The alarm went off at 7 a.m. and I was asleep at the time. That always makes me feel groggy.
Still, we made it down to a rather desultory breakfast, ready for our pickup at the revised time of 8.50.
About 10 minutes later, our minibus arrived, piloted by Peter and led by our very genial guide, Udon. We were a party of 9, all Brits.
Udon regaled us with some facts about Phuket. 60 kilometres long, 25 kilometres wide, with a base population of around 300,000. I have to say, it seems bigger than that to me. Phuket has its own dialect, and the inhabitants are a real melting pot of races, colours and creeds. It’s a very vibrant place. It was relatively unknown until discovered by American servicemen on their way back from Vietnam.
For years, Phuket was exploited as a source of tin. Udon told various stories, possibly apocryphal, about how the locals fought the Chinese for the mining rights, and won out in the end a) because they had Buddha on their side from the local temple b) the Chinese were incapable of putting up resistance after lunch as they were under the influence of opium. Make of that what you will.
Our first stop after about half an hour was the Big Buddha. They weren’t kidding. It’s enormous.
An absolutely amazing and spiritual place.
Next stop was the huge temple complex at Chalong Bay. There were a lot of construction works going on which detracted from the ambience somewhat, but this was also an astonishing experience.
This is the rather peculiar ritual of shaking sticks in front of Buddha statues. Whatever falls out is/are your lucky number(s). Jean ended up with Number 11.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get very long here; we could have done with some more time at Big Buddha also.
On our way, then, to a cashew nut factory. This was not uninteresting, but I felt it was a sales opportunity, as we were pressured into buying products. It’s a very labour-intensive process – one cashew fruit produces only one nut. The nuts have to be carefully washed before further processing, as they are surrounded by a toxic, acidic sap.
We did actually purchase some products. The nut brittle was particularly moreish…..
Next up was the oldest house in Phuket, built around 1903 and owned by a wealthy family, who still live upstairs. It seems to be used as a wedding venue these days.
From here, ’twas but a short journey to Phuket Old Town.
By now, we were both in need of a coffee, so we went café-hunting. We found one such, and had a few minutes just enjoying the sit. Again, we had very little time here.
The final stop, to my bitter disappointment, was to a pearl factory. This really was a naked and aggressive sales operation. I suppose we have to put up with this to keep the cost of the tour down, but I detest it. Jean showed some interest and almost immediately, the item was on her wrist/neck. She did not succumb.
This all left a rather sour taste in the mouth.
Anyway, it was back to the hotel after that. We were last to be dropped off at least an hour later.
Jean had not yet had The Paddle, an essential addition to any seaside sojourn. After a restorative beer, we set off as the sun was setting, walking along the still very crowded beach.
For the first (and probably last) time, we ate out! There are plenty of restaurants around here, and we chose a promising looking one.
It wasn’t half bad. Food was excellent, the wine average and the G&T not chilled enough, but the whole lot cost us less than thirty quid. I’ll take that (and, at time of writing, no ill-effects).
We walked the short distance back to the hotel and took a couple of pictures from the balcony before retiring for the night.
Nothing planned for tomorrow apart from packing – it’s our last full day ☹️. Hopefully there’ll be something to report.