Sunday, April 07, 2013

Phuket: Halal Tapi Mahal

Well read on to know what I'm on about ;)

A short weekend getaway with Mas and Ezad. Unfortunately Sarah couldn't join us due to work, but luckily she could change her flight ticket to a different timing and destination with a RM200 penalty fee. Better than nothing right...

Sat 30/3
It was a late flight at 5.30pm from KLIA. Yes, we are taking the white bus. But it was delayed for 30 mins. We amused ourselves with the new game addiction - Icomania. It's sometimes too simple, and sometimes completely irrelevant LOL! Try it and you'll know what I mean

Sorry I digress. At the boarding lounge, we were the only orang kulit gelap (coloured people). Majority were orang putih (or farang, since we are going to Thailand) and some oriental. We counted the coloured people on board - 5, which includes us and 2 flight attendants. Wow, we really were going to Farang land!
On the short flight, about 1hr 15 mins, we were served light snacks - 2 packs - 1 filled with peanuts, fruit cake, mini Loacker waffle biscuits and water, and another pack of pastry filled with mushroom chicken. Just about the right amount, but since we were still full, we packed them away.

We arrived Phuket at 6.15pm local time (1 hour behind Malaysian time), so it was already dark. We haggled for snorkelling tours, Fantasea show tickets, car rentals and taxis, but couldn't get the right price, so in the end we settled for the minibus for 180Baht/person (about RM19). The minibus is actually a 16 seater MPV. Not so bad we thought.We didn't have enough time to make it to Fantasea tonight as the show would be starting at 9pm, and travelling time would take about 45 minutes. It was already 7pm.

Alas, the minibus stopped halfway, and we were asked if we wanted to buy any tours or shows. We decided to buy the Fantasea show tickets for 1700 baht/ person (RM178) which includes buffer dinner and transportation from hotel to Fantasea and back. We were told halal food is available. More on Fantasea later. No half day snorkelling trips either, we were told they already fully booked. We were told to take the full day trip - but we can't make this as we had to catch the Fantasea show at 6pm.

Due to the stopover, our journey to the hotel which normally would take about 45 mins felt sooooo long, plus we were already hungry by now. I walloped my pastry pack in the minibus first.

Our hotel - MyHotel, really that is the name of the hotel-not mine, is actually just a small 5 storey building with no lifts. It costs about RM127/per room/per nite for standard room, but were given the superior room instead, so I'm not complaining :) We were put at different levels (Floor 3 and 4), but it was fine with me. The room that was available on the same floor was either at the 5th floor, or at the 3rd floor, but the second room is the standard room which is smaller. I settled for the superior room at 4th floor.

In Thailand, they always decorate the towels to a lovebird shape

Safe, fridge, jug kettle and drinking water

peekaboo! bathroom with no doors and walls. just glass and curtain.

As soon as we dumped our luggage, we looked for food. First we turned left from our hotel but couldn't find any halal place, so we made our way back to the right side of the hotel and settled in at the first halal restaurant that we saw - Orient Place Restaurant - a middle easterner owned premise. We ordered padthai, noodles (or 'moodles' as printed in the menu) and fried rice. The food and drinks are overpriced! My moodles costs 180 Baht or RM19 and Lipton  iced lemon tea (I showed them I wanted the canned one, on display in the fridge) - but they charged me 100 Baht!! (RM10.45!! for a canned drink which you can buy for RM3 at the convenient store!!)  Oh, and when my moodles arrived - they are cooked padprik style - with vegetables and bits of chicken - I was trying to find where were the moodles hiding?! Only when I lifted the vege can I see a pinch of flat moodle (or kuey teow). The moodle portion was so little that we suspect that they had ran out of it, but didn't want to inform us to order another dish instead. Sigh *bangs head on the wall*. I don't really want to complain about food when there are people living in hunger elsewhere, but this drives me up the wall, plus we were already hungry. From this point on - we tagged Phuket - as "Halal tapi mahal". This rings true with our next gastronomic experience - later on that. Luckily Ezad's fried rice was acceptable, and Mas' padthai was generous, but didn't really fare well taste wise. Sorry about the complaints.
Halal Tapi Mahal: Orient Place Restaurant

Of course, one more thing I should mention - the weather is so hot and humid that the moment we stepped out of the hotel, we were drenched in sweat. We got thirsty easily, but no worries as 7-11s and convenient stores are everywhere.

