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.

Phuket Airport
What a quiet airport

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.

Thai Airways lounge Phuket Airport
Lounge access in Phuket for Thai Gold members
Coffee machine at Phuket Airport
Coffee machine Phuket lounge

The two Thai Smile flights were relatively fully booked with the middle seat vacant. Wearing a mask at all times was obligatory.

Domestic departure board Phuket Airport
Domestic departure

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.

Thai Smile Airline at Suvarnabhumi airport
Thai Smile at Suvarnabhumi
Domestic departure hall at Suvarnabhumi airport
Lawson had good business

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.

If you are planning a trip to Phuket have a look at the process of applying for COE here. And follow the TAT news update for travelling in Thailand here.

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.

1. Sunsetting on Kamala Beach

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.

A very memorable experience, the sunset at Kamala Beach.

Read more about Kamala Beach here.

2. Enjoying the local food scene in Kalim Bay

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.

Kalim Bay has a beach but is better for surfers

Read more about Kalim Bay here.

3. Exploring the Heritage of Phuket Town

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.

Soi Romanee in Phuket ton
The nowadays very cute Soi Romanee.

Read more about Phuket Town here.

4. Daily long walks on Patong Beach

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.

Patong Beach in August 2021

Read more about Patong Beach here.

5. Going to South Phuket – A Roadtrip to Nai Harn and Rawai

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.

Rawai beach
Boats at Rawai

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.

Mueang Chiang Mai

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.

Explore the temples in the old town. Wat Chedi Luang is very beautiful during the blue hour.

Mae Rim

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.

Queen Sirikit Botanical Garden in Mae Rim

Mae Taeng

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 extraordinary sticky waterfall in Mae Taeng

Doi Tao

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.

The Mining Museum and the History of Tin on Phuket.

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.

Entering the museum.

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

Furthermore,

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 entrance to the Mining museum.

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.

A nice model in the museum depicting a lot of workers working the soil.


Tin was found in the Kathu district of Phuket and was mined until 1992 on Phuket. Tin ore also existed in quantity in the neighbouring Andaman coast from Khao Lak to Takua Pa.

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.

Returning 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.

Phuket town was open for business. Not flocked with visitors though.
Some nice retro setting’s in Phuket Town. This is a popular photo spot, Kasikorn bank.
The shrine of Serene light was established in 1891 by the offspring of the Tan Luan Jae family. The Shrine of the Serene Light – also known as Sang Tham Shrine is not any of the larger shrines. It is very modest but it is so nice to get off the main road and enjoy the stillness while smelling the incense.
A tranquil Hokkien-Chinese hideaway. Please note that no photos are allowed in the main shrine and make sure to take your shoes off.
Some of the best crab in Phuket town can be found at the Crab House.
Fried rice with crab and crab rolls full of crab meat at the awesome Crab House.
Nice Western- Sino fusion at Casa Blanca.
A three star classic in Phuket Town.
Excellent coffee at the Doubrew in soi Romanee.
More street art just by the entrance of soi Romanee
One of my favourite street arts of old Phuket Town.
Soi Romanee was once a red-light district for the many Chinese labourers who came to work the tin mines. Soi Romanee roughly translates to ‘naughty with the ladies’ because of its infamous history.
This street art was created by Thai artist Alex Face. The artist’s signature character, known as Mardi, has been interweaving into a red tortoise cake. This is a delightful delicacy and traditional snack during the Phor Tor Hungry Ghost Festival. The mural also captions favourable Chinese words on the ankles, wrists and tail of the turtle.

Did you know?

  • That the word Phuket derives from Bhukit a Malay word referring to the word hill.
  • On European charts previously you would see the name Junk Ceylon a corruption of the Malay Tanjung Salang.
  • The infamous soi Sea Dragon gets its name from the Chinese legend that Phuket is a golden sea dragon called Hai Leng On also considered a protector of Phuket.

Looking for good places to eat in Phuket Old Town?

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

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.

Spicy beef with chili and hot basil

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.

Surin Beach

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.

Surin Beach Phuket Thailand local vendors
Just after the rain
Surin Beach Phuket Thailand
Beach fun in Surin

Bang Tao Beach

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.

Bang Tao beach Phuket
Not the busiest day.

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.

After the somewhat tough day considering the weather conditions when I was visiting Freedom Beach and The Big Buddha, I was luckier with the weather when heading south on the west coast today towards Nai Harn Beach. On the way, I passed through Karon and Kata beaches that unfortunately seems quite depressing in these pandemic times. So it felt good to come up to the Karon viewpoint. Astonishing panoramic views and a sense of solace.

