Rawai such a peaceful place

 Discovering Rawai

Rawai, which covers the entire southern part of the island, is undoubtedly one of the most pleasant and varied places in Phuket in terms of entertainment and activities.

There are so many possibilities in Rawai, you might as well say that this article dedicated to this corner of paradise is going to be important and long... but there's so much to show here that in the end, it's difficult to keep it short!

I therefore invite you without further delay to take a tour of Rawai with more than 125 photos in about fifteen chapters!

Rawai on the map

 Rawai Facilities

Staying in Rawai is really not a problem. Everyone can find a place of interest and finally, have a good time.

Easy to find, the various possible activities in the region are very affordable.

The visitor will have the opportunity to take an interest in everything related to the sea:

  • swimming in Naiharn Beach, Yanui Beach, Laemka Beach or Ao Sane, beaches on which many well shaded local restaurants have a sea front (except in Laemka).
  • take a boat to relax on one of the nearby islands like Koh Bon, Coral Island, or a little further away: Koh Raja
  • walk at low tide on the deserted beach of Friendship, or that of Rawai Beach.... (very early in the morning or late afternoon, it is ideal)
  • the port of Chalong being geographically adjacent to Rawai, we can add to this list: diving trips and deep-sea fishing trips.

In another register, the visitor will be able to do just as well:

  • horseback riding in the jungle or on Friendship Beach at low tide.
  • ride elephants
  • or even buggy or squad rides
  • karting or target shooting (on the main Kata road)
  • do Thai boxing clinics in one of Rawai's many boxing camps.
  • kiteboarding,
  • tennis or beach volleyball (in Bangkontee)
and finally...
  • shopping in Sai Yuan or Bangkontee
  • go to the restaurant in the evening to taste local or European dishes, depending on
  • end the evening in a bar or disco for the more energetic

 The different Areas of Rawai

It should be noted that this large area, which is wild in some places, is composed of four major districts:

Rawai Beach
Sai Yuan

Click on the map to enlarge

New access to Rawai since May 31, 2019

Tunnel Chalong
For years, access to Rawai had become a painful ordeal with the growing traffic. The old Chalong roundabout, on which 5 roads connect, was completely overloaded, congested and the crossing of this black spot had become a real headache for everyone, both for the users and for the city authorities and even the police in charge of dealing with the impressive traffic.
Work on this 350-metre-long structure began in 2015 to see a definitive opening on May 31, 2019.

Two articles about the roundabout are available on this site:


 Bangkontee Area

Bangkontee is probably the least known and touristic area of Rawai: it is the part that is located (north of Rawai) near the Chalong roundabout, where new businesses are regularly established.

First of all, you now have the new tunnel under the Chalong roundabout. The work to build this tunnel, which has become essential, took 4 years... as much to say that everyone, as much as we are, was eager to see the end... of this tunnel.

Arriving from the Chalong roundabout (or leaving this tunnel), you will first find the Rawai post office on the left, just in front of the communal school, whose services are impeccable. The mail works very well.
Then a few dozen meters on the same side, a shopping centre with a Tesco-Lotus and several restaurants, including a Wine-Connection, various shops, banks open even on weekends, a hair salon, a small bookstore: very convenient for shopping.

Not far from there, also on the same side, you will find a second centre called Fisherman Way which offers a series of shops including a few restaurants, a cigar seller, a hairdresser, etc....

If we still report the one and only gas station and the only traffic light in all of Rawai, we will have gone around this northern district of Rawai, called Bangkontee.

Arriving from the Chalong Roundabout, the main post office of Rawai is on the left

A little further on the left is also the small Tesco-Lotus shopping centre with various shops
pizzeria, restaurants, hairdresser, banks, opticians, bookshop, then the new Makro Food Service

A hundred meters after Tesco-Lotus, it is the Fisherman Way that offers a number of services

When you leave this Bangkontee area behind, Wiset Road takes you south, to the only traffic light you will find on the four lanes of Rawai...

At this traffic light... you have two options: Turn right towards Sai Yuan, or continue straight towards Rawai Beach.

The one and only traffic light on the 4 lanes of Rawai....

Continue straight on towards Rawai Beach, Laemka, Gypsy Village...
Turn right towards: Sai Yuan, then Naiharn or Kata...

