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Serenity Served Siray Style

Venture east of Phuket Island to check out the serene scene on Koh Siray.

  Koh Sirey

August 2014

Found across a causeway just beyond Phuket’s fishing port and main tourist ferry pier in the Rassada municipality, Koh Siray first appears a more rough and rugged place than the soft-sand west-coast beach resort areas, but those who take the time to explore the small island will find picturesque roads to cruise, fantastic views to enjoy from its hilltops and beaches, and some truly tasty dining spots.

Hot Eats

On Pleumsuk Beach is a restaurant of the same name that’s well off the tourist track but where locals in the know go to spend a lazy afternoon with their family. From the restaurant’s simple kitchen comes an incredible parade of fish dishes, almost anything your heart desires from the sea. Among our favourites is the fiery goong pad kreung gang (prawn curry). The menu has no prices and is in Thai only, so if you get carried away (with whole fish especially) you might be in for a surprise come check-bin time. No matter, the Phang Nga Bay views and the chance to chill in this peaceful seaside spot are well worth it.

Those seeking a meal beyond Siray’s more rustic offerings will want to head to the luxurious Westin Siray Bay, a rather incongruous but exquisite addition to the Siray scene that opened in 2010, where the resort’s 259 rooms and pool villas spill lavishly over a promontory. There are six restaurants to choose from, but we went for some Indian cuisine in the air-conditioned cool of MIX Lounge for lunch, and indulged in the excellent choco rush treat cake and kahlua and vanilla mousse pyramid desserts. For those seeking a dietary boost, the varied menu highlights dishes that include nutrient-rich “superfood” ingredients such as salmon, blueberries, spinach and papaya. More formal dining with a pan-Asian menu is available at Eest restaurant, while the casual open-air Prego by the Beach restaurant-bar next to one of the swimming pools offers an inviting spot for families to relax and cool down, plus a moon deck to drink in the lovely evening bay views along with your cocktails.

 

Hot Properties

For as long as we can remember, Koh Siray’s been one of those areas on Phuket touted as being just on the verge of a property gold rush but never quite getting there. On our latest visit, however, we found the coastal road along Haad Pleumsuk (Happiness Beach) buzzing with building activity. The Moon Terrace villa estate, with a number of sea-view homes already built and occupied on the hillside, is expanding, building 15 more villas up the hill and another seven the waterfront side of the road, says Esa Huovila, Managing Director of St James Properties, sole agent for the villas. The villas each have four bedrooms and an office plus private pools. Some are still available for sale, starting at 42 million baht.

Just up the road is The Nchantra beachfront condo development, where the paint was still drying on its newly-opened show home when we visited. Some units will be ready to move into as early as June. This collection of 42 two-storey, two-bedroom condos with private pools and rooftop terraces is being built by Taa & Associates, a local developer and architect that has already launched a number of Nchantra-branded villa estates in the Chalong and Nai Harn areas and worked on some of the region’s best-known resorts including the JW Marriott Khao Lak. The Nchantra condos are being sold exclusively through the Jones Lang LaSalle agency in the 15-20 million baht price range.

Hot Sights

Confession: we don’t like monkeys. They’re greedy and grabby, and they remind us of that unwanted cousin who always turns up to spoil the party with his disruptive neediness. But many people do like monkeys, and for them the Monkey Viewing Platform is the place to go. On the Siray side of the connecting bridge to Phuket is a mangrove forest teeming with Macaque monkeys, who seem to live pretty posh lives gorging on the bananas thrown at them by visitors throughout the day.

Hot Shops

Confession: we don’t like monkeys. They’re greedy and grabby, and they remind us of that unwanted cousin who always turns up to spoil the party with his disruptive neediness. But many people do like monkeys, and for them the Monkey Viewing Platform is the place to go. On the Siray side of the connecting bridge to Phuket is a mangrove forest teeming with Macaque monkeys, who seem to live pretty posh lives gorging on the bananas thrown at them by visitors throughout the day.

Our preferred Siray attraction is Wat Koh Siray, a hilltop temple with a golden reclining Buddha, from which there are spectacular views that rival the famed Phromthep Cape in Rawai without the tour buses or crowds. Aside from the gruff old caretaker who implored us to make a flower, incense and candle offering, we had the place completely to ourselves. Another stunning sight is the new Sea Gypsy Culture Centre on Laem Tukkae (Gecko Cape) at the edge of the sea gypsy village. Construction on the award-winning design was nearly complete but the opening date had not been confirmed at the time of writing. Yet even as they still sit empty, the sparkling, eco-friendly rounded structures inspired by the shape of these seafaring peoples’ fish traps are certainly worth a look. Then you can go see the actual hand-crafted fish traps in the village, where nearly every home has at least a couple of traps set out in front.

Hot Shops

Ok, Koh Siray’s not exactly a shopping hot spot but our stroll around the sea gypsy village yielded some great finds on cultured pearl jewellery from the handful of vendor stalls along the beachfront road. We picked up some pearl bracelets for only 100 baht each with a half-hearted bargaining effort, and there were rings, earrings and necklaces in a rainbow of pearly shades on display as well. There are also seashells of all shapes and sizes on sale but the ethics of buying these are iffy. Had the previous “owners”, the molluscs, departed from their safe homes willingly before the shells were taken away to market? There’s no way to know for sure.

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