One shouldn’t ask oneself if it is better to stay in Patong or Phuket Town, a question that I have been frequently asked. It is a bit like comparing apples and pears. Phuket town holds this traditional Sino-Portuguese old town heritage that carries a long history. The heritage parts of the town have been well restored and renovated so there is a genuine old town here. Still quite under-visited considering the amounts of tourist. Patpong saw its growth with modern tourism and is where the action is. Like it or not. But these are two very different places.
Phuket town rests its heritage on a past that was there long before tourism. It was built from a Chinese port by rich tin barons, with huge Chinese immigration making the Chinese become the dominant group on the island and in Phuket town by the 1890s. The more ornate two floor shophouses became more common in the early 20th century.
Before that, the houses were more rustic, simple but still with thick walls. Sometimes the Sino-Portuguese style is accredited to the founder of Singapore, Sir Stamford Raffles so maybe they should be called Sino -British instead.
As crown prince, Rama VI visited Phuket Town and noted that this was the most developed and modern place in Siam outside Bangkok.
It had a majestic courthouse, a cinema, an ice factory and some motor cars. Some of the fancier buildings built were the early bank offices that still can be seen. The Kasikorn Bank building in old Phuket town is a wonderful heritage and a popular photo spot.
During the old days in Phuket Town, the newly rich and the workers loved a good good party and the Chinese were infamous for their gambling. Soi Rommanee was a street full of brothels and opium dens.
I have stayed at the Memory at On On twice. First built in 1927 this is a hotel that after its renovation reveals a beautiful heritage but for a long, the hotel was famous for being a cheap and shabby backpacker place. It was chosen for this purpose for the movie The Beach with Leonardo Di Caprio in the year 2000.
The first time I stayed there, a friend in Phuket wasn’t aware of the upgrade and kind of wondered why on earth anyone wanted to stay there??! On On was early known as Un Un in Chinese, a very cheap hostel but the meaning was that it was a happy place to stay.
I have had a good experience from On On but also at the Sino Inn. Both gives that vintage and retro touch to the stay.
Phuket Town is worth visiting for eating great Chinese, and Thai-Chinese food, enjoy the genuine and authentic lifestyle of Phuket. There are nice cafes, and of course plenty of photo opportunities. The old town is beautifully illuminated in the evening. For good restaurants also don’t miss out on the places outside of the old town. As usual, the trick is to see where the locals themselves go. There are so many nice eateries in Phuket Town that are not mentioned in guidebooks. Just follow the crowd.
As a break from the beach life in Kata, Karon and Patong. It can be nice to try some local food in Phuket old town, sneak into the amulet market or feel the atmosphere in a Chinese shrine.
Below are a few fantastic insider tips on where to eat in Phuket Town. All collected and presented by my good friend Christian Larsson who is a long time resident on the island.
A classic and locally very well-known ”Khao Kaeng” restaurant right next to the Bus Terminal in the heart of Phuket Town. In this kind of restaurant, various kinds of curry (Kaeng) are offered in large stainless steel trays. You start with steamed rice on a plate (Khao) and then add the curry or curries of your liking.
In addition, this place offers freshly cooked vegetables that you pick out in their fresh and raw state before they go in the Wok and is then served separately, a definite bonus service this place offers compared to most Khao Kaeng places in town, this since vegetables is, of course, best freshly cooked.
In the South people often eat this kind of food for breakfast, something that is not common in the rest of the country. This points to the very interesting mixed Malay, Chinese, Thai and even Indian culinary heritage of Southern Thailand. Food is typically washed down with iced Kopi (coffee) or various herbal ice drinks.
Location on Google maps here.
Perhaps the most internationally renowned restaurant in Phuket Town. Well informed Foodies that come to Phuket often have a reservation at this place done long before they travel to Thailand.
Set in a gorgeous aged yellow coloured mansion that used to be the Governor’s Residence with large, almost park-like surroundings featuring huge old trees, plenty of birds and other wildlife, this place is an oasis of calm and class in the middle of the bustling city that surrounds it. Quite pricey compared to your typical Thai restaurant in Thailand but this place offers classic Thai cuisine prepared, presented and performed with care and attention to detail.