By turning right at this point, you will quickly find yourself at the beginning of the district: Sai Yuan . A few hundred meters further on, on this simple road, which is sometimes very busy and can therefore be quite dangerous, you can see the first recent constructions with many shops of all kinds. It must be said that the buildings have sprung up like mushrooms in this place in recent years, there are still many brand new premises to rent...

In Sai Yuan itself, one has the impression of arriving in a small town so many shops are available. I do not think I am mistaken in saying that it is certainly the massage parlours that are the most numerous... far ahead of bars and other European and Thai restaurants. You will also find small painting workshops in which some paintings are sometimes small works of art, banks, small supermarkets, dentists, pharmacies, private clinics.

At some point, in the heart of Sai Yuan, you will find a crossroads: a two-way fork: on the left in the direction of Naiharn and on the right in the direction of Kata.

If you opt for the first option, i. e. turn left at and where you want, you will end up at Lake Naiharn less than 2 km away, a calm and relaxing place where many sportsmen come every day either early in the morning or later in the afternoon to jog or take a few dozen bike tours.
The tour of the lake is about 2km long and there are often many enthusiasts of all levels that you can meet well out of breath and dripping with sweat.

(A paragraph is dedicated to this lake of Naiharn that you will find a little further on...)
  • If, on the contrary, you opt for the other solution, i.e. turn right at this same fork, you will reach the View Point which is located at the very top of the mountain at an altitude of about 200m, offering a breathtaking view of the beaches of Kata Noi, Kata Yai and even Karon. On this stretch of road are several elephant camps offering walks in the surrounding jungle.

  • Once you pass the View Point, the pleasant road on which some restaurants with a superb view have set up, will take you to Kata. Then... you'll have already left Rawai!

But, let us return to the traffic lights mentioned above
Let's opt for the first solution --> Let's keep going straight...
and that's... where we really start our «Rawai Tour»

 Discovering these peaceful areas of Rawai

Friendship Beach, Laemka, Rawai Beach, The Chaoleys Village , Promthep Cape,
The wind turbine, Yanui BeachNaiharn Beach, the Naiharn lake, Ao Sane...

Yes, that's the program I'm offering you today, with more than 100 photos to enhance it all!

 Friendship Beach

Friendship Beach.... that's the name that was given to this place by "farangs" and I'm thinking in particular of the owners of an establishment located in this place with this name... this establishment is located just after the traffic lights.

I asked the question to a local Thai recently who owns a boat there: he didn't know how to give me a name for this long beach... anyway, it's just a small detail that doesn't matter, but, beware, if you ask a taxi for example for this destination with this farang name, not sure he will know...

Starting at the Port of Chalong and extending in a straight line to Laemka Noi, this 4 km long seaside resort is rarely visited by tourists. Some locals go there early to fish or maintain their boats... it's not a beach for swimming you will have understood.

Between the port of Chalong and Laemka Noi, there are several small alleys (Soi) leading to this beach. It's easy enough to take one at random. From the road, count... 150m to be at the water's edge.

The beach is oriented full "East", so from time to time, I go there, just to take some pictures of the sunrise, hoping every time the result will be different from my previous attempts, it must be said that the sunrise has this in common with the sunset... every day, it is different and every day the colors vary wonderfully.

Early in the morning and at low tide, it happens to meet one or the other amateur photographer, or a simple walker in search of calm and solitude. The setting lends itself easily to this between a horizon still plunged into darkness gradually brightening and the cries of a few hungry seagulls in search of a prey, and then... this ball that appears discreetly with very pastel colors that slowly emerges there at the bottom between two islands and that will make us live a new day.

 Laem Ka Beach

At the end of Friendship Beach, you will find these two small beaches called Laemka Noi and Laemka Yai.

The first one is hardly frequented and remains a rather wild area with beautiful rocks, difficult to cross at high tide.

The second, Laemka Yai, is a little easier to access and offers beautiful landscapes when the sun is out. For the basic amateur photographer, the photos will be quite easy to take because the painting offered is simply superb.

Unfortunately, spending a day lying on a deckchair there is not really the best. The countless tourists (mainly Asian) pass endlessly in front of you to access the speed boats waiting for them at the other end of the beach. One group, two groups, it's fine... but at the end of the fifteenth... it starts to get a little tired, without forgetting that a few hours later all these people will go back the same way in the opposite direction. A little hard, though.

For me... to go for an hour, take some pictures and then leave, that's fine.
That's a shame.

Some views from the open sea in Laemka Yai: quite magical !

