Additional provinces to open for tourism according to TAT. From 1st of October Chiang Mai, Chonburi, Phetchaburi, Bangkok and Prachuap Kiri Khan.
From the end of October, another 21 provinces will open for instance Chiang Rai, Ayutthaya, Songkhla, Lamphun and Mae Hong Son. The plan is that the whole country should be open around January 13th 2022. Exactly under what conditions we will have to wait and see. And follow the updates from TAT. At the moment the idea about sealed travel routes in Chiang Mai is reconsidered for instance.
Nowadays, Chiang Mai is just a two hour direct flight to Phuket or Krabi and you can be on the beach. But it is not entirely true that we don’t have any beaches in Chiang Mai. Since February this year there is a place called Chiang Mai river beach. On Google maps they claim to be a coffee shop but there is more to it.
The Mae Nam Ping(river) is not that inviting to swim in but there are sun chairs and sand and toys for the kids to play in the sand. As usual it is also an Instagram hotspot where you can take a selfie with flowers or chill in a swing shaped like the moon.
There is also a bar with light dishes, coffee, and drinks.
Just recently I was on a somewhat “forced” vacation. I needed to stay 14 nights in Phuket to be able to go home to Chiang Mai. This was instead of a 14 night ASQ(alternative state quarantine) quarantine in Bangkok. So it allowed me to take a closer look at Phuket. My choice of hotel was Andamantra Resort & Villas in Kalim Bay. First and foremost I was looking for a decent resort for a reasonable price. On a hotel booking site, I got a good deal. 11000 baht including breakfast in a Premium room! For two weeks! So how was it?
Andamantra Resort & Villas is on the west coast of Phuket. Just 2 kilometres from Patong and a short drive from Kamala and Surin beaches. Kalim beach or bay is a very nice place to stay since it is a small district with a local community. The majority of the people living here are Muslims. There is a mosque and a school. Kalim beach is very short, mostly you see people fishing and it is popular with surfers. Quite a lot of rocks. Between the hotel and the beach, there is a road. But, this is the case in most places around Phuket. I highly appreciated the food scene. Both the local street food vendors and the international cuisine in the area. Read more about Kalim beach and its fantastic restaurants here.
Laundry service, 7/11 and motorbike rentals just outside the resort.
Many people go for the rooms on the hill with great panoramic views of the ocean. If you do, be ready for a short shuttle car transfer up and down or quite a walk. Some people would drive their rental motorbikes the whole way up. I had a friend that stayed at Andamantra just before I came. He recommended I ask for rooms near the breakfast and the lobby. Therefore I ended up in building 2. In this part of the hotel, you don’t get any smashing views, but the swimming pool and breakfast were close. Someone said that the internet connection worked better here also. Anyway, I rely more on my phone and 4G than hotel wifi.
The room was large with a king-size bed and a big balcony. Be prepared that the rooms are a bit worn, old school. A display by the bed to control the lights and the central air-conditioning, but no power outlet near the bed to charge the phone. There is a slight sweet-toned smell from moisture. This happens in many hotels in the tropics though where there is high humidity, and I can understand the problems it must have been for many of these hotels to keep up maintenance during the pandemic.
Vast washroom and a good shower. The toilet flushed well but slowly. Sometimes need to press the button twice.
You could hear motorbikes driving up and down outside the room and the occasional minaret call to prayer as well as some roaster and hens cluck-cluck, chuck-chuck. It didn’t bother me. But I met a digital nomad that asked for a room change because he was so disturbed by what he said was the noise from the road.
I never turned on the TV so I have no idea if there were any good channels.
I don’t want to be too harsh against the hotel since they tried to provide a buffet. That indicates that there were quite a lot of choices. The hotel provided rice porridge, some salad, warm Thai dishes, fried egg, sausages and fruits such as watermelon and pineapple. In terms of bread, only white toast bread and some banana cakes(delicious). Some day you could get pancakes. For the warm food, the main ingredient was chicken in almost all dishes every day.
