CNY Reunion in Phuket – Hangover & Burnt


Since young, it has been our family’s tradition to spend the eve and the first few days of Chinese New Year outside Singapore. Back then, we had all our annual reunions in Muar, a small Malaysian town just south of Malacca. Since the passing our granny in June 2012, we stopped traveling back to Muar. We continue to have our annual reunion at many different locations outside Singapore.

CNY Reunions
(See: Sentosa 2013, Desaru 2014, Kukup 2015, Bintan 2016, Batam 2017, Batam 2018)

Last year was exceptional. Despite having it planned out months before CNY, we didn’t have any overseas reunion in 2018 due to many unforeseeable reasons. My dad was recovering from his eye operation and the Cheng family couldn’t join us because they were hosting relatives from the United States. In the end, I had the smallest and quietest CNY reunion in a big pool villa in Batam with my mum, wife, and kid.



This year was exceptional too, for the first time ever, all the families flew to meet in Phuket. We parked ourselves at the most happening street in Phuket, in the heart of Patong Beach City, right beside the popular chaotic Bangla Street where it took us only a 3-min walk to the beach. With hundreds of shops, restaurants, massage parlors, and bars around us, it was certainly a big contrast from our usual CNY destinations (private family villa or quiet resort). The streets and beach were so congested with tourists from all around the world. This is our most crowded and noisest CNY reunion destination ever!


Phuket was the perfect CNY holiday destination for everyone. The older folks indulged themselves at the nearby massage parlors/shopping mall while the sporty brothers showed off their abs at the indoor wake park/pool bar.


Felicia, Elkan and I preferred the tranquility of Phuket’s more pristine attractions. We left buzzing Patong and traveled 4 hours to a group of islands northwest in the Andaman Sea.


Similan Islands are well known for its clear water, fine sand and ocean life. Unfortunately, for a Singaporean, the name “Similan” (meaning “nine” in Jawi) bears the exact pronunciation as another common Hokkien expression “what-the-f**k”. I couldn’t resist myself from laughing every time the tour guide mentioned the name. This was apparent when the tour guide announced loudly in his voice when our speedboat anchored at the island “Hello, everyone, welcome to Similan! Enjoy yourself!”


Similan Islands are indeed worth the visit. At first glance, its clear turquoise water and soft white sand are comparable to the Maldives. However, the state of tranquility vanished as hordes of tourists arrived onto its shore. We were lucky to be one of the earliest visitors of the day. By noon, the entire island was occupied by thousands of people.


The sea life beneath was in very bad shape. Most corals have died out. It wasn’t as colorful, diverse and lively as the Maldives. Today, out of the 11 islands at Similan, only 3 are opened for the public. Many islands are closed off for turtle hatching protection program and reef conservation efforts.


On the eve of Chinese New Year, Felicia, Elkan and I traveled eastward towards the Straits of Malacca to visit another popular, iconic tourist destination – Phang Nga Bay. We went island-hopping from the colossal Khao Phing Kan (aka James Bond Island) to enigmatic Koh Hong. 

James Bond Island1Phuket17

There, we hopped onto a kayak and explored many beautiful sea caves where we spotted a “heart-shaped skylight” above the center of an inner cave lagoon, outlined naturally by the canopy of the forest. There wasn’t any fixed exploration route at Koh Hong, our kayak rower was extremely nice to us and brought us to many limestone islets where we saw many stunning limestone rock formations up close. We ended our day touring the floating fishing village of Koh Panyee.

James Bond IslandPhuket18James Bond Island2James Bond Island5James Bond Island4James Bond Island3James Bond Island6

While we were exploring the sea caves at Phang Nga Bay, the rest of the families were exploring a different world at the Upside Down House. It was hilarious to see my old folks doing the impossible poses.


Later in the evening, we rejoined the rest of the families at Patong where we had a super sumptuous CNY Reunion Dinner at a “Pig-themed Restaurant”. And yes, pork ribs were the restaurant’s signature dish! Because we were in Thailand, this was our first CNY reunion dinner without any “lo hei” ritual. Thanks to Chester’s generous treat, we had so much food leftover!


We spent our last hours in Phuket back in the hotel room, drinking and playing cards with the old folks. I couldn’t drink as much as before. Sigh, it must be a sign of old age.


The next day, all of us flew out of Phuket. Strange but it is true, we were on 4 different flights (3 separate flights to Singapore and me alone back to Hong Kong). The families continued to celebrate their CNY gatherings back in Singapore, yes, with more festive dining, drinking, and playing cards.

Singapore & HKSingapore & HK1

Me? That marks the end of my 7-week holiday travel. Now, back to my little nest and spending the second day of CNY with my Indian brother. Enjoying the peace in the city while preparing for my next trip. What a great year ahead!

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