Just back from 10 days in Patong, Phuket.
Had not been looking forward to it. Booked promotion special Air Asia over a year ago for around $300 return each but since that booking ended up going on several longer trips and have another 3 month one in a few weeks time. So my thinking was throw away the ticket along with the similarly dirt cheap hotel booking but of course Mrs Castro talked me out of it. I was sure Patong would be like Kuta, Bali (a place I actually like for a few days each trip but couldn’t stomach 10 in a row). And maybe at peak time in Patong that’s a fair call but for July it was more than bearable and much less sleazy than I anticipated – even in Bangla Road!
Very much enjoyed the Phang Nga Bay speedboat tour with phuketsailtours.com and Captain Mark at the metaphorical helm. How he maintains his jocularity day after day is a mystery to me. We were lucky to pick a day that wasn’t cancelled due to rough weather – several on our boat had been waiting for a week after their original booking was cancelled. And very glad we didn’t do the equivalent Phi Phi but much rougher trip. That PST DO cancel at the prospect of rough weather was a real positive in our decision to go with them. The roughest leg between the Big Tree and Kho Panyi village also coincided with one of the engines malfunctioning – so a tad unsettling - but was fixed by the end of lunch.
Also did the obligatory tour around the island Big Budda, other beaches, viewpoints, elephant ride etc etc (all for the wife of course).
Came across a lot of people who found a restaurant they liked and then kept going back. We went to around 20 different ones. The highlights were in Phuket Town Mee Jirayuwat on Phang Nga Road next to Fantasia Entertainment which we came across just wandering around near the old part of the town. Said to my wife – here’s a good looking local restaurant which was clearly being enjoyed by a group of students and other locals. The joke was on me as over the next hour FOUR different tour groups turned up – all foreign Asians!
But they knew something as it was the best soup we had anywhere.
Second restaurant highlight was a hawker meat, vegie, noodle combo we had in a back street of Patong. We were killing time in a bar during one of the heavy but brief rainfalls during first few days and watched various locals having take away meals prepared by the 2 person team with the bicycle kitchen. Delicious and cost considerably less than a beer.
Third was Kan Eang 2 100 meters north of the Chalong Pier (note a sister restuarant is right beside the pier – Kan Eang@Pier). When the tide is out can walk between the 2 otherwise it is quite a walk/drive between them. Fresh (still swimming) relatively cheap seafood and a waterside lovely view of moored boats and the nearby Lone Island and (for Asia) cheap wine. A bottle of Rosemount red was a tad over $20 which in an Oz restaurant would be acceptable. Great service, shade from trees and umbrellas/fans if required.
Last real positive was actually the lunch provided on Kho Panyi fishing village that was part of the Phang Nga Bay speedboat trip. A really nice variety/quantity of tasty food.
Tried many others that were either favourites of people we met e.g. Pappadams and/or favourites from reports on TA etc. Some like Seahag were OK but we couldn’t see any difference from say the next door restaurant (or seemingly dozens of others) and it was amazing in how many of the TA most recommended (and boy does seeing those signs become a drag) we had to ask for extra chillies.
The 9th Floor was probably the worst dining experience particularly given the price.
Seafood pasta, Beetroot, goats cheese tart was chef’s special for entrée – pastry of tart was not cooked properly. Seafood pasta – the pasta was about 2 minutes short of al dente. Better than over cooked, gluggy pasta but…
I should point out in fairness though that Mrs Castro’s duck breast main course was as good as anything that would be served in a 'fine' Oz restaurant.
We are very used to wine prices in Asia but 2 places in particular I thought went beyond the usual expectation. Again The 9th Floor Just one example a bottle of Koonunga Hill that one can get from Dan’s for $12 was being offered at more than a $100!
Baan Rim Pa had similarly massively inflated prices.
The wine shop in the Central Festival complex (first floor) had some reasonable options so we ended up doing BYO in some places.
The taxi/tuk tuk mafia.
Coincidentally there was a front page article in the local English newspaper (the Phuket News) on our arrival.
Depite being frequent, long term travellers in SEasia we really didn’t naviagate this system very well (or understand how it worked). Time and time again we found that getting an air conditioned comfortable taxi was as cheap as a tuk tuk! E.g. to and from Karon/Kata from Patong 200-300 in taxi. Tuk tuk 300-400 asking price and no lower despite walking away from several. Taxi to and from airport 600 and yet to Laem Hin Port (about half the distance) a lot of negotiation to get a taxi for less than 400.
Tandoor Restaurant 206/208 Rat-U-Thit Rd
After the second bite of a curry Mrs Castro found a long human hair entwined in her food, then on close examination some eye brow hairs! The owner’s reaction was Fawlty Townish:
“ Nothing wrong with the food – it’s just the fault of the dish washer.”
“ What ever but we don’t want it.”
“ Ah but you will have to pay for the rice as there is nothing wrong with that.”
Needless to say we didn’t pay for either and only reluctantly for the beer.
Patong Bay Vacation Club touts – I was amazed at how ubiquitous these were and how many were middle aged European males. We were actually sucked in by one of these who started chatting to me about a tshirt I was wearing. I initially thought he was just a lonely tourist until he launched into his spiel. Another one approached me as I was killing time waiting for the missus to finish shopping. So with nothing better to do after I made it clear I wasn’t interested in the product or his free scratch card I mused that he must be pretty desperate to need money from this sort of ‘job’. He replied that it was better than “going back to England where the Asians don’t know their place (presumedly c.f. Patong)”!
Swimming on red flag days at Karon. The whole beach there (and much of Patong’s) was red flagged for several days. Numerous tourists ignored the danger and inevitably we saw one couple come within a bee’s appendage of drowning. Combination of some lucky waves and the life guards saved them just in time. What annoyed us was the potential danger these idiot were placing would be rescuers in.
ps reported on ATM/cash issues and floating restaurants off Koh Maphrao previouslyEdited: 27 June 2013, 03:03