Photo of the day: The streets of Phuket Old Town. Photo credit: Aaron.
We started the morning enjoying a pretty good breakfast at the hotel. There was a good selection of Thai stir-fries, served with plain congee. They also had western selections, such as banana bread, toast and croissants. The most interesting section was the “street food” section with various sticky rice. I particularly enjoyed the sweet red sticky rice. Apparently, this hotel is owned by a group of architects and we saw a couple of them in action, working on some architectural designs by the pool. Pretty cool stuff!
We, then, took a walk into the Old Town. It reminded me of Hoi An with the small stores selling textiles and the red lanterns outside. We spent some time in Bookhemian Cafe, getting some work done, while enjoying some lemon soda and coffee. This cafe was a bookstore, art gallery and cafe all-in-one. There was a lot of seating and lots to explore on their bookshelves.
Time flew by and it was already close to 2pm. We decided to try another Mark Wien’s recommendation. It was called Lock Tien – an outdoor food court. We grabbed a seat, ordered from the menu, then individual vendors would bring us our dishes and we would pay them directly. It was confusing at first because we did not know we had to pay them when the food was given to us. They would just say something in Thai and then waited around. We eventually figured it out. The problem with not looking obviously foreign is that they automatically speak Thai to us and confusions like this would often happen. The first dish that came was the pork satays. The tasty peanut sauce definitely made the dish. Aaron, the satay snob, having eaten terrific tasting satays in Malaysia growing up, states that the meat itself wasn’t as fatty as he liked. I thought it was pretty good. It was not as good as the ones we would get on the street but definitely better than the one we got on the boat cruise the other night. Next came the Mee Leung Pad Hokkien Sai Kai (Fujian stir-fried noodles). First impression was the smell. The smell of good Chinese stir-fry filled out nostrils as soon as it was placed in front of us. The sauce was really good and there were various toppings (char siu, sliced up meat balls, Chinese veggies) in the noodles making each bite unique. We chose the option with the egg and it was still slightly runny so I just mixed it all up with the noodles. It added to the texture of the whole dish. The portion-sizes were definitely modest and we probably could’ve had another one to share. Instead, we were hoping to get some Kahnom Ahpong (coconut crepes) around the corner at Ahpong Mae Sunee, also recommended by Mark Wiens. Unfortunately, they were closed.
We proceeded to get some beach/pool towels in preparation for our adventures tomorrow and also to avoid the same pool towel incident back at the hotel. It was a good way to explore the various stores in Old Town. We ended up get some at the shopping mall, which was surprisingly cheaper than the independent mom-and-pop stores.
We figured it was time for another massage. I still have yet to try the Traditional Thai massage so we opted to get one at Kim’s Massage and Spa. Aaron wanted to get the 2 hour package with an aromatherapy oil massage as well, so I added on honey and cucumber mask. The experience started with a foot rinse. I would have to say it wasn’t as nice as the “foot ritual” we had Hanoi Ciel Spa but I still appreciated it over no foot rinse. We proceeded to get changed into loose fitting clothes in preparation for our massage. Thai massage is done without oils or lotions on clothed bodies. It was done on a futon and not a massage table since there was a lot of maneuvering of the limbs involved with the masseuses assistance. I was prepared for a painful experience but my masseuse probably looked at me and thought she would break me if she used too much force, so it was actually not that bad. The massage consisted of a lot of firm, sustained pressure by using her palms, forearms, elbows and even feet. There was also a lot of stretching. At one point, she was holding one leg straight, the other one at 90 degrees and then pushing really hard on my inner thigh using her feet. The most uncomfortable part of the massage was probably when I had to lie on my belly and there was no hole to put my face so I ended up putting my neck in a weird position. Nonetheless, I actually quite enjoyed my first Thai massage experience. I felt it was more effective in working my muscles compared to the usual Swedish massages I would get. My nasal congestion also cleared up after the massage. Was it a coincidence or because traditional Thai massage was supposed to have medicinal properties? Next, came the facial. I can tell this was not their expertise because there was a lot of waiting around for her to grab supplies throughout the process. I was expecting the facial to be a cream infused with honey and cucumber but I was wrong. I think she literally massaged layers of honey onto my face then placed another few layers of cucumber on my face. It was quite refreshing. I was just hoping I wouldn’t become an ant trap. It was still a nice experience though since every product she used smelled so nice. She even ended the facial with a nice head and neck massage since I was lying in the same position for so long. Aaron had a male masseuse for both massages who gave him very firm pressure. Aaron felt that the oil massage was just another Thai massage, but with oil, not what he was expecting.
Feeling relaxed (well for me, since Aaron was having major calf aches afterwards), we headed home to chill for a little more before heading off for dinner. Aaron found a nice restaurant called One Chun Cafe and Restaurant. It was supposed to have a similar menu as the famous higher-end restaurant Raya, but at a lower price point. We entered and saw that most of the patrons were locals – always a good sign. We ordered the crab curry with coconut milk, the green mango salad and the steamed pork with garlic and pepper. They confirmed with us that spicy is ok for the mango salad. I said sure! I later regretted this because I bit into a chilli seed and then couldn’t eat for a full 5 minutes after that because my mouth was burning. The curry was very creamy and tasty. If I had to compare though, I still would prefer the soft-shelled crab with egg curry at The Never Ending Summer in Bangkok. The green mango salad was good but spicy! If you just eat it as a whole, it tasted like a papaya salad but if you eat the individual strands of mango, you can taste the mango. Now on to my favourite dish of the meal. When I ordered it, based on Foursquare reviews, I did not know what to expect. Steamed pork sounds kind of bland. I was so wrong. They definitely misnamed this dish. It was more like a braised pork belly. Each bite was sweet, flavourful soft pork belly melting in my mouth. It reminded me of a more delicious, refined version of the Chinese 東坡肉. I was in disbelief how tasty it was. I’ve had many versions of pork belly but this was definitely one of the best. We saw a lot of people were orderly this bright red dessert so we got one too. It was called “Banana Jelly” dessert but there was no banana taste it in. It was a pile of mounded shaved iced, red bean, watermelon balls, gelatin and immersed in a red syrup. It wasn’t our favourite dessert but interesting to try. This was definitely our best meal in Phuket so far and was a great way to end our day with!