I must have driven past it 200 times and thought, ‘we should try it one day’, but we generally tend to avoid the most obvious tourist attractions and find our own favourite things to do and places to visit in Phuket, so Siam Niramit went unvisited until now!
We got there at about 6:30pm, but the place opens at 5:30pm. As it turned out, at least another half hour would have been useful. We were still looking around the 'Thai Village’ when staff came to find us and shepherd us off for dinner.
Just inside the entrance is a selection of souvenir shops: the first thing you see when you arrive, and last thing you see when you're heading home. Little souvenir items started at just B30, but there's also an antique shop with some very nice items that might catch someone's eye.
Past the shops is a wide open area featuring a giant Naga (a mythical serpent) in a pond. The way to the main stage is to the right and the Thai Village is on the left. And there were elephants! Of course I bought some bananas for B30 a bunch for the kids to feed the cute little ellies who I imagined would be part of the show later.
At the entrance to the Thai Village are some old-style sideshow stalls that are very popular at local fairs in Thailand, things like ‘throw a ball at the cans and win a teddy if you knock them all over’, or ‘throw a ball to try and knock the ladyboy in the water’. My boy tried both... needs to improve his aim!
The Thai Village is bigger than I thought, so we do have to go again! There are demonstrations of handicraft making, preparation of local snacks, typical old style houses, and more.
The kids took a ride on a boat (B20 each), and fed a buffalo, which would also be part of the show later. And then we had to dash off for the buffet dinner. Maybe next time we can skip dinner, tasty though it was, and have more time to enjoy things outside – we had to miss the Muay Thai demonstration, and my son wanted to see that (but he was hungry too, and hunger won!).
The food was good, some really tasty fish dishes, in fact way too many different options to try them all. My daughter tried khao soi for the first time, and I stuffed myself with chicken and cashew nuts. There were curries and mussels and salads and fruits and all kind of things.
At this point, I should say – get there as early as you can, see the Thai Village and then spend as much time as you can at the buffet. The buffet is optional, so if you skip that you have more time to enjoy entertainment outdoors. I read that while people eat there is also dancing and a ‘war elephant’ display outside.
And then time for the show! It's a walk of a couple of hundred metres to the theatre. You cannot take cameras inside. Cameras can be deposited and you get a receipt before you enter.
The show has many scenes taking you through some of the history of Siam (the country was only called Thailand after 1939) starting with the ancient kingdoms of the north, then the south (Phuket!) where you see Chinese traders coming to trade with and marry the locals.
There's also a Khmer scene and then the old capital Ayutthaya. The scenes are impressive, with a huge stage and many performers, dancers and some animals too. Scene changes are cleverly done, performers are not only on stage, but appear around the theatre, even overhead.
The stage show is pretty spectacular at times, my son was sitting next to me and was continually pointing and saying, "Dad, look at that!", and, "I can see the wires".
At one point during the show, I think a big set change was needed, so there was a little musical comedy involving a group of players with bamboo rattles that all played different notes.
An audience member was chosen to join them – my daughter. She enjoyed that, but was a bit stage shocked afterwards, "I've never been on a stage with so many people watching before!", and people were commenting when we left the theatre, "That's the girl who was on stage!".
All in all we had a great evening! The show was great, the kids loved everything, and I can certainly recommend it. The Siam Niramit show is open every evening except Tuesday. For more information, visit siamniramit.com
Jamie Monk works at liveaboard dive specialists Sunrise Divers. For more information call: 084 626 4646 or visit: sunrise-divers.com