A Travellerspoint blog


Phuket, Thailand

sunny 31 °C

Phuket lies off the west coast of Southern Thailand in the Andaman Sea, approximately 890km from Bangkok. It is Thailand’s largest island at 550sq km, roughly the same size as Singapore, and is surrounded by many smaller islands that add a further 70 sq km to its total land area.

Phuket is separated from the mainland by the Chong Pak Phra channel at its northernmost point, where a causeway connects the island to the mainland. Phuket is quite hilly. There are a few peaks above 500m, the highest being Mai Tao Sipsong at 529m.

Many of these are covered in lush jungle. The lowlands consist of rice paddies, plantations of rubber, pineapple and coconut as well as the only significant area of rainforest remaining on the island, which is now protected as Khao Phra Thaeo Park. The most beautiful beaches are found on the West coast, separated by rocky coves and headlands.

The east coast comprises limestone shoals with only a few sandy beaches while spectacular limestone islands adorn the horizon. Coral gardens full of exotic marine life dot the emerald waters surrounding the island, although sadly much of Phuket's coral has been disappearing due to environmental pressures and human activities.” – Various Sources.

My dive buddy and I checked in at Sheraton Phuket for a night stay. It was about half and hour from the airport. Upon reaching there we were served well by the friendly staffs and the environment was very nice and very well maintained. We were led to the reception whereby we were served with fruit juice and the gulps of the drink really made me felt comfortable, as the weather was quite hot. After completing the check in process we were taken to our room. It was located at level 3 of the buildings. The room was well maintained and it was so nice and comfortable.
After settling down for a while we went out and linger around the hotel. The area is made up from few resorts or hotel sharing some basic facilities, i.e. beach, man made lake, and the boat ride that bring all the guests round the areas and stop at few places for sight seeing. We took the opportunities to check on other resorts located around the areas and all of these resorts are very luxurious and well maintained. I took the opportunity to drive the boat as well and of course that was under the close supervision of the staff who was responsible to bring the guests to tour around the area. Though it was not as challenging as motorboat ride and it worth a try.

We had our dinner at one of the restaurant there. As we entered the restaurant, we were greeted by the friendly staffs, “sawadee ka” (ladies) and “sawadee krup” (men). We were directed to a table for two and the ambience was so nice and really great. Our table was overseeing the lake and it was so peaceful and beautiful. With such a great environment, I enjoy the meal greatly.

The next day, we check out from the hotel and move to Patong beach to enjoy the real scene of Phuket. Patong is the most famous - some would say infamous - beach resort on Phuket. With its wide variety of activities and nightlife, Patong is an ideal place to party, play and have fun. By day, Patong's curved sandy bay is a hive of activity with parasail and jet-ski operators, boat drivers, beach vendors and masseuses all vying for the attention of the many visitors relaxing on the beach chairs. The “chaotic” atmosphere may be overwhelming to first time visitor like me. I didn’t really explore the area in depth as I was spending most of the afternoon searching for tours and diving trips. In fact we booked for island tour to Koh Phi Phi, James Bond Island, Koh Pang Nga and other islands.

However, by the end of the day we changed our mind and we would like to take up the PADI Advance Diving License course offered by Scuba Cat and it would give me a new adventure into deep diving, wreck diving, night diving and etc. It was a two days course and I need to forgo all the activities at Phuket and stayed a night on the boat far away from Phuket.


Besides, we also booked the Phuket famous stage show – Fantasea. It was a great show with great casts and props. It was a new experience as it gave me some insights about the history and culture of Phuket. I believe that it was a must for any first time visitor to watch the spectacular show, as the trip would be incomplete without such show. It reminded me about my trip to Pattaya in 2002. I missed the signature show there and sort of regret and want to be there again in the future to make the trip complete. Tiffanny is a very famous and great show in Pattaya and worth watching.


After watching the show, we were sent back to our hotel and before we retired for the day, I went for a two-hours massage session and it was really relaxing and after that thinking of dropping by any of the pubs around that areas with all the beautiful girls and boys dancing on the table or the entrance but due to the next day trip for diving I just changed my mind and went back to the room and rest. Early of the morning, we were transferred to the jetty.

