Sunday, 16 December 2012

Buri Rasa


Buri Rasa opened for business early 2012 but it was not until late 2012 that they actually finished the resort or put up a website. Cheekily Phangan.info put up a website masquerading as the official website. It is a cheap looking site with minimal content and over-priced booking.

One look at www.burirasa.com is enough to clearly see it is the genuine article. Now that we have the website and a more completed resort we are in a position to offer a review of Buri Rasa in Thong Nai Pan Noi.

For all of those folks who haven’t heard the sad news, Star Huts was torn down in 2011. The owner of Baan Panburi and the Anantara brand bought the land. He moved Baan Panburi over to the southern end of Yai beach and used the space to create ‘Buri Rasa Village’.

From this background it is clear that we have a big player flexing his corporate muscles. He owns Buri Rasa and Baan Panburi and his management group runs Rasananda. How long before he buys Rasananda? His name is William E. Heinecke. He is an American with a Thai passport and one of the richest men in Thailand. 


Although Panviman and Santhiya have branched out, they were conceived as one-off unique resorts. In contrast Buri Rasa from the very outset was designed to belong to a corporate entity and to be heavily branded. There is a Buri Rasa in Koh Samui. It had its ‘soft opening’ in June 2012. It is very similar to the one in Thong Nai Pan Noi. It is beachfront, uses a similar interior design and is aimed at the same 4 star market. The branding is deliberate as the 2 Buri Rasa resorts share the same website!

The Buri Rasa in Thong Nai Pan Noi occupies the corner of the beach between the stream that separates off the Panviman bit of beach up to the public road leading down to the beach. There is a small infinity pool on the beach complete with decking. Next to this is the ‘Beach Club’. This reminds me very much of the Baan Panburi Beach Club but just a bit more up-market. It has the same layout with large open plan restaurant with lots of seating on the beach. The menu is similar too – Thai food and barbeque, only more expensive. They even have a small bar hut to the side, like the old Baan Panburi used to.

As you walk up the road away from the beach you encounter the ‘Village Square’. This is a slightly ambitious or pretentious venture. It depends on your point of view. There is cobbled road, seating under a large tree, cafes, shops and what feels like an English style pub. The architecture is deliberately European rather than Thai. Bright colours, upholstered seating, colonnades and wall murals have transformed this part of the village into a 4 star enclave. If you were kind you would say it is sophisticated; if not you would be inclined to see something that resembles Koh Samui in all its pomp and glory trying to pull in the tourist bucks.


The rooms at Buri Rasa have air-con, en-suite bathrooms and balconies with sea views. It is hotel style accommodation in the sense that it is all in a large multi story building rather than in bungalows or villas stretched out across the beachfront. Building upwards and making the rooms fairly small means that they can offer rooms for as little as $100 a night compared to the minimum of $250 a night it costs for a Rasananda villa.

It is interesting to note that the Buri Rasa is still using computer generated graphics for the rooms. Because of the expansion of Rasananda building of Buri Rasa fell behind schedule. They opened in 2012 with only a few rooms functional and obviously not looking good enough to feature in promotional material.

The original meaning of boutique was a shop that was small and sold unique items. No doubt Buri Rasa will be promoted as boutique. It is not that small and its style is derivative. The rooms offer comfort but not luxury and the restaurant is just a re-make of the previously successful Baan Panburi Beach Club. Buri Rasa is a safe corporate bet to increase revenue from a prime piece of real estate.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Animals at Sunrise Villa

This is a follow on post to http://thongnaipan.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/birds-of-thong-nai-pan.html. In the previous post I gave a list of the various birds you can expect to see if you visit Thong Nai Pan. Although I didn't think it was an exhaustive list i am slightly surprised with the following picture:

I am no expert but from my researches I think the pattern and yellow marking make this bird a Chinese Pond Heron. It is an impressive bird and it is an impressive view that the bird is staring at.

It is perched on the roof of Sunrise Villa.

As I have said before: it is the natural environment that is the biggest attraction for Thong Nai Pan. Spotting this bird filled me with excitement, as did the beach when I first saw it. It is these moments that make staying in this area such a joy.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Football on the Beach

It’s the battle of the resorts. A football competition to decide the resort with the most skillful football players. Yes, the annual Thong Nai Pan Football competition was held a few weeks ago.

The level of play is never particularly high. You can watch for a long time before you witness a goal. It makes a pleasant enough spectacle when you have a cold beverage to enjoy. Part of the problem is the soft white sand – it’s great for lying on, but not an ideal football playing surface. Your feet tend to drag in the sand when you try to kick the ball.