Location on Google Maps here.
This place is another classic restaurant serving traditional Thai cuisine, albeit in a more relaxed setting compared to the Blue Elephant. The restaurant is housed in an old wooden Thai house with black and white photos on the walls. Photos often depicting the owner (a lovely old lady) and her family through different generations. The menu is not innovative or new-age in any way but offers genuine Thai food both general Thai cuisine and the Southern type. Traditional Thai desserts are a speciality and should be included in a meal here.
This is a place where you’ll often see large families coming to eat together or westerners that have been brought to be impressed by a Thai business partner or friend. The old lady owner usually shuffles around between the tables to check that everything is ok and is happy to talk about food and recipes with the customers.
Location on Google maps here.
Thanks to the Chinese heritage you find numerous truly excellent noodle and Dim Sum places dotted all over the city centre.
But you will also find this particular Chinese restaurant that is a real institution among the upper class and wealthy Thai-Chinese in Phuket. The place is not large or particularly luxurious interior-wise, but clean and tidy with the very professional and knowledgeable staff.
Here the tables are most of the round and big variety, with a rotating glass section so that food can be spun around and reach everybody sitting at the table.
To the left, as you enter you’ll see a wall of aquariums where they keep their live seafood, and the selection is typically rather impressive, with almost always a good number of huge Phuket Lobsters (no claws variety) to choose from if you are so inclined. The menu is very extensive and a smart thing is that the dishes can all be ordered in regular or large (family) size.
Everything here is expertly cooked from terrific fresh ingredients. A speciality of the place is fried squid cakes. Yes, squid cakes and they are unexpectedly delicious. Another thing is ”Peking” Duck that they prepare the Cantonese way rather than in the traditional Beijing manner.
This means that only the roasted duck SKIN is served on a huge round plate that you then eat as they are or together with the supplied super-thin wheat pancakes that are quite a bit larger than the ones you might have experienced in Beijing. The rest of the duck meat is served separately, cooked in one of the various ways offered by the restaurant.
All the seafood dishes are furthermore excellent and for example, the lobsters are served cooked according to your preference and then served on a truly gigantic plate with lots and lots of condiments, it needs the huge tables to fit!
This locale is not cheap, especially if you go for the fancy seafood stuff, but the other, more regular dishes are not too pricey.
This restaurant is often fully booked by large wealthy Thai-Chinese families that regularly eat here. It can be a very interesting place for ”people watching” too, the Phuket elite families frequent this institution very often.
Location on Google Maps here.
Phuket Town is located on the South-Eastern part of the island and the Phuket airport North of Phuket Town is a 30-45 minutes drive by taxi.
Estimate a 20 – 30 minutes drive by car to Patong. It all depends on the traffic!
Some inspiration and historic information in this blog post was gathered from Phuket News.
Why is there a beautiful pavilion dedicated to Rama V – King Chulalongkorn in the small town of Ragunda in Jämtland in northern Sweden? This pavilion is completely in Thai style with a 26-meter golden gilded spire on top and with a bronze statue of the Great Thai King inside. It was built with Swedish local construction materials but the place was chosen by Thai people and blessed by Thai Monks. It was a very challenging place to build since the foundation had to be found very deep in an area covered with “blue clay”.
The Thai King came to Sweden in 1897 invited by the Swedish King Oscar the II to an exposition of art and industry. At the time Sweden and Norway were united as one kingdom.
The event marked the 25th anniversary of King Oscar’s reign. Construction began in 1895 and the Exposition was finally opened on May 15, 1897, by King Oscar II. It was a time to show the new technologies of the time and the Thai King is seen on film when he arrives in Stockholm and walks up on Logårdstrappan, being greeted by King Oscar II. This is sometimes considered the first film documented in Sweden. It was recorded by Ernest Floman on July the 13th 1897.
There was an honour gate in Siamese architectural style built to pay respect to the Thai Kings visit. In each corner of the gate, the old Siamese flag with a red background and the white elephant was draped.