A two hours journey on the motorboat took us to the live-board boat. After settling down and get to our cabin bunks, we were given a brief introduction of what we were going to do for the day. There were three of us who were taking up the Advance Diving License certification and the other guy was an Australian. He was a year younger than me and once in a while he will forward some mails to me. Quite an interesting guy.

Preparing for the exam....

Writing test inside the water

We had our dives mostly around the Racha Yai island other nearby areas, which I cannot, really recalled by now. This exquisite island (sometimes known as Raja Yai Island) offers gentle easy diving for beginners with some challenging and fun drift diving for the more experienced diver. Beneath the water we managed to find a sloping rock face dotted with hard coral forests, and especially colourful blue Staghorn corals. Water depths range from 3 to 30 metres and visibility is generally around 20 metres, thus making Racha Yai a good dive site for both divers and snorkellers.


I had 7 dives for the 2 Day 1 Night trip and among those dives, I personally felt that the night dive was the most interesting and yet scary kind of experience for me. The dive started about 7.45pm. The night was so dark and we were equipped with all the torches to assist us. It was a real pitch dark for me as I entered into the water. It was very cold as well and all the sudden I got a kind of fear within me as I felt helpless down under the water. I hardly see and my mind started with all sort of imaginations that sent the chills to my spine. I was praying hard that nothing bad would happens to me. Most of the time I was holding the hand of my dive buddy so that I would have some sense of security that I was with someone I know. However, my mind just running wildly and I even thought that I was holding the hand of something or someone else instead of my dive buddy.

In fact, I dun really enjoy the dive due to all the fearful feelings that run within me. The interesting part was that I need to use my instinct to survive down under the water and tried to stay calm all the time and to fight for all the fears that were haunting me. That night, the sea was unusually calm and hardly for me to spot any special sea creatures.

Maybe I was too worried about being in such a situation, which I hardly manage to control and I did not have the chance to observe spectacular views of the sea at night. After the dive I took a quick shower before preparing to end the day with a sound sleep, as I need to wake up very early the next day for a morning dive at about 7am.

Overall, the advanced diving course exposed me to lot of new and useful knowledge, i.e. navigation under the water, water buoyancy test, deep diving and wreck diving skills as well. The wreck diving was another interesting experience for me. A lot of precautions need to be taken to ensure a safe and fun dive. As we descended to the sea using the rope as a guide, I was really excited and thrill by what was awaiting me down under. In fact, the wreck has been commercialized and lost its originality

Posted by terrence79 05:09 Archived in Thailand Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Northen Thailand - Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Burma Border....

sunny 30 °C

Thailand had been one of my favourite countries for my annual vacations for the past few years. I visited Bangkok for numerous times as well as other places like Phuket, Koh Hai, Hat Yai, Pattaya and Ayuthaya. This year, I made a change to my vacations. Instead of visiting Bangkok I chose Chiang Mai as my destination.

Chiang Mai is the second largest city in Thailand and located in the northen region of the country. This is another famous destination for tourists who love the nature of the country. The city is situated on the banks of Mae Ping River and surrounded by hills. The city is blessed with a rich history, culture and wonderful people ranging from the city people to the hill tribes that add vibrant to the city.

I spent 6D5N at Chiang Mai (inclusive of a night at Chiang Rai). I managed to book two cheap packages for the whole trip that cost me less than RM1000 inclusive of the air tickets. I left KL on June 13, 2007 on a morning flight to Chiang Mai. I was greeted by the tour guide upon arrival at the airport. The guide was very friendly and spoke fluently in Mandarin. This was a big surprise for me. In fact, his family was originated from China (Yunnan), thus he managed to maintain some of the identity of his ancestors while blending into lifestyle and culture of the country.

It was a private tour and we had flexibility in arranging our tour. We visited Wat Prathat Doi Suthep upon leaving the airport. It is also known as the Double Dragon Temple. It is situated up on the hill at about 1000m above the sea level. The temple is one of northern Chiang Mai top attraction with 16th century stupa that overlooks Chiang Mai from the summit of Doi Suthep. The steps on both side of the dragon to the temple represent a route to the heaven for the Buddhists. The temple is also considered as one of the most sacred temple in Thailand as a sacred Buddha relic is kept in the temple.