We continued our adventure exploring Bangla Road to the "red light district". A-go-go and pingpong shows. Moulin Rouge. Pole dancers. Stripping clubs. You name it, they've got it. Originals or non-originals. Thais and Farangs (probably Russians, as signages in Russian are everywhere). We were offered for sneak peeks, but I cowered.


You're under arrest: FBI Club

We wanted to see the ladyboys cabaret shows, but we were past the showtime already. The famous one is the Simon cabaret show, but it's quite a distance from where we were staying. There are smaller ones at the clubs there too.

Another lane nearby is the "gay area" where signages were displayed loudly - "Men to men massage", "Mr Gay" and so on. But somehow, we found out that the area is more decent than the red light district. More prim and proper.

Next we went searching for massage centers (of course the decent one), but since it was already midnight, they were preparing to close shop already. Only the bars and clubs were just about to get into full gear. So we decided to retire. And shower.

Sun 31/3
Late morning for us. Felt so tired from the previous day. Me and Mas went searching for breakfast at 10.30am (already 11.30am in Malaysia, my stomach was already growling). After a bit searching, we found a nice little cafe - Rendezvous - which offered a mini breakfast of toast, croissant and free flow of coffee, tea and juice for only 100 baht (RM10). Finally something nice :) The croissant (with chocolate filling) was delicious! Rendezvous also offers rooms. Since it is at the gay lane, so it is a gay friendly hotel, well it says here in the website.

Nice little hotel

Our tummies filled in, we went back to the hotel to wait for Ezad to get ready. Then we took the tuk-tuk (hah coincidence - tuk 3 times in a row: took tuk-tuk heheh) to go to Hard Rock Cafe Phuket. Since we weren't sure how far it was, better not to walk. We were charged 200 Baht (RM20) for 3 persons for a less than 1km distance. It was walkable after all. We were overcharged there. Oh well. But then it was really hot, so we were spared some UV exposure there, so fine. Ezad got himself  a t-shirt there. Mas didn't get anything to her fancy, or the ones she fancied didn't have the right size.

I was getting hungry already so I suggested for lunch. We walked down a bit and saw a halal signage so we went there to San Sabai Restaurant . The lane is under construction so it was dusty. I ordered my favourite Thai dish - rice with basil chicken and egg. It looked nice, but the taste just so-so. Same for Mas' dish of fried rice. But at least the price here is more appropriate - my dish cost 100 baht (RM10) - KLCC food court level price - but then KLCC version's tastes better...sorry Phuket. We couldn't eat at the seafood restaurant as they served pork too. There was rice with basil porky.

Ah another thing, I somehow forgot our experience at Krabi - the drinks here are really sweet. I ordered green tea - imagining a fresh cooling drink - but was served the tea with milk. I asked if they could provide the tea sans the milk, and when I got the tea it was just too sweet. It tasted like sweetened water, no green tea taste. I couldn't be bothered to ask again, now for the tea without sugar, so I just drank my packed drinking water. Oh dear I'm sorry I'm complaining about food again. But just be warned the drinks can be really sweet - so ask for the no sugar version. As for the food perhaps we just weren't lucky enough to find one.

San Sabai restaurant

rice with basil chicken

Since we didn't have enough time anymore - tomorrow we were already going back and tonight to Fantasea show, we decided to do the massage right after lunch. We walked back towards our hotel - just about 10 mins walking - it wasn't that far - to the spa nearby our hotel at MyHotel's sister building - Pacific Light hotel. We opted for the 2 hour body scrub and aromatherapy which costs only 800 baht (RM83). It was so relaxing we dozed off a few times. The spa ambience was really welcoming as well.

our nice spa :)

We finished at 5pm, went back to hotel, rested for a while. At 6pm, our transportation came to fetch us to go to the Fantasea show. Our transporter would send us back after the show at 10.30 pm. We arrived at about 6.30pm, then had to queue to redeem our tickets with the tour agent receipt, then proceeded to the Golden Kinnaree Buffet restaurant. We were designated a table number at the halal section. Good for us as we didn't have to queue for the food, there weren't that many people at our section. The management had put on a good effort by displaying the halal certification to  ensure worse not to worry about the food. They served Thai food, mostly quite spicy. I tried them all, but a little portion each.