Perhaps the Brazilian sport of playing keepy uppy volleyball with a football is a better activity for the beach.

Anyway the workers of Panviman, Santhiya, Rasananda etc. take the competition with an exemplary amount of seriousness. Both beaches take part.

In case the suspense is killing you, Buri Rasa won this year. Well done Buri Rasa. We know very little about the Buri Rasa Resort since it is not finished, but we do know the resort staff are champions.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Su's Cafe and Bakery


One of the most noticeable characteristics about most of the small businesses on both Thong Nai Pan Noi and Yai is that they make no effort on promotions. The big hotels have websites and are on most of the major booking engines. They run promotions and they publish press releases. In contrast the little bungalow operations, the small restaurants and bars and the other service providers are virtually invisible to all but passing trade.

One example of this is Su's Cafe. I have passed the sign for the place countless times as I ride my bike into Yai. It’s on the left, on the main road. I always imagined it was some old lady with an oven knocking out a few loaves of bread and a few cakes for the tourists.

It turns out I was wrong. Su is the Thai half of a fully fledged restaurant and bungalow business. The other half is Eric. They are an older couple who seemed to have carved out a nice little niche for themselves on Thong Nai Pan Yai without most people noticing.

Su's Café and Bakery is comprised of a small restaurant, 3 ‘houses’ for rent and 1 bungalow to rent. It is an accommodation option that isn’t on Agoda etc. You can go to their website directly (http://su-cafe-andhouseforrent.com/) or drop in if you want to rent a house. After several years of being open for business Su Café and Bakery has only 1 Trip Advisor review. That kind of warms my heart. I’m sure they provide good service and warm hospitality. It is that they aren’t interested in helping corporate entities like T.A.

The restaurant has German bread, schnitzels, pizza, pasta, salads, steaks and burgers. It is one of only 2 places in Thong Nai Pan to put their menu and prices online. This I like. Whenever I eat in Thong Nai Pan I always feel they are too keen to get the menu away from me, like it contains secret information. Pricing is far from transparent in Thong Nai Pan. Thank goodness Thai Break has stopped as that event drove prices up by 20% for 10 days.



House 1 is 1 bed with air-con, kitchen, fridge, washing machine and UBC TV. House 2 has 2 bedrooms (fan), kitchen, fridge, TV and washing machine. House 3 is for rent or sale. It has 2 air-con bedrooms, a bathtub, kitchen, fridge and TV. The bungalow is a basic fan affair.

The accommodation is set in a tropical garden. It doesn’t enjoy sea views but is peaceful and a good spot to avoid the crowds.

I have never stayed at Su's Café and Bakery. Trip Advisor won’t help you. Why not go and see for yourself?

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Luna Lounge


Nat and Khun did a good job with the Luna Lounge. They organized the building of an impressive round-thatched bar with water features and comfortable sofas and attempted to bring a bit of sophistication to TNP. At the time it was built (2008) it was in competition with Que Pasa at the back of the village of Thong Nai Pan Noi. Que Pasa closed and for a while Luna Lounge was the only high-end restaurant / bar in Thong Nai Pan Noi village.

Luna Lounge represents how Thong Nai Pan Noi is changing. It catered not for cost conscious backpackers but for those with plenty of money to spend on wine, cocktails and ‘fusion’ dishes. Phad Thai was out and coconut pannacotta was in.

The other interesting thing about Luna Lounge is how well the bar networked. Not only were many of the early customers friends of friends but also they were milked for Trip Advisor recommendations. I have to admit I hate Trip Advisor. They take other people’s content and make money from it. They parade an authority that simply is not there. Because several people wrote in recommending Luna Lounge it became ‘the best restaurant in Koh Phangan’.

I guess the people who have dined at the Rasananda ‘Michelin trend’ restaurant, at Chantara Restaurant at Santhiya, at the BBQ at Tapan Noi or even the hole-in-the-wall place on Walking Street in Thongsala were just never asked to tell Trip Advisor about it. Luna Lounge appeals to a certain type, the same type who pays any attention to Trip Advisor.

