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Bangkok – THAILAND

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Bangkok – THAILAND

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Bangkok is the capital, largest urban area and primary city of Thailand. Known in Thai as Krung Thep Mahanakhon ), meaning “City of the Deity”) for short, it was a small trading post at the mouth of the Chao Phraya River during the Ayutthaya Kingdom. It came to the forefront of Siam when it was given the status as the capital city in 1768 after the burning of Ayutthaya. However, the current Rattanakosin Kingdom did not begin until 1782 when the capital was moved across the river by Rama I after the death of King Taksin. The Rattanakosin capital is now more formally called “Phra Nakhon” (Thai: พระนคร), pertaining to the ancient boundaries in the metropolis’ core and the name Bangkok now incorporates the urban build-up since the 18th century which has its own public administration and governor.

Since its inception as the capital of Siam, it was at the center of European Colonial plans, but due to its strategic location in Indochina, it acted as a buffer-zone and brokered power between the European forces. Through this, it gained notoriety in the world as an independent, dynamic, and influential city. And in the span of over two hundred years, Bangkok has grown to become the political, social and economic center of Thailand, Indochina and one of Southeast Asia.

As a direct result of the 1980s and 1990s Asian investment boom, numerous multinational corporations base their regional headquarters in Bangkok and the city has become a regional force in finance and business. Its increasing influence on global politics, culture, fashion, and entertainment underlines its status as a global city. In 2009, it was the second most expensive city in South-East Asia behind Singapore.

The city’s wealth of cultural landmarks and attractions in addition to its notorious entertainment venues has made it synonymous with exoticism. Its historic wealth coincides with its rapid modernization, reflected in the cityscape and the urban society. The Grand Palace, Vimanmek Palace Complex, its thousands of temples, and the city’s notorious red-light districts combine draw in 11 million international visitors each year, trailing just Paris and London.

Bangkok has a population of approximately 6,355,144 residents while the greater Bangkok area has a population of 11,971,000 (January 2008). The capital is part of the heavily urbanized triangle of central and eastern Thailand which stretches from Nakhon Ratchasima along Bangkok to the heavily Industrialized Eastern Seaboard. Bangkok borders six other provinces: Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani, Samut Prakan, Samut Sakhon and Nakhon Pathom, and all five provinces are joined in the conurbation of the Bangkok Metropolitan Area. It is served by two international airports, Suvarnabhumi International Airport and Don Muang, four rapid transit lines operated by the BTS, MRT, and the SRT, with plans to add eight more by 2020.

What to Do at Night in Sukhumvit

Sukhumvit’s nightlife is exciting, ever-evolving, cosmopolitan and can be reduced to three main hedonistic pursuits: drinking, dancing and debauchery.

Along it, and its many adjoining sois, are countless pubs and bars, many of them very popular with expats and tourists. Most are either American-style bars or European watering holes, with the selection of draught beers and foods on sale usually reflecting the adopted theme (and more often than not the nationality of the owner).

They usually close between midnight and 01:00, and many have live music and pool tables. See our Bangkok pubs and bars section for details.  The perfect prelude to a big night out, many hotels here have flash upscale bars perfect for warm-up cocktails. These include the Westin Grande, Dream and Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit.

Bangkok Go-Go Bars

Bangkok Hot Spots :

Bikini-clad dancing girls, over-the-top ladyboys and lewd, eye-popping shows… Yes, the Go-Go bars that earned Bangkok its worldwide notoriety are still alive and letting it all hang out. For better or worse, Bangkok’s illustrious ‘After Dark’ reputation owes much to these spots.

The first area that springs to mind is Patpong – Nowadays, having become part of a wider entertainment scene that includes the popular Patpong Night Market, bars, nightclubs and a gay area, it isn’t the aggressive red-light district it once was.

Open-minded visitors, lured in by hard-selling touts and their curiosity, treat the infamous upstairs shows like a circus show, coming in for a quick look at the inventive performances, a giggle and a couple of overpriced drinks before heading off to continue their shopping or hit a nearby club (these performances are also dubbed ‘ping-pong shows’, and a lot of imagination isn’t needed to guess the origins of this phrase.)