Juice and coffee was nothing to write home about. But the 7/11 outside the hotel had great coffee for 25 baht. So every morning I headed straight to 7/11 after breakfast. For the price, I paid I must say that there were enough choices to enable me to leave the breakfast full every morning. It does help if you can eat rice and chicken basil for breakfast though.
If you are dependent on yoghurt, many choices of bread and so on. Then you will not appreciate this breakfast. I did suggest they have some more variation politely. They do have a real coffee machine but for a latte and cappuccino, it is something you need to pay for.
I have only positive things to say. When I asked for the Sha + hotel confirmation to use for my COE, it took less than 15 minutes to receive the document from their reservations. Housekeeping, reception, breakfast staff were all very friendly and efficient.
Andamantra served my purpose perfectly. A decent hotel at a great location near the sea for a very reasonable price. If you are looking for something more modern, with a high-quality breakfast during the early stages of the return of tourism to Thailand you can find some amazing deals for five star and luxury resorts. I heard of people that expected a lot more from Andamantra. That photos and booking sites gave the impression of a resort that was almost 5 stars. Some photos of the resort are indeed amazing. Good value for money I would say but old, and not at all that smashing.
I have received some questions about flying domestic in Thailand after Phuket Sandbox program. As of September the 1st, air traffic has begun with more frequent flights again from Phuket.
I found a travel option with the Thai Smile Airline via Bangkok to Chiang Mai. When you check out of the hotel, you get a certificate that you have “done” your 14 nights in the sandbox and that all three PCR tests were negative. At the check in counter at Phuket Airport the staff looked at this document.
Otherwise, travel was as usual with the exception that there were extremely few people at the airports. It made social distancing easy and there was no waiting time anywhere.
The two Thai Smile flights were relatively fully booked with the middle seat vacant. Wearing a mask at all times was obligatory.
No meals were served during the flight, but you could bring a small paper bag with a snack with you when you disembarked from the aeroplane. Since I am a Royal Orchid Gold member I could also access the lounge at Phuket Airport and Suvarnabhumi.
They actually provided full meals if you wanted. At Phuket Airport some restaurants and coffeeshops were open, at Suvarnabhumi mainly just Lawson and some snack shops.
At Chiang Mai Airport, you needed to scan a QR code and answer a form where you travelled from and some other questions. A little hassle but only a little. It didn’t really take that much extra time.
Some staff also quickly looked at my hotel certificate.
If you intend to travel domestically after the Phuket stay, you must make sure what rules apply in the province you are travelling to. Flying domestic in Thailand after Phuket sandbox was smooth though.
The rules vary from province to province. The indications are that Thailand moves in the direction of opening up more and more. But as we all know during this pandemic, it is impossible to predict.
I spent two weeks on Thailands largest and most famous paradise island. I had so many experiences and got to know the island a lot better than before. And still, I found that there was enough time for just doing nothing as well as doing some work and blogging. Below you will find a list of what I considered to be my 5 best Phuket Sandbox experiences.
What is memorable and not has also something to do with what days had the best weather. Have a look and feel free to click the links to go more into depth for the different places.
Located on Phuket’s West Coast this area offers some of the most stunning scenery. Not a surprise that you also find some of the islands most expensive residences on this stretch. The so-called Millionaire Mile. The beach itself has quite a few restaurants and some hotels with direct beach access. Lucky that I was with the weather I enjoyed walks along the casuarina and coconut palm-covered beach while experiencing some of the most dramatic and spectacular sunsets that I have ever seen.
When I was done with the walking it was a pure pleasure to indulge in some good food at a restaurant overlooking the beach. Kamala was quite active and alive so it is indeed a great remembrance.
Read more about Kamala Beach here.