Visiting the Elephant Camp was our next destination. We reached there timely to witness the elephant taking shower in the steam. The elephants were moving in groups into the river guided by the respective care takers. At the end of the stream, I noticed a bunch of ladies carrying a bamboo basket standing in the water waiting anxiously for “something” to happen. I just can figure out why these ladies were standing at the end of the stream with baskets in their hand while the elephant taking their showers. Finally, I realised that these ladies were responsible to get all the elephant dung that flow with the stream. It was something interesting too. Then, we were led to a mini stadium to watch the elephant shows. The elephants were so bright and they managed to play soccer, throw darts and painting as well. The paintings were displayed thereafter and any interested tourist can offer to buy the painting for own collection. There was a gallery that show all the paintings made by the elephants and some cost more than 10,000 bath…Huh!!! That’s very pricey.

Monkey School was the third destination followed by the Orchid Farm. The monkey show ranging from bicycle riding, pool dive, dancing and coconut picking that amazed most of us. After that, we proceeded to the Hotel to check in before taking our dinner at Khum Khantoke for an authentic Lanna dining and show.

At Khum Khantoke, we were served on authentic Northern Thai food accompanied with a great atmosphere. The dimly lighted dining hall coupled with soothing music created a great ambience for an excellent dining experience. We were entertained with cultural show celebrating the dance styles from every part of the Country, i.e. Candle Dance, Faun Tree, Sword Dance, Hill Tribe Dance, Drum Dance, Seung Kapo, and traditional Ramwong and Khon, a type of elegant and stylised Thai drama. At Khum Khantoke, any guests would be able to discover the spirit and charm of Chiang Mai. Besides, the restaurant is beautifully set up with assortments of unique traditions and exotic products of Lanna arts and crafts. The “Khantoke” or “Toke” was a round rattan tray where various kind of authentic Northern Thai food. In fact, I can’t differentiate the authentic Northern Thai food and other part of the country food. This information was obtained from the tour guide. The restaurant opens daily from 6.30 to 9.30 PM and located near to Carrefour. A must visit place.


The next morning, we started the day by visiting the famous home industries, which covers umbrella making, silk weaving, silvering making factories, and etc. The legend of the umbrella making originated from Borsang, a village in Sankamphaeng. It was cited that the umbrellas, which were traditionally and spiritually inherited from the villagers of Thai-Lue, descendants from China, were offered to the monks.

In today’s world, these umbrellas become a source of income to the villagers and these umbrellas are not made for weather protection, but also for home decoration as well as for ritual ceremonies. I also witnessed the “Sa” paper making from the “Sa” tree. This tree is normally known as Mulberry tree.

Besides, a visit to the silk weaving factory also gave me an impressive experience. The time and effort taken to make the silk involved a lot of hard works.

I also bought a bottle of honey from one of the honey making outlet. I was told that the honey is cultivated from a local specialty flower, the Poppy flowers in the northern mountains. It is a healing, anti bacterial product used for ulcers and inflammations. I think I made a foolish decision to purchase the honey that cost me more than 600 Bath. Anyway, I think it’s a nutritious product after all. Just that, I think it did not worth that much.

After taken our lunch, we proceeded with our journey to the Karen Long Neck Village, about an hour from Chiang Rai, a small town located about 200KM from Chiang Mai. The journey was tiring as we have to travel along the bumpy roads up to the hill. Visiting the hill tribe was one of my main interests. It was always said that the famous Karen Long Neck Village tribe was exploited as human zoo for tourists. Yeah, I totally agree to that. However, I just can’t miss such a great opportunity to see such a special group of people who is less than 5,000 in total and scattered around the northern of Thailand, where the majority of the tribes stay at the west of Chiang Mai. The village visited by us was a small village with less than 50 people. These womenfolk are adorned with heavy brass necklaces at a very young age to lengthen their neck. Women with long neck are considered to be the village great beauty.

Besides the Karen, there is another tribe who stay next to the village, who is famous for their ear piercing. Cylinders like silver accessories are slotted to the ears to enlarge it. I suppose this is to enhance the beauty of the womenfolk just like the Karen. In fact, it was quite sad to look at them. The ladies are not allowed to leave the village and they are destined to live and die there. It’s kind of a tradition to be followed by them from generation to generation. While the men are allowed to move to other village or town to earn a living, these ladies are responsible to take care of the home. Inter tribe marriage is no allowed as well. Thus, there are limitations of choices among the tribes and most of the time these people may marry people that may relates to them. Thus, some of the offspring of the couples may be born with some defects due to the DNA related problems. This is alarming and yet unavoidable as this is part of the tradition to be followed by them.

