I was in a Phuket a week ago – it was actually just 2 weeks after my Bangkok trip so I went to Thailand twice in just a fortnight. However, Phuket is very different from Bangkok. Bangkok is where you wanna go if you like to get stressed out. If you want to relax and chill – head on to Phuket! ;)
Outrigger Laguna Phuket Beach Resort is a newly re-opened family friendly beach-front property – it faces Bang Tao beach. The entire resort has been completely renovated to modern standards during April 2013. However, the traditional Thai touches and warm hospitality are still there.
(like that baby elephant – it’s my favorite and it comes out to be fed twice a day!)
The best thing about Outriggers Laguna Phuket Beach Resort is the Water Park built right into the resort. In fact, it’s central and visible from reception! As someone who loves the water, I enjoyed this tremendously. It has multiple interconnected sculptured pools just beside the beach and to top that off, a water slide!
It’s not just a small little water slide either, this long and curvy water slide is usually seen at dedicated theme parks and it took me 40 seconds to get from top to bottom!
You can watch this (slightly anticlimactic – forward to the 40 second point) video I asked a friendly vacationing family to help me take. I waved at them at the start and immediately went down the water slide. I splashed down at the end of the slide into the pool at around 40 seconds, and immediately went up again!
It’s a lot of fun! :)
Outriggers Laguna Phuket Beach Resort is only 20 minutes from the airport – we had a car from the hotel waiting to pick us up, complete with wet towels and bottled water. We got an intricate bracelet made of orchids (I’m sure there’s a proper term for this) and a drink of water while we got checked in too! Gotta love Thai hospitality!
The rooms were surprisingly modern (or maybe not since it was just completely redone a few months ago) – flat screen Smart TV, a bath/shower combination, a day bed, free WiFi in all rooms (reliable and fast) and best of all, all rooms have a balcony or porch that looks out to the water!
You can have a beach view or a lagoon view (or both if you get the Club Suite) and it’s extreme proximity to the beach actually gives you a wonderful perk – you can hear the slow and calm waves from your room lulling you to sleep at night! :D
Okay, I mentioned a lagoon – Outriggers Laguna Phuket Beach Resort is actually part of the Laguna Phuket Destination Resort which links several resorts together by a lagoon. There’s a complimentary boat that takes you to all the different resorts and access to golf clubs and even a shopping strip mall!
The boat service departs every 20 minutes and you can tell the guy where you want to go.
If you want to get to places faster, there’s also a complimentary shuttle that gets you around the resorts and access to the 18-hole golf course which departs every 15 minutes!
Of course, there is no real need to leave Outriggers Laguna Phuket Beach Resort – with the awesome white sand beach and azure calm sea right after the lobby, you can just chill by the beach and have a beer or a bite to eat at the various restaurants in the resort.
Breakfast is a truly awesome affair with an amazing spread that kept me full most of the day!
All the basics and more are there, customizable too!
I had a 3-egg sunny side up with cheese and chives only. :)
There’s also breakfast juices/cocktails which changes daily – like this local flavored Phed Mak Mak Bloody Mary.
I like how I can just trudge down from a good night’s sleep being lulled by the tides into breakfast, get something nice and healthy to eat, grab a cocktail and head out to the pool or chill by the beach.
It’s truly one of the best resorts I’ve been to in Phuket – modern amenities combined with Thai hospitality on the quiet Bang Tao beach (trust me, you don’t want to go to the (in)famous Patong beach – that’s like Kuta beach in Bali, a noisy tourist trap). I really liked the location and the tranquility of Outriggers Laguna Phuket Beach Resort – I can chill by the Bang Tao beach and go down the water slide and hug a baby elephant twice a day!
This is a whole lotta cholesterol in a package but it’s delicious! Perfectly fried quail eggs sold in a packet containing nine (9) sunny side up eggs with a toothpick. You can opt for a dash of pepper and soy sauce and it’s absolutely delicious! The feeling of slipping 9 eggs into your mouth for just THB 20 (about RM 2) is awesome! :)
You can opt for the soft boiled version with a packet of soy sauce too – just crack all the eggs into the bowl and enjoy!