Not the best beach for a swim but still pleasant enough to be next to. My Sha+ hotel Andamantra was located here. I fell in love with the area for the wonderful local food available. Every night motor carried food stalls parked by the water, some even sat up some chairs and tables. At the Patong Bazaar, you could also find super cheap local food. Phuket style dim sum breakfast/brunches were available and at Sea Salt by the Sea and L’arom you could spoil yourself with top-quality international food. I do think that Kalim is a bit overlooked. To me, it was the perfect base to explore Phuket Island.
Read more about Kalim Bay here.
Strangely enough still a bit underrated. A visit to Phuket Town is a must to understand where the richness in Phuket originally came from. The tin boom of South East Asia. Only in most recent modern times has tourism become the source of wealth on the island. Phuket old town is crammed with glamorous Sino-Portuguese shophouses, elegant bank buildings, boutique accommodations, coffee shops and some of the best food you can find on the island.
The reimagining of the Old Town’s heritage sites exemplifies the constantly evolving blend of cultures that makes Phuket such a tremendous and interconnected island. It can feel a bit kitschy and overworked at times. But it is hard not to like it.
Read more about Phuket Town here.
Another of the 5 best Phuket sandbox experiences is walking on Patong Beach. It is very close to Kalim bay. And the morning walks in the crescent-shaped bay with the waves rolling in as a quiet thunder every morning was like balm to the soul. At the moment you can see the original beauty of this beach and why it became the most popular place on the whole island. The tourism development started in 1980. Patong means the forest filled with banana plants. But those days are long gone.
In the town of Patong life was uneventful, but there were some restaurants open. The big shopping malls like Jung Ceylon and Central were closed though. Gradually, things will open up.
Read more about Patong Beach here.
Driving along the west coast there are winding roads excellent viewpoints, classy beaches and excellent eateries and cafes. Touching the east coast I also enjoyed some of the best sushi I ever had in Thailand in Rawai. Nai Harn and Rawai were also open to business. No sense of being at some ghost districts. Promthep Cape was quieter. This is not a bad thing. If you are waiting to experience that extraordinary sunset in solitude, now is the time to avoid the crowds.
Another great viewpoint is the Karon viewpoint overlooking the Andaman as well as three of the famous west coast beaches.
Read more about Nai Harn and Rawai here.
The 5 best Phuket Sandbox experiences only give you a hint of everything that Phuket has to offer. There are over 40 beaches and so many opportunities to snorkel, dive or go fishing f.i.
Some unusual experiences would be to go and see rum production in Chalong, or drive up to the Mining Museum to learn more about how Phuket initially earned its wealth.
Finally, Phuket is the biggest island, the second smallest province but also the richest province. So there are many fascinating aspects of this island roughly the size of Singapore. Local Phuket firms on Phuket are now pitching for an earlier complete opening. According to Bangkok Post many business owner wants to see a full opening by 1st of December. The Sandbox program is simply not enough to survive according to them.
So, it has been announced. Chiang Mai opens to fully vaccinated foreign travellers. But not every district and under some conditions. At least we are on the right path. Chiang Mai and its citizens are so dependent on tourism so it need to get in the game as soon as it is possible.
Four districts will open. Mueang Chiang Mai is the downtown /central district. Furthermore, Mae Rim, Mae Taeng and Doi Tao.
When Chiang Mai opens, its old town has so much to offer. The historic heritage and the temples. Food and weekend markets. Now we will have to see what happens to the old night market at Chang Klan road. There has been talking of an upgrade of the old market. In Muang Chiang Mai you also find the sprawling and sparkling trendy Nimmanhemin area with its coffee shops, bars and restaurants.
The Mae Sa Valley and the playground of Chiang Mai. Mae Sa waterfall, Queen Sirikit Botanical garden, Insect museums. Home to elephant camps and sanctuaries and of course Elephant poop making.
Also a scenic and beautiful area by the river Taeng. Mae Taeng has the impressive pan Buddhistic temple Wat Ban Den, the inviting and interesting Bua Tong sticky waterfall and nice camping sites. It is bordering the scenic and exciting district of Chiang Dao.
