Phuket (pronounced FOO-KET) is Thailand’s largest & most populous island, yet only about 500 square miles. Back in 2004, the coastline was devastated by a 90’ tidal wave, but you can’t tell by looking at it. They’ve done a great job with their rebuilding efforts in recent years, as the shore is dotted with several large resorts and retail shops. The coastal terrain of the island has broad, sandy bays, rocky peninsulas, limestone cliffs, forested hills and tropical vegetation. Phuket’s inland area supports rice paddies, rubber, cashew nut, cacao, pineapple and coconut plantations. It reminds me of the Mexican resort areas where you have modern resorts & retail on the frontage roads, and then the very old shacks & stores the farther inland you go – though not quite as poor. Once again, scooters everywhere! We had a terrific day – we docked in the harbor around 7am & took a “tender” to shore. From there, we boarded a bus and went to an area where we split-up into 4X4 jeeps for the trip up to the elephant orphanage. Once there, the natives taught us how to make authentic jungle curry (quite tasty), then walked us through the process of making rubber – from watching them cut a rubber tree to the retrieval of “juice” from the tree, to curing & ultimately pressing - the process took just a matter of minutes. While their equipment was very old & crude, the end product was true rubber – very interesting. We were then introduced to the baby elephants. I/we didn’t realize it, but baby elephants are matched with a native at the point of birth. This person bottle feeds, nurtures, trains and lives with the elephant until death. The natives even live with the elephants in the jungle in crude straw huts. They have one master, and one master only. This way, they say, elephants can be easily trained because of their natural intelligence and devotion to their master. We saw a brief elephant show – one painting a picture with her trunk, kicking a ball, and placing a hat on her masters’ head – very adorable! We then went for our first ride on an adult – it wasn’t at all what I expected. My expectation was a ride similar to that of a horse but instead, experienced a cumbersome, awkward ride. We were on for a good 45 minutes – through the jungle and up to a mountain top – beautiful views – a nice cool breeze in what was otherwise a very hot day in the valley. We left the orphanage and had lunch at a local hotel arranged by the cruise line – very nice Thai buffet. From there, a 30-minute stop at the world’s largest jewelry store (who would have thought) – we purchased nothing. I’ve never seen more diamonds in one place before – every imaginable size – prices were average as best I could tell. We were back on the beach by 4:15, just in time to catch the last “tender” to the ship. A quick shower, and up to deck #8 for a sail-away party – we each had a couple Long Island Ice-Teas and that put us away for the night – a quick dinner and off to bed. Next stop, Colombo, Sri Lanka – 1100 miles southwest – 2 days away. Quick side notes – first sunny day in a couple weeks – it’s been warm, but either foggy, hazy, misty, raining or all of the above! And what’s going on with the weather back in the U.S? It’s been warmer in Wisconsin than Arizona? Our news is limited to special editions of Fox News & CNN – most of the time spent on politics. Disappointed I’ve only seen one Circle K since leaving in January, and that was in Hong Kong – Cheryl saw one in Saigon. Many 7-Elevens – dozens of them everywhere we go. McDonald’s still has the majority of market share from what I’ve seen. Starbuck’s would be a close second, followed by KFC & Subway. Some of the 7-Eleven’s are no bigger than a broom closet! Shell owns the petroleum market based on where we’ve been.