These are found predominantly at Nana Plaza and Soi Cowboy, red light districts both situated on lower Sukhumvit Road. Depending on the current level of police interference, both offer explicit shows featuring girls in various stages of undress; usually uniforms, bikinis or pretty much nothing bar a coy smile and a dash of Burberry Weekend. Nana even has its own on-site ‘guesthouse’ for clients.

Nana Entertainment Plaza

Greeting you when you pass beneath the monstrous ‘Nana Entertainment Plaza’ entrance sign is a mass of glowing neon signs, yelling at you from all directions. Shouting even louder than the neon is the intriguing cast of upfront characters – ladyboys, midgets and, of course, girls – who will try and accost you. They can be in your face, but it’s all light-hearted and unthreatening.

On the ground floor there are mostly open-air beer bars to choose from. With salacious names like Lollipop and Red Lips, girls here will try and tempt you in for a drink, a game of Jenga and, probably, more. Some will step into your path or give you a gentle jab in the kidneys to encourage you. Others will resort to trying to drag you in – a shrug and a quick side-step is usually enough to shake them off. A few go-go bars line the right side. Playschool, Rainbow 1 and Rainbow 2 all pack them in – both the bikini-clad girls and the punters.

Nights in White Satin

Ascend up the escalator to the first floor and it’s mostly go-go bars. These include Spankys, Fantasia and Rainbow 3. Rainbow 4 is one of the biggest, with hordes of Japanese-looking girls attracting a busy mix of Westerners and Japanese spectators.

G-Spot, Cassanova and Temptations are among the most popular, and it’s no surprise – they’re ladyboy bars and put on dazzling shows. Angel Witch, on the left, with its lesbian and dominatrix shows is also a big hit. A lot of thought and energy clearly goes into the costumes and performances here – girls in elegant but provocative strips of white satin were strutting gracefully to ‘Nights in White Satin’ on our visit.

For relative calm, head for Big Dogs bar on the left corner of the entrance. This is a humble watering-hole, with beers and a raised terrace view onto the street and alleyway.
How to get there: walking distance from Nana BTS Skytrain station.

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Bangkok, Thailand

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Bangkok, Thailand

The city of Bangkok is the capital, largest urban area and primary city of Thailand. Known in Thai as Krung Thep Mahanakhon or กรุงเทพฯ Krung Thep for short, it was a small trading post at the mouth of the Chao Phraya River during the Ayutthaya Kingdom.

It came to the forefront of Siam when it was given the status as the capital city in 1768 after the burning of Ayutthaya. However, the current Rattanakosin Kingdom did not begin until 1782 when the capital was moved across the river by Rama I after the death of King Taksin. The Rattanakosin capital is now more formally called “Phra Nakhon” (Thai: พระนคร), pertaining to the ancient boundaries in the metropolis’ core and the name Bangkok now incorporates the urban build-up since the 18th century which has its own public administration and governor.

In the span of over two hundred years, Bangkok has grown to become the political, social and economic center of not only Thailand but for Indochina and South East Asia. Its influence in the arts, politics, fashion, education and entertainment as well as being a business, financial and cultural center of Asia has given Bangkok the status of a global city.

Bangkok is the world’s 22nd largest city by population with approximately 8,160,522 registered residents (July 2007). However, similar to most regional centers, due to large unregistered permanent migrants from the North East of Thailand and other Asian nations in combination with those who commute to Bangkok during the day for work, the population of greater Bangkok is estimated to be closer to 15 million people.

This has in turn shifted the country from being a rather homogeneous Thai population to an increasingly vibrant mix of Western, Indian and Chinese people, in doing so, giving the city a cosmopolitan status. The capital is part of the heavily urbanized triangle of central and eastern Thailand which stretches from Nakhon Ratchasima along Bangkok to the industrialized eastern seaboard—it is the most built-up area mainland-South East Asia.

The Bangkok Province borders six other provinces: Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani, Samut Prakan, Samut Sakhon and Nakhon Pathom, and all five provinces are joined in the conurbation of the Bangkok Metropolitan Area.

Transportation

River and canals network

An elaborate network of canals known as khlongs gave Bangkok the nickname “Venice of the East” at a time when most transportation was by boat. Today, nearly all of the canals have been filled in and converted into streets. While many khlongs still exist with people living along them and markets often being operated along the banks, most are severely polluted. A notable khlong market is the floating market in Taling Chan district.

