Phuket has a culture all of its own, combining Chinese & Portuguese influences with that of the Southern Thais & Chao Naam – a seafaring, semi-nomadic group that depends on fishing & boatbuilding. Phuket is also Thailand’s largest, most populous island – we were here last year and rode elephants for the first time! For a more comprehensive commentary about Phuket from 2012 along with a few shots of our elephant ride, please CLICK HERE.
This year, we booked “The Best of Phuket” – no elephant ride, but rather a 7-hour tour of the city & surrounding area. Bad call! Another ‘Florida’ day – 94-degrees with 70% humidity. Several busses had issues with air conditioning and engines overheating, we were more fortunate, even though our bus # was 13! One bus was replaced entirely because two ladies cut their legs on sharp metal protruding from the seats. Overall, we were disappointed with the tour. Aside from the heat, it was just wearisome & uninspiring. You may want to read the Captain’s Log and his comments about the experience he had – not good! Our first stop for photos was 45 minutes from the ship – a hilltop overlooking the city – 30 minutes – how long does it take to snap a few pictures? Restroom? Sure…for $1! Back on the mildly cool bus for a 30-minute trip to see a Buddha Temple. Actually, this was one of the most beautiful temples we’ve seen in this part of the world, but also somewhat depressing. The residential areas around the temple were quite poor as is usually the case, yet the temple was rich in every respect – much like the Catholic church, extremely wealthy, yet so many people associated with the church live in distress & hunger. I’m Catholic, so no disrespect intended – I just sometimes wonder about priorities.
At 11:00, several bus tours from the ship all converged on one location in the city to see a cultural show. Expecting an air-conditioned venue and a pleasurable relief from the heat, we instead were escorted into an undersized indoor theater – approximately 300 of us, bundled like sardines with only sporadic airflow from small fans. The Thai dancers & musicians were young and obviously inexperienced, but out of respect, most of us tried to show our appreciation for their effort. The show lasted nearly an hour – far too long. The busses then proceeded to a hotel for a buffet lunch – the same hotel we dined at last year. As we entered the parking lot, we knew air conditioning was only a few footsteps away – but no, the main dining hall was reserved for another function and we were instead taken to an OUTDOOR facility – still no relief from the heat! Typical of our group, mention the word FOOD and the pace increases, despite the temperature. Most with two plates, it had been a long 4 hours since the breakfast buffet. A fork in one hand and a sweat-hankie in the other, we were given an hour to eat – Cheryl and I only had a few small appetizers and then we were out trying to find some air conditioning around the hotel until the busses left. No such luck – in fact, we learned from some of the employees that ALL cooling systems had been shut down because they plan to bulldoze the place in 2 weeks and build a mall – incredible.
Last stop on our tour, again, advertised as “The Best of Phuket” was of course, a jewelry store! We were here last year as well, and the ONLY positive aspect of the visit was the air conditioned building – relief at last! Once inside, Cheryl and I found two cushioned chairs in the lobby area where we remained until departure time.
Back at the pier, the ‘locals’ had set up a shopping area under tents, a scene we’re very familiar with. We intended to check them out, but the heat under the plastic gazeboes was even worse. We headed straight for the ship & a cold shower!
Off now to Colombo, Sri Lanka, approximately 1,200 miles west – scheduled to arrive Sunday morning.
Captain’s Log update: Langkawi & Phuket – please CLICK HERE