Unfortunately, for some time now, the landowner has decided to prohibit access to the beach, with the road leading to it passing through his land. I don't know if this decision is final... provisional... or even if it has been abandoned...

 Rawai Bay

One could say that Rawai Beach consists of three parts.... If we look at the map here on the left, you have at the right end of the white circle, and just next to the pier, the village of Chaoleys (Gypsies of the sea)

In the centre, Rawai Beach where you will find boats always ready and willing to take you somewhere, and the typical seaside restaurants that serve you dishes mainly fish, some seafood.

At the very end, at the far left, still on this map, is the fishermen's area where you will find extended fishing nets or even boat repairers/builders.

The name Rawai Beach is a little confusing, because when the visitor does not know, he tends to head for this place thinking he will find a long beach of fine sand with umbrellas, deckchairs, ice cream and sweet drinks vendors, horrible jet skis, parachutes... 

Well, not at all.

 The small village of Chaoleys, the "Gypsies of the sea"

The "gypsies" of the sea threatened by the tourist boom

They have lived facing the Andaman Sea for generations and do not see it any other way. However, Thai "gypsies" from the sea risk being driven from their lands by the inexorable advance of tourist complexes.

With the creation of marine nature reserves, the decline of fish stocks and the frenzy of construction, the "Chao Lay" or "people of the sea" are finding it increasingly difficult to perpetuate their ancestral traditions.

One example among others of the pressure on indigenous minorities in a country that saw the number of tourists reach a record high of 22 million last year.

"I was already living here when it was the jungle," says Nang Miden, 78, sitting outside his shack in Rawai village, where some 2,000 sea gypsies live.

His ancestors had appropriated this language of land on the island of Phuket long before it became one of the most popular tourist destinations in the kingdom. "I have nowhere else to go."

And the fight to stay is going to be a complicated one. Many Chao Lay can neither read nor write. The concept of ownership is foreign to them. They were therefore unaware that they could register the land in their name and many of them now have no title to it.
As a result, others have rush into the rift. A real estate developer has thus become the owner of the land on which he lives, and wants to move several families inland.

Descendant of people living near the beach, now covered by an uninterrupted series of buildings, Nang is threatened with expulsion.
Last February, the courts ordered seven families to leave. They have decided to appeal, in a procedure that may take years. Meanwhile, almost all of them live without running water or electricity.

Gradually, every characteristic of their existence is threatened. Once nomads, selling fish, sea cucumbers and other ocean resources, they have settled in recent decades and face threats of arrest and seizure of their boats while fishing in national parks.
"Children of the sea"

Not to mention the tensions with divers who sometimes sabotage their traps. "The places where we can work have become smaller and smaller. Whatever we do, it's not okay," says Nirun Hyangpan, a representative of the Rawai community.
But despite their increasing exposure to the modern world, Chao Lay still maintain their indissoluble link with the sea. Some people say they can't fall asleep without the sound of the waves.

"These people need a waterfront area where they can moor their boat and go get food. It's not just spiritual, it's their way of life," says Narumon Arunotai, an anthropologist at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. Even if traditional fishing brings back fewer and fewer fish, "they still feel like children of the sea".

Giving hope to the Rawai community, the government decided to analyze old aerial photographs and bones collected in the area.
"If it is true that they have lived there the longest, they should have more rights over property titles," says Prawut Wongseenin of the Department of Special Investigations at the Ministry of Justice. But "to win their appeal, they need scientific evidence".

Even in the water, the Chao Lay are in danger. Unscrupulous contractors pay them to fish with dynamite and the compressors and pipes they use to stay below the surface expose them to fatal decompression sickness.

They represent only about 12,000 people in three distinct ethnic groups (Moken, Moklen and Urak Lawoi). Some stateless people do not have access to healthcare or public services. And the school assimilates them into the dominant Thai culture, ignoring their own roots.
In 2010, the government passed a resolution to protect their way of life. But that will not be enough.

"If tourism continues to explode with more hotels, spas and resorts on the beaches, the lifestyle of the sea gypsies will continue to disappear," Nirun says in despair.

La dépêche.fr - 06/06/2013

The Chaoleys the "Gypsies of the sea"

Looking at the sea, we will say that this small village of Chaoleys is located in the western part, to the left of the Rawai pier.....

On this side, the longtail boats belong to the Chaoleys, whose main resources are fishing and the transport of tourists to the small islands.

