Getting a good steak in Phuket

CUT Grill & Lounge

The food in Thailand is awesome. No other way to put it. The restaurants can be amazing. But one thing I find myself missing is a good steak.

There are plenty of steaks in Thailand. But when it comes to finding something along the lines of "Morton's", "Ruth's Chris" or one of the many serious steakhouses in the United States, I have never seen anything that comes close.

That is until recently - when Khun Por and I went to Cherngtalay and had dinner and drinks at Cut Grill & Lounge. Situated on a lake with an excellent view of the sunset. 

Cut has  a large selection of grilled meats such as steak, lamb, pork, and chicken. I had the 1 1/2 to 2 inch thick steak in the picture above and it was delicious and cooked evenly and just as I asked. The sides and asparagus was also great.

The menu also includes tapas, seafood, pizza, and pasta. The cocktails were well made and didn't skimp on the "primary active ingredients".

Great seafood is easy to find in Phuket. Now it's great to see I can get a great steak.

the pool and lake at cut

The restaurant has a decorative pool just next to the lake.


Renting cars, vans, and scooters in Phuket

Phuket is a big island with lots to see and do all over it. For the best possible experience here, you should rent a car and enjoy the freedom of movement to go anywhere anytime you want.

While The Coolwater is close to the beach, it is located up a steep hill that is probably not appropriate for young children and old people to traverse when returning to the villa. So there is that to think of.

cars and SUVs

You can find the most popular international car rental agencies at the arrivals section of Phuket International Airport. These include Hertz, Avis, Budget, National, and Enterprise. However I always recommend you reserve in advance, especially if you are travelling during peak season. Here are some estimates for car rentals...

Prices are per-day in Thai Baht

Model Normal Price High Season
Honda Jazz / Toyota Yaris 900 1200
Honda Citi / Toyota Vios 900 1200
Honda Civic 1200 1500
Toyota Fortuner 2000 2500

The rental agency will normally ask you to leave about 5000 baht with them for a damage deposit.


You can also rent a van with a driver. The van will fit 12 people tightly.

The price is 2700 baht for 8 hours. If you want to use the van for a longer period, each extra hour is 250 baht. The driver is not legally allowed to serve you longer than a total of 12 hours. Also, the driver is not obligated to accept your request for extra time, though he will probably do so. The driver may be too busy or otherwise not able to extend your trip. So if you know you need the van for longer than 8 hours, it is best to let us know in advance.

You should reserve the van at least 24 hours before you need it. During peak seasons, you should reserve as early as you possibly can.

During peak seasons, the van services regularly raise the prices for this service. 


If you prefer to just stay near the villa but still want some mobility, then you can also rent a scooter or motorbike such as Honda Click or Scoopy. These normally rent for 250 to 300 THB per day. When driving a scooter, please be aware that you will be sharing the road with other tourists, many of which are inexperienced motorbike drivers. Be wary of traffic. Legally, a motorbike license is required for driving in Thailand, but many if not most tourists ignore this requirement.

Do not under any circumstances allow the rental agency to keep your original passport. This also applies to renting jet skis or any other item. Insist that if they need your passport, they can photocopy it and return it to you. You can leave a cash deposit for the vehicle if they ask. If they require that you let them keep the original passport, you have to ask yourself what they plan to use it for. While it may be a bit extreme, I personally do not do business with anyone that even asks to keep my original passport.

service to the villa

Also, we can arrange a car or scooter for you. The agency will deliver the car to your villa and pick it up when you are done. However you must be at the villa to receive and return the car as you will be dealing directly with the rental agency.

using our scooter

The Coolwater has a single Honda Scoopy that you can rent for 250 THB per day if it is not already in use. It is the perfect choice if you plan to use taxis and vans with drivers, but want a simple solution to get to and from the local store to stock up on supplies.

more information

We have other articles and price lists for taxis, vans, and other transportation options. Click the button below to see them...

turkey dinner

Christmas in Paradise

What you get...


A full Christmas dinner with the trimmings prepared by a quality local restaurant will be catered to your villa.


We will provide you with a server that will stay throughout the meal and take care of your needs. She will also clear up afterwards and leave you with a clean kitchen and dining area.

Full Service

The Coolwater is not just a a simple vacation rental. We always offer daily maid service, twice weekly linen changes, and an on-site estate manager from 9-5.

Dinner Selection

turkey dinner baked ham


Either turkey and stuffing or baked ham



Prepared as appropriate for the selected entre.


Seasonal vegetables grown locally in Thailand

mince pie


Your selection of fresh desert from the local bakery

Guests that prefer a more traditional Thai meal can substitute with something from the Curated Meals section of our dining menu.

