has a banister which is actually a colourfully painted nine headed snake. Adjacent to this staircase is another mythical creature - but this one is gold with four heads!

After climbing these steps you will reach the Wat on the top of the hill. This Wat is protected by the traditional colourful statues (but not just one) - but every corner of the escarpment and each corner has a different creature! The wall supporting these larger figures is made up of smaller 'Yuks' and these are all different colours as well.

Once you’re on the top of the hill, relax and look around yourself - you are more than likely the only person there!

Wat Koh Sirey

This is a Buddhist Wat that is actually not on many maps of Phuket so if you choose to visit there may be nobody there.

Koh Sirey is an island to the East of Phuket Town that is reached by driving over a short bridge and is more known as a Fishing Village and a place to feed the wild monkeys.

Here there is a Wat that is on the very top of the hill (approximately 200m).

To reach the top one must walk up a winding road until you find some stone steps where there is a circle of smaller Buddhist statues. The next set of steps will take you to the actual Wat.

Here is the Large Reclining Buddha that is a special experience because the temple is usually empty – but if you are looking for size then the Reclining Buddha in Bangkok is bigger.

After paying respects to the Buddha you are able to walk around the outside of the Wat – and the view is spectacular. Here you are able to see the Big Buddha, Sapan Hin and Cape Panwa. The best view is at sunset because it can be quite beautiful to watch the sunset over Big Buddha – but I prefer to be on the beach with a Singha at that time so I usually go in the morning.

Wat Phra Tong

This is a Wat that is more central in Phuket.

The attraction here is that the main Buddhist statue here is actually buried in the ground!

The head is the only part of the statue that is actually on display and the story of how the statue was discovered by a young boy with his cow is really quite interesting.

The boy tied his cow to an outcrop and returned home – and died of a mysterious illness. The father went to collect the cow and found that it had died while being tied to the rock.
The father returned home and spent a sleepless night. On the next day the father returned to the spot and cleared the area where the cow had been attached.

It was not a rock but an outcrop of a Buddhist statue! The Governor of Phuket ordered the immediate excavation of the statue but they were unable to do so because of ants, bees, a land slide and many other obstacles so it was decided that in the end, the statue should stay in the ground.
Wat Chalong

This is the most spectacular Buddhist Wat because there are so many well kept buildings and each is differently decorated in Phuket. Although spectacular, it also means that it is the busiest.

There is a number of Buddhist Wats within the grounds and they are all a little different, are really quite beautiful and are all clearly looked after.

The most interesting time to visit is during the Chalong Temple Fair is either in February or  May when there is a Temple Fair when the grounds are scattered with small stalls selling a great many number of different things – from candy-floss to Bugs to Buddhist statues to fighting fish and so much more.

Wat Phra Nang Sang

This is a temple that is the centre of Phuket and seems to be spread over an enormous site that seems to keep getting bigger.

At the front of the Wat there are two large ‘Yuks’ – which protect the temple from Demons and Evil and next to this is an enormous statue of Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy.

On wandering in towards the back you will also find a Golden Reclining Buddha much like the one at Wat Koh Sirey. But the difference here is that there is an actual mummified body of a monk beneath it!

I have endeavoured to find out more information about the monk but I am unable to find any explanation about why his body was preserved here, please leave a comment if you find out what it is!

On investigating further you will come upon another Wat with the Traditional paintings of the stories of the Buddha but this time the Wat is protected by two Yuks each carrying an AK47 – talk about strange!

Phuket certainly is an interesting place to investigate – request a car to take you on this trip when you choose to stay at Cape Panwa Hotel – a minibus can be hired for three hours for 1,500 Baht and a subsequent hour for 200 Baht an hour. Ask the staff at the Front Office to assist you or print off the Google map below.

Please remember to show respect in all of these temples by taking your shoes off, if you enter, and leaving a donation when you leave.