Thailand 2014 – Day 6 – Phuket tour

As mentioned yesterday, we were supposed to be going on a lovely scenic boat tour around 2 islands and 3 beaches and some other stuff today, but due to the wind that has been called off :/
An 8:30 natural wakeup for me, the bright Thai sun piercing through the curtains combined with our still Singaporean body clock. 3 flights of stairs down we would find our inclusive hotel buffet breakfast, a selection of European and badly over and undercooked asian cuisine. An omelette and some fried potato would be my pick today, primarily due to a lack of anything better to eat, a far cry from the maxwell food centre we had been spoiled with for the last few days.

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We (and by we I mean my mum) managed to find a new tour to take to kill the day and help us get out of the resort, however the bus for that leaves at 2pm so we would have a few hours to burn before that, so it was off down to the beach to see how the scenery differs during the day. The waves were going crazy, easily rising a foot and a half before striking the beach with enough force to make its way up the sand for some distance, a red flag perched in the sand screamed no swimming, reinforced by the life guard staying by it. Our boat trip was canceled for good reason it seemed, though it was still upsetting. The beach itself was sandy and a dull beige rather than the bright shades pictured in the brochure, the waves were bringing in all manner of rubbish with it including gas cans, lost sandals and dead vegetation, it wasn’t the most beautiful sight in the world, but then we were getting used to that.

After grabbing some fruit and drinks from a nearby shop for dirt cheap – 20 baht for a can of coke, equivalent to maybe 35p – we headed back to the hotel room for showers and general relaxation before the day ahead of us, the itinerary for the tour was extensive yet only lasted 6 hours so we were already anticipating a rush job but then it’s better than nothing. We had some mangoes from the market in the hotel room, simply tearing the skin off and eating them whole like you would a banana, they were lovely and soft with little fibre, a solid reminder after breakfast that the simply walking down to the beachfront and gorging on fruit is definitely a viable option.

After a quick sweaty game of ping pong and discovering I am definitely not smile (ps. go watch the ping pong anime), 2pm eventually rolls round and our minibus arrives. It turns out we are the only person on the afternoon tour today, so off we go. First stop was the currently still under construction Big Buddha which sits atop a small mountain on Phuket, the majority of the buddha itself has been built but it’s surroundings are still being worked on, constant signs are in place asking visitors to donate or buy souvenirs to contribute to the cost of building, as a result the first area is almost entirely souvenir stalls selling buddha in just about every shape and form, while the upper level is a pretty spartan viewing area surrounded by bamboo fencing before a steep drop into the forest below. The buddha itself was impressive however, with some lovely tiling work, and surrounded by a great view of the city (if somewhat obscured by excessive trees).

 

Next up to bat is Chalong Temple, which we would soon discover is actually more like Chalong TempleS. A barrage of firecrackers welcomes us as we step off the minibus into the car park, the driver informs us it is a celebratory day for the monks for some reason or another, and so they are ritualistically throwing entire packs of firecrackers into a chimneylike structure by one of the temples. The multiple temples on display were very impressive, with marble whites mixed against strong reds and gold, the cloudy blue skies allowing for some (imo anyway) amazing photographs.

From here the tour went on a bit of an odd tangent, we would go to the honey farm and cashew nut factory which would both turn out to be attempts to sell us products. The honey farm welcomes us with open arms before pulling us into a clinic like room on the side and giving us multiple samples of honey… and very indepth explanations of what makes pure honey so wholesome and good for you and so on (it was good honey but i mean…), we were then dumped back into a giant shop floor and left to explore the various honey products – these guys have effectively mixed honey in with all sorts like chocolate, water, ice cream, crackers…
Our ‘tour’ of the cashew nut factory wasn’t much different either, we would come in to see two poor grannies cracking cashew nuts by hand using a foot pedal driven machine before being unleashed to explore a shop floor filled with various nut based products, a linked room next door also had products not even vaguely related to nuts, however almost every snack product had a container with free samples which resulted in a pretty good time anyway running around the shop eating everything we could get our hands on – from nuts to brittle, dried mango to pork crackling and pandan sweets to garlic bread.

Next stop would be to see some wild monkeys, in the most literal of a sense, a little bit of driving later and the driver pulls over on the side of the road and tells us to walk across the road and onto a viewing platform, a scattered pack of monkeys lay in wait below by a dirty stream, walking about on mud and waiting for tourists to throw bananas at them (which are conveniently sold across the road by old women on bikes). It was equal parts cute and depressing as we watched the monkeys eat and fight over the bananas thrown at them, one monkey in the back was particularly depressing – looking like it was dragging a baby monkey corpse around with it.

Rang hill viewing point was next, a part constructed viewing platform on the side of another mountain/hill, I say part constructed in the most literal of senses in that you have to walk through a construction site and step over some girders on the floor to get to the viewing platform, the view was impressive, but marred slightly by the rain which started to fall. We also made a quick impromptu stop at on the side of the road to view another temple, no idea what it was called though.

Final stop of the tour was the weekend market in Phuket town, a gigantic street market spanning one and a half blocks, it comprised of cheap clothes, fake tech (Dr. Bre’s Deats anyone?) and loads of market style street food. It was rammed, our tour driver was unable to find a parking spot and so dropped us off on the side of the road after giving us his number (without country code, obvs). Didn’t really buy too much, but got to sample some of the food and got to photograph some of the others, unfortunately we only had about an hour to wander the market before attempting to meet up with the driver again. We even saw a stall selling fried grasshoppers, mealworms, roachthings and all other manner of nightmarish snacks – didn’t try any because I want no part of that shit).

We would arrive at the designated point and not be able to find our driver, and without any way to contact him we were left stood on the side of the road for some 15 minutes or so, we would eventually receive help in form of a tourist from Hong Kong and some kind Thai locals who would agree to call our driver to come and get us – a good thing too since we had all of our shopping (honey and cashew nuts obviously) in the minibus still. We’d¬†return back to Karon beach just in time to¬†witness a parade of booming tuk tuk’s (the tuk tuk’s in Phuket are filled with subs and blare dance music and neon lights) – they are apparently all heading to a shrine for a monk celebratory day or something.

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Dinner would be at a restaurant not too far from the hotel, the hostess grabbing our attention by speaking at us in 3 languages consecutively (holding a Mandarin menu out while speaking Japanese, before switching to English). We were initially worried by the giant ‘international cuisine’ sign on the front, but our fears were soon calmed when the thai food came out and was better presented and more tasty than the yesterday’s restaurant. We would try yum woon sen, spicy papaya salad, masamman curry and for dessert, mango with sticky rice. All very nice, though stealth chillies present in the papaya salad would have be unable to feel my tongue for 5 minutes or so.

This brings the day to an end, tomorrow we plan to do Patong city, famous for it’s nightlife and ladyboys, we may also try and get a massage in the morning.