During this 2019 four day stay just north of Patong we took a day trip to reminisce over previous trips further south in Phuket. As we prepared for this Snowbird Escape we had really thrown around the idea of spending the entirety of our time by leasing a condo near Kata but then we decided to “explore” instead of just sticking to one spot for our two month adventure. Our day trip all the way to the south end of the island enticed us for a stay. We booked our next room for 3 days in Rawai, we were still entertaining a return to the north near Khao Lak but by the end of the first day we added another night stay. And then before we knew it this quaint little town had us knowing why we would spend a full week in Rawai. Check out this list made to entice you to book a stay for yourself!
1) Beautiful quiet beaches–While Rawai Beach itself is not ideal for a day at the beach due to the number of boats that moor in the area, there is a plethora of others within easy distance. Nai Harn would be my favorite for a mix of people watching, swimming, sunning, street side food stalls and even some souvenir shopping. Quiet is the key. There are just plain less people then in Kata, Karon or Patong. (Although they are beauties too;-)
2) Easy island access–Rawai Beach itself is a great launching point with ease of proximity to the multitude of islands this area is known for. As I mentioned in number 1, there are plenty of boats moored just off the beach offering private and group rides. We did not take advantage of boating here as we had taken a boat trip during our stay in Krabi and it is more expensive to do most adventure bookings in Phuket and we happily occupied ourselves without the additional expenditure. (2 months of “holiday” makes us limit ourselves somewhat.)
3. Snorkeling–This is our favorite sport to participate in. Our week long stay in Rawai allowed us the luxury to participate in it everyday. This is the stuff my dreams are made of! My perfect day starts with fresh ground bean coffee and fresh from the street vendor tropical fruit and yogurt consumed on my patio while I review email and catch up on the news. Next some toning and cardio exercise followed by a swim in the pool and then writing and soaking up the sun while listening to music or podcasts. After a light lunch, heading to the nearest spot for snorkeling and soaking up the sun on the beach while I write some more or daydream a bit. Shower, dinner, maybe a massage or a movie and some reading/research and writing. Perfection. Rawai gave me these perfect days. We found two spots that were our favorites and alternated between them. Ao Sane and Ya Nui. An underwater camera is next on my wish list. I’m sad I cannot share the view with you. The plant life, coral and fish were all amazing. The starfish were so numerous I lost count! This chart posted at Ao Sane clues you in a little to the underwater beauty we saw.
4. Scuba Diving–While we did not take advantage of this opportunity on this trip it is certainly worth putting on the list. Our first trip to Thailand included Scuba Certification in Rawai and we did a refresher course our third trip as well off Kata. Our certification from Andy’s Scuba Diving included fun dive just off Phi Phi. Incredible. I’ve included a couple pictures from those dives to add to the enticement. Most dive boats take off from Chalong Pier which is a short ride from Rawai.
5. Great Restaurants–We love Thai food and there is plenty of great options for places to eat in this country but honestly every meal we had in Rawai was delicious and the options were vaster than just Thai. We also found great Mexican, Italian, European and health conscious options. My favorite spot for Mexican was Sala Mexicali on the highway that leads to Rawai Beach to the south and Phuket City to the north. It is a garden atmosphere (sadly I forgot to take pics on this day; busy living in the moment ;-), so be sure to use the mosquito spray provided at the tables. Each dish was prepared in a unique style. We ate chips which were freshly made and served with mango salsa, guacamole and traditional red salsa as well as a beautiful shrimp cocktail and spicy wings for appetizers and we had a trio of chicken tacos for our entree, one flour, one corn and one rolled. Every bite was excellent and the atmosphere was topped off with an eclectic music mix playing in the background and service was top notch with attention to detail. Although we were not in cocktail mode we found the 150+ brand of tequila list quite interesting. My second favorite place was a breakfast stop. We enjoyed lattes, bought house roasted beans for in room coffees and savored our omelette and croissant and smoked salmon platters. Spoonful of Sugar was a zen type of atmosphere with friendly staff including lots of creativity in the healthy options menu. Modena’s Pizza is third on the out of the ordinary, non Thai menu list. We ordered the Salumi and Antipasto Platter to start and the portion was more than enough for two including a pizza size garlic bread and the house smoked meats were delicious. The pizza was beyond good and there were many original options like the Tom Yum Shrimp but we ended up choosing BBQ Chicken and were satisfied and had late night snack leftovers. The service was interesting here as the chef/owner himself played front waiter while his Thai staff backed him up. (Seafood and Thai food is abundant and all places we ate were excellent as well.)
