Friday, November 13, 2015

Roadtrip: Phuket

Phuket is rightly famous for its beaches and bars, but there's much more to this tropical island than first meets the eye.

Discover the real Phuket on this one-day road trip that takes in the best inland sights, sounds and tastes of Thailand's ‘Pearl of the Andaman.’

8 a.m. - Rise and shine.
Rise early to take breakfast at the Café Andaman.

10 a.m. - Take your breath away.
Visit Khao KhadViewpoint on the top of the hill near Cape Panwa Hotel. The site is popular, but not full of tourists. Walk all the way to the top to enjoy a breathtaking 360-degree view.

11 a.m. - History lesson.
The Thai Hua Museum is a former Chinese-language school and is full of interesting information. It is a beautiful Sino-Colonial building, and you’ll find a lovingly curated assemblage of stories and artefacts relating to Phuket’s large Chinese community.

12.30 p.m. - Time for a bite at Raya
Time for lunch in Phuket Town and choose one of Phuket’s most loved and authentic restaurants. This grand, hundred-year-old building with mosaic tiled floors was once a family home, as the many sepia photos on the walls attest to, but in more recent years it has made a name for itself by serving famous local dishes such as the crab meat curry with rice noodles, spicy Phuket prawns, and caramelised and braised pork belly. 

2 p.m. - Artistic Education.
Despite its often sleepy appearance, the Old Town is a hub of energy and creativity, nowhere more so than Phang Nga Road (just around the corner from Raya) which is home to many of Phuket’s best galleries, such as the Drawing room. Here the owner and resident artist Isara ‘Ids’ Thaotong creates a blend of cartoon-inspired ‘doodles’ starring a character called Peepho, as well as more abstract acrylic work..
4 p.m. - Having a rum time!
For young French expatriates Marine Lucchini and Thibault Spithakis, life is about one thing – the pursuit of the finest rum imaginable. The enterprising couple are the owners of Chalong Bay Rum Distillery. Lucchini’s father was a globe-trotting distributor for the famed St. James Rum Company, while Spithakis comes from a long line of winemakers. From Monday to Saturday, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., they personally lead tours of the facility, finishing off with a refreshing mojito mixed by Spithakis himself.

6 p.m. - On the waterfront!
Just five minutes-drive south from Chalong Bay Rum sits Kan Eang @ Pier, a local icon that has been serving up excellent seafood for the last 30 years. With a 200-metre-long outdoor terrace, you’re almost assured of an uninterrupted sea view, and if you’ve timed your arrival right, you should be seated as the sun goes down behind you, ready to watch as the long tail boats and charter yachts bring day-trippers back from the neighbouring islands.

9 p.m. - A final nightcap.
After dinner, make your way back to Cape Panwa Hotel, or a nightcap at the Light House, a fun pub with a nautical theme and live music, where happy hour runs from 9.30 p.m. to 10.30 p.m. If, however, you’re in the mood for a more sophisticated evening, head to Otter’s Bar, a piano lounge where you can sip on expertly made cocktails in fine surroundings.
Written by Simon Ostheimer.
(Full version is available here -


Friday, April 3, 2015


Songkran is a time for family reunions, visits to temples and spring housecleaning. – Songkran is the celebration of the traditional Thai New Year and lasts several days.

During the festival, revellers participate in traditional water pouring, which varies for a gentle pour onto the head or shoulders, to a full body splash! The symbolism of the water is important because it represents the cleansing of all the misfortunes in the previous year and a new beginning for the New Year.

Many temples (Wats) will be full of people waiting to give alms to monks, either waiting to receive their blessing inside the Wat, or waiting outside to give offerings to congregations of monks.

Many Wats will feature pagodas made of sand, build outside the temple walls. This sand represents all the soil that has left the temples on the shoes of all of its visitors. They will be decorated with flags, candles and other gifts placed by visitors to the Wat.

A special feature of Songkran celebrations is the Rod Nam Dum Hua ceremony, which is celebrated throughout the day. On this day younger people will pour fragrant water on the hands of the elder’s as a gesture of humility and as a request for their blessings.

People will also pour fragrant water over Buddhist statues in the temples to clean them – others make merit by doing this in nine different Buddhist temples on this particular day. Traditionally this water would be then taken to wash the hands of the elders of your community.

Ram Nam Dum Hua is also an occasion where if a family cannot visit the temple, they will wake up early to give alms to the monks that pass by their homes. Many households do this every week but at this time it is the whole family who waits to give alms to the monks.
Traditionally the water used during the Ram Nam Dum Hua ceremony is fragrant. Even today, fragrant water can be found in found in people’s homes and Wats during this time – even the fountain at Cape Panwa Hotel will contain fragrant water during the Ram Nam Dum Hua festivities.

It is most certain that the water that you will encounter during the Songkran Festival will come from a wide variety of sources, such as water guns, ice cube trucks, buckets, hoses and even fire trucks.

At Cape Panwa Hotel we celebrate Songkran by visiting a Buddhist temple in the morning, having an enormous water fight on the beach, blessing people who selflessly take care of others and have a Thai buffet on the beach at Panwa House.

Don’t forget that if you are splashed, the response you should give is ‘Sawasdee Pi Mai’ (Happy New Year), and then splash them back!


Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Best Places for a Sunset in Phuket

This list is by no means exhaustive list; this is just a guide with a few suggestions. Upon departing on this trip, I would definitely pack a spare camera battery and memory card.

Jamie's photograph (used with permission)

1. Cape Phromthep Viewpoint or Wat Laem Phromthep

This is certainly one of the most visited places in Phuket. Its nickname is ‘Sunset Viewpoint’ and this area’s popularity is well deserved as the stretch of island recedes downwards into the distance. If you have time, definitely visit the Wat Laem Phromthep close by.


2. Ao Yon and Khao Khad Road

This is a breathtakingly beautiful stretch of road in the South of Phuket near the villages of Ao Yo and Borae. In view from the top of the road in the distance is the famous Big Buddha. A similar view can also be found if you visit the beach at the same area. There is 'The Beach Bar' nearby that is very popular and you should get there early to avoid disappointment.

3. Above Kata Beach

There are three bars at the top of the road above Kata Beach. The most recognised (and first of the three) is the ‘After Beach Bar’, and the view of the beach from the bar is quite spectacular. 

4. Kata Beach

This is a popular beach on the West Coast of Phuket Island and can be quite beautiful as the sun sets in the distance. You will be able to see a number spirit lanterns floating through the sky here, which can give the sunset an added beauty.

5. Phang Nga Bay with John Gray Sea Canoe

 John Gray Sea Canoe is the premier sea canoe company in Phuket, and the only company with tours that leave mid-afternoon - which means that you can be on the tour while the sun is setting! This is a wonderful trip rich with wonderful photographic opportunities.

6. Cape Panwa Promenade

The local village located over the hill from Cape Panwa Hotel and in front of Kantary Bay Hotel is an ideal place to watch the sunset. Each evening there are several kiosks offering clothes, souvenirs and more. There are also a number of food carts offering delicious local fare. So shop and socialize as the sun goes down and Big Buddha silhouetted in the distance.

If you need a guide to help you be in the right location at the right time to witness these amazing sunsets (and if you have an iPhone), feel free to try an app called Sunset Countdown