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  • Writer's pictureLulu Gibbons

Thailand Tour: Day 3

The free day, as you would expect, allowed us to do whatever we desired in Phuket – why not have a massage with a ‘happy ending’? at breakfast I thought why not embrace being in Asia and got crazy and have a chickpea curry for breakfast. This went down very well, a long with a tonne of Watermelon. Now when I say a tone I really mean I probably had about half a watermelon the amount that I ate – it is quickly becoming my favourite thing to eat. When we were done we meandered our way to the lobby where Chamani and a few of the other group members were trying to sort out their plans for the day. I had spread an idea around a bit yesterday of going to visit the famous Big Buddah and some of the temples in Phuket as it would be a sin not to whilst I was here. Originally Nina and I were wanting to go to an elephant sanctuary to wash and walk with elephants, however it seems that this sort of establishment is hard to come by in Phuket ( more common in Chaing Mai) and only those based on cruelty through trekking dominate. So the plan was that there would be 2 mini busses for the day – going out all day and one only half the day. I chose the full day which was until 5 as we then had to be back in time to go to our Thai cooking classes later. I had also wanted to go to a waterfall today but unfortunately the one to go to was going north and we were going south.

So 12 of us climbed into our bus, driven by the wonderful ‘ Wat’ and we set off to the Big Buddah. The weather as we left was glorious and sunny yet unfortunately this was not to last. Only once we had actually gotten out of the mini van did the heavens open and boy did the open! Within minutes I was soaked right through with my clothes clinging to every inch of my body – bad day to wear denim dungarees. Yet this did not dampen our spirit ( if you pardon the pun!) up the steps we went towards the magnificent viewpoint that we'd seen so many photos of on sunny days. The thing is, when it rains the cloud comes down the hill side, so the tremendous view that we received was in face a blanket of grey, who knows how far it went? We embraced the rain at took some photos with the Buddah and went for a explore through the temple hi h the Buddah sat. Once we were satisfied with the amount of grey that we'd seen, although it was starting to lift so now silhouettes of the the city below could be seen, we headed on down the steps. Here the was a little shop and the opportunity it be blessed by a monk, which a few people did.

Back again with Wat, we took a short journey down the steep winding road, that I now see characterise Phuket, to an elephant stall on the side of the road. I was not expecting what I saw, yet I'm surprised that so many tourists are blind to it. Here you could ride the elephants or just pay 100 THB to feed them and have them kiss you with their trunks. Apparently it was all happy clappy everyone else's eyes, oblivious to the fact that these majestic creatures had had their tusks taken off and front two legs chained together. If not chained at the front, they had their back leg contained within a chain no longer that 2 metres preventing them from even reaching the water trough, which they were quite clearly trying to drink from. Then even on top of this, when they were finally allowed to walk with a human on their back, this human was perched on a seat mounted on the poor creature with a harness going under their tail (and right up the arse) which could not have possibly been half way to comfortable, especially when nature calls . . . This made me uncharacteristically emotional, I'm not usually one to cry in such instances but really this was too much and I had to just go else where. After the 3 that chose to partake in the 30 minute ride we back we were back in the minivan on to the next stop of Wat Chalong.

This is a group of temples not far from the Buddah that are another of the tourist hotspots. This was a really beautiful place to be, the 6 or so temples were exquisitely designed and decorated and beautifully kept. No shoes are allowed in any of the temples, helping to maintain the level of quality by heavily reducing the dirt inside to virtually none. The walls were painted top to toe with the most divine and brightly coloured paintings and all the hand rails of the stairs and the door frames were intricately carved – when it comes to temples, the Buddists really know what they're doing! We made our way around the all temples climbing up to the top of one for a beautiful view, then back in the van again to our final stop. This was accessed for us via another really fantastic viewpoint. I couldn't tell you exactly where this was or what part of the ocean I was looking over, but none the less beyond stunning. Yet again, many photos were taken as we gazed upon the the never ending water.

The final stop for us was to a beach called Nei Harn. Now as soon as I arrived here I knew that this was a spot that my mum ( shoutout to you) would love and one day I'll take her. We were there at a perfect time of day from 3-4pm when the sun was on its way down but still just as brilliant. The wind was perfect so that it cooled us down to a point where my body temperate could not be described as anything other than peachy. As we hadn't actually eaten yet, for some of the group a bee line to food was all that could be done. Nina, Ema and I along with a few others walked down the beach for a brief while where we stopped in a little shop selling generic Thailand clothing goods. A the owner then walked in carrying a bowl of cut mango, me and Nina’s heads popped up, looking at each other we both knew what had to be done. The source of this woman's snack came from a man in the other side of the path set up on a bike with a stall. We both requested a bowl of mango which he hacked up there and then in less than a minute. The best thing though was that it cost a mere 20 THB a bowl, less that 50p for some of the best mango I've ever munched!! This was perfect to satisfy us as we were not in a position for a full meal as soon we would go to our cooking class ( which me and Nina now realised was slightly overpriced and no longer wished to go to). We took our bowls of happiness towards the beach and sat in the sun looking over the beach and sea with warm wind blowing through our hair. Bliss is what one could call this. We went for a short paddle before heading back to the van for our final journey back to the hotel as we were under strict instruction from Chamani to leave the beach at 4.

Back at the hotel I only had enough time to slip off my (still damp) dungarees before yet were hoarded onto a tuk tuk to ‘Pum’s Cooking School’. We had a short intro to Thai cooking and the 4 flavours they use; sweet, sour, spicy and salty. When our teacher had finished we were told to wash hands and suit up into aprons. The 20 of us all had our own individual stations with all the ingredients ready and waiting for us when we arrived. First up was a veggie stir fry (including chicken for all else). When that had been gobbled down and the kitchens reset during a demonstration of massaman curry paste making, we were on to make the curry itself (sans chicken again for the veggie). This was really tasty, especially when you drowned your rice in the sauce. The concern I was having at this point was I was already pretty full ( but wanting to finish the curry) and we still had another dish to make! The final dish was a noodle and veggie stir fry (those wanting to help the planet omit the shrimps/chicken) which annoyingly, due to the fullness of my stomach, was also delicious. I wanted to finish, but it just couldn’t be done! What stuck me about this way of cooking is that it is all remarkably quick and very simple. Provided you have the ingredients and said curry paste prepared, the dishes all took a matter of minutes to cook. When everyone was done they then brought out dessert! This was some sort of coconut soup with chunks of banana which I didn't mind passing on. Nina and I has the misfortune to have the company of the drunkard himself, Logan, for the dinner – yet it was not all bad as he ended up leaving after the first course!

As it was our last night in Phuket, tonight was to be the group party night, where we all headed out to the famous (apparently) Bangala Road. There was a special arrangement with the club we were going to and Contiki giving us and open bar for 800 THB each. I suspected that I wouldn't even be able to drink that amount worth of single drinks and neither did Nina so intended not to partake. However upon arrival we realised this was a bad decision as the singular drinks were much more than we had anticipated so decided to club together and share one persons worth of open bar. We had a whale of a time dancing about and when we decided that our beds were calling, we made our way out. This was met was met with great surprise as the drizzle we had experienced on the way into the club had now developed into torrential rain and I was yet again drenched in a matter of seconds. Alas we had to get home so walk we must! Somehow we came across a charming man with a spare umbrella (couldn't do much for me now though) that let us borrow it to walk home as he accompanied us. I was convinced that we were going the wrong way but we continued anyway – turned out he knew his home town better than I did. Back in our room and soaked we flopped into bed ready for our day of travel in the morning.



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