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bottomlesspit

Phuket food and travel

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I'll be posting my ISO dining buddies thread closer to my travel date, but thought I'd get started a little earlier with my planning.

I'll be in Phuket from April 15th - 22nd, which I hear is right around all the New Year's celebrations, at

Marriott Phuket Beach Club

230 Moo 3, Mai Khao

Phuket, Talang 83110 Thailand

A few questions:

1) If you're familiar w/ the location of the hotel, is it conveniently or remotely located from good dining/fun activities (other than lazing around on the beach, that is...)?

2) Any great street markets and if so, where and what day?

3) Any must-try restaurants?

4) Must sees or dos? (1) I'll take beautiful scenery over monuments though if the two are combined, great! and 2) I'll have a 7 and 5 year old with me.)

5) Cultural dos and don'ts?

6) Everyone says it's going to be HAWT (with very wide eyes). How HOT is HAWT?

Many thanks in advance,

sg


sg

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Mai Khao is at the northern end, pretty close to the airport. We stayed further south, at Karon Beach, which was beautiful, but quiet. To get around we rented mopeds - cheap and very convenient form of transportation. The best food we found was on the street. Just look for tents, especially on back roads, with a lot of mopeds parked in front of them. Make sure you save room for roti after dinner. Our favorite vendor was at the night market in Karon, but roti carts can be found all over the island.


allison

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I was in Phuket recently and was, frankly, quite disappointed with the food there. After having been in tiny places like Krabi and Phang Nga with such excellent food, I was expecting Phuket to the Holy Grail of southern Thai food, but found very little in the way of interesting eats. I should make it clear though that the vast majority of my time was spent in Phuket City, as well as one trip to Paa Tong (a true culinary wasteland--I walked around for about an hour looking for a cheap, basic, local Thai meal, but ended up eating crappy noodles for 30 baht). On the good side, Phuket's morning market was a lot of fun, and probably had the biggest selection of fresh fish and seafood I've ever seen in Thailand. And the night market (in the same place) is pretty good too-some good Thai-Muslim eats. Check my blog for info on southern Thai food and a few pics.

5) Cultural dos and don'ts? (As a total aside) It's pretty ironic that the only weird run in I had on my last trip to southern Thailand was with an irate foreigner at Paa Tong Beach. I'm doing a book on southern Thai food, which will include a bit on beach food, so I though it would be nice to get pics of vendors selling food at the beach. So I make it down to Paa Tong and I notice very quickly that this is definately not a Thai beach (ie-no food!). Anyway, I decide to walk a bit more and a tall white guys stops me, looks at me accusingly and asks, "What are you, Israeli?". Knowing not exactly what the **** he's talking about, or how to respond to this I just stare. "What are you doing?" he asks me angrily. I laugh out loud because it's very, very obvious: I've got a huge digital SLR with a telephoto zoom lens, a gigantic black Lowe photographer's bag, and I'm wearing Patagonia clothes with lots of pockets; obviously I'm a photographer! I say as much and he doesn't believe me, and, get this, accuses me of being a CIA agent!!!! He rants about how I should not be taking photos on the beach, and ends his irate spiel by saying "Have some dignity!". So, don't try to take pictures where there are weird foreigners around--I doubt you would have any problem where Thai people are concerned.

Austin

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It's been years since I've been in Phuket, but I remember I had a hard time finding decent authentic food. My general rule of thumb was and still is: the farther away you go from the main tourist drag, the better the food becomes.

There is a seafood restaurant/shack on Phuket I stll dream about (gorgeous deep fried fish with a tamarind sauce with fresh and out of this world spicy chili's), but of which I have forgotten the name. It was on the south-eastern side of the island on the water in a small harbor and patronised mainly by locals. If I remember correctly there was another restaurant with the same name and management which was located more centrally but was supposed to have slightly inferior food (or so the locals said). I think it's mentioned in the Lonely Planet...

