Temples and Elephants in Phuket, Thailand

We tendered (using the ship’s life boats) from the Queen Mary 2 to a makeshift dock made up of a series of floating pontoons and gangplanks about 500 feet long.  It was raining, so it was slippery footing along the dock way but we were all anxious to start our adventure; so on we went to meet the buses. Thank goodness for air conditioning because both the heat and humidity were very high.

Pontoon docks from the tender station to the shore

On our drive we learned that Phuket is an island off the west coast of Thailand, which is known for its production of tin and rubber resources.  The interesting fact is that the rubber plants are not native to Thailand, but, after being discovered in Brazil by the British, then cultivated at Kew Gardens in London, they were introduced to Siam (former name for Thailand) by the British and provided most of the world’s supply of rubber prior to WWII.  Today, Phuket’s major source of income is from tourism.

Our first stop was the Wat Chalong Monastery, which is the largest of Phuket’s Buddhist monasteries.  It was still raining, so please excuse our lack of blue skies.




 

Next we visited the Island Safari Park where we had a number of experiences and interactions.  We were met at the buses by a series of oxcarts, which took us into the plantation with our first stop being the beautiful outdoor kitchen for a Thai cooking class.

 

Beautiful kitchen in the middle of the woods.

 

Thai cooking class.


This was followed by a photo op aboard a water buffalo that they use in the rice fields.


Then we climbed the mounting platform to take our elephant ride. We were not sure what to expect as we stepped on the elephant’s neck before taking a seat on her back, with our legs dangling in front of her shoulders. A metal bar was latched in front of us so we could not fall out, and we departed on our slowly rocking journey down a road, along a stream bed, up a moderately steep hill, stopping to pose for pictures and then returned to ground. Along the route, Mary Jane dropped her rain jacket, right into a big mud puddle.  Our elephant (Honey) immediately put her trunk down and picked up the jacket and returned it to the handler, who wiped off the mud for me.  Needless to say, Honey earned her extra bananas.

 

 

 

Barb and Barbara

 

Barbara feeds the elephant a banana.


The Asian elephant is smaller than its African cousin and its skin is more mottled in color.  Many of the handlers had worked with the same animal for years.  The drivers used their bare feet and a sharp, metal-hooked pole to guide and control the gentle beasts, who did not mind hauling us around and begging for treats (small bananas) along the way. It was all great fun and quite a wonderful way to view the world.

We had a short monkey show and then climbed the hill to see the elephant show. The two elephants they used for the show were relatively young (one was 4 and one was 10), but very agile at throwing darts at the balloons, kicking the soccer ball through the goal posts, and even running down the court to throw the ball at the basketball hoop.  Then the audience was asked to participate as the elephant gave them a back massage with its massive foot and then gave kisses with its trunk.  It was fun to see, and lots of laughs for us all.

 


 


Back on the bus to take us for a lovely lunch at the beautiful Radisson Hotel, which was just completed about a year ago.  The buffet had a definite Thai flavor, which I enhanced with some extra hot sauce.  That really set my mouth on fire, but it was yummy.

 

 

 


After lunch we had the mandatory shopping stop, but then back to the harbor, hopefully to arrive before the rain started again.  We were not in time, but we decided to make our way to the floating pontoons so we could catch a tender back to the ship.  We started onto the pontoons and had made good progress when we saw a monsoon squall that was so fierce that the Queen Mary 2 actually disappeared from view for a minute or so.  The rain was intense and a number of passengers (including MJ and CJ) were on one of the pontoons when it began to sink.  MJ was at one end and CJ was in the middle.  MJ was able to get to the next pontoon, but CJ had to back track to a previous pontoon.  It was scarier after we knew what had happened than during, but a whole bunch of us could have ended up in the water.  Luckily, everything got righted and the people were able to get the faulty pontoon to float again and all was well.

Then they used a local ferryboat to take us back to the ship because it had a much bigger capacity to move the people quickly.  Both CJ and I were on it, and when it was trying to get up close to the QM2 to unload everyone, it smashed into the tender platform and cracked the hull.  Carolyn was sitting one row up from the smash.  The hull cracked all the way through into the inside of the ferry.

Needless to say we were all drenched by the time we boarded the ship, though we managed to save the cameras from damage from the downpour thanks to a LL Bean rain slicker.  Hot showers and a refreshing coke hit the spot after all our adventures in Phuket.

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3 Responses to “Temples and Elephants in Phuket, Thailand”

  1. Absolutely loved the pictures of all of you on the elephants. Looks like you had quite an adventure. Glad you all escaped being dunked in the water!

  2. Hi everyone, what an experience.
    Now you can do a commercial for L L Bean! Glad you got back safely. Barbara M

  3. Scott Campbell April 2, 2011 at 10:34 pm

    Love the pictures , Barb looks right at home with all the animals. Stay safe and love the blog! Thank you for taking your time to update , as we are traveling with you in spirt! Love to all! and thanks again .. Scott & Mug’s

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