Through downtown Bangkok runs the Khlong Saen Saeb, which has a canal boat service, the most extensive of which is the Chao Phraya Express Boat with as many as thirty stops along the both banks of the Saen Saeb. However, there are limitations as the further north the route is the farther apart the stations are, impeding the ability of this water taxi to function as a true mass transit system.

Roads

Several elevated highways, newly rebuilt intersections, and many partially finished road and rail projects dot the landscape around greater Bangkok, but have done little to overcome the notorious traffic jams on Bangkok’s surface roads as private vehicle usage continues to outstrip infrastructure development.

Bangkok also includes many shopping and business roads like the Sukhumvit Road which includes highrise business buildings, apartments, and shopping malls, Sukhumvit Road is where many foreigners like to come shopping.

The Wireless Road or Thanon Wittayu include the Stock Exchange of Thailand and many business buildings like the All Seasons Place Complex which includes the Conrad Bangkok, a shopping mall, and many other business offices. The Thanon Khaosan or Khaosan Road is also well-known by foreigners. One of the popular shopping roads for teenagers is Rama I road, which has the Siam Paragon, Siam Square, and the Siam Discovery Center.

Inner-City Buses

A regular bus service is provided by the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority (BMTA) and it operates throughout Bangkok as well as to adjoining provinces around the clock on certain routes. Public buses are plentiful and cheap, with a minimum fare of 7 baht to most destinations within metropolitan Bangkok. Air-conditioned buses have minimum and maximum fares of 11 and 24 baht, respectively. Air-conditioned micro-buses charge a flat fare of 25 baht all routes. A Bus Route Map is available at bookshops.

Rail systems

On the birthday of HM King Rama IX, 5 December 1999, an elevated two-line Skytrain (officially called BTS) metro system was opened. The remains of the failed BERTS (Hopewell) project can still be seen all the way from the main railroad station out towards Don Mueang Airport. Due to the Asian financial crisis of 1997 construction was halted and the concrete pillars were left unused.

The MRT subway system opened for use in July 2004. The MRT connects the northern train station of Bang Sue to the Hua Lamphong central railway station near the city centre, while also going through the eastern part of Bangkok. It connects to the BTS system at BTS stations Mo Chit, Asok, and Sala Daeng.

Currently, transit and development projects initiated by ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin are gaining in popularity with the currently elected government, and have a possibility of being resumed and extended.

A new high speed elevated railroad called the Suvarnabhumi Airport Link, currently under construction, will link the city with the new Suvarnabhumi Airport. The announced opening date has been pushed to back to December 2009. The Airport Express railway is to be operated by the State Railway of Thailand. It will provide a 28.5 km (17.7 mi) link between the new airport and the City Air Terminal (CAT) at Makkasan with connections to the BTS at Phaya Thai and MRT at Petchburi. There are plans to extend the line to Don Mueang and Rangsit, but again, this is very dependent on the political situation.

Plans have been approved for a further extension of the BTS Silom line from Wong Wian Yai to Bangwah (4.5 km/2.8 mi), Sumrong to Samut Prakarn (8 km/5.0 mi), Mo Chit to Saphan Mai (11.9 km/7.4 mi) and the National Stadium to Phran Nok (7.7 km/4.8 mi). This includes five underground stations in the Rattanakosin area. The State Railway of Thailand has also been given approval to complete the Dark Red and Light Green lines. Alongside, MRT has also begun construction on two new lines, the Purple line from Bang Yai to Bang Sue, and the Blue line from Hua Lampong to Bang Khae and Ta Pra.

For intercity travel by train, most passengers begin their trips at Hua Lamphong at the southern end of the MRT. Here, trains connect Bangkok to Malaysia in the south, Chiang Mai to the north, and Nong Khai to the northeast and beyond to Laos.

