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I got acquainted with Thai food long before I first set foot in Thailand.

And my first love — for Thai food, that is — is the one and only Tom Yam Kung, or hot-sour soup with prawns.

Incidentally, when I was pregnant with the twins, I craved for mee hoon tom yam (rice vermicelli with tom yam broth) day and night, usually at night. It was one of the few things that I could keep down when my morning sickness was at its peak. Actually, ‘morning sickness’ is not the accurate term, as the waves of nausea always came in the early evenings. I distinctly remember sitting up on my bed, a huge mound of pillows around me and behind me propping me up (as lying down only made it worse), staring in the semi-darkness (bright lights seemed to make it worse!), waiting for the bout of nausea to pass, mercifully falling asleep most of the time.

It must have been the spicy-sour taste of the tom yam broth that did the trick — the fiery heat coming from the bird’s eye chilli (a.k.a. siling labuyo in Tagalog or cili padi in Malay) and the sourness from the kaffir lime leaves (daun limau purut in Malay) and lime juice.

Its sourness is not the same as the sourness of the Philippine sinigang though, because it is more towards citrusy, as most restaurants would use lime (Malay: limau nipis, Tagalog: dayap) or lemon (Malay: limau kasturi, Tagalog/Cebuano: kalamansi) whereas sinigang relies on tamarind (Malay: asam jawa, Tagalog/Cebuano: sampalok).

And the tom yam’s taste is very distinctive, thanks to the combination of lemon grass (more commonly known as tanglad in the Philippines, serai in Malaysia and Indonesia), galangal (Malay lengkuas) and fresh coriander leaves, with the onion and tomato playing supporting roles.

Different restaurants have their own recipes and, I’m told, it also varies slightly across different regions in Thailand. So how fiery the soup gets depends on the cook’s recipe, or more accurately, on the amount of bird’s eye chilli that the cook puts in, or if the chilli is sliced or just ‘bruised’, or if it’s added into the broth towards the end or boiled with the other spices.

If you happen to get one of the hot and fiery ones, you’ll feel like one of those cartoon characters whose mouth is on fire, smoke coming out of your ears, eyes watering and all. Surprisingly, the tom yam kung I’ve tasted in Thailand are not as spicy as the ones I’ve tried in Malaysia.

Now please excuse me, as all this talk about food is making me hungry… 😉

The entrance is small and nondescript — from the main road, you must go through a small alley, tucked between a tailoring shop and a small restaurant — but the moment you step onto its foyer, you find yourself in the oasis called Layalina Hotel in Kamala Beach, Phuket, Thailand.

The reception is small and intimate. You sit on the couch, savouring the cool airconditioned comfort — a welcome respite from the searing heat outside — sipping your welcome drink, while they check you in. You browse through a stack of novels on the coffee tables (surprise, surprise, a lot of them in German, but there are a few in English) and wonder if you’ll ever have time to read one of these during your stay.

See that long table on the left? That’s where you can find the breakfast spread in the mornings — tropical fruits, an assortment of muesli and cereals, white bread and croissants, a Thai dish that changes everyday, some Thai desserts, milk and fruit juice. You have the option of having your continental breakfast served to you in your room…but we chose to have ours al fresco, beside the pool, facing the beach.

Breakfast with a view
Food tastes better al fresco

You have a choice between rooms in the ground floor or the upper floor. The ground floor rooms offer immediate access to the pool through a sliding door from your room (you don’t even have to go through the front door!). The layout of the rooms in the upper floor is exactly the same as that of those in the ground floor, with the exception of a flight of winding stairs…that lead up to your own personal rooftop terrace, complete with shower and daybed, perfect for working on that tan or perhaps to have a massage.

The stairs from the top
Personal rooftop terrace
Fancy a rooftop shower?

You can request for a double bed…

Or a room with twin beds.

A 3rd, folding bed is also an option, although not shown in the photo.

You can also request for an adjoining room, like what we did recently — one room with the a double bed and the other room with 2 twin beds.

All rooms feature flat-screen TVs, as well as a master remote control for turning on/off the lights, aircon and ceiling fan.