Now the restaurant has passed into new hands. They have a new website. It’s no longer www.thai-luna.com. Now it’s www.luna-restaurant-phangan.com/. Don’t worry there is a re-direct so you can’t miss the website. The new people renting the bar are Fred and Cathy. They have gone for an impressive wine list and stuck with the Asian Fusion culinary theme. There’s BBQ fish, orange and ginger duck, pesto and roasted vegetable pasta, Phi Phi chicken and, surprisingly enough, Pad Thai. The website doesn’t give the prices but I bet it’s not 40 Baht!

Anyway, best of luck to Fred and Cathy. If any beach in Koh Phangan needed a Luna Lounge then it was Thong Nai Pan Noi. They are a good match; but so are Better Than Sex and TNP.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Wang Thong Gallery


Unfortunately, many tourists associate Thai art exclusively with pictures of elephants and Buddha heads. These are often well done and decorative but are so hackneyed as to ill-deserve the phrase ‘art’. I suspect commercial pressures have made many young Thai artists conform to what they think foreign visitors want to see. It is thus refreshing to discover that Thong Nai Pan Yai now has a resident Thai artist that is unashamed in pursuing his own artistic vision. His name is Top Thumvanit, and he has a studio and shop on the road leading to Wang Thong Waterfall. If you are in Thong Nai Pan and are interested in seeing real Thai art then you should make your way into the forest to check Top’s canvases out.

Top Thumvanit went to Silpakorn University in Bangkok to study fine arts. After a brief spell painting on the streets of Sukhumvit he moved to Krabi and then again to Khao Lak where he opened his own gallery called ‘Top Art’. He moved again in 2011 to start his second gallery in Thong Nai Pan Yai.

The favored medium of Top is oil and canvas. He varies between a playful realism and a magical surrealism. His subjects include Thai iconography as well as a tropical fairy land of gossamer-winged creatures sporting in luxuriant blossoms. It is eye catching art that reveals a fertile imagination.



All of the paintings are ‘one-offs’. Even if Top’s pictures don’t end up gracing major international galleries it adds to their appeal and value that the purchaser is getting a unique piece of art.

For those looking for a reproduction of another painting Top can meticulously execute copies of any painting he is shown.

With the general encroachment of big business it is good to see that the original bohemian spirit of Thong Nai Pan has not been lost, and that talented and interesting people are still drawn to the beauty of the area.

For more about Top, his art, and his life visit his appropriately named website: www.topartpaintings.com or drop in and visit Wang Thong Gallery

Friday, 27 July 2012

Panviman Hacked

I hate hackers. Plenty of times my sites have been pried open by somebody with a bizarre axe to grind who leave an arrogant index.html to smother my content and drive away traffic. The worse ones are those that take over your back room. It is hard to get hold of your site again. 

Perhaps the most cunning hackers are those who infiltrate a site and subtly add their spammy links but leave a site ostensibly the same. This is what has happened to the Panviman site. Have a look at the screen save above. The Panviman title is now 'Viagra Prices Pfizer, Viagra Over Cannabis ++ Cheap Generic ...'

The information for one of the sub-listings is 'Lisinopril generic aceon Do ingredients you female like girls paris? need asked when ..'

Panviman may have 5 star accommodation and a great reputation but their eye is clearly not on the virtual ball. If they employed me I could alert them to this, but they don't and so I won't. Perhaps they'll eventually wonder why they are getting emails about 'Cannabis' and 'girls paris'. Until they address the problem us impartial observers can enjoy the joke while it lasts. 

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Birds of Thong Nai Pan

The double bay of Thong Nai Pan is backed by a series of hills covered in jungle. Other than the occasional residential villa this jungle is free of human interference. There are a wealth of animals living near the beaches of Thong Nai Pan Noi and Thong Nai Pan Yai. 

Anyone who has stayed at the Panviman will have noticed the monitor lizards sunning themselves on the rocks by the edge of the swimming pool dining area. Most of the other animals in the area keep to the jungle as there is plenty of food to be had. When the animals don’t start making forays into human habitation it is a sign that the surrounding eco-system is healthy.

One of the more spectacular demonstrations of that are the big birds to be spotted in Thong Nai Pan. They are often to be seen soaring on the thermals created by the hills behind. They feed on snakes, mice and other rodent-like creatures. 

An investigation into naming these birds has been carried out recently from Sunrise Villa. The balcony from the villa is at the top of a hill and the surrounding area is very quiet and a haven for birds to gather.

These are the spotting results. The pictures are from elsewhere on the net. It is notoriously hard to get a good photo of a bird without a big telescopic lens.

Black Eagle

 

This is a large bird that is identified by its widely splayed and long primary fingers. They hunt mammals and birds.