There is a five to seven day minimum stay for our villas during the holiday season.

To reserve your stay with Christmas dinner included, just click the button below.

Phang Nga Town

Road trip to Phang Nga from Phuket

Lots of people that come to Phuket take guided tours of the popular island or "hongs" nearby the main island. These normally involve a bus ride to the pier, a speedboat to the destination, some sightseeing, a return boat ride, and finally a bus ride back to the villa.

I have never been to James Bond Island which is one of the two most popular tours in the area. For those of you that don't know, James Bond Island is the newer moniker given to Ko Tapu since it was used in the movie, "The Man With The Golden Gun". Not my favorite James Bond movie, but the scenery is sure nice.

Ko Tapu at 007 Museum
You get the idea.

Anyway, I didn't feel like being locked into a tour boat. Why not just get in the car, drive up to the area, and rent our own long tail boat for a more custom experience?

I left with Khun Por, the estate manager, in her car at 9AM. You can see our starting location of The Coolwater at the bottom of the map. We planned to drive all the way north past Phuket Island into Phang Nga. You can see some of the stops we selected on the map as well. One of these stops is the Ao Phang Nga National Park where we can rent a long tail boat for a three hour excursion that includes James Bond Island. The plan was to tool around the area until about 3PM when we would rent the boat. That way we would arrive at James Bond Island in the late afternoon after most of the tours have left the area, allowing us to enjoy the island without the crowds.

Driving north, we crossed the bridge from Phuket to Phang Nga before 10 and started to check out the sites. We found that literally all of them were very close to each other. None more than 20 minutes from any other. But it doesn't matter - the drive is beautiful.

Phang Nga is a magical place studded with steep rocky mountains known as karst formations, just like Phi Phi Island and the others you see out in the Andaman Sea. Many, if not most of these formations have caves, and of those caves, many have been turned into temples.

Our first stop at Wat Suwan Khuha is one such cave temple. Very impressive. One thing I notice about Thailand, if there is any beautiful or impressive natural formation - it will be converted into a temple. This one was surrounded by stands where you could buy food and souvenirs. There were monkeys all over the place, ready to accept your unused snacks or to just scrounge the trash in general. I found myself pretty charmed by them.

On the way to our next destination, we passed a few rubber plantations and stopped at the side of the road to look. You can see in the picture that they cut a slice into the tree and carve a track for the sap to follow until it falls into the attached bucket. Khun Por says they collect the sap about three times a day. The trees grow for a seven year cycle before they cut them down and start with a new batch of trees.

One common thing about all of the places we went to was that there were no crowds at all. But at Raman Waterfall Forest Park, there were literally only three other people in the park, two of which arrived as we were leaving.

The park is beautiful. It has a nice open park at the entrance where you walk past a gazebo up a short trail that runs parallel to a stream that contains seven waterfalls. It is heavy with foliage that provides a welcome respite from the sun. The path itself is made of rock and well-maintained, as is the entire park.

Khun Por decided that the next staff outing for The Coolwater will be held here. Good choice.

Next we drove to Phang Nga town where grabbed some lunch at small restaurant called Mr. Satay. You'll never guess what they served - satay and only satay. Three kinds, pork, chicken, and shrimp. They were all excellent. I wish I could give you a web site or Google Maps location, but they are not marked. I can say they are on the West side of the main street (Hwy 4).

Two other stops in Phang Nga Town worthy of mention are Khao Chang and Somdet Phra Srinaganndra Park The park is especially nice - a meticulously manicured area that integrates the beautiful mountains of the area with some lakes and grassy areas. There are great paths, one of which goes through a cave of sorts that passes under one of the large rocks. The cave is not dark as the openings on either end are very close to each other. There are lots of places to picnic and we found we wished we had ordered our lunch to-go and eaten it here.

After our short stay in Phang Nga Town, we went for a casual drive to the north. We took Highway 4311 up until it we turned left on Highway 4 and returned south back to town. This is a nice one hour drive through the lush rainforest-covered mountains. Besides the wonderful scenery, we noticed that there were no tour vans on these roads and all of the traffic was the local residents.

Along the way, we stopped at Wat Khiriwong on Highway 4. It was not a planned stop, but it was too quaint to pass by and we had the place to ourselves - and the temple dogs - and the monkeys. Most of the photos above are from there. There is some sort of garden behind the rocky hill next to the place, however the entrance was closed when we arrived. Such a peaceful and quiet place. I will be sure to stop there the next time.

So you're probably wondering where the pictures of James Bond Island are. Well, we never got there.