Each room has a jacuzzi, big enough for 2 adults or 5 small children (chaos, I tell you, total chaos!!!). So in between the sea, the pool and the jacuzzi, this is one place where I don’t have to yell at the kids to go and have a bath/shower, but I actually had to tell them to stop having yet another bath!

The bathroom has a huge window that gives you unparalleled views of the sea, as you soak your tiredness and worries away in the jacuzzi. For some privacy, you can draw down the blinds and, in my case, give very strict instructions to the children to not even attempt to take a peek inside if someone’s inside the bathroom.

The bathroom also has a shower, if you don’t fancy the jacuzzi.

At the entrance of each room, you will find a small counter with a sink and a mini-fridge under the sink. An electric kettle is provided, along with some packets of coffee, tea, creamer and sugar.

Above the counter is a small cabinet, with a couple of mugs, teaspoons and some wine glasses.

There is a huge wardrobe for your clothes, with some hangers and two bath robes for your use during your stay.

There is also a small electronic safe inside the wardrobe — enough for keeping your passports, cash and other small valuables. There are no instructions though on how to reset the combination, but the staff is more than happy to assist you on this.

This is how the hotel looks like from the beach:

And this is how the beach looks like from the hotel:

The beach is facing the Andaman sea and is along the same row as Laem Sing Beach (a private beach only accessible through a steep path down a hill), the ultra-posh Laguna Phuket and the charming boutique hotel, Bangtao Beach Chalet, hence the water is clear and you don’t need to go far if you wish to go snorkelling. It’s very easy to get a boat for a short snorkelling trip and the boatmen know where the nice spots are for snorkelling and also for catching squid.

The hotel is a haven, an oasis of calm, being away from the hub of activity that is Patong. This hotel is for you if you want to get away from it all. But if you long for nightlife, perhaps Patong would be more suitable for you.

The hotel is not isolated though. Just outside the hotel, there is a good number of restaurants (both Thai and Western), tailoring shops and some small retail shops selling souvenirs, slippers, swimwear, etc. A 7-Eleven outlet is located less than 3 minutes away by foot.

The hotel is also a stone’s throw from FantaSea, a cultural theme complex which “promises to be the ultimate in nighttime entertainment on Phuket.” But tickets are not cheap — when we were there, they cost USD160 apiece. So we skipped it.

Kamala Beach is also a great spot for enjoying the sunset, as I mentioned in a previous post.

A word of caution to parents with children: it’s quite common to see topless women sunbathing by the beach. And once in a while (twice in our case!), you might even come across someone walking around topless in broad daylight. Thank goodness the kids were busy at the pool at those ‘encounters’, thereby saving me the explanation 😛

The hotel staff are very friendly and helpful and would bend over backwards to make your stay most pleasant indeed. Most of them speak English, with some of them even conversant in Malay.

For an unforgettable stay in Phuket, I would highly recommend Layalina Hotel.

You can find more info about the hotel at their website.

There’s a story behind every unforgettable pic. And for these pics, the story is short and sweet: we were at the beach on our first day in Phuket, the children were playing with sand, Lola and I were enjoying the water, and the sun was starting its descent into the horizon. I realised that I had only minutes to spare before that huge crimson ball would completely disappear, so I quickly ran back into our hotel room — dripping clothes, sandy feet and all — and grabbed my Nikon D40. I remember saying to myself – ‘the hardwood floor can be cleaned up later but the sun waits for no one‘. Then I ran to the small bridge connecting our hotel to the beach and took 6 shots of the setting sun.

Three of those shots were so badly blurred (from my shaking hand and my pounding heart!) that I deleted them immediately from my camera. One was a bit blurred but should still come out okay for a 4R print. But the other two shots — absolutely magnificent additions to my collection of sunset pics — are simply too beautiful not to share!

Focal Length 62mm, F/5.3
1/1600 sec, ISO-400
Aperture Priority
08/03/2008 19:48

Focal Length 135mm, F/5.6
1/2000 sec, ISO-400
Aperture Priority
08/03/2008 19:49

Kamala Beach is said to be one of the best places to savour the sunset in Phuket. To that, I totally agree and these photos are proof of that!