There is a quite legendary anecdote that I heard in Bangkok in the late 1990s. It is a story that alleges that King Rama V had an elephant (maybe even a holy white one) as a gift for the Swedish king. The Swedish king feeling overwhelmed had no good gift to counter with. Considering the Swedish king of the forest, the elk is a lot smaller. But the story says that he turned to his adviser a General nicknamed Sven in Hell because he was so tough and rough. Sven had a sharp mind though and directly advised Oscar that there was something huge and completely unnecessary that was under Swedish control.
– Let’s give him Norway, Sven busted out.
There is no evidence of an elephant given to Sweden, and where the story comes from I don’t know. But anyhow, I can’t avoid flirting with the thought. Anachronistic and ridiculous for sure, but what if Norway would have become a Siamese colony?
The road was there before the pavilion. The Thai King travelled in a horse carriage from Bispgården and a place called Edset on his journey through this part of Sweden. It is said that quite a crowd gathered to see the King on what was supposed to be one of these magical Swedish summer days. The trip took place on a slightly dusty road but with quite amazing timing since rain was avoided. In the city of Sundsvall his yacht, the Maha Chakri would bring the king further North to Norrland. The kingdom of Sweden – Norway, had a similar industry as Siam at the time, forest industry. And the Thai King was interested in the Swedish sawmills. The Thai Kings journey on this road was recognized already in the 1940s when the old road was modernized and got the name Chulalongkorn’s Road.
In the 1980s Thai students at Uppsala University were very interested to find the location of the King Chulalongkorn Road in Sweden and after some investigation they found it. The first secretary at the Thai embassy Mr Sanit Chomchan was also very interested in the road and proposed to add a road sign with the name written in the Thai language. He also had the idea that the 100 years jubilee of the Kings visit to Sweden should be observed.
Mr Sommai Pongruthai a Thai man that lived and studied in Uppsala gave a lot of support and help to the idea of a sign in Thai, and when he brought two monks on a roadtrip to North Cape in Norway, they stopped at Bispgården in Utanede and an idea of a pavilion was born. In 1992, after a Thai traditional dance group from Kampangpaet also came here out of curiosity and support of the anniversary, a foundation for the memory of Chulalongkorn’s visit to Sweden was founded.
The construction cost amounted to approximately seven million Swedish Crowns, to which are added decorations of approximately three million Swedish Crowns for, among other things, the gilded spire.
The construction has been financed through fundraisers and sponsors in Thailand and Sweden. Rama IX -the Thai king of that time, own craftsmen were responsible for the decorations, while the building has otherwise been designed by regional Swedish companies.
The pavilion has 75 m2 of floor space. A stone wall of heavy 20 kg stones of Jämtland limestone frames the white pavilion.
14.05, on 19 July 1897, King Chulalongkorn of Siam passed the brook in Utanede. About a hundred years later construction started and the Thai Pavilion was inaugurated in 1998, and every year a flower-laying ceremony is held to honour the Thai Kings memory.
It is a very popular tourist sight in Sweden. Around 8000 to 10 000 people visit the pavilion during the summer months. This is the only pavilion of its kind outside of Thailand and it stands out in the landscape of the northern region of Jämtland.
Here is a link to the Pavilion in Ragunda for information about events and opening hours:
Information and inspiration from Thaipaviljongen.se, Mats Borners Historien om Thailand and Föreningen för Chulalongkorns minne(FCM).
As of the information today the pavilion is open from the 24th of May until the 5th of September.
Monday to Friday from 10 am to 3 pm.
Saturday and Sunday from 10 pm until 4 pm.
For years I have passed this steam locomotive while driving on the road up the mountain to Samoeng. I don’t know why I never went in to have a look because every time I feel astonished to see that impressive giant iron steam engine placed on a piece of the railway here in the mountain very far from any real rail connection..
Well, now it is a pretend train just like the little Thai girl said inside the cafe. But her grandfather added, it is a real train but modified to be a restaurant. From the sign of the passenger car, you can choose if you are travelling from Bangkok to Chiang Mai or from Bangkok to Hat Yai. Maybe in the days of covid, we need that kind of fantasy when we restrict ourselves from real travelling. Sitting in a cafe sipping coffee or ice tea and imagining we are on our way.