2. Pork floss (jerky) with sticky rice
This is also THB 20 and consists of two types – a tough jerky type pork floss and strips of marinated BBQ pork. I went for the latter and was very satisfied with the bed of fiber rich sticky rice!
Watch out for the famous Thai satay too – it’s a piece of marinated BBQ pork on a stick for THB 10 and it’s the most tender and juicy pork you’ll ever eat!
3. Bananas dipped in chocolate
There are several versions of this THB 20 dessert on a stick. The plain version is just a peeled banana on a skewer that has been dipped in chocolate. There’s also sliced and re-skewered bananas, which is the one I got – it’s been sprinkled with hundreds and thousands colored sprinkles and absolutely tasty in the hot muggy night market.
4. Deep fried insects
The night market also has deep fried insects and quite a wide variety of them too. The lady will ask you to “contribute” to the photography tip jar if you take a photo without purchasing anything. I didn’t coz I didn’t like her tone. ;) I just had the same ones in Bangkok. I ate deep fried grasshoppers and other insects just two weeks ago.
5. Salt grilled fish
This is a Thailand speciality and it’s an entire fish that has been liberally packed with coarse salt and then grilled over a charcoal fire. It’s surprisingly cheap for an entire fish and you’re meant to eat the inside of the fish e.g. the salt covered outer skin is discarded.
6. Thailand orange juice
You MUST try this when you’re in Thailand – it’s the local orange, squeezed into a bottle and it’s fabulous! I had the ice blended version for THB 40 and it came in a thong like plastic bag. Thirst quenching stuff – walking around the night market in the hot weather armed with this makes it a more pleasant trip!
7. Agar fruits with mung bean filling
This is an interesting snack – it is a mung bean dessert that’s been shaped to look like various fruits and then coated with agar agar (a Jello like substance). I was surprised when I popped one into my mouth coz I thought it was fruit! It goes for THB 40 for a packet containing every type of “fruit” they have – from grapes to guava.
8. Tiny pineapples
OMG! This is the best find I had in the Phuket Town Night Market. The mini pineapples are much smaller than your fist and intensely *sweet and juicy*!
I bought one (it’s sold by weight – mine was about THB 25) and they cut it into four segments for your enjoyment. I can’t believe there’s such tiny, yet fully formed pineapples out there! It’s marvelous! :)
I went to the Phuket Shooting Range yesterday to get some range time in. I haven’t shot a firearm since my initial foray with a .357 Magnum revolver, 9 mm and .45 caliber semi-automatic handguns while I was studying in Melbourne.
I went quite often after that and got a license to own but I heard it’s a perishable skill – if you don’t practice often, you won’t hit the nice grouping you used to be able to do when you went every other weekend. I also…er, examined an Steyr M9 pistol while I was in Malaysia but I wasn’t interested in handguns this time and wanted to shoot a rifle instead.
Phuket Shooting Range had a great package for a .22 caliber long rifle with sights for just THB 890 (about RM 90) for 10 bullets. You can get a semi-automatic or fully automatic (!!!) rifle with a scope for indoor shooting and I was sorely tempted to do this but unfortunately I only had 15 minutes since the girls wanted to go catch the sunset.
Thus, I settled on clay pigeon shooting. It’s a package with 10 shotgun shells for THB 1,190 (about RM 120). I honestly don’t know if this is skeet shooting, trap shooting or sporting clays since the Phuket Shooting Range is huge and I was at a station with clay pigeons flying from two different directions and angles.
The registration process was incredibly lax – I didn’t need to hand over my passport or even prove that I am who I say I am. I just wrote my name on a piece of paper – I didn’t even sign it! You can get a variety of semi-automatic handguns from .38 caliber revolvers to shotguns and there’s even a full outdoor tactical range.
I’ve never been clay pigeon shooting before. I did see President Obama (purportedly) skeet shooting in that well-publicized White House propaganda photo as he made more restrictions to gun laws in the US though. I do know shotguns since I grew up in Sarawak (locals are allowed to own shotguns) but this is a special skeet shooting double-barreled Over And Under design (O/U) that I’ve never used before.