In the alleyway, which runs along the "beach", there are stalls selling fish and other seafood. Many tourists and residents go there to buy fish and cook it in one of the local restaurants... it's a tradition, a habit.

  Rawai Beach

In Rawai Beach, there is no swimming. You can walk around, stop for a drink, eat, take a few pictures, or take a boat to reach the islands easily accessible by longtail boat at any time of the day.

At low tide, the view of a few boats lying in the sand is always pleasant and superb with charm and tranquility. Looks like time has stopped.

The walker, meanwhile, will be able to walk barefoot in the bay, a very pleasant walk, by the way. 

At high tide, the landscape is superb as well as completely different. When the morning sun is on board, the colours ranging from dark blue to light green and turquoise give this place a fantastic postcard composition.

Rawai Beach is undergoing a major transformation. Old Thai restaurants are gradually disappearing in favour of more modern, more European establishments, and therefore more expensive, of course.

With their boats, the Chaoleys can take you to the small islands for the day.
They wait for you and then bring you back....
For these people, this activity is a really important resource

 Rawai Beach, on the fishermen's side

The tide is falling... the last tourists returning from their excursion are forced to walk the last few metres, the boats remaining in the distance...

The bay is stormed for an often very happy harvest

 Rawai Beach...

Less touristic and therefore much less frequented than Naiharn Beach, along Rawai Beach is a place that has remained quite authentic. Of course, during the day there are all these boats that go to take their lots of tourists, (now mostly Chinese) to the not very distant islands. This comings and goings take place mainly in the morning and late afternoon.

Once these trips have been overcome, the neighbourhood becomes calm and peaceful again. My favourite time is precisely at the end of the day when the tide is low or about to fall.

After witnessing the return of some Chinese tourists from their strolls, I enjoy taking some pictures of stranded boats waiting for the next tide to come back, I stroll between these lonely ships.

At this time, another advantage is that the sun is already very low and the heat becomes very bearable.

A very calm and relaxing landscape

Quiet landscape, well rested at low tide.

Walking on these corals is not really easy... shoes on the feet it is much better, but when walking the noise is impressive and we realize that finally we break these corals...

 The Fishermen's Area

 Laem Prompthep

Leaving Rawai Beach, and continuing along the coast, you will reach Prompthep Cape, a large cliff overlooking the sea, facing due south, in a few minutes. It is the most extreme place on the island where, often in season, hundreds of curious people come by bus or by their own means to watch the sunset. It should be noted that the equator is 860 kilometres straight ahead, roughly at the level of Singapore.

There is also a lighthouse, where you can enter (free of charge) by climbing a small inner staircase to find yourself even higher and see the islands of Koh Raja or Koh Phi Phi Phi.

Just next to this site, a few steps away, the Prompthep restaurant where you can take a seat in the middle of a quite impressive flower and plant garden. Very beautiful place offering a magnificent view of the bay of Naiharn and with a little luck a very beautiful sunset, ideal to spend a pleasant moment in good company. Thai cuisine is correct as well as prices.

Prompthep Cape, the most extreme point on Phuket Island. It is also the most popular place in Phuket, in the late afternoon when hundreds of tourists come to watch the sunset.
You will find a full article on Cap Promthep with a visit video here:  The Promthep Cape

 Yanui Beach

Yanui Beach is located in a hollow, between two mountains... on one side the Cape of Prompthep, on the other side the point where the wind turbine is located. On both sides, it is well-pitched roads that lead you there.

When you arrive at Yanui Beach, you almost have the impression with a little imagination, of arriving on an island.

The beach is quite small (125m), with many rocks and some corals... beware of scratches on the feet!
In low season, as in August for example, tourists are rather rare... which does not bother me personally of course.

A few minutes from Rawai Beach: Yanui Beach which is a charming little beach

 The Naiharn wind turbine

Located between Prompthep Cape and Nai Harn Beach, this rather vertiginous promontory offers a wide view of the bay. We're straight up to Yanui Beach.

From up there, you can take a good breath of air because the continuous draughts are quite strong and regular (hence the presence of this wind turbine).

Ah... this wind turbine so horrible. We can say what we want, it may be clean energy, but such devices in such a setting are frankly not terrible.

About 20 years ago, the national electricity company installed three of these specimens on an experimental basis. I have since heard several versions on their usefulness but in the end, it doesn't matter. Nowadays, there is only one left, active quite rarely... as if it had trouble turning.

