Showing posts with label Andaman Sea. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Andaman Sea. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Phuket, Thailand ~ And that Magical Mansion by the Sea

We can’t tell you what we ate at the Cape Panwa House on a beach in Phuket, Thailand, more than two decades ago, but we can tell you it was the dining experience that still ranks Number One in all of our years of travel. A doting waiter, clad in Thai silk, served the many courses of our meal and hovered over us as we dined in the stately colonial mansion. As cliché as it sounds, a full moon and swaying palms, as though from a movie set, provided the perfect tropical backdrop.

We dined there more than once during that brief stay so long ago. Nothing since, has compared to our experiences there.

Cape Panwa House - Phuket, Thailand, 1988
Thailand was one of our first travel destinations. The mountainous Phuket Island in the southern part of Thailand had won our hearts. . .it was everything an exotic tropical island should be for those starry-eyed young travelers just setting out to explore the world.

We’ve often pondered returning; wondering if the place would seem as magical now. . .

'The Scout' jogging the beach at Cape Panwa, Phuket, Thailand, 1988

The Panwa House was then part of the Sheraton Cape Panwa Hotel where we stayed during our time on this island in the Andaman Sea.  Most visitors to Phuket, the largest of Thailand’s islands, come for its beaches. We went for the same reason and looking back at old photos of our time at Cape Panwa we remember that wonderful beach. 

The Sheraton long ago sold the hotel and we’ve always wondered what happened to that magical mansion by the sea. We chose not to research it on the internet as we didn’t want to risk shattering those memories. . .

Fast Forward:  Phuket Island, our Second Port of Call

Our 34-day cruise from Bangkok, Thailand to Istanbul, Turkey aboard Oceania’s Nautica (aka our Magic Carpet) included many new places that we’d been wanting to visit, but another selling point of its itinerary had been getting to revisit favorite places from long-ago travels. Spending a day in Phuket was a plus. We’d not been here since 1988.

Phuket was the only port of call along our routing where we ‘tendered’ into the shore on smaller boats while our ship stayed anchored in deeper water.  If you’ve ever anchored at sea you know the ship turns with the current – like a slow moving kaleidoscope of scenery.  It was fun watching our arrival and trying to figure out where on the island we might be landing. . .

PicMonkey Collage
Oceania's Nautica anchored in the Andaman Sea
And then. . . (you know what’s coming, don’t you?) . . .yes, there it was!

I start smiling when I think of the joy in realizing we were just off shore from the Cape Panwa House -- once the home of a coconut plantation owner and now nearly 100 years old – still on the beach right where we’d last seen it!

Cape Panwa House, Phuket, Thailand, 2015
It is still a restaurant, we learned, operated by the Cape Panwa Hotel, and only open for dinner so we didn’t get to try it. Our ship sailed at 6 p.m.  (The reviews I’ve read since returning home, lead me to believe its magic is still wowing diners much as it did  when we were there.) Somehow, we were happy just knowing it was there.

Phuket ~ The Same, Yet Different

Phuket, whose wealth comes in part from tourism, got its start back in the 1500’s with tin production, an industry that continues today. While the Panwa House looked the same, tourism has made its mark on the island. The contrasting beach scenes, my 1988 and current photos, are examples of the growth that has taken place:

PicMonkey Collage
Cape Panwa Phuket Thailand - Then and Now (1988 left, 2015 right)
Cape Panwa is about 25 minutes from Phuket Town by taxi. bus,or tuk-tuk, those tri-wheeled carts that still give riders a thrill as they whisk you in and out of tight traffic spaces.  The town, still an interesting mix of smells and sights but the shops, food vendors and the bustle of activity they generated didn’t hold quite the charms our first visit to the island.

PicMonkey Collage
Phuket Town, Thailand, 1988 left, 2015 right

We passed up visiting the tourist sites as we wanted to see the town again. It was interesting strolling the streets - squeezing past parked motorcycles when the sidewalk disappeared and dodging buses, taxis and people.

We'd ridden a similar bus to town from Cape Panwa in 1988; this was a 2015 version
Strolling however wasn’t one of the most pleasant pastimes because it was hot, incredibly hot, the temperatures were in the low 90’s and the humidity was in a similar range. That may have contributed to our reaction to the little town that had once charmed us. This food vendor below had the right idea – we could have used a fan as well!

Food vendor Phuket Town Thailand
The town is well worth a visit and should be included on a trip to the island. There are also any number of tourist attractions including: the Sri Bhurap Orchid Cashew Nut Factory, the Phuket Seashell Museum, and the Phang Nga Bay National Marine Park. Also new, since our last visit, were two retail shopping malls.

Phuket was to be the last ‘familiar’ stop until we reached Rhodes, Greece. From this point on, our Magic Carpet Ride, was headed into new territory.

We’d have another day at sea and then wake up to find ourselves in Myanmar (Burma, as it once was known) where we left the ship for a two-night stay in Yangon – a place we are so eager to show you!

To our regulars here: For a short time, I’ll be posting twice a week; one post will continue the Magic Carpet ride through the Middle East and the other will be the return of Washington Weekend, featuring Pacific Northwest getaways.

For those of you social media enthusiasts, we’ve just joined the Google+ world, where you can find links to the posts under my name, Jackie Smith. (We finally link up and I read that Google is reducing the program features – timing is everything, isn’t it?)

As always, thanks for your time. Safe travels to you. Hope to see you again soon~

Linking this week with:

Travel Photo Thursday – Budget Traveler’s Sandbox 
Our World Tuesday
Travel Inspiration – Reflections En Route
Mosaic Monday – Lavender Cottage Gardening
Mersad's Through My Lens


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