6. Lower Rates–Beautiful, residential neighborhoods with apartments and villas for short or long term rental abound in Rawai. There are some resorts but predominately the best deals are away from them in the peaceful seaside neighborhoods. We found Happy Eight and as I mentioned above extended our stay for a night and would have stayed here the entire week if they would have had availability. There are just eight efficiency apartments at rhis location, privately owned by a young man who spent time in Florida working on a tourist visa and learning the hospitality industry and coming home to Rawai to be an entrepreneur. He runs a first class, modestly priced establishment. Each unit has a front patio with table and chairs and the front door opens into living and dining area with large window that offers picturesque view of the hillsides. It has a fully equipped kitchen with apartment size frig, stovetop and microwave. The bath with shower is just off the kitchen area and large bedroom with king bed lies beyond that with sliding glass doors to a small area outside. One couple from South Africa arrived four years ago and only have “visited home” ever since! The pool area and surrounding gardens are perfectly immaculate. Our last half of the week was at a place about 1/3 of a mile away as the crow flies called Mayan Apartments. We arrived to this location being somewhat of a madhouse. The American owner greeted us and explained he’d had to discharge the manager for mishandling of funds and had just arrived that morning to find artwork, linens and keys to all units missing. The locksmiths were at work and soon we were in our apartment. This is a lavish building with beautiful grounds and pool. There are one and two bedroom apartments with unbelievable square footage and ornate woodwork and doors. While this property needed some attention, we saw the owner in action everyday getting things attended to. We would definitely go back for an extended stay at Mayan where it would be really easy to settle in!
7. Less Traffic–Motorbike rentals abound throughout Thailand but that does not always leave you eager to jump on and get out there with the masses. Riding is not easy in this country whose traffic fatalities rate highest on the list internationally. Rawai lives at a slower pace that allows for comfort in riding. The rental rates are good here and the freedom to easily roam and get to the spots I’ve mentioned in this list make it a totally worthwhile experience here even for the less experienced rider. We did not see any sign of traffic police in Rawai either which is relaxing as well. Farang (foreigners) are targeted in most cities for helmet and international drivers license permits so if you don’t want to run the risk of fine be sure to have both. One of the riding challenges in the “cruise” that is the streets of Rawai, which remember is the tiny tip of Phuket, are the “three/ways. Which way do you want to go? Be sure to signal! When is it your turn? Whenever you’re brave enough and fast enough to make the first move! It was fun riding in this community for sure. (Of course that’s easy for me to say, I have the hubster, an experienced rider for my driver 😉 Another interest adding option is “ghost riding“. Literally riding the wrong direction to save time going a short distance. There’s lots to add into the experience of riding or driving in Thailand!
8. Nightlife and Conversation–While Rawai is definitely not Patong as far as “crazy nightlife” there are some great bars to chat it up with the Thai staff or some of the many expats settled in this small hub of Phuket. Many places in Thailand we have found difficult to have social interaction as the bulk of tourists are Russian,Chinese or other non English speakers. Pool tables are present in most bars as well as karaoke or laptops for YouTube music selection. If you are of the ilk to partake of some “Thai” bar girl hospitality, staff members are on standby if you are willing to negotiate the fee. Do be aware that lady boys have a presence here as well. Our favorite spot was a place called Free Bird. We easily made friends with the staff who treated us to shots and personalized “boobie” cuzzis and hand crocheted coasters before we left on our last night in town. The vibe in this place was great whether you were looking for hanky panky or not. I add this female Thai owner and a group of Estonians to my list of lifelong friends that I may never get to see again but that is the beauty of using Facebook for me!
9. Massage–Great rates, clean spaces and standard to therapeutic massage can easily be found in Rawai. I had my first aloe Vera massage because the sun and sea salt were aggravating my skin and for $15 American with the tip this was a luxury worth the splurge over the more standard massage which only runs $6-$9 American.
10. Safety–Thailand in general has always felt very safe to both myself and my husband. Rawai topped the list for this when walking even on my own. Nothing ever made me uncomfortable in this regard but I have a tale to tell which throws you a couple negatives just to balance the scales a bit so you remember that reality dictates that nothing, nowhere, no one is most likely perfect.