Bus service

Virtually all cities and provinces are easily reached by bus from Bangkok. For destinations in the southwest and the west, buses leave from the Southern Bus Terminal, west of the city in the Thonburi area. For destinations in the southeast, such as Pattaya, Ko Samet and Ko Chang, buses leave from the Eastern Bus Terminal at Ekkamai. For all destinations north and northeast, the Northern Bus Terminal is at Mo Chit. Bangkok’s less accessible southern terminal was recently moved even farther out. Though Bangkok is well connected to other cities, getting to the bus terminals often are a challenge in themselves.

Bus (Bangkok Mass Transit Authority)

The Bangkok Mass Transit Authority service area covers Bangkok Metropolis and its suburban areas in the adjacent provinces of Nonthaburi, Samut Prakan, Pathum Thani, Nakhon Pathom, and Samut Sakhon. It serves approximately 3 million passengers per day.

The service hours are 05.00-23.00 hrs, except 24-hr night-owl service on some routes. In September 2005, BMTA owns a fleet of 3,579 buses—comprising 1,674 ordinary buses and 1,905 air-conditioned buses. In addition to BMTA-owned buses, there are 3,485 private-own contract buses, 1,113 contract minibuses, 2,161 side-street songthaews, and 5,519 vans. In total, there are 15,857 buses and vans over 427 routes across 8 zones.

  • Zone 1: North (Hubs: Rangsit, Bangkhen)
  • Zone 2: Upper East (Hubs: Bangkapi, Minburi)
  • Zone 3: Lower East (Hubs: Samrong, Samut Prakan)
  • Zone 4: South Central (Hubs: Khlong Toey)
  • Zone 5: Southwest (Hubs: Dao Khanong, Phra Pra Daeng)
  • Zone 6: West (Hubs: Bangkhae, Thonburi)
  • Zone 7: Northwest (Hubs: Nonthaburi, Pak Kret)
  • Zone 8: Central (Hubs: Huay Khwang)

Airports

Bangkok is one of Asia’s most important air transport hubs. In 2005, more than ninety airlines served Don Mueang International Airport (IATA: DMK; ICAO: VTBD). It was the 18th busiest airport in the world, second busiest in Asia by passenger volume, 15th busiest in the world and fourth busiest in Asia in international passenger volume.

Don Mueang consistently ranked 19th in the world in cargo traffic, and seventh in the Asia-Pacific region. Don Mueang is considered to be one of the world’s oldest international airports, its opening in March 1914 making it almost twenty years older than London Heathrow. It has three terminals and is located about 30 km (19 mi) north from the heart of Bangkok.

On 28 September 2006, Suvarnabhumi Airport (IATA: BKK; ICAO: VTBS), became Bangkok’s official international airport, replacing Don Mueang. Pronounced Suwannaphum (RTGS), or loosely Su-wan-na-poom, the airport is located southeast of the city center in Bang Phli district, Samut Prakan Province.

The progress of Suvarnabhumi Airport dates back to the early 1970s when a large plot of land 8,000 acres (3,237 ha) (32 km²) was bought. A student uprising in October of the same year prevented further progress with the development when the military government of Thanom Kittikachorn was subsequently overthrown. After several military coups and the Asian financial crisis of 1997, construction finally began in 2002, after five years of clearing the site. The first flights landed in September 2006, shortly after another military coup. Its two parallel runways are connected by the five concourses of the main terminal building.

The airport features a 132.2-metre (434 ft)-tall control tower, the tallest in Asia and one meter (3.2 ft) taller than Kuala Lumpur International Airport control tower. It is the tallest stand alone purpose built control tower in the world. Airports of Thailand Plc. (AoT) have announced another terminal to accommodate a further fifteen million passengers. This will be part of Phase 2 of the airport, which is expected to begin construction in three to five years. The main airline of Suvarnabhumi is Thai Airways International.

Much of the construction of Suvarnabhumi Airport took place during the premiership of Thaksin Shinawatra, who took personal responsibility for its timely completion. Despite a “ceremonial” opening on the planned date, construction was over a year late. Continuing controversy surrounds the quality of planning and construction; accusations include cracks in the runway, overheated buildings, a severe shortage of toilet facilities and lengthy passenger walks to departure gates. The fact that the airport is already overcrowded and near its maximum capacity less than a year after opening is another concern.

Don Mueang remains in use as a base of the Royal Thai Air Force. Thai Airways and most of the low-cost airlines now use the airport for domestic flights, in an effort to ease congestion at Suvarnabhumi, until the next terminal is opened.