The southern district on the road to Hot is famous for local farm life and Doi Tao lake.
For more details and the conditions for travelling in Chiang Mai, stay updated with the TAT website. As it stands it seems that travellers will not be able to freely roam the Chiang Mai districts but need to join certain tour programs.
I have very little information regarding the rules and conditions now but the hopes are that people after staying in Phuket for a week might want to go up north to be cultural for a week.
So as earlier mentioned, follow the Tourism Authority of Thailand for updates regarding the opening of other destinations outside Phuket. Hopefully, the whole of the country will be open by January 15th 2022 as earlier announced.
Phuket Town and the Island’s Tin Museum are very much connected. After all, the Island’s wealth was initially built on the tin trade and allowed Chinese immigrants to grow rich from this business. So on a rainy day, I got into my rental car and started driving. The first stop was the Mining Museum.
Bronze which is an alloy of mostly copper and some tin gave its name to one of the periods of antiquity. Most of the worlds tin deposits are found in conjunction with granite. Veins of tin down as hard tin were running through the granite but were impossible to mine for the ancient miner.
The ancient miner used cassiterite, an oxide formed by weathering of the surface of the tin deposit. In Thailand, there is evidence of good bronze work dating back to 3000 B.C. Including 10% tin. A dagger found from Ban Chiang in North East Thailand dated back to 3600 B.C had 2.5% tin. Read more here.
The Main Range Granitoid Province in western Peninsular Malaysia, southern Peninsular Thailand and central Thailand is almost entirely made up of biotite granite (184–230 Ma). Tin deposits associated with these granites contributed 55% of the historic tin production of Southeast Asia.sciencedirect.com
The Southeast Asian Tin Belt is a north-south elongate zone 2800 km long and 400 km wide, extending from Burma (Myanmar) and Thailand to Peninsular Malaysia and the Indonesian Tin Islands.sciencedirect.com
In 1583 the Portuguese had a depot for the tin trade in Talang and in the 17th century, they were pushed back by the Dutch for the control of tin. The Dutch in their turn were expelled by the inhabitants of Thalang and then the British Captain Francis Light came to establish a trading station and he developed a partnership with the Governor of Thalang.
In 1809 new deposits of tin was found in today’s Kathu area. This was the birth of modern tin mining in Phuket. Chinese migration real took off and gradually new methods of mining started where it was possible to break down soils and rocks with water to reach the tin veins. At the end of the century, Phuket town was so important that it was put directly under Bangkok control.
The Kathu mining museum is located on a prime developing real estate. Pretty much in the hills on the middle of the island. It is clear that the persons behind it themselves indeed does have some money. The grandeur of the soft pinkish Sino-Portuguese building increases your expectations quite a lot. But actually the building is in my opinion the real highlight here.
In the 20th century, marine vessels were utilized to dredge ore from the seabed and then these were used inland as well. In the 1960s a tin melting plant was built and contributed to the wealth of Phuket. A decision was made to develop tourism into the island from 1973 and the tin mining was gradually decreased after large protests against a new tin ore smelting factory in 1988. This was the birth of a new era, tourism. Read more about this narrative on Phuketindex.com.
The actual exhibition about tin would need some modern digitalisation or at least some pedagogical touch that would help it to take off. A knowledgeable guide could be helpful as well. There is so much more that could be made out of the museum to explain the importance of tin for Phuket Island.
In another section o the museum you walk into a Chinese junk and there are lifestyle exhibitions about how the Hokkien immigrants lived. But again there are mostly a bunch of selected items and exhibited without many stories engaging the visitor. I spent about an hour here. Then I proceeded to Phuket old town.
I have been coming here continuously since 2011 and the old heritage of Sino-Portuguese shophouses and the historic banks has gradually been restored and at night illuminated. It is a gastronomic and cultural relief to get here after a few days at the beach.