By 3PM we were back in Phang Nga Town having returned from our loop north. That is when we got a phone call from a last-minute guest that wanted to stay at The Coolwater. It was time to call it quits and head back to the villas. We arrived home by 4PM.

This was a great time. A very easy and peaceful drive. Almost no tourists in the area for most of the trip. A chance to experience the local lifestyle in beautiful surroundings.

We're looking forward to our next journey north and hope we get to take a long tail boat that time.

Some of you may wonder how we knew where to go in Phang Nga. Just like you, we looked on the web. We found this article by John Everingham at It has a lot more information than I give you here and also suggests some other drives. Check it out.

singapore air

Deals on flights from Shanghai to Phuket

Presently there are four airlines offering direct flights from Shanghai to Phuket. They are Spring Airlines, Juneyao Airlines, China Eastern Airlines and Shanghai Airlines. All of their flights arrive in Phuket in the middle of the night, and they land one after the other during the late night or very early morning. After an exhausting red-eye flight, travelers will discover the queues at the Phuket airport immigration stations may be very long. The staff working at the airport immigration stations are limited in the middle of the night. As a result, the usual waiting time at the Phuket Customs can be one to two hours, sometimes even longer, especially in the Phuket tourist season (from November to April the following year). So be prepared to wait patiently to complete the immigration procedures at Phuket airport.

To help our guests avoid this situation and plan a pleasant vacation from the very start, we would like to suggest some alternative flights to arrive in Phuket and return to Shanghai during the daytime. Our partner, Shanghai STM International Travel Services Corp (, offers the discounted flights on Singapore Airlines. The flight schedules and prices are listed in the following tables. The prices offered by the Singapore Airlines compare favorably to the direct flights from other airlines and the arrival times are much better.

Singapore Airlines has long been known as one of the world's most comfortable and safest airlines - and the beautiful and elegant Singapore Airlines attendants will provide you with five-star service.

Singapore Airlines Tickets Info
Price: 4070 RMB per person (includes tax)

Shanghai to Singapore
SQ825 00:35-05:55
SQ827 08:05-13:25
SQ831 14:30-19:50
SQ833 16:50-22:20
SQ835 19:10-00:30+1
Singapore to Phuket
MI752 08:35-09:35
MI754 13:20-14:10
MI756 16:25-17:10
MI758 18:30 -19:20
Phuket to Singapore
MI749 08:30-11:25
MI751 10:15-13:05
MI753 14:55-17:40
MI755 17:50-20:40
MI757 20:10-22:55
Singapore to Shanghai
SQ826 01:15-06:35
SQ828 08:05-13:25
SQ830 09:45-15:05
SQ832 12:45-18:05
SQ836 17:25-22:45


The prices above apply to guests of The Coolwater Resort.
Minimum of 2 passengers using the same departure and return schedules
Maximum length of stay is 14 days.
Please call for other great deals if the preceding terms do not fit your needs.

Booking Tel:0086 21 31260528
Address: Suite 5F/B3, No. 445, Jiang Ning Road, Shanghai, China, 200041


Oliver Lin

Shanghai STM International Travel Services CORP., LTD.

Add WeChat Official Account:1224928473
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Phuket coastline

Can I afford a vacation in Phuket?

Good question. Many people love to go an an annual vacation, but never consider the affordability of going to another country – or another part of the world. I decided to look deeper into this and found results that may surprise you.

As an example, I took a look at the price of a trip to Miami. I used my old home of California as the source. I also used dates in February for a reference.

Miami Beach

Miami Beach

A round trip from Los Angeles to Miami is $209.
A round trip from Los Angeles to Phuket is $465.

These are super-economy rates, but the price comparison math is pretty similar with the more expensive flights as well.

There is no visa requirement for a US citizen to enter Thailand for stays for one month or less.

Now here is where it gets interesting. I compared prices for 3 and 4 bedroom villas with a capacity of 6 to 8 people in Miami against our villas at The Coolwater.

A 4 bedroom villa at The Coolwater is about $550 per night.
In Miami, I found one or two $500 villas, but they were Ikea-furnished cheapies that did not look so appetizing. It wasn’t until I went up to $800 per night and higher price ranges that the homes looked comparable.
I also checked the price of decent hotels. All of them were so expensive I chose not to include them in this post.
None of the rental homes available in Miami advertised daily maid service and similar perks. Less than half of the places had pools. These are normal aspects of a stay at The Coolwater.

Conclusion: It costs $31 less per person per night to stay in Phuket with a private pool.
The math looked very similar at the 3 bedroom range.