I sincerely believe that his days are numbered and that sooner or later, this last wind turbine will also disappear.

A paragliding enthusiast who regularly goes back and forth along this great hill, (from the vertical of Yanui to almost the beginning of Naiharn Beach) attracts more attention from passers-by than the wind turbine which has only its size to impress, and nothing else!

The paraglider, at least he plays with the wind, lets himself be carried gently, without any apparent effort. When you look at it... it seems so easy, so obvious...

A view from Promthep Cape, towards the wind turbine overlooking Naiharn Bay

A series of tags that I took a picture of some time ago in Phuket Town.
Created by teenagers on a large wall belonging to any administration, as part of a competition,
we can notice that on each drawing, the wind turbine has its place in it...
It clearly seems that this one, in the eyes of young Thai students,
has become a symbol and is part of the "natural" landscape of Phuket

 Naiharn Beach

Naiharn Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in Phuket.
Of course, during the high season, it is crowded and the deckchairs are countless.
However, the slope is very gentle and the currents are less violent during the monsoon compared to other beaches.

The horrible "Jet-Skis" are banned there, which is an excellent thing.

You can attend magnificent sunsets... if you are used to coming to this site... you will have quickly understood: I love sunsets...

Some views of Nai Harn beach, one of the most beautiful in Phuket.
Preserved, there are no Jet-skis, no parachutes...
Many restaurants and masseuses are within easy reach.

Lake Naiharn

Of course, if you take a 10,000 km trip, walking around a lake when the sea is two steps away may seem rather absurd. I agree with that!

That said, we can see things differently and fully enjoy this charming place... some have understood it for a long time and many athletes of all levels, young and old, like walkers, joggers and other cyclists who come to wet their t-shirts!

In the morning, as soon as the sun rises, many enthusiasts attack their "lake tour" with great energy... the prevailing temperature is perfect for exercise and the surrounding calm is ideal for a beautiful start to a beautiful day. One more day in paradise!

Others prefer to exercise in the evening around 5pm... until nightfall... it depends.

A small islet that can be reached by crossing a small bridge offers picnicking, jogging, petanque and children... a well shaded and really very pleasant area. There are attractions for children, "pedal boats" to go for a walk on the lake, in short, an absolutely charming little corner.

A sign reminds us that it is forbidden to smoke and bring alcohol...

Lake Naiharn, where many sprotifs come to let off steam either at the beginning of the day or at the end of the afternoon.
During the day, on the small islet people come to play petanque or run in the shade of the trees.

 The small beach of Ao Sane

This small beach with beautiful rocks west of Naiharn Beach is not really known, but many holidaymakers or residents have gotten used to returning to Ao Sane from the moment they got to know this place away from everything, in a still very wild environment.

The small winding road leading to this small paradise offers a splendid view of Naiharn Bay, the wind turbine and Prompthep Cape.

As for the small path that goes down to the beach and the restaurant, it is passable but a little steep and stony. For the less agile, it is better to leave your bike at the top and do the rest on foot, barely 50 meters. Then, all that remains is to settle down and contemplate these wild landscapes, devoid of any modern constructions. It's pretty relaxing....

On the spot, a number of fairly simple bungalows also offer accommodation at very attractive prices.

Ao Sane, it is a very wild and natural setting that is offered to you....

The Sai Yuan Area

The Sai Yuan area... aesthetically not great, rather messy, despite some recent buildings. The whole thing doesn't look like much and you don't really want to stay there. The forests of cabling along the roads do not help the look of this place which is finally quite typical and standard.

That being said, this area is a little bit like downtown Rawai: a few shops, a few restaurants, a lot of massage parlours of course, a few painters, a lot of bars, all of this, arranged and added as it goes along in a rather random way.

No matter how often I visit, I don't find any particular charm to this neighbourhood, that's also the reason why I won't dwell here. It's silly, I feel like I'm finishing this tour of Rawai on a negative note... no, don't exaggerate either... Well, come on, the rest is so great...!

In recent years, a good number of constructions have been built in Sai Yuan

That's it.... I finally made it around Rawai....
I must say that I've been wanting to do this long... very long article for a long time...

Rawai is vast, extensive, and as said at the beginning, many possibilities are within the reach of holidaymakers and even... residents.

I hope that now RAWAI will seem a little more familiar to you.

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