Karon viewpoint

I haven’t been here since 2009 and the views were just as wonderful as I remembered. My ambition today apart from Nai Harn Beach was to get to Ya Nui Beach and Rawai Beach as well.

Nai Harn Beach revisited

Nai Harn did not disappoint, albeit it is low season, the beach next to the casuarina tree park area was very inviting for a pleasant stroll. Some surfers were challenging the waves, a few people enjoyed just standing in the water, and some were sunbathing or doing yoga. I sat down for a while on a piece of driftwood. There is a classy touch to the whole area of Nai Harn. It is somewhat more low key than Patong, Karon and Kata. Nai Harn has the kind of long stay relaxed atmosphere, great restaurants, galleries and trendy coffee shops.

Nai Harn beach the Green Season version

A pristine beach in a small bay with an entirely different atmosphere than its northern cousins on the west coast. If I had the money to spend and was looking for a sandbox holiday rather than just travelling through like I am now, my personal choice would probably be Nai Harn. I noticed that a new Novotel complex was under construction and continued to have a coffee break at Canelle bakery & co. Seemingly a very popular local eatery, their pastry was savoury and the lunch dishes also seemed excellent.

Ya Nui Beach a Phuket Delight

I proceeded with my drive southwards for a stop at Ya Nui beach. Not a secluded secret. This beach is small and easy to find but still a delight. There was a small parking ground and some western families that looked like Phuket locals that were enjoying the sea and water.

Ya Nui beach

Promthep Cape – The End of Phuket

Still lucky with the weather I made a stop at another viewpoint. The famous Promthep Cape. The southernmost viewpoint of Phuket has also been called the end of Phuket. It was empty up there. You can see that this place has the capacity for a huge amount of visitors at the same time. Famous for sunsetting, (and some do the walk on the dirt path to the end of the cape). This is where the tour buses will stop in the high season. West facing all waiting for the sunset with cameras. There is a restaurant the Bukito by Promthep Restaurant with fabulous views of the surroundings.

I spent some time at the shrine and read about the monument. It is a statue of the 28th child of King Chulalongkorn, Admiral and Prince Abhakara. The Prince studied naval warfare in England and was instrumental in setting up the modern Thai navy facilities in Sattahip. The Royal Prince Admiral went to England to personally negotiate the investment of the Phra Ruang destroyer, one of the first ships of the Royal Thai Navy and to control the ship during its ensuing voyage home. The Admiral Prince is considered to be the Father of the Thai Navy.

Sushi lunch at Rawai

Now, Rawai wasn’t far off. So I continued and switched to the east side of the island. Arriving at Rawai, a beach not so famous for its beauty but more the boats heading out the nearby islands. Anyway, I am vulnerable to a setting with long-tail boats along a coast. Today there was also a nice glow in the sky, mystifying the area in a dreamlike manner.

I parked my car, luckily just outside a sushi restaurant, Uetoro, that turned out to be the ideal lunch place. The sushi in here was top class for being outside of Japan. Outstanding “fruit de mer”. Not that cold that you sometimes receive sushi in less scrupulous diners.

Anyway, 7 prime pieces was a treat for 499 baht. They also had cheaper nigiri selections of sushi for around 200 baht.

Sushi at Uotero

Rawai beach was striking for taking beach photos and also for the impressive selection of high-class restaurants and local Thai eateries along the road, and by the beach. Many places were open and I passed some common workspace in the area as well.

Boats in Rawai Bay

Happy with my day I started driving back to the Andamantra hotel in Kalim Beach again. Again, driving through Kata and Karon testing my memory as to what the beaches looked like when they were full of life when I stayed there in 2009.

Just after parking the car at the hotel, the rain started. The end of another day in the Phuket sandbox.

Determining it was time to get out a bit from Kalim and the hotel, I rented a car for a Phuket roadtrip. In a tiny Nissan March, I started by driving to Freedom Beach. I can’t exactly say that I did my homework. And this aspect made it turn out to be quite an adventure. Turning right from the main road out from Patong there was a quite steep slope leading into a small village of a kind. After a short ride, the paved road turned into a dirt road. The monsoon rains had obviously hit the road very hard. I decided to drive slowly, to be careful and take my chances avoiding a few cracks and fairly large stones on the road.