I was just surprised by how much more there was to it. After enjoying coffee on the train we took a quick stroll through the fern and orchid garden and then out on the small pond to enjoy views of water lilies and green rice paddies. The coffee shop is part of a resort, and the restaurant by the pond also have tremendous views of the terrain.
This is so close to our house so I wouldn’t dream of booking a night to stay here. So I cant speak about the accommodation but the compound is built in a way that you can come here and enjoy it for some hours. It’s tranquil and has some great photo spots, again it is a place of high ambition to try to attract people to shoot those perfect photos for Social Media. A very instagramable place.
While you are up here why not take a look at the remarkable White Pagoda, still under construction but a future sightseeing highlight in Chiang Mai.
You locate The Royal Train Garden Resort on Google Maps here.
Not Shanghai – but Panghai. This is an area that draws more and more attention with its lush and tranquil location by the Wang river, Doi Saket one hour and thirty minutes North-East of Chiang Mai. The Wang River is 335 kilometres long and has its source in the Wiang Pa Sao district in Chiang Rai Province.
There is a clear development of tourism in the area and it is worth exploring for a day or two. Recently I went with my kids for a night of glamping at Himdoi Panghai, ฮิมดอยโฮม ณ ปางไฮ. We had a very nice experience with Himdoi home in Mae Kampong. There is a kind of feeling of similarity between Mae Kampong and Panghai. You are close to scenic waterfalls, national parks and the Doi Saket hot springs.
The Himdoi Glamping experience is nice in the sense that they have only four rooms, well there are three tents with additional corrugated tin metal roofs and one more “normal” room called Cherry. It goes very much in “cherry red” and has a bathtub as well. The Cherry Room is located by the parking and a few steps only to walk down to the restaurant but still with Wang River views, while the three tents are located just by the river. In my opinion, the cherry room is the only option if you travel with someone that struggles to walk, with stairs and so on. This is, to be honest not a suitable place for people with physical disabilities. There is a slippery staircase, and everyone has to be careful of the sharp edges of the tin roof.
However, it is a calming spot. We stayed in a tent called Camelia. I had a small table to sit outside while looking at the kids playing in the river. The water felt super clean, there was a good flow of water since it was just by a small waterfall.
We had our private bathroom with a hot shower just outside the tent. A fantastic place to do nothing while admiring the Northern Thai forested landscape and listening to the sound of the river passing by. Bring some good mosquito repellent though! Our mobile data did not work, we use Dtac but the Himdoi Panghai had a decent wireless connection. The signal was a bit on and off but good enough for sure.
For dinner, we were suggested to eat at the Somsee Mae Somtum just a five-minute walk up the road, a cosy family-owned restaurant and we did go for the obligatory Muu Kata option. Hot Pot and BBQ. The same owner also has a small coffee shop just next to the restaurant.
Breakfast was just like in Himdoi home Mae Kampong a classical Thai congee rice soup, you could also eat some toasted bread and they had a free flow 24h service with hot water and as much Ovaltine or Nescafe 3 in one as you would like. Just like in Himdoi Mae Kampong you could get decent black coffee as well, drip coffee or Espresso. It is fantastic nowadays, wherever you go in Thailand there will always be great coffee.
On our way back to Chiang Mai, we took a break after just 15 minutes drive from the Himdoi Glamping site. It was a coincidence that we found the incredible Take A Walk House and Coffee. Read more about that experience here.
Enjoy the slideshow below for some more pictures of Himdoi@Panghai.
Contact Himdoi Glamping:
Adress on Google Maps here
Just a bit over an hour from Chiang Mai in Doi Saket, you will find this part park, part picnic ground, part playground and part farm, Take A Walk House and Coffee. The vicinity of Panghai is constantly getting more and more attention as an attraction.
