I’m skipping a few days, and will return to them, but the internet here on Koh Yao Noi is intermittently lightning fast and powered-by-a-hamster-in-a-wheel slow, so my photos won’t upload.
When deciding where to spend the next week after luxe-ing it up on Phuket, we had realised that jumping on and off small boats in the Andaman Sea was going to be a right drag with anything more than a holdall.
So, after seeing the New Year in at Paresa on the west coast of Phuket, we headed first to the airport on the 1st of January to leave our large cases containing smarter sundresses, excess shoes and colder weather travelling clothes in left luggage, before taking a share cab down to Phuket Old Town in the south east of the island, about half an hour away.
We had heard about a putative UNESCO World Heritage listing, and about the beautiful 19th and early 20th century Sino-Portuguese buildings, so booked in for a night at a place I found through Google, the Casa Blanca Boutique Hotel.
I chose it mainly for its white wedding cake frontage, but we were thrilled when we checked in to find it was not just beautiful out but in, and scrupulously clean. All for £50 a night.
We dumped our bags and immediately headed out to explore the Old Town, the main street of which, Thalang, was just a block away from the hotel.
One of the most justly famous streets is Soi Rommannee (above and top), whose name roughly translates at street of the naughty ladies. These days it is fewer naughty ladies and more tourists, guesthouses and private homes.
Circling back onto Thalang, we poked about in bookshops, peeked into stylish small B&Bs, and then set off to find a pharmacy for insect bite cream, mosquito coils and the usual tropical holiday necessities.
Our friends at Paresa had booked us a table at the Blue Elephant for dinner, with the hotel’s executive chef Luca telling me it was his favourite restaurant on the island, for it’s imaginative and modern re-telling of traditional Thai dishes. The name may sound familiar: It’s one of the Blue Elephant restaurants that have branches all over the worlds, from Bangkok to London, but its charm is that their menus are different in each place.
Here in Phuket they specialise in taking old and forgotten Thai dishes and re-inventing them for the 21st century.
It’s in the most beautiful 1903 colonial building, formerly the Governor’s Mansion, with the covered reception rooms at the front open to the night, and cooled by fans, and the back rooms icy with air con.
We over-ordered food we hadn’t seen on menus before, excited by new choices, including taro puffs, and a layered aubergine and mushroom laab dish.
The overwhelming success was the fried mushrooms on a sizzle platter, an enormous heaping pile of king oyster mushrooms, juicy and rich in a light batter and sticky soy sauce.
The disaster was the obvious choice – an utterly unmemorable pad Thai. I was stupid to order something I eat all the time in London and here in Thailand, but I was interested to see what would surely be the echt version that would set the standard for all future dishes.
It looked pretty but ate badly. Claggy, under-powered. Dull.
Nest morning I woke up early and marched back to Thalang to take photos in the daylight – well worth the effort in the morning light, before our 08am pickup to the ferry jetty to travel to Koh Lanta.
The Blue Elephant, Krabi Road 96, Phuket Town, 83000, Thailand.
Telephone: +66 76 354 355-7 www.blueelephant.com/phuket