After reaching the end of Google Maps official road, on the map was this indication with small dots. It said “additional road”. Luckily, there were also local signs declaring Freedom Beach go this way. So I followed the signs.

End of the road, start of the walk to Freedom Beach

I arrived to the point where to park to park and then start walking. Waiting for me were some local entrepreneurs that sold a lot of services, everything from fishing tours to ATV rentals. The latter I had no problem understanding. The way leading down to the beach was a complete mud bath. ( Remember this is September in Phuket). Going in high season and with dry hot weather will be a completely different story. Anyway, they offered a kind of steeply charged transfer for a very steep road in a four-wheel drive. And it was worth every single baht to slide around down to the beach. The adrenalin kick sat in directly. Driving took less than 5 minutes . I pictured myself in a bobsleigh outside its track hammering through rocks and roots into the heart of dark jungle. Not that bobsleighs normally operates here. But still came to my mind.

Some of the infamous overland transfers to Cambodia ten years ago also came to mind. But this hmm, road was bumpy and steep. A snow free downhill race.

Anyhow, I walked the last stairs down. Then I sat down to contemplate tourism before and after the pandemic for a while. Just looking at the cliffs on the horizon. It was clear that bad weather was on its way in. No filters were needed to create any drama effects for the photos this day.

Freedom Beach Phuket
The staircase you need to walk down and up after the mud road.

After a while, two more people came. It turned out that they were vendors. They managed the little stall with samples of drinks that I had seen. The man set up the shop and the lady opened her bluetooth radio and filled a short sphere around here with traditional North-Eastern folk music. She told me that the two of them were from Ubon Ratchatani in the Northeast also known as Isarn. Again I got the story of how Covid had destroyed someone’s work and how she and her husband had moved around the country to try to find opportunities.

Finally, they settled in Phuket hoping for some chances with the “sandbox”. Not materializing the way they expected it. Now, they simply took their chances to have some drinks sold on the beach and helping to sell food from the kitchen upstairs. Somedays only two or three customers she said. Depends on the weather and the “sandbox” situation.

Four wheel drive to Freedom Beach
Happy driver.

Then the rain

A light rain started and I reckoned that I had to get moving. Some of those dark clouds were quickly moving in on me. I called up to the staff and asked to be picked up. The jeep came slamming down the slope again and off we went. The rain gaining in intensity and the driver said he was worried because he forgot to fill up with petrol. Luckily, we made it the whole way up, and now the rain was battering the mud road.

I thought a bit about what to do next, tropical monsoon and rental car? Not a day for exploring more beaches. So, what to do? I considered going to Phuket Town to have some delicious Thai – Chinese lunch or to visit a museum. But again, I decided to take my chances and I have never been to the Big Buddha on Phuket Island. Maybe the rain would stop. And I yearned for the temples and Buddhas of Chiang Mai anyway. So, it was Buddha and temple time.

The Big Buddha

I got on my with road trip, it took about 30 -40 minutes to get the great protector of Chalong as the Buddha has been called. I had to wait quite a while for the rain to stop. Just stayed in the car in the parking lot. Driving to the top where the Buddha of peace is located wasn’t difficult. It just wouldn’t be a day of splendid panoramic views of Phuket island. Or photos of a marble white Buddha towards a deep blue sky.

I still like the pictures I got, misty and mysterious. And I was alone up there apart from two or three other Buddha enthusiasts. He is tall, 45 metres they say.

Phuket Big White Buddha
The Big Buddha built with the help of donations from locals and tourists and the short name is Ming Mongkol Buddha.Furthermore, it sits atop Nakkerd Hill. Construction began in 2004
Dramatic skies over Phuket Island
Dramatic heavy rain clouds stretching out over the landscape.
Naga staircase to the Big Buddha
Naga snakes guarding the staircase with the Big Buddha in the mist behind.

The rain started again. It wouldn’t stop until 8 pm. I could feel water inside my shoes. Enough adventure for one day so I headed back to the hotel.

How to reach Freedom Beach?

According to the site Phuket 101. Freedom Beach is only accessible by longtail boat and only during the high season, usually from December to June.

Moreover, taking a long tail boat from Patong Beach to Freedom Beach should be around 1200 baht to 1500 baht for the whole boat.

However, I did see motorbikes where I parked my car even in green/rainy season. So it is possible to drive but then you either have to walk or use the “local transfer”. At this time of year they charged 200 baht go and return. I was handed a phone number and could call as soon as I wanted to get up.

It felt expensive at the time, but I was in no mood to walk and just kept reminding myself that this is Phuket and prices are in general higher here than less touristic areas.