The skeet shooting shells are 24 gr 7 ½ inch 70mm meant for competition – the Olympics uses the same shotgun shells. I was given a short primer () on how to follow the arcs with my shotgun and shoot. The orange clay pigeons came from two directions – a bit like trap/skeet shooting in just one station.
I pressed my cheek against the stock of the shotgun, rested it against my shoulder and waited for the recoil that I thought would hit me like a ton of bricks. I felt nothing at all! There’s barely any recoil from this break open Over And Under (two barrels stacked vertically) shotgun with this particular shell.
However, I found that tracking the clay pigeons (which is automatically thrown into the air from two stations – you’re supposed to track, lead and shoot it, breaking the discs) was harder than I thought. I wasn’t very comfortable with the shotgun – I wanted to have a front pistol grip, which is absurd, that’s something for tactical use, but it would be much more comfortable. :)
Full video of me skeet shooting!
I liked the double barreled shotgun design though – it gives you two chances to break the orange clay pigeons and you can fire it like a semi-automatic. It has a very light trigger pull and you literally break open the stock and reload two shells when you’re done.
I would have loved to go on the shotgun course too – they had metal silhouettes that ping when you shoot it with buckshot but I was pressed for time so I could only go for this one. I have finally shot a classic break open O/U double-barreled shotgun at clay pigeons flying in the air at high speeds! :D
Sawadeekapagain! I’m *back* in Thailand after my trip to Bangkok barely two weeks ago. I’m staying at Outriggers Laguna Resort Phuket for the weekend – just checked into the resort and got a beach front room.
It’s going to be a chill trip so I’ll have time to catch up on the blog posts which I’ve been neglecting. The past week has been a bit crazy for me – haven’t even had time to surf blogs, so it’s a well deserved R&R where I can just relax by the beach, enjoy the resort and blog. :)
Posted: 11:17 pm 31st May Phuket time (GMT +7)
(which is technically a month behind Malaysia – love the timing of this post!)
or how we got scammed in Thailand and ways to avoid it
I have vague memories of people being scammed at the Damnoen Saduak floating market in Bangkok but never really researched it. Thus, when our taxi driver offered to take us on a full day tour for just THB 1,200 (RM 120), I didn’t bargain and thought it was a pretty good deal.
I didn’t want the extras, I just wanted to cram in two floating markets (Tha Kha and Damnoen Saduak) for the day. It takes about 40 minutes to an hour to reach the latter and there’s a reason the taxi driver gave a lot of excuses not to go to Tha Kha (it’s too small, you won’t like it, etc).
Damnoen Saduak floating market is basically a well known tourist trap. It’s what you see on the postcards and has lost it’s original meaning of being a floating market for locals but rather a scam to bring tourists there for the same trinkets and souvenirs you’ll find on the streets of Bangkok.
Tha Kha floating market is the one that locals go to.
Unhappy tourists who were conned before us
Anyway, the way the scam works is that taxi drivers offer you a really good price for a day’s tour (you can hire the cab to go anywhere for the day) and bring you to a pier where you’re forced to take a boat tour. Our driver kept insisting that there isn’t a way to go to the big Damnoen Saduak pier, which isn’t true as we found out.
It took us an hour and you can see lots of salt flats where they farm salts on the way to Damnoen Saduak floating market. It’s quite interesting to see the locals harvest salt and sell it in bulk by the roadside.
We got shuttled to Shang 2 Pier. I later found out that there are heaps of “private piers” like this one – they arrange a commission with the cab drivers to bring tourists here. A woman immediately approached us as we pulled in and told us it’s THB 3,000 per person or THB 5,000 per boat for a 1 hour boat tour of Damnoen Saduak floating market.
That’s RM 500 for the boat!
