Friday was a day of driving and Phuket exploration. Setting off early we hit the main roads at rush hour, complete with swarms of motorcyclists. A quick stop at the boat lagoon to check out the available tour options and to book Saturday’s day trip, then driving further south to Wat Chalong, our first temple experience.
Hats and shoes off before going in, the ornate buildings with golden Buddha images were a cool sanctuary from the heat. Locals sat in a mermaid position, bowing towards the figures, burning incense and occasionally letting off firecrackers. Coconuts were on sale for 25B and stalls sold cheap clothes and ornaments. We avoided the hole in the ground toilets and returned to the air conditioned car, smartly parked under a tree in the shade.
Back onto Phuket’s roads, a couple of U-turns and up a winding hill, we travelled to the Big Buddha. A 20 year old building project that puts an enormous statute atop of Phuket’s largest hill.
At the top, in the midday sun, without any shadow, we took our photos, made a donation and read about the history. Huge sculptures sat around the base of the Buddha, waiting to be hoisted into place, the eyes went in in December.
Part way down the hill we stopped at a small shack for lunch. It had a fantastic view of Karon beach. Coke, chicken with cashew nuts and a red curry with peanuts and chicken were our choices. Sam took some moments to snap flowers on the hillside, and a gecko that came down from the tree, before we made our way south.
Following the Lonely Planet guide, we found the recommended Kok Chang elephant safari. For 1000B each we enjoyed a one hour trek into the forest, to the top of the hill on the back of a charming elephant. The elephant’s hairs were itchy against my legs and on the way back down keeping balance and staying on was a bit of a challenge, although it felt much more sturdy and safe than riding a horse. The elephant’s mahout stopped half way and took some great shots of us.
We continued south to Leam Promthep cape, the southernmost point of the island, for the much praised sunset. Passing shops with BBQ’d squid and numerous fruits, and after helping green shirted Thai children with their English assignment (“What country you from? What’s your favourite Thai food? What’s different between your country and Thailand? – I had my answers at the ready, by the sixth time of asking), we sat on the sea front wall to catch a glimpse of the sun disappearing behind a cloud. No beautiful sunset today.
It was now getting dark and everyone scattered as today’s tropical storm was about to hit. Time for a two hour drive up north, at rush hour, in torrential rain amidst Thailand’s drivers, all in the dark. Huge lightning forks lit up the sky every few seconds, and the rain blurred the distinction between lanes.
We were aiming for a restaurant at Bang Tao, but got thoroughly lost, to the point of frustration and hunger. We stopped at the lovely looking Baan Suan Layan instead, the humidity was overbearing.
With a refreshing watermelon shake, (really very yummy!), we ate cuttlefish with calamari, and sea bream in a yellow curry. Our vietnamese spring rolls were scrumptious.
Home via the winding over-hill route, past Nai Thon beach, we slept well, thoroughly exhausted.