Now, let’s talk about eating. Going out to eat in Phuket is as little as 1/3 the price of doing the same in Miami, or most any city in the United States. And you get top quality food – if you like Thai food. Western food costs more, starting at 1/2 the prices in the US up to 2/3. But if you come all the way to Thailand, why do you want to eat meat and potatoes? You can get that at home.

Want to party? Miami is an unfortunate example because drinks can be $10 and up.
Drinks in similar clubs in Thailand start at $6. But trust me, the partying is as opulent and extravagant as Miami.

Taxis and transportation are also much cheaper in Thailand when compared to a big city in the US.

Tours are hard to compare. In Phuket, you can take day-long boat cruises to the Phi Phi Islands and Phang Nga for about $90. Miami simply does not offer anything comparable. I was able to find 90 minute tours that drive by the affluent beach houses of Miami for $24.

I am not a golfer, but a cursory look at the fees showed that Miami courses seemed to be about twice as expensive as the many courses in Phuket.

Renting a car:
A compact car from Avis at Miami International Airport is $30 per day.
A compact car from Avis at Phuket International Airport is $42 per day.
– But we can get you a better price that should match the Avis Miami price.

Do the math. If you can afford to go to Miami, you can afford to go to Phuket. Depending on the length of your stay, you might even save money.

And speaking of Miami. maybe you want to consider the neighborhood. Does a trip to Miami, or Lake Tahoe, or San Francisco for that matter, provide you with a nice jumping off point to visit places like these?

Siem Reap (Angkor Wat): $140 round trip

Angkor Wat

Yangon: $210 round trip

Shwedagon Pagoda

Bangkok: $70 round trip

Royal Palace Bangkok

I’m just saying…

beach assault

Dealing with Thai girls in Phuket

looking for women...

Which way to Bangla Street?

Unlike most vacation rental villas in Phuket, The Coolwater does not have rules preventing you from bringing a date home to the villa.

However, here are some tips that might help your dealings with “bar girls” go more smoothly. We have learned this from experience.

Not every girl in the bar is a prostitute

Actually, Thailand is a very pious country and most women are not there for your pleasure. You should be respectful. But that said, the real point here is that there are girls you will meet that will go back to your villa to hang out with you – and they will do this for money. However hanging out may be all they will do.

If you meet someone at the bar and you want to take them home, then be specific about your expectations and get this agreed upon before you get in the taxi.

We have seen conflict with previous guests that brought girls up to the place with no agreement to actually engage in physical acts. When the girls wanted to leave, the guests tried to force themselves on them. A fight ensued. Just make sure that you have a clear understanding of what the girls have promised before you hire them. Also, do not hire a girl for conversation and expect you can change the situation later when they are at the villa.

Watch your belongings

Our staff normally does not allow the girls to leave the villa after you fall asleep without checking their purses. This is to protect you and your belongings. To avoid this, you should escort the girls out of the villa yourself. Or let them stay into the next morning after you awaken. But think hard about why a hired girl would want to stay in your place for the night after you have gone to sleep unless you paid for it. One tip is to hire girls that work for the bars. That way you know where to find them if something turns up missing.

Clarify the price

Sometimes there is an argument about price. If the girls feel they were underpaid, they may return with their managers to extract more money from you. I suggest asking them to write the price on a piece of paper in their handwriting and keep that paper. If they want more money later, show them the paper. If they still want more money and/or bring their managers, then call the estate manager immediately. She will talk to them. In general, always call her if you feel you need help.

Don’t trust pictures

We have heard of situations in which guests went to a bar in Patong and found they were not interested in the girls there. They were approached by someone recommending another place. This person showed pictures of the girls there. The guests agreed to ride with the person to the other bar. The girls at the bar were not the ones in the picture and the guests were forced to pay anyway. In a case like this, you need to clarify that you will not pay anything if you are not attracted to the girls, and you need to do this before you get in the car.

Stay out of trouble and arguments

Prostitution is technically illegal in Thailand. If you get into a situation that results in police interference, remember that they may side with the girl. Since hiring a prostitute puts you in violation of the law, they can have some pretty serious leverage on you.

Use the web

If this is your first experience in Thailand with the local “resources”, then read up on the web before you arrive. There are a lot of blogs and other web sites that can give you loads of practical advise. While the attitude of some of these writers can be crass and cynical, they do have practical experience to share. Here is one of many examples…

Thailand Red Cat

If you are going to fall for her, keep your eyes open

Your experience with a Thai bar girl will most likely be much more personal than what you might expect. Many will want to see you again and the financial arrangement may evolve to something closer to a regular girlfriend. That’s ok, but make sure you understand the big picture and don’t fool yourself. Your previous dating experience is probably not going to prepare you well for this. I suggest you read the article above if you think you need to learn more. We have had guests that interpreted their new relationships differently than the Thai girls viewed it.