Taxis

These three-wheeled ‘open-air’ motorised taxis (called tuk-tuks) are popular for short journeys. River taxis can be used on the Chao Phraya River. Some are just cross river ferries, but others serve the many landing stages on both banks and cover a route that goes up as far as the northern suburb of Nonthaburi.

Tourism

Bangkok is considered to be one of the world’s tourist hotspots. Bangkok is Thailand’s major tourist gateway, which means that the majority of foreign tourists arrive in Bangkok. The city boasts some of the country’s most visited historical venues such as the Grand Palace, Wat Pho, and Wat Arun. There are numerous projects to maintain Bangkok’s historic sites in the Rattanakosin area and river districts.

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Phuket, Thailand – Paradise Island

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Phuket, Thailand – Paradise Island

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Phuket is one of the southern provinces (changwat) of Thailand. Neighbouring provinces are (from north clockwise) Phang Nga and Krabi, but as Phuket is an island there are no land boundaries.

Phuket is Thailand’s largest island, approximately the size of Singapore. The island is connected to mainland Thailand by a bridge. It is situated off the west coast of Thailand in the Andaman Sea. The region has an area of approximately 570sq. km. and is made up of 1 large and 39 small islands. Phuket formerly derived its wealth from tin and rubber. The island was on one of the major trading routes between India and China, and was frequently mentioned in foreign trader’s ship logs. The region now derives much of its income from tourism.

Name

The name Phuket (of which the ph sound is an aspirated p) is apparently derived from the word bukit (Jawi: بوكيت) in Malay which means hill, as this is what the island appears like from a distance. The region was formerly referred to as “Thalang,” derived from the old Malay “Telong” (Jawi: تلوڠ) which means “Cape.” The northern district of the province, which was the location of the old capital, still uses this name.

Demographics

As with most of Thailand, the majority of the population is Buddhist, but there is a significant number of Muslims (30%) in Phuket, mainly descendants of the island’s original sea-dwelling people. Among the Muslims, many are of Malay descent. People of Chinese ancestry make up an even larger populace, many of whom having descended from tin miners who migrated to Phuket during the 19th century. Peranakans, known as “Phuket Babas” in the local tongue, constitute a fair share of members Chinese community, particularly among those who have family ties with the Peranakans of Penang and Malacca.

Transportation

The Phuket International Airport is located in the north of the island. There are many scheduled flights and chartered flights from domestics and other countries in Asia, Australia, Europe and North America landing in Phuket.

There is no rail-line to Phuket, but the trains do run to nearby Surat Thani. Songthaews (passenger pick-up vehicles) are a common mode of transport on Phuket. Phuket’s songthaews are larger than those found in other areas of Thailand. They travel between the town and beaches. There are also conventional bus services and motorbike taxis. The latter are found in large numbers in the main town and at Patong Beach. The traditional Tuk-tuks have been replaced by small vans, mostly red or some are yellow. Songthaews are the cheapest mode of transportation for travel from town to town.