Anyway, check out Phuket 101s article about Freedom Beach and what it looks like in the High Season. Pre- pandemic version. There you find more information on how to get there, prices and so on.

My hotel Andamantra Resort and Villa is just north of Patong Beach but it belongs to Kalim beach/bay. This is a more quiet section of the west coast. The rocky beach is inviting for surfers, fishermen and people collection shells in the evening. Not that suitable for swimming but still you see some people swim there.

The Thai Touch of Kalim Beach

Just outside the hotel, there is a small Muslim community with a school and a kindergarten. Also, a minaret makes itself heard now and then. At first, I wasn’t sure what I thought about this area, but now I start to love it.

The small muslim district.

Kalim Beach is low key, close to the action of Patong if that’s what you need, but first and foremost it is home to some fantastic small restaurants and local vendors. The small car park with street vendors cuts the beach into two parts.

At Sunday night people come and sit by this narrow promenade and order noodle soups, papaya – salad, kebabs and barbecue from the vendors.

At the opposite of the street vendors, there is also a Muslim lady selling Southern Curries on rice in the morning and up to lunch. Eating curry on rice for breakfast, especially the southern version is something that might take some time to get used to. But it is delicious and inexpensive. The lady also has some Farang adapted- Thai food on the menu.

Local food vendor in Kalim bay
Not for the faint-hearted. Spicy curry and more.
Spicy beef with potatoes and bitter vegetables. I know it doesn’t look that appetising but it really does taste good.

Patong Bazaar

In this section, just before climbing the hill, you also encounter the Patong Bazaar. A few colourful food stalls mostly with locals sitting around. I had a seafood, dry curry plate there for dinner tonight. I promised one vendor already yesterday to return today. After a brief conversation, she told me that she and her daughter ran the restaurant, the rest of the family that was sitting there had all been laid off from their works due to Covid. My 60 baht meal could hardly make a difference, but at least they had some customers and yes the food was delicious.

In the morning I walked through Kalim Bay Area because I wanted to see the beach in high tide. Indeed the sea was rough. A pleasant surprise was that I got caught in the rain and walked into a restaurant, actually with the intent only to have a cup of coffee and wait out the rain. However, it turned out to be an eatery with a dim sum breakfast/brunch. So I couldn’t stay away from some tempting dim sums. Pantai Restaurant delivered. Ice coffee, dim sums and seaview. Not to forget, good protection from the rain!

Fine Dining in Kalim Bay

Kalim is not only for local food. You find fine-dining venues here as well. A top-ranked French restaurant with a rooftop bar, L’ Arôme by the sea for instance. They claim to have a “modern and innovative menu combining local elements” all with a mastery of French culinary techniques.

The restaurant has an amazing maximum score of 5,0 from 86 reviews by Google local guides. So, I dropped by for some exclusive pastry.

Prefer Italian? Well, then you have the almost equally highly rated Aqcua nearby. During the Covid situation they are open Friday, Saturday and Sundays from 5 pm. Check with their website for further updates.

Another partly Italian option would be Sea Salt lounge and grill. I enjoyed their special pasta/pizza promotion from 12-5 pm. Wonderful views of the sea, a light breeze and for 199++ baht you get one appetizer, one pizza or pasta and also a soft drink. Currently they do steaks for 699++ in the evening. Sea Salt is on the southern part of Kalim just bordering Patong Beach.

Seafood pizza at SeaSalt Kalim
The seafood pizza was small but tasty and together with a calamari I was definitely full after the meal.
SeaSalt Lounge in Kalim/Patong
From the outside
Menu in Sea Salt restaurant Kalim Phuket
Your choices

So many good places within walking distance

One clear advantage of Andamantra’s location is also the proximity to 7/11. There is one just outside the entrance. Moreover, every night the local banana roti maker stops just outside.

If you have sore feet after too much walking, there is also a small massage shop next to 7/11. When I went, they had a promotion for 200 baht for a one hour foot massage. Very reasonable for Phuket. It turned out that the masseuse was married to a Swedish man in Örebro. She was actually from Hua Hin and had moved to Phuket for work. After the Covid pandemic is over she will move to Sweden. She said that she and her husband’s dream were to retire in Hua Hin later.

Another advantage of the hotel, there are plenty of laundry shops in the vicinity. Places where you can hand in your laundry for 50 baht per kg. Pick up the next day.

Andamantra's swimming pool by night.
Good night from the hotel