Good luck!

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Thanks for your input.

I promise I won't take photos when disturbed foreigners are in the vicinity.

Chris, The cooking class at the Boathouse Hotel looks like fun - is it hands-on or mostly demo?

Certainly there's more to Phuket than this, though. Any more recs? (Pretty please, with palm sugar on top?)


sg

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I can't help you with the Phuket side of things, but if you end up in Krabi, do search out Ruen Mai. The signage is only in Thai but it's pretty easy to find and people will be happy to point you along (it's on Maharat Rd near the Eagle lights intersection). Some of the nicest food we ate in a restaurant setting in Thailand.

For cultural dos and don'ts, I can tell you what I was taught by my friend who grew up in Bangkok, but I think she fell on the super polite side of things. I'll note that I don't think anyone would hold it against you if you were inadvertently rude, the tolerance and kindness of most people in all parts of Thailand is pretty amazing. Since you'll be in an area very used to tourists, some of this stuff probably doesn't matter anyway...

First of all, never ever, ever say anything bad about the royal family or treat anything with pictures of the royal family in a disrespectful manner. Apparently this includes stepping on money to keep it from blowing away (oops).

Secondly, show the monks respect, and if you're female, go out of your way to make sure there is no physical contact (step off the sidewalk and let them pass, don't bump into them on a plane, etc.). They're not allowed to touch women and it's polite to help them make sure they don't.

Thirdly, shoes off in a lot places, for sure in temples and spirit/town shrines, some rooms in museums, and some shops.

About eating, these are mainly just politeness, but I'd see the "rules" bent once in a while. Sit down to eat, it's rude to walk around eating something (in a market for instance, but drinking is ok), and wait for all the dishes to arrive at the table before you start eating when you're seated at a table.

Lastly, smile! It's bad form to frown and grimace, even if you're unhappy with a situation. This one is tougher for farangs I think, and not something that I think Thais expect of us (to rarely frown or make an unhappy face).

regards,

trillium

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.....

For cultural dos and don'ts, I can tell you what I was taught by my friend who grew up in Bangkok, but I think she fell on the super polite side of things.  I'll note that I don't think anyone would hold it against you if you were inadvertently rude, the tolerance and kindness of most people in all parts of Thailand is pretty amazing.  Since you'll be in an area very used to tourists, some of this stuff probably doesn't matter anyway...

.....

I would err on the side of being super polite. The Thais are tolerant and kind, but also perceptive.

Don't stand when your companions are sitting. You want to avoid giving any impression that you feel superior. Your feet are the inferior parts of your body. Try to keep them on the same plane as another's feet. Be careful about crossing your legs. The head is the most respected part of the body. Don't touch another's head.


-- Jeff

"I don't care to belong to a club that accepts people like me as members." -- Groucho Marx

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Trillium, I do think your friend falls on the polite side of things. I have to respectfully disagree with the advice to be seated before eating.

Like good egulleters, we spend most of our vacations stuffing ourselves -- primarily at local markets, Thailand being no exception, and I can tell you that nothing will make a Thai vendor happier than to see you enjoy his or her food (if you take pictures of it, so much the better) -- which sometimes means sampling on the hoof. This holds true whether you're in Bangkok or a little nowhere town upcountry. Thais really understand the enjoyment of food, and I've never felt negative or disapproving vibes as I've been eating my way around a market -- but I have gotten a lot of encouraging smiles, laughter, and big thumbs' up.

Not sampling on the street or at a market unless there's a table (from grilled pork skewers to sweets) means denying yourself a lot of the best Thailand has to offer!!

It's good to be aware of cultural do's and don'ts, of course, but Thailand is one of the most relaxed places in the world, and Thais are so tolerant of our (farang) missteps (within reason - the don't point feet/don't touch heads/women avoid physical contact with monks dictums are not elastic). The advice to smile, smile, smile is probably the best of all.