A visit to Phuket town is a must. So many delicious restaurants, high-quality coffee shops, Chinese shrines, galleries and of course the Instagram hot spots with street art. The street art project has a name, FAT. The Food Art Town in Phuket. The artwork is located in a compact section of town. Have a look at Phuket Magazine for where to find the best spots.
I am particularly fond of the area around On On hotel and Kasikorn Bank. I had time for some single-origin coffee on soi Romanee and for some time I wanted to try the Crab House. Something, I didn’t regret.
Weirdly enough some beach restaurants served no crab, but in Phuket town, I could indulge in it.
Apart from the Crab house mentioned above, you can check out my foodie guide here.
The last few days I had the pleasure of spending some time on some of the west coasts nicest beaches. Sunsetting in Surin and Kamala, and a long beach stride on Bang Tao. Kamala came out as exceptionally memorable. But all three beaches are jewels on Phuket’s west coast. In some ways similar but still not quite the same atmosphere.
Kamala Beach is part of the scenic coast area also sometimes referred to as the millionaire mile. From all the luxury estates situated with stunning scenery of the Andaman Sea from the south of Kamala down towards Patong Beach. Kamala is roughly 10 kilometres north of Patong Beach on Phuket’s west coast. Kamala is divided into two sections, the original Muslim town, and the touristic area built along the beach. The beach is about two kilometres long. What caught my eye was the smashing sunsets here. Just standing on the beach looking at the surfer’s silhouettes with the sound setting in the background was wonderful. In the low season, you could see some people sunbathing, but most people were walking the beach.
Some long term residents with their dogs. What was super neat to see was that the restaurants located along the beach had some decent business. I sat down for a drink and some Toast Skagen at the Boat Bar & Restaurant. Also a great spot for sunsets. With relatively few tourists but still not abandoned I can imagine Kamala becoming a super hit for the upcoming high season in the Phuket Sandbox.
In downtown Kamala I had three inexpensive but amazing dinners at a small green restaurant The English sign is Thai Muslim food. The real name is ก๋วยเตี๋ยวเรือนิคอย/Nicoy Boat Noodle.
They have pretty much everything on the menu but their signature is beef and especially beef noodles.
I went for the stewed beef with basil and chilli. 60 baht and some variation to the seafood. There were quite a few restaurants open in Kamala. Also, some of the bars were open.
Check out this slideshow for some of the magic from sunsetting in Kamala. No filters used that magic evening.
When I was in Surin, there was even more activity than in Kamala. The atmosphere is slightly different though. There was more of a local touch. Many locals came down to the beach to play beach football and just sit and enjoy picnics. Many local food vendors along the beach and some areas where you could sit down on plastic chairs and enjoy papaya salad and barbecue.
We stayed at Mana Thai Resort in Surin a few years ago during the low season. That was at the time a very nice hotel where you could access the pool directly from the rooms. Anyhow Surin Beach is also surrounded by exclusive real estate and the 1-kilometre beach has a similar touch to Kamala.
A 6 kilometres long beach that has a lot of new development of the Laguna group surrounding it. The beach is flanked by casuarina trees. One of Phuket longest beaches and at sections quite peaceful and deserted. It is a family-friendly beach though.
Many motorbikes are parked here and the occasional camping chair on the beach. The restaurant area and Boat Avenue makes you feel that you are in a very international environment. I highly enjoyed Bake, a Scandinavian bakery as well as an eatery with wood-fired pizzas and a selection of pasta and more.
There were also East Mediterranean, Mexican, and newly opened Irish restaurant O Haras just to mention a few. Malls, fast food outlets, Villa Market(for foreign goods), golf courses gives you the feeling that people staying around here probably don’t move around that much. It is all here.
In the small local district of Bang Tao it was full of market life. No sense of the area being shut down.
My photos are all taken during low season and during the Sandbox program. It will look very different in a drier climate and with more people. Still, it was great to get a hint of which areas that are alive and not on Phuket’s west coast.