I said no way and walked back to the taxi driver and told him to bring us straight to the Damnoen Saduak floating market pier. He kept insisting that there’s no roads to go there except by boat. His English was pretty bad but I told him I don’t want a boat tour and finally the woman (who followed us over) said she’ll do it for THB 2,000 (about RM 200) per person.
That’s a ridiculous price and not knowing if there’s actually a way to the pier of the Damnoen Saduak floating market, I finally bargained with the woman and got us a covered motorized boat for a 1 hour tour for THB 1,700 (RM 170) per boat.
I realized later that we could have gotten it for much cheaper had we bargained more but there’s no way out of this scam, the driver will just drive you to different “private piers” which are just fronts for scamming people into expensive boat tours.
The driver of the longboat to Damnoen Saduak floating market was nice though and even helped us take a photo (which we learned some other less scrupulous drivers will charge you for).
Damnoen Saduak floating market is a tourist trap but it’s worth a visit for the experience if you don’t mind paying the over-inflated price. It’s like the Venice of Asia with the canals and waterways. The shops are right beside the canal – it’s now concrete after the tsunami and floods but still interesting to see shops where you literally have to row up to.
There are also various boats selling food and a coconut sugar farm inside.
I liked the coconut sugar – it’s exactly like those brown sweets from primary school except this is a large, hot wok and the taste straight from the paddle is incredibly sweet and nostalgic. They also offer a tour of the coconut factory but we didn’t go for that one.
It’s quite a nice experience sitting in a boat while traversing the waterways of Damnoen Saduak floating market but getting scammed into the boat tour took some of the fun out of it. You can get a (much) cheaper boat hire by getting to the Damnoen Saduak floating market pier itself. The pier bit in that last sentence is the most vital part – that’s where the regular boats depart.
I hear it is near impossible to get a taxi to go to the pier itself since they have lucrative deals to scam tourists into the private piers for the commission (the lady consulted with our taxi driver on the THB 1,700 price before agreeing). There are also tours which scam you into the private piers so be careful of that.
My suggestion is to go to a floating market that the locals actually use e.g. Tha Kha floating market and take a boat to Damnoen Saduak floating market from there. I got quoted THB 200 an hour per boat for a tour (RM 20) departing from Tha Kha before bargaining.
That’s a huge difference from THB 1,700 and closer to the real price. Tha Kha is more of a pier and not the postcard picture perfect floating market you think of but it’s a nice market where practically no one speaks English and meant more for locals. It’ll be hard to convince a taxi driver to go there though.
Ours didn’t want to go to Tha Kha at all until much coercion and asked for THB 100 for lunch which I absolutely refused to give after the scam he pulled. I only gave it to him when he said it’ll come out of the THB 1,200 price we agreed upon (e.g. I’ll just pay THB 1,100) coz he didn’t have any money for lunch.
When it was time to go back, our taxi driver put the meter on so I thought he wanted to scam us again (it’s THB 2,000 from Damnoen Saduak floating market to Bangkok if you follow the meter) but I was quite hostile to him and paid just THB 1,100 and left.
The Damnoen Saduak floating market scam is pretty well documented. Be careful of the private piers and go straight to the Damnoen Saduak pier. If you want a more local experience, get a taxi that’ll bring you straight to Tha Kha and head to Damnoen Saduak floating market from there, which will cost just THB 200 (RM 20) per boat.
I applied for a debit card before I came here coz I always felt that having a debit card when you’re traveling is essential. I also thought that since I’m gonna be spending more often than I would while back home, it would be apt that I tried to win prizes every time I swipe my card. ;)
Speaking of which, RHB is currently running a ‘Spend Small, Win Big’ contest, and the prizes up for grabs are pretty attractive:
1 x Nissan Almera 1.5E(A)
1 x Honda CBR250R Mugen
3 x iPhone 5 (16GB)
5 x Mini iPads (16GB)
I’m eyeing the iPhone 5 myself. I just needed to spend the equivalent of RM 30 to qualify for an entry – it’s all done automatically so you don’t even have to fill out any forms! I’ll have plenty of quirky places to do just that on my vacation so I figured it would be nice to bring it to Bangkok! :)
The place is heavily commercialized now but still fun to go to when you’re in Bangkok. Contrary to popular belief, this is no longer a “cash only” market – you can also use cards. I applied for the RHB Debit Cash-Connect MasterCard and put cash in it so that I can manage my spending.