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Well, I did give you a disclaimer about the polite friend. I'll admit this was the one part I had the hardest time with (eat only when seated) but I watched everyone else at all the markets very closely and I have to say that in 3 weeks I only saw that "rule" being broken a couple of times, and it was always little kids and kid food (like ice cream or pancakes with chicken sausages), so I went along with it because I like to be polite and it made my friend happy. It wasn't that hard, since there is always seating around the vendors, and it's ok to bring food from another vendor to the tables that you choose to sit down at. There are almost always places to sit down around any food selling place, whether they're tables and chairs or seawalls and rocks.

But you're right, enjoyment of food tops everything else when it comes to eating manners, and really, like I said, I don't think it's something anyone is going to be shocked and appalled about, and smiles really do get you super far.

I think if a stranger touched my head in my own cultural setting, I would find them dreadfully rude, it wouldn't occur to me to warn someone not to do it somewhere else! Yikes...good advice.

regards,

trillium

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.....

I think if a stranger touched my head in my own cultural setting, I would find them dreadfully rude, it wouldn't occur to me to warn someone not to do it somewhere else!  Yikes...good advice.

.....

In your own cultural setting, did you ever pat a youngster on the head, even one you didn't know well?


-- Jeff

"I don't care to belong to a club that accepts people like me as members." -- Groucho Marx

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Smile lots, don't touch people's heads, keep my feet on the ground, stay away from the monks, no mocking the royal family and save room for roti.

I think I can manage that. :wink:

Now to find a dining buddy for at least one meal...


sg

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Smile lots, don't touch people's heads, keep my feet on the ground, stay away from the monks, no mocking the royal family and save room for roti.

I think I can manage that.  :wink:

.....

As trillium said, the kindness of the Thai people is amazing. You'll be fine.

Did I mention to be careful of the small, sliced pepper condiments?


-- Jeff

"I don't care to belong to a club that accepts people like me as members." -- Groucho Marx

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I haven't been to Phuket since before the Tsunami, but I had a great meal and a wonderful cooking lesson with Pum. She used to run two restaurants - one in Phuket and one on Phi Phi Island. Her restaurant was bright orange and the food she served was simple and delicious. Her lesson was great for a beginner. It was a one-on-one session, and she walked me through all the ingredients to cooking three or four amazing dishes (my choice). If she's still around, I recommend a stop at her place. I know the Phi Phi location is gone, but her old address was 204/32 Raj-u-thit Songroi Pi Road, at Patong Beach.

Although I really don't recommend Patong beach for any other reason.

Aha! A website address revealed itself at the bottom of my card:

www.pumthaifoodchain.com

Not sure when it was last updated though.


Edited by nakji (log)

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Did I mention to be careful of the small, sliced pepper condiments?

Oh, I LOVE those. The hottah, the bettah!

Nakji, thanks for the Pum tip. Will definitely look them up!


Edited by bottomlesspit (log)

sg

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Have a wonderful time!

Oh, and the south is supposed to be the least HAWT of all of Thailand. HAWT is relative, but I wouldn't plan on hiking around in the hottest part of the afternoon. Other then that it was reasonable to this pretty active but HAWT wimp (with plenty of iced drinks!).

Oh, and if you love chillies, and you're at the night market across from the 7-11 in Krabi, check out Abrahim's stall. It had some skate stewed with those tiniest, hottest ones that made even the SE Asian in our group sweat and he's a chilli lover. Plus, Abrahim is a kick and the food is delicious and there are a lot of regional specialties at his booth (even if he isn't a native, he moved to the area 20 years ago).

regards,

trillium

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On the manners/cultural issues....

I can't think of any culture where touching someone's head is really acceptable.

Now, if we are talking cute children, and it seems appropriate, touch away; Thais won't be shocked or offended. But, when it comes to adults, I wouldn't really be touching them at all. Thais, for the most part, aren't touchy-feely people. They don't hug when they greet or say goodbye; they bow their head and wai.