The Greater Racket Tailed Drongo

 

Few birds have such a charming name! These birds have distinctive elongated outer tails. They are able to make a wide range of calls; they can even imitate the call of other birds. These drongos are found all over Asia and vary a lot in appearance due to genetic drift.

Sea Eagle

 

Sea Eagles are some of Thailand’s largest birds. They live a long time by bird standards and are slow to reproduce. Obviously, the coastline next to Thong Nai Pan Bay has waters rich in fish.

Shikra

 

A shikra is similar in appearance to a sparrow hawk. Their calls are imitated by drongos. This bird has short rounded wings and a narrow long tail. The average shikra is about 30 cm long. They feed on rodents, squirrels, small birds and insects.

It is hoped that at some point a twitcher or birder will come to stay at Thong Nai Pan and make a more thorough study of the birds of Thong Nai Pan. It is this kind of information that helps to make people more interested and connected with nature. By knowing more about the jungle, it is hoped that the task of preserving it is made easier.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Da Man


Have you ever wondered who the man is that is responsible for taking over half of Thong Nai Pan Noi beach front? The man who OKed a champagne bar, signed off on chopping down the palms overhanging the sands and even blew up granite rocks to squeeze dozens of supposedly boutique villas into the expansive Rasananda Resort and Spa? No need to wonder anymore. Da man is William E. Heinecke.

William E. Heinecke was born an American and is now a Thai – well he probably has both passports. He is one of the richest men in Thailand. Despite his incredible fortune he can’t afford a razor or get a decent haircut; but notice the bling on his right wrist.

He is the CEO of Minor International Plc. or MINT. It is one of the largest hospitality and leisure companies in the Asia-Pacific Region. MINT has over 70 hotels, 1,200 restaurants and 200 retail trading outlets in the region. MINT also owns several popular junk food brands that range from ice cream to pizza.

As for Da Man in Thong Nai Pan Noi, he owns the Baan Panburi that used to be the big wheel on the TNP Noi but is now a small player on Yai. Obviously the success of Baan Panburi Village convinced MINT of upgrading their operation. The result was Rasananda. I thought it was a one-off resort done with a modicum of flair and the color red. When it changed to Anantara Rasanada the truth became apparent. The place was one of many.

I wonder if big Bill H used to do the Monday parties at the Jungle Bar or play pool at the Flip Flop. Has he ever stopped in for a Handsome burger before hitting the sack? Or, since he is Thai, does he enjoy Sum Tum with extra chillies and perhaps fermented prawns on the side?

Monday, 12 March 2012

Thong Nai Pan Airport

The sign says: "Thank you Mr. Phum for supporting Kan Air to arrive in Koh Phangan."

The rumours about Koh Phangan getting an airport come around every year. It seems to be like the rainy season – an annual event. Speculation is also partly fuelled by developers who want to sell villas. The prospect of an airport anywhere in Koh Phangan would surely drive the value of villas and land up on Koh Phangan.

As with all good rumours there is a touch of conspiracy in the mix. Bangkok Airways that own Koh Samui airport have for years been overcharging for their Samui to Bangkok flights. These flights serve people not only who want to go to Koh Samui, but also Koh Tao and Koh Phangan. This lucrative monopoly would end if Koh Phangan got their own airport (unless it was also run by Bangkok Airways). And hence the conspiracy that Bangkok Airways have used their influence in the past to stop permission being given for Koh Phangan airport.

The other aspect to the back story is the lack of flat land on Koh Phangan, other than beaches. Jokes abound about using planes that can land in the water or reclaiming some land for an airstrip.

However, there is land being cleared between Than Sadet and Thong Nai Pan. There is flat land in this area. Moreover, the road now between Than Sadet and Thong Nai Pan is the best on the island.

For those who think that Koh Phangan will never be a 5 star destination and that the hotels on Koh Phangan aren’t that great, I humbly beg to differ. The evidence on the ground says a different story.

Koh Samui is over developed and has a jaded look to several parts of it. Most of the people who go to Chaweng are not the upper classes. It is more like an Ibiza crowd who want to get drunk and buy relationships with pretty Thai girls. Despite the Conrad Hotel and the Amari Palm Reef Hotel it is wrong to presume that all the rich folks go to Koh Samui on their holidays. Back in the 90s and noughties lots of ex-pats set up on the island and hence the big supermarkets, hospitals and schools. It is ex-pats, footballers and package tourists that have fuelled the Koh Samui boom. David Beckham might have bought a villa in Koh Samui but I doubt very much that he spends much time on the island.