You know how hard it is to do that on vacations if you have a credit card. I figured it’ll be much safer to bring my RHB debit card instead of lots of cash and use that instead.
I bought a couple of shirts and souvenirs here. There are boutique shops that will even customize attire for you! I spent THB 400 in just one shop (about RM 40) – it’s one of those witty t-shirt places and a bunch of Americans (I presume) were laughing loudly at all the funny words and pictures on the shirt.
Our packaged tour got mixed up and we stayed at 3 different hotels over 5 days (!!!). The first one doesn’t have internet access so I bought a 24 hour net access card for THB 600.
That’s around RM 60…
…and the worst part was we shifted hotel right after I bought it. -_-
Oh well, at least that got me a contest entry.
Groceries at 7-Eleven
Now, the 7-Eleven in Bangkok has a lot of interesting stuff. I’ve mentioned it before on one of my posts. I only got the equivalent of RM 10 at the time but on the last trip (we went to 7-Eleven each night) I spent almost THB 500 (RM 50).
I mostly got a lot of these microwave pork burgers to bring back home. :)
My check-in luggage got opened by customs – probably due to the suspicious package – so it’s a good thing I had a TSA lock (which allows customs to open your lock with their special key without damaging it).
Gourmet Market @ Siam Paragon
This is an awesome place that first visited 7 years ago. Siam Paragon was a new mall then and the Gourmet Market was newly opened. It’s an import specialty shop.
We bought loads of stuff to bring back. Everything from Hello Kitty rice flavoring (it’s supposed to be sold only in Japan according of the label on the back)…
The total cost was THB 857.50 – about RM 86.
Mango Sticky Rice Blizzard
You can only get this Blizzard at the Dairy Queen in Bangkok. :)
It’s a country-specific specialty that goes for 690 baht (about RM 6.90) for the large version. It has a lot of sticky rice on top of mango ice cream and it tastes really good – a great twist on the street vendor version.
There’s also Mango Bars – only available in Thailand. I figured since we were going to freeze the pork burgers to bring back, we might as well try bringing this back too. The total amount on the bill was around 350 baht (RM 35) – bought an extra couple of sticks of ice cream to bring the total over RM 30.
My RHB debit card also has a 0.5% unlimited cash back in addition to the contest. You just need to apply for the RHB Debit Cash-Connect MasterCard and tell them you’ll be traveling so the card will be activated for overseas spending. The best thing about the contest is that you only need to spend RM 30 and entry is automatic! No more filling in long and bothersome forms while you’re on vacation! :)
It’s a veritable feast of creepy crawlies! The first thing I think of when I see, say, a spider, is to throw a shoe at it. The Thais go about it in a completely different way. The immediate thought seems to be “I’ll fry and eat it!”.
I found this street vendor selling all sorts of deep fried insects on the streets of Bangkok. Okay, frog is not actually an insect but she also had grasshoppers (huge and small ones), crickets (not the sport), beetles (which I am secretly scared of) and even red ants! Deep fried red ants! Imagine that!
I bought a pack of large grasshoppers for 20 THB and a mixed bag of every single insect she had for 30 THB (RM 5 total). The street vendor laughed and complied with my request – a deep fried cricket here, a sprinkling of deep fried red ants there. There’s even two types of beetles (water beetle and weevil). It’s supposed to be a delicacy here.
I ate it sitting on the steps where my girlfriend took this video of me eating all the deep fried insects:
I also made her eat some, much to her disgust, but at least now she’s tried it. :)
I’ll give a quick review of the insects:
Deep fried grasshopper
Surprisingly crunchy and delicious but the legs can have spines that can cut your tongue. Deep fried frog
These are tiny frogs that can fit in my hand. They don’t even remove the bowels! Tasty and crunchy. Deep fried beetle
The wings can be hard to swallow coz it sticks to the top of your mouth like peanut butter. Deep fried cricket
Tastes like grasshoppers but has more of a bee-like texture to it. Deep fried bamboo worms
Tasty and creamy! Deep fried red ants
Highly toxic when consumed in large quantities. It makes my mouth itch just thinking about it.