If you are dining in a group, and you are ordering individual, set meals, then it would be considered impolite to start eating before others recieved their meal. This isn't necessarily a Thai thing. But, when dining classic family style, most dishes will be served up as they are presented.

Eating while walking isn't so much considered bad manners. Although very sutble, is percieved more as low class. Dining is very social for most Asians, and anyone of any status should have time to sit and enjoy the meal.

No Thai is going to call you on your mistakes or otherwise make you uncomfortable. They are the most welcoming, hospitable people I have ever encountered. Short of a major confrontation, you will never know if you have acted poorly.

As time passes, more and more is becoming "acceptable". Thais pretty much feel we are rude, crude and stink anyway, so most of these minor faupaxs will go unnoticed.

But, I prefer to try my best to prove them wrong!

I leave you will a photo taken at a stylish new cafe. I welcome you comments and will offer mine soon.

stylish_girls.jpg


Edited by Stupid_American (log)

For Bangkok eats, check out my Cheap Eats Bangkok

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I leave you will a photo taken at a stylish new cafe. I welcome you comments and will offer mine soon.

stylish_girls.jpg

Stupide Americaine, You've got me intrigued. Are you associated with this stylish cafe, or the stylish girls therein, in any way?

Btw, noticed you're in Tustin. I'm in Irvine, so here's a shout out - maybe you'll actually hear it. :wink:


sg

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This photo is from a press release, announcing a new shopping complex in Bangkok. Every Thai I have shown this to has made the same comment. I wanted to see whtat comment might come from other cultures.

Shout quickly! One more week and Tustin will be but a memory. I am moving to Bangkok permanently.


For Bangkok eats, check out my Cheap Eats Bangkok

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This photo is from a press release,  announcing a new shopping complex in Bangkok. Every Thai I have shown this to has made the same comment. I wanted to see whtat comment might come from other cultures.

Shout quickly! One more week and Tustin will be but a memory. I am moving to Bangkok permanently.

trillium, thanks for finally answering the HAWT question.

"OUT!" (That was for you, Stupid. :smile: )

I digress, but what last meal(s) will you enjoy in The OC? And your comments on the cafe?

And since you're moving away forever and ever, here's a what-what for you, too.


sg

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As for the photo, it's a little strange that the picture features two women sitting alone at a bar. Unless they're bar girls - but this is obviously not *that* kind of bar/cafe.

That's from what I imagine would be my Thai friends' perspective.

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As for the photo, it's a little strange that the picture features two women sitting alone at a bar. Unless they're bar girls - but this is obviously not *that* kind of bar/cafe.

That's from what I imagine would be my Thai friends' perspective.

Thai girls/women often go out with girlfriends, probably more often than they go out with guys.

Every time I show this photo to a Thai, from 16 to 60 years old, the single, immediate reaction was "working women." This is based predominantly on the clothes, not the environment/situation.

My point being that what we might consider stylish or fashionable, is often seen as loose by Thai standards. Yes, there are Thais that push the envelope, but they stir up lots of talk.

As Westerners, we can push that envelope without causing too much distraction. It's actually expected of us. Dressed like this, one would be treated well, but would garner little respect. As a tourist, this is possibly of marginal value. But, if you are concerned, or want to leave a good impression, it is something to consider.

There are more reports of poor treatment of tourists by Thais. This is sad because Thailand has always been know as the "Land of Smiles."

I truly believe that those being treated badly are those who push the envelope too far. This is easy to do with all the boards and blogs passing out anecdotal tips about travel in Thailand. Most guidebooks will stress the modesty/respect issues. Much of the internet tends to take these issues lightly.

I am probably a bit more anal than most about these issues. When in Thailand, I am not on holiday; I live there. I don't really live a typical "expats" life. My entire family and social base is Thai.


For Bangkok eats, check out my Cheap Eats Bangkok

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