Phuket was a last minute addition in our trip, so I guess somehow in my obsessive planning I missed that June is monsoon season, the low season. Basically, this means that things are slower, the water is rough, Lonely planet assures me that staff will work harder for our business, and it rains randomly throughout the day.
It was raining when we landed, but then it cleared up as we were checking into our hotel. Good luck, we thought. So we headed to the beach where we were caught in a huge down pour. I had my camera with me, so it left us running for shelter in a row of shops; the shop keepers felt that we needed lots of new things: swim trunks, a new dress, boxing shorts, a sarong, sunglasses. They suggestively held items of clothing up to us as we walked through to give us an idea of how things would look on us. It was only when we got to the man selling ponchos that their selling tactics worked; we bought two after I haggled the price down to half of what the man was asking.
The ponchos are hot and hideous, but they allow us to go about our day, stopping only to pull out the green and blue plastic ponchos when the rain comes.
We spent much of the morning wandering the streets, getting a feel of the place. We’re actually staying in Patong, a place that’s know for partying. I am so grateful it’s the slow season and reasonable quiet–my party days are long behind me. I booked our current hotel (hence the less-than-ideal location) on Priceline using the name your own price feature. The hotel is really nice, though. It’s in a great location with easy access to the beach and a great pool with a swim up bar, and we have a balcony that overlooks the pool.
I spent about 30 minutes after lunch relaxing at the pool before getting restless, so I decided to visit the Big Buddha in Phuket. From the hotel, the journey to The Big Buddha was long and mostly uphill, which was hard for my little-motored tuk-tuk. The roads wound through lush, green jungle hills, spotted with small houses and villages. The Buddha has not been there long–the base is still under construction, but tuk-tuks, tour busses and vans crowd the tiny roads and billboards, pointing the way to The Buddha, line the street. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the people living there. Their quiet way of life is now interrupted by a parade of charter busses that pollute their neighborhoods with noise.
The Buddha was definitely worth the visit. Having seen a few Buddhas on previous trips, it’s hard not to compare. It definitely does not compare to the sensational Buddha in Hong Kong (but does anything compare to that? Wow!!). But the drive up was delightful, as was the view.
There were numerous elephant trekking companies on the way up, so on the way down, I stopped to take a few pictures of the baby elephants. Before I knew it, I had paid the 100 bahts to feed bananas to the elephants. For me, this is stepping out of my comfort zone.
I appreciate animals, but I’m typically not one to frolic around with any kind of animal–dogs, cats included. So, having three hungry elephants with their trunks all reaching toward me was quite an experience.
On my way back to the hotel, my driver stopped at a gem store, the typical tourist trap. The driver has an arrangement with a store and gets a percentage of what I spend. I’m familiar with the routine. In India, I was taken to see marble artwork, rug making. In Thailand, the touristy-must-haves are gems. I walked in, told the worker that I was not looking for anything, and walked immediately through to the back exit where I found my driver. He looked startled to see me so soon, but he took me back to the hotel.
It might be a quieter Phuket than what others want, but for me, it’s just perfect.