It is a bit unexpected to find this place off the highway between Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai. Take a Walk House hosts a treehouse, a copy of a Hobbiton home and a place where you can visit a neat farm, enjoy coffee and cakes in a cute café, or just relax by the Mae Wang River.
My daughter said that this was the best playground she has been to in Chiang Mai so far. That is a good review from a girl that is used to places like Nic’s Playground and Triplets Eat and Play in Chiang Mai.
The whole area was planned as a camping ground for kids from Waldorf schools. So the huge and rustic houses were never intended for tourism, to begin with. But when Covid struck, everything changed. The coffee shop opened because the original plan was impossible to work out. We enjoyed our first visit so much that we decided to come back and stay for one night. The picture below is house nr. 5 next to the coffee shop. These houses are under consideration for long term rental, there is an idea to attract people that want to stay long term, digital nomads and others. And why not, a peaceful and natural environment with a great playground. At the moment these houses don’t have any decorations though.
Coming here is a day out though since you have to get on the number 118 highway towards Chiang Rai. Plan to spend at least a few hours to make the trip worth it.
For the current Take a Walk House and Coffee accommodation you need to remember these houses were originally built for teachers and students coming here for an international camp. They have five houses, that as of today’s information, prices range from 1500 baht per night inclusive of breakfast/2 person. There is a family house for client’s that need a larger house. Very large, cool, but no aircon. We stayed one night in June. It wasn’t hot at night. Rather pleasant. You can see fireflies and the frogs croaking remind you that you are very close to water.
People are starting to travel and explore a bit now again after the partial lockdown we just had. The parking at the cafeteria was rather full, but the area is big so it is not hard to keep social distance.
The owners and staff are very friendly and answer very fast on Facebook messenger. So it is a good way to contact them via social media.
The actual homestay which is a wonderful teak wooden house surrounded by a few small houses for rent is called Baan Dindandawn Onsen Homestay. It is currently closed but the owners gave us an inspection and it looks lovely. This homestay comes with pool access and private small onsens bathtubs. They have their rooms with a connection to the hot springs of Doi Saket. Rooms in this building start from prices a bit over 2000 baht. Dindandawn Onsen will open in a near future. The current plan stands as of July 2021. But better to check directly with the owners for this part.
At the moment you park at a parking lot, then walk along a stream for 100 meters and on the left you will see the area with the homestay before you pass the bridge over to the playground and café. (there is currently a yellow sign that says no entry). So there are two parts, the original homestay building and the freestanding houses near the cafe and playground.
Have a look at this slideshow for the Baan Dindandawn Onsen:
Take A Walk House and Coffee Facebook page here.
And Baan Dindandawn Onsen Facebook Page here.
The location for Take A Walk House and Coffee in Google maps you find here.
Just one more thing, There are photos of people camping in the area. According the owners, their camping ground is now closed so this is not an option anymore.
This year is quite different in many aspects here in Chiang Mai. The very early rains in April didn’t only stop the smog, but what seemed to be an early start of the rainy season, these April rains seems like a distant memory already. Now, there is thunder and lightning every night but no rain. Rather unusual for the month of May. Normally, the rainy season coincides perfectly with the bamboo rocket festival in the North-Eastern city of Yasothon. Sending these gunpowder loaded rockets, once upon a time, all made in bamboo(nowadays mainly in typical blue PVC) into the clouds would do the job to please the pre – Buddhism God of Phaya Taen. The airspace above the region is closed when loads of homemade rockets are shot into the sky, a spectacle that attracts tens of thousands of visitors every year.
Legend says there was a fight between a toad king named Phaya Khan Khak, and Phaya Taen. This meant that no rains were sent for many years resulting in a lot of death down on earth. After their fighting stopped, Phaya Taen promised to send the rains every year.
Since we have some relatives in Yasothon, we have a tradition to go there and experience the Bun Bang Fai Rocket Festival, one of the noisiest festivals in Thailand every year. It is a Thai festival so there will be food, a pageant beauty competition and a parade. Covid -19 seems to have stopped most celebrations this year, but there might be one or two villages that were allowed to hold the festival.
There is the main event in the city of Yasothon but many local festivals in the villages. We are always celebrating in the village.