I’m not a huge fan of deep fried red ants – it’s hard to pick up (they’re tiny) and I find their venom to be a bit hard to take. It actually made me sick!
I was feeling slightly unwell after eating all these, she thinks it might be coz of the fried grasshoppers, I thought it was the toxin from the deep fried red ants. It’s an interesting experience nonetheless! :)
Sawadeekap! I’m in Bangkok, Thailand! Six of us flew in late last night – it was supposed to be a couples trip planned after a HCMC trip was cancelled. We’re staying at Indra Regent Hotel, which is just a stone’s throw away from the overrated and commercialized Platinum Mall.
Oh! I’ll tell you an funny incident last night. I was going through airport security, and took off my belt to go through the metal detector. I don’t know what happened, but it must have been stuck in the machine coz I didn’t see it – worse – didn’t realize it until the plane landed in Bangkok, I reached to tighten my belt…
…and noticed it wasn’t there. -_-
Anyway, we hit the local 7-Eleven opposite the hotel as soon as we finished checking in. The 7-Eleven over here is really quite good – it has a lot of interesting stuff and it’s cheap!
The Red Bull over here is particularly cheap – all of them going for THB 10 or less. That’s about RM 1 – a price which you’ll be hard pressed to find in Malaysia! In fact, I paid less than the equivalent of RM 10 for all my purchases!
There’s a lot of nice pork wares too – even the store branded instant noodles is Pork Spare Ribs with Tom Yam Flavor. It sounds very Thai. ;)
We had this Shredded Pork Mayonnaise Pocket Sandwich for breakfast just now. THB 12 or RM 1.20 for a sandwich stuffed with pork floss and mayo with the edges (crust) sliced off, just like your mom used to do for you when you were a little kid.
I also found this interesting bread product that goes for 7 baht each – around RM 0.70. I don’t know how to translate it properly coz the writing is all in Thai. It’s just a slice of bread with either butter or milk spread on top but it’s super delicious!
Pong tia koon is the Cambodian version of balut. It’s simply a fertilized duck embryo which adds a lot to the eww factor for a lot of people. We were in Siem Reap and saw a street vendor selling it – that’s the only way to eat pong tia koon! :)
I’ve eaten balut in the Philippines before. On the streets of Manila, eating fertilized duck embryo is just a simple matter – you crack open the balut, suck out the juices and get a twist of salt to go with the egg. It’s just that simple.
However, the process of eating pong tia koon is quite complex in Cambodia. Cambodians have a wide variety of condiments to add to the fertilized duck embryo before it’s ready to eat. There’s almost a ritualized feel to it. It’s balut, Khmer style!
The egg is cracked into a plate, with the embryo and juices flowing freely. Fine salt and black pepper powder is added to it. Fresh lime is cut while a mixture of garlic slices and chilli is liberally poured into the plate and Cambodian mint (laksa leaves) sprinkled before it’s suitable to be served.
It’s delicious! I found the Khmer style of serving balut to be extremely tasty! I ordered 3 pong tia koon and it left me wanting more. It’s just 1,000 KHR (0.25 USD) per egg. The mixture of spices goes very well with the egg and also the tiny duck inside. I told Ling it just tastes like chicken soup and got her to eat some so she’s experienced eating balut before. :)
The Cambodian pong tia koon is a lot more intense in some ways than balut in the Philippines – they keep the duck longer (19 days compared to 17 days) so you can see a mature chick inside. It’s fully recognizable as a baby duck!
There’s a head staring back at you with huge eyes, a long neck, webbed feet. You can even see the rib cage of the baby duck! It’s delicious though – the sweet, sour and spicy condiments make this a truly delicious dish that you’ll crave for instead of something to eat just to experience. :)