This seems obvious, but…

Make sure she’s a girl – or more exactly – that she is equipped with the kind of hardware that you are interested in. If you later learn that there is a surprise you were not expecting, please consider that is not her fault. Live and let live. But it is a your job to know what you’re getting in to.


on closer inspection

About our staff

I previously said that you should call our staff if you get into trouble. But you should note that they are just as interested in the well-being the girls as they are of yours. Many, if not most guests, are the actual source of the problem and we are not going to help a guest cheat them.

The staff cannot obtain the girls for you. That would change the nature of their jobs and our villas. You need to find them on your own. It is not a hard thing to find.

Lastly, The Coolwater and its staff are not responsible to take care of you if you get into trouble or arguments. The same goes for your belongings. In some circumstances, We will try to help, but this is your party and you need to own it.


money bag

Best rates for Phuket Vacations

Regardless of the title, this post is helpful in getting the best possible rates in any hotel, villa, or vacation rental. It is not specific to Phuket or our villas.

While looking for a place to stay can be a chore, the most common and easiest thing to do is to use one of the online resources such as, Agoda, Ctrip, Expedia, TripAdvisor, Airbnb, and HomeAway. These services all provide a large catalog of places to stay and you can narrow down your searches by amount of guests, desired price – really anything.

You may have noticed that some of these services have begun to charge extra fees for the bookings. Some services such as Airbnb have always charged this. HomeAway just began this year. What might not be as obvious to you is that literally all of these services are also charging the hotel or villa owner a significant fee. They all charge at least 6% and many, if not most, charge much more.

Recently, I found an excellent article on the web…

Its ingenious name causes it to come up whenever anyone web searches for “guest service fees”. It is a long article that goes into greater detail than this. It is an interesting read and I suggest that you should at least skim it after reading this blog post.

But the point is to tell you how to get better rates. The following advise works reliably, and it works not just for our villas, but for any other accommodation. So learn it, live it, be it.

The trick is to find the direct web site, phone number, or email address for where you want to stay and book directly with them.

To do this, simply continue to search for a place to stay using your favorite online platform. Maybe even start the booking process so you can see the final price. But before you commit, look for some unique text in the description and search the web for it. You can also search for the pictures as well. (This is described in detail in the article mentioned above.) Probably the most obvious text to search is the name of the place. Often the text descriptions are literally identical to what is on the home web site for the accommodation. I know that the first words in our Airbnb text descriptions are something like “Baan Salawin at The Coolwater”. Search the web for that and you will come to this web site. Now you can book direct at prices that do not include the extra fees. Also, you have access to the phone number and email so you can ask as many questions as you like. You can get a more accurate feel for the place. This is often not possible with the online services. They do all they can to prevent the host and the guest from having direct communication. This is so they can protect and maximize their profit.

I can guarantee you that any rates you get from a direct booking with us will be better than what you get on the other services. And I am almost just as confident that our colleagues with other accommodations will do the same. Both the vendor and the guest get a significant savings. Now to be frank, if a guest tries to nickel and dime me down to extreme levels, I probably don’t want that kind of guest anyway. But I assure you that you will save money and the amounts are significant when you are talking about a $500 per night lodging.

Another strategy is to approach a smaller or local rental agency for villas.

You can find them by googling something like “phuket villa rentals”. You will see a bunch of them there. Many of these agencies are one or two people. They often have personal relationships with the owners of the villas. And because of that, sometimes they offer better prices for the same accommodation. But just as important is that they will monitor everything to make sure you get there ok and your stay is pleasant.

Food for thought.

Plan ahead for Phuket tours and vehicle rentals

Just today, someone asked us to arrange a tour for them to the Phi Phi Islands. They wanted to go the next day and it was already 4PM in the afternoon. We tried a lot of options for them, but in the end, we were unable to accommodate them.

These boats leave at a specified time early in the morning and while there might be seats, they are usually closed for business by 5-6PM.

So it is best to book your tours at least 24 hours before the tour starts and better to book it before you arrive in Phuket.

Similarly, during peak seasons like Christmas/New Year, Chinese New Year, and other Asian holidays, it is best to book even earlier. This is especially true of renting cars and SUVs. If you wait until you arrive, there won’t be anything for you.

So please plan ahead. We are happy to help or arrange these items for you.

If you want to see a sample of the activities and tours available in Phuket, be sure to check out our “Tours” web page…