Another attraction was to visit Mae Sai, the gateway into Myanmar. It was nothing special at this small town other than giving us an opportunity to venture into Myanmar. Mae Sai is also famously known as “Northernmost Point” in Thailand and the sign is displayed at the Bridge of the Mae Sai River connecting Thailand and Myanmar. We took a side trip to Taichilek, a town in Myanmar and we paid 1200 Bath for the 2 hours trip. The tour guide arranged everything for us including the entry requirements and transportation around the town. Initially, I thought that I can have a stamp in my passport for a visit to Myanmar. It seemed that there was an arrangement between both of the governments to waive such requirement for visitors entering the country for a short day trip.


We visited a few temples in Taichilek, i.e. Wat Prathat Sai Muang, Wat San Sai and Wat Pra Chao Ra Keng. Wat Pra Chao Ra Keng is one of the most famous and wealthiest temple in Taichilek that offers a modern and spacious viharn centred around a Mandalay style Buddha and five rare images of the Buddha. The design of the temple was differentiated with those in Thailand by examining the entrance of the temple that guarded by lion statute instead of dragon as commonly sighted. Besides, the Thai monks wear orange colour robe while the Myanmar monks wear red colour robe. Another interesting fact about the monks in Myanmar is they are not vegetarians. They eat meats as well. This is part of a way for them to survive in such a poor country. They only have one meal in a day and no meal will be offered to them after 12 PM. This is a tradition practised by the Burmese.


Thereafter, we visited Sop Ruak, the famous Golden Triangle, where Thailand, Laos and Myanmar meet at the confluence of the Mekong and Ruak rivers. After snapping some photos we went to the Opium museum and the tour guide explained the history of Opium trading in Golden Triangle. The tools for harvesting the poppy flowers, the weighting scale for opium trading, the tools for opium smoking and etc are displayed at the Museum. We didn’t take any river cruise to Laos as this is not included in the trip and in fact, the tour guide never offer us any of such side trip.


Wat Rong Khun is the last temple visited before continued our journey back to Chiang Mai. This is a fairly new temple with less than 10 years of history and some part of the temples are still under construction. It is also known as the White Temple and different from those temples in Thailand. It is white in colour and decorated with glasses that make it shine under the hot sun. It was spectacular to view it at any time of the day.


At night, we watched the transvestite show – Simon Cabaret. We were spiced up with amazing shows with variety of programmes, glamorous performers, dazzling costumes and astonishing sets. We experienced the ultimate extravaganzas that transported us to the world of magnificence, amusement and excitement. However, I was told that the Tiffany Cabaret in Pattaya is still best transvestite show in South East Asia. I missed the chance to watch the show when I visited Pattaya few years ago. I think I will not miss it again, if I were to visit there again.

The following 3 days was free from any tours. We just spent the days at the Hotel and visited the Chiang Mai town. Walking along the streets, observing the people and of course indulge myself in the famous Thai massage. I visited the massage parlour almost on daily basis. It was really cheap and affordable. The cheapest service I paid for was 130 Bath for an hour. That was fantastic. Though, I can’t expect much from such a low price massage and it was acceptable. I just love it and want to have these kind of great experiences again. Shopping in Chiang Mai also very nice as things are cheap and variety choice of souvenirs are available. The Night Bazaar is a place not to be missed. Similarly, for those who managed to spend the weekend in Chiang Mai, the Sunday Market, which started from about 3 PM to midnight is a must visit place where we will have the opportunity to see a lot of stuffs and taste variety of foods along the streets. It took us about 2-3 hours to complete the visit of the Sunday Market.


The hotel accommodation was great. The best was at Imperial Mae Ping Hotel. A few minutes walk to the Night Bazaar. I was told the late Deng Li Juin stayed at the Hotel till her death… Mmm…interesting.


Also, visited another boutique hotel in Chiangmai old town area...

After such a relaxing and enjoyable trip, we bid farewell to Chiang Mai with all the fond memories. Mmm…just miss it so much. It’s time for me to get ready for my work life again.

Posted by terrence79 05:52 Archived in Thailand Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

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