Attractions

  • Hat Patong (หาดป่าตอง) 15 kilometres from town, Patong is Phuket’s most developed beach which offers numerous leisure, sporting, shopping and recreational options along its 3-kilometre long crescent bay. Windsurfing, snorkelling, sailing, swimming and sunbathing number among the many popular daytime activities. Patong is equally well known for its vibrant nightlife, among which seafood restaurants feature prominently.
  • Laem Phromthep (แหลมพรหมเทพ) Phromthep Cape is a headland forming the extreme south end of Phuket. “Phrom” is Thai for the Hindu term, “Brahma,” signifying purity, and “Thep” means ‘God.’ Local villagers used to refer to the cape as “Laem Chao”, or the God’s Cape, and it was an easily recognizable landmark for the early seafarers traveling up the Malay Peninsula from the sub-continent.
  • Hat Karon (หาดกะรน) The second largest of Phuket’s tourist beaches, some 20 kilometres from town. Large resort complexes line the road behind of the shoreline, but the long, broad beach itself has no development. The sand is very white, and squeaks audibly when walked upon. There are plenty of restaurants and tourist stores right across the street from the beach. The southern point has a fine coral reef stretching toward Kata and Bu Island. There is also its sister beach Karon Noi.
  • View Point (จุดชมวิว) This is located mid-point between Nai Han and Kata beaches. The scenic Kata Noi, Kata and Karon beaches, and Ko Pu Island can be viewed from this point.
  • Wat Chalong (วัดฉลองหรือวัดไชยธาราราม) This is where stands the cast statue of Luang Pho Cham, who helped the people of Phuket put down the Angyee, or Chinese Coolie Rebellion, in 1876 during the reign of Rama V. There are also statues of Luang Pho Chuang, and Luang Pho Cham, abbots of the temple during later times.
  • Khao Phra Thaeo Wildlife Conservation Development and Extension Centre (สถานีพัฒนาและส่งเสริมการอนุรักษ์สัตว์ป่าเขาพระแทว) Its duty is to promote, distribute and wildlife within Khao Phra Thaeo wildlife park. The park is full of virgin forest and also actively conserves a number of wild animals; they would otherwise be extinct in Phuket. It is a center for study of the environment and the forest vegetation is spectacular. Giant trees supported by huge buttresses are thick with creepers and climbers of every description.

Events and Festivals

  • Thao Thep Krasattri and Thao Si Sunthon Fair (งานท้าวเทพกระษัตรี – ท้าวศรีสุนทร) is held on March 13 every year to commemorate the two great heroines who rallied the Thalang people to repel Burmese invaders.
  • Vegetarian Festival (เทศกาลกินเจ(กินผัก-เจี๊ยะฉ่าย)) is held on the first day of the 9th lunar month (end Sept or early October). Phuket islanders of Chinese ancestry commit themselves to a 9-day vegetarian diet, a form of purification believed to help make the forthcoming year “trouble-free”. The festival is marked by several ascetic displays, including fire-walking and ascending sharp-bladed ladders.
  • Phuket King’s Cup Regatta (งานแข่งเรือใบชิงถ้วยพระราชทาน) is held in December. The Kata Beach Resort hosts international yachtsmen, largely from neighbouring countries who compete in the Kata Beach area for royal trophies.
  • Laguna Phuket Triathlon (ลากูน่าภูเก็ตไตรกีฬา) is held in each December. The triathlon (a 1,800 – metre swim, a 5.5 -kilometre bike race and a 12-kilometre run and a 6 –kilometre fun run) attracts many athletes from all over the world.
  • Phuket Travel Fair (เทศกาลเปิดฤดูการท่องเที่ยวจังหวัดภูเก็ต), starting from November 1, is usually called the Patong Carnival, from the place where celebrations occur. Colourful parades, sports events, and a beauty competition for foreign tourists are major activities.
  • Chao Le (Sea Gypsy) Boat Floating Festival (งานประเพณีลอยเรือชาวเล) falls during the middle of the sixth and eleventh lunar months yearly. The sea gypsy villages at Rawai and Sapam hold their ceremonies on the 13th; Ko Si-re celebrates on the 14th; and Laem La (east of the bridge on Phuket’s northern tip) on the 15th. Ceremonies, which centre around the setting adrift of small boats similar to the Thai festival of Loi Krathong, are held at night and their purpose is to drive away evil and bring good luck.

Cuisine

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  • Fried or Boiled Noodle Dishes (หมี่ผัดหรือหมี่น้ำแบบต่าง ๆ), usually with pork or chicken, are available at many noodle shops in the town such as Mi Ton Pho, Mi Sapam, Mi Ao Ke, Mi Hun Pa Chang, and etc.
  • Khanom Jeen (ขนมจีน), a version of noodles taken at breakfast, usually served with a spicy curry sauce and fresh vegetables.
  • Nam Phrik Kung Siap (น้ำพริกกุ้งเสียบ) is a mixture of dried chili and smoked shrimps taken with various fresh vegetables.
  • Cashew nuts and pineapples are rarely grown in Phuket but are available all year round. The nuts are available dried, fried or coated.
  • Pad Kanaa Moo Grob is a dish with sauteed leafy green (similar to kale) and crispy pork.
  • Kao Man Gai is a simple dish of chicken and rice (usually infused with padanus leaves) that is sold at many small stands.

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