This festival goes way back in history, it is mentioned by the French Explorers of Mekong as a tradition of Lao origin in the late 19th century.
It is a kind of merit-making to please the weather spirits. In Isarn(Isaan) the hot, and dusty season has always been as depressing as autumn can be to some people in Sweden. This is a time when you are waiting to let the dry rice fields go green again and make the whole landscape full of life and water. I have travelled a lot through North-Eastern Thailand during the hot and dry months and can witness that the atmosphere is very different compared to the time when the rice can be cultivated.
So certainly the rocket festival is an important ceremony to get the rain to kick off.
See the It’s better in Thailand video for a nice summary.
It appear that we really would need a few rockets to start the rains now. Steaming hot it is! Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain!!
If you are interested in this festival for 2022, we hope that we are in a very different travel atmosphere at that time. You can use the address below for more details of when and where:
TAT Ubon Ratchathani Office
Tel. +66 (0) 4524 3770; +66 (0) 4525 0714
Thaton, a small town that is most famous as a launching point for the boat trip on the Maekok river to Chiang Rai. One of all these boats rides that resemble the karst mountains of Guilin. But it is a very scenic ride, normally you will stop on the way to explore some of the hillside villages along the river.
Thaton or Tha Thon is not to confuse with its namesake in Myanmar.
Not a bad place to overnight though, there are a few nice resorts and guesthouses in town. I have stayed at the Maekok Village Resort that also can provide shorter boat trips on the river. Once we went just to the border of Myanmar on The Mae Nam Kok river. Most of the time this is a place where I have stopped with groups for a cheap and decent buffet lunch, the restaurant offers nice river views and there is a small garden to stroll around.
This is a nice break from the winding mountain roads between Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai.
The viewpoint at the temple offers 9 different levels and provides some stunning panorama of the landscape and the river. If you are just travelling through, make sure you go to the temple for the views. You can see the hills of the Burmese Shan State from here. Myanmar being just some kilometres away. The highlight of the structure is the building itself, with a touch of purple and a green spire.
For last year’s road trip up to Doi Maesalong and the Akha Mudhouse, we stayed just briefly for lunch in Thaton. There was a nice Muslim Jin Haw Chinese restaurant just by the 7/11 that served ok food, the Khao Soi wasn’t five star but ok.
In my mind, Thaton is not much of a destination in itself. But with the location it has it deserves some of your time when you are travelling through.
If you want to get out from the hustle and bustle. Get closer to nature, or just explore a bit as a change from Chiang Mai. Here are five ideas normally just around two hours from Chiang Mai, and that are suitable for staying over the night. Click on the blue coloured links in the list for more details about each place.
Mae Kampong embedded in greenery on steep and narrow mountain roads this little village is like a fairytale. Working hard on preservation It is also crowded with nice cafes and Bed and Breakfasts. Extremely popular among the Thai crowd during the colder months of the year, an Instagram – hotspot.
Once mountain forests and in more recent history the slopes have been turned into rice fields by the hill tribes. Not exactly Ubud or Longji but still scenic. Mae Klang Luang is easily accessible from Chiang Mai by car, it is on the way when you drive to the top of Thailands highest mountain Doi Inthanon. Stay at a local homestay relax your eyes on the rice paddies and do some local hiking.
The Rabaeng Treehouse is by a small stream surrounded by teak forests, not far from cars stone caves, red dunes, the sticky waterfall and the Mae Ngat dam. Plenty of things to explore, the colourful Wat Ban Den temple is also nearby and well worth a visit. But if you just want to relax, you can very much enjoy this place by itself. Unique accommodation in Northern Thailand.
With a few cosy resorts, nice panoramic views of the Doi Luang Mountain, hiking opportunities and caves to explore. Chiang Dao is a nice getaway for a night or a good starting point for a scenic drive over the foothills of Himalaya to Chiang Rai.
Head towards Mae Wang or Doi Inthanon. Here you find a relaxed small canyon with a small river beach and cool and freshwater. Free entrance, some hiking chances, and the possibility to camp for a night.