Tale #1: Bright, sunny days came our way each day of our week in Rawai. On one of these made for riding and snorkeling afternoons we jumped on the motorbike and headed for Ya Nui. The roadway was being widened on this ride and as we climbed one of the hills on the seaside road we saw ambulance and police on the roadside. My “caped crusader” slowed and before I could take in what was happening he was off the bike and headed down the 300′ sheer cliff embankment with a Thai fisherman. I watched the scene unfold for about 15 minutes. I saw people describing a man being at the bottom of the bramble bushed hillside where a rocky edge met the sea. No one spoke English so I was at a loss as I saw the officer who had only stood stoically smoking a cigarette, appearing reluctant to get his shiny shoes dirty get back on his bike and leave. Before I knew it, the overweight ambulance personnel who had only been snapping pictures and talking on their phones got in their vehicle and left as well.
I wandered back and forth at this “viewpoint” trying to catch site of my husband or anything going on. In my head I could hear my honey’s words and felt that his “less is sometimes more” lectures would apply here where the pathway and the waters edge might be better off less crowded. Finally, after about 20 minutes, I was joined by a couple from Montana. It was a relief to have someone to communicate with. The male decided he would make his way down to assist with whatever was transpiring below. Standing on the roadside in the powerful, nearing the equator sun, the wife and I talked about our suppositions on the lack of emergency personnel response and what we perceived would happen if the same situation was happening in the US. We also talked about the level of trash on the roadsides. It really is out of control throughout the country but especially on this Island Province. I have trained myself to look to the jungled tree line that runs to the sea and joins the brilliant skyline instead of being sidetracked by rubbish.
This Montanan woman decided she was going to try to get to a point to see what was going on. Soon she was back and reported my hubster had waived her off as she made her approach. She had not communicated with him. She reported it was pretty easy going to get to the point where she spotted them so I decided to go down myself to offer water, sunscreen, beach blanket that we had on the bike and to find out what was going on. I yelled to my honey when I saw them and he reported a boat was on the way and the rest of the climb was too rugged to attempt getting the supplies to them. Reluctantly, I climbed back to the top to rejoin my new companion as we waited another 30 minutes and finally spotted the small rescue boat rounding the tip of the rocks that extended into the water.
Montanan was back up the hill and then my husband soon after him. Both were exhausted from the heat and exertion. The story they told of the ill preparedness of the boat that had arrived is scary. Not even a first aid kit was on board and they had no plan to get the 50 something male from California who had been hiking the shoreline and fell, dislocating his shoulder to the point of being immobilized into the boat. Montana suggested the use of the man’s shirt as a sling and my honey rigged it and assisted him the rest of the way to the water where he could “fall” over the side of the boat and be hauled in. It was the fisherman who had spotted the man and called for help and while it turns out one rescue personnel was down there the whole time with them it still remains that safety or assistance may not be what it seems. I’m just not certain where the standards of training and preparedness are in this country. So my friends it’s not all sunshine and tropical flowers! The morals? Never adventure without a buddy and always be somewhat prepared to fend for ourselves. Secondly, we’ve got trash issues throughout this world whether wind, lack of a system for proper handling or man’s disregard we need to work to improve this. I encourage you to join me in picking up at least a few pieces of trash you see every day and insuring we don’t add to it because of carelessness. #savetheearth
Tale #2: Later this same evening we were at a roadside Thai eatery just finishing dinner when we heard a skid and crashing of metal and glass. Jumping to action again, my hero was soon at the side of the young Thai woman who I had seen swerve on her motorbike to miss a cat running across the road and she went down hard. Myself and another customer reacted as well and my husband yelled for water and a chair. I grabbed them and the napkins from our dinner table. The girl was bleeding from her forehead and had a bloody nose that completely soaked her gauze face mask 😷. She had pulled off her helmet as we ran up to her. My honey helped her to the chair and another storekeeper ran out with iodine and bandaids as I pressed tissue against the cut on her head and held the girls head back in hopes of the bloody nose slowing down and restrained her long hair and rinsed the scrapes on her knees and arm. She whimpered more with fear than anything. I tried to comfort and reassure her that it wasn’t too bad. She ended up fine enough to get back in her bike and ride away. When all was said and done we were once again wondering what was bringing us to these near misses on this trip. My hubby joked that it was a recertification on his Boy Scout merit badges. The moral of this one for me is we are all people and when in need there are those who rise to help and we are lucky to be amongst them. #karma
Watch for a post soon on the return ride to Krabi and flight to Bangkok for the Thai wedding we will participate in! #cometravelwithme