We browsed along the theme park - there were shops, elephant rides, and games for the kids. Not a really big park. It was then time for the Fantasea show. According to the pamphlet, Fantasea is an award winning, Las Vegas style production spectacle colourfully blending the beauty of Thai culture with magical illusions, aerial ballet, acrobatics (I liked this one - trapeze acrobatics), pyrotechnics, special effects, exciting stunts and elephant performances (I liked this one too - the elephants were adorable!), all into one unforgettably unique theatrical experience.

entrance to buffet restaurant

decor on the ceiling

cultural dance outside the theater

entrance to the theater

theater of the elephants

We didn't really understand what the story was about - was it about the legend of Kamala - an old kingdom at the Kamala bay? There were some stories depicted during the show - but it was interspersed with the trapeze acrobatics and the magic show which didn't really fit in with the story. Nevertheless, it was called Fantasea anyway, so it was all just fantasy, no need to decipher the logic of it (there's no logic anyway), just enjoy the show. It lasted for just over an hour.

Cameras weren't allowed in, even our mobile phones had to be deposited at the designated counter for safekeeping prior to the show. There were some people who sneaked in their mobile phones though.

After going back to the hotel, we proceeded for supper - the coveted roadside stall pancakes of course! Ah, reliving the memories of Krabi's pancakes. I had the nutella banana flavour. Yummy! Then we went on to have mango sticky rice. Delicious, although a bit sweet (I don't have a sweet tooth).  Since it was already past midnight, the souvenir shops and massage spas have already closed, so it was then time for snooze therapy.

Mon 1/4

Early morning today. Me and Mas walked to the beach at 7am, about 10 mins walking from our hotel. It's not that far actually. We passed by Impiana resort which looked similar to the resort that we saw on The Impossible. But apparently it wasn't the one, as the scene depicted in the movie was based on a different location - at Khao Lak. We took some pictures, then walked back looking for breakfast.

Patong beach

Since Phuket is bustling with night life, it wakes up late. We couldn't find any place for breakfast at 8am (it's already 9am in Malaysia). We went back to Rendezvous, but it was still closed. We asked the hotel staff at Royal Paradise Hotel (if I'm not mistaken) whether its halal restaurant was already opened, but it wasn't. Then we walked out of the hotel and saw a 24 hour bakery at the corner of the lane (it's called Corner Bakery - no surprises there), so we settled down there. Not as nice as Rendezvous, and there was no breakfast set. So we just had croissants and tea / coffee.

It was then back to the hotel to freshen up and pack our things. At 10am, we went to buy souvenirs at the nearest shop to our hotel. All the shops open at 10am. We had only 1 hour for shopping before our taxi came to send us to the airport at 11am.

The MAS queue at the airport was already long. It's a good idea to do web check in and choose your seat - as we found out later that we were seated at the last row. But then again, MAS only allows a max 48 hours prior to flight time for web check in, so we couldn't do this before flying out. Being seated at the last row, the flight attendants missed us and a few other rows of the second  of the meal pack  - the pastry - it mattered to us now as we were very hungry already. We didn't have time to eat at the airport. So Ezad asked the flight attendant if we could have the pack. Luckily he asked as the steward had forgotten us. We arrived home safely at 4.30pm.

Phuket was not as enjoyable as Krabi - maybe because we were a bit rushed, with less than 48 hours total time. Phuket was more crowded, hotter (probably because of different season) and more expensive. I guess the real attraction here is the nightlife. So for watersports / activities I'd prefer Krabi. But thank you anyway Phuket for the experience. Any experience is always valuable :)

Bye bye Phuket