The rich move on. They want something new. They want exciting and beautiful locations just as much as luxury resorts. Rasananda despite the high prices for their bungalows on the beach runs at nearly full capacity, so does Panviman and Santhiya. When I was on Thong Nai Pan Noi beach last Christmas and New Year I was surrounded by people with posh accents.

Bantai and Haad Rin might be predominately populated with full mooners, half mooners etc. but that is not the case with Thong Nai Pan. It has two outstanding beaches and isn’t ruined by over-development. Than Sadet is another beautiful beach with an historic waterfall. The only reason Than Sadet doesn’t have a Rasananda is because the locals don’t want to sell up.

A small airfield between Than Sadet and Thong Nai Pan doesn’t seem that far-fetched to me. The scoffers said there would never be a Tesco in Koh Phangan. They were wrong about that.

The source of this rumour: http://www.thaivisa.com/forum/topic/539702-koh-phangan-airport/

To keep up with the progress of Koh Phangan Airport visit www.kohphanganairport.com

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Sunrise Villa in Thong Nai Pan Noi




Prices for Thong Nai Pan Noi Accommodation

The prices for accommodation in Thong Nai Pan Noi are getting very high. This is stopping many people who want to come and experience the beauty of the beach and the surrounding area from visiting. The cheapest villa in Rasananda in the low season is over 8,000 THB, Santhiya it is over 5,000 THB and at Panviman it is also over 5,000 THB. These places offer luxury but at a high price.

For old Thailand hands they are frankly not worth it. The villas and rooms at the resorts are all close together, and the prices for food and drink are outrageous compared to the real cost in the shops.

Private Villa Hire

The solution is private villa hire. Recently Sunrise Villa was completed. It is located in the hills behind Thongtapan Resort, about 800 meters from the beach. The villa is 2 storey. The upstairs has a master bedroom with floor to ceiling windows and en-suite bathroom with hot water.
Downstairs there are 2 more en-suite double bedrooms with air-con. There is also a fully fitted kitchen, a comfortable lounge with access to a large balcony. From the balcony and the master bedroom an amazing view of the Thong Nai Pan bay area and the surrounding jungle can be enjoyed. You can see several varieties of eagle and other birds of prey gliding in the thermals while sitting on the balcony furniture. 

Sunrise Villa is set in over 1,000 sq meters of garden that features a number of beautiful tropical plants. It also has banana, coconut and cashew trees. You can also pick wild pineapples. It is a tropical paradise setting removed from the noise of the beach.

Best Part

The best part of Sunrise Villa is the rental price: outside of the Christmas and New Year period it is a bargain 5,000 THB a night. The rent can be shared by 3 couples making the price per person only 833 THB ($27). That is cheaper than Thongtapan Resort!

For more information about Sunrise Villa check out their website: www.sunrisevilla.info

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Watching Footie in Thong Nai Pan


I've always been slightly frustrated by the lack of places that show English (sorry Swansea) Premiership Football. Many years ago it was fairly popular to show the footie at the weekend. Sandy's had a great TV set up; there was the Soccer Bar; the place in the middle of the beach that was later Pong's also had a TV room upstairs. All these football watching venues closed or changed.

For a while Mios in Thong Nai Pan Noi was excellent for catching a game, but that closed, leaving only Indigo Gecko as a venue for footie watching. Now Indigo Gecko has very little custom. It is still officially open but I never see anyone in there. I suspect they've not bought Sky Sports for quite a while.

All, however, is not lost for those football addicts in Thong Nai Pan Noi. The new Jip Shop in Thong Nai Pan Noi Village shows all the games. It's called 'shop' but actually it's a bar and restaurant. The staff in Jip Shop are very friendly. One of the lads working there also loves his football, and is happy to find a game for you.

Jip Shop is perhaps the best of the new places to open in Thong Nai Pan Noi recently. It has an attractive exterior and interior, heavily featuring bamboo. They do good Thai and Western food that is slightly cheaper than Luna and Better Than Sex. Jip Shop hasn't gone for the up-market 'boutique look' of other places in Thong Nai Pan Noi, but neither is it scruffy and 'backpacker'. I recommend the spicy grilled beef salad (120 THB) and the spring rolls with plum sauce (100 THB).

For those in Thong Nai Pan Yai looking to watch live Premiership Football the best option is the Game Bar.