Sunday, April 18, 2010

Phuket Day 3: Katong, Kata and Chalong Temple

{Katong Beach}

Today we went for a tour around Phuket, which is only about 45km from north to south. After a wonderful buffet breakfast at our hotel, with all the bells and whistles, we walked down Patong beach to find a taxi to take us around. It only cost about 800THB (R200) to hire one for about 4 hours and we got to do our own private tour around the island. First we went to Katong & Kata beach, which were just a little south from Patong, as absolutely stunning. The water was much bluer and cleaner than Patong and each of the towns were cleaner, less busy and more upmarket. It was definitely a place we would stay if we ever got the chance to go back to Thailand.

{Kata Beach}

Once we had looked around a bit we went off to one of Phuket’s biggest elephant farms. It looked very well run and maintained, especially compared to some of the farms that we saw later. You can do 1 hour, 1 day or 3 day elephant treks into the surrounding jungle. The Indian elephants were so docile and you can see that they have been bred and used for many generations in Asia. The highlight was getting to feed a 1 year old calf called Peemai with bananas that we bought. He was so cute and took the bananas right out of our hands with his trunk.

{Baby Peemai}

{Honeymoon Hut - thought this was quite funny}

Then it was off to Chalong Temple or Wat Chalong is the largest and most ornate Buddhist monastery in Phuket. The first thing we noticed when we drove in was all the beautiful gold leaf and richly detailed carvings on the outside of the temple and surrounding buildings. The next was all the stray dogs, which are taken to the temples when their owners don’t want them anymore and left for the monks to feed, which they do.

{Chalong Temple}

{Detail on the Temple}

As a sign of respect the Monks as that when entering a temple you cover as much skin as possible out of respect, so Rudi and I put on our long sleeved tops and pants, in spite of the sweltering heat, before we entered the temple. We nearly died of the heat, but felt proud that we were respecting customs. Only to discover that we were the only ones. Everyone else there didn’t really seem to care and walked around in strappy tops and shorts. Anyway, what could we do? So, we just enjoyed the beauty of the place.

{Inside the Temple}


{Stairs up to the roof}

{The gardens}

{More detail}

{The Grand Pagoda which is said to contain a sliver of Lord Buddha’s bone}

{Building that holds statues of monks and relics along with personal belongings like their robes}

Once we had finished looking around the Temple we went into one of the other buildings, which is a shrine to the three respected monks of Luang Poh Cham, and which contained three gold leaf covered statues of the monks. There were many people making offerings to these monks and asking for blessings by writing their request on a piece of paper, pressing it to a statue so that some of the gold leaf stuck to the paper and then placing them in little urns around the monks.

{Statues of the three monks}

{Outside people had also written notes and tied them to the trees}

One of the things we found interesting is that every 15 minutes or so someone would light a sting of firecrackers inside a beehive shaped structure. It made one hell of a noise and we couldn’t understand what the significance of it was. We asked our driver and he explained that it was a way of showing gratitude for a prayer being answered and for good luck.

From the temple we were heading pack to Patong beach through Phuket Town, but our taxi driver had other ideas and insisted on dropping us off at these huge duty free shops along the road. Most were filled with jewellery and while there were a number of things I’d like to have bought, we weren’t really there to show. We later discovered that our driver was getting kick-backs from the stores and for every tourist he brought there that actually bought something he’d get a t-shirt and who knows what else.

Back at our hotel that afternoon we decided it was finally time to go for a swim in that very warm sea. The water was really toasty and not very refreshing, so we have that up as a bad idea and instead headed back to our hotel for a dip in their pool. Sitting around listening to the rest of the guests at the pool we realised that about 80% of the people there were South African.

{Evening on the verana}

We went for cocktails at the hotel restaurant at sunset and then took a stole down beach road. I was feeling a bit funny after my cocktail (it was made with real coconut milk and I think it was a bit rich) so we headed off to McDonalds for a burger (which tastes exactly like it does here. Ah, the wonders of MSGs).

{Sunset & the thunder clouds rolling in}

We were pretty tired from out day out so we decided to go back to the hotel and ended up watching The Brothers Bloom (a really cute indie movie) on tv and then went to bed early.

{More of the sunset & the moon}

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