Thursday – Day 16
Today we are taking a tour of Phuket because everyone (except me) is leaving by Friday evening. I got up at 6am showered ate and waited for the tour bus to arrive. I put this together on short notice because we decided to take one day off so that Gene could see a little more of Thailand since he was only able to spend 1 week here.
The tour lasted about 7 hrs and was only $28 per person. The tour bus picks you up at your hotel and starts with a trip to The Big Buddha.
Phuket’s Big Buddha is one of the island’s most important and revered landmarks. The huge project was started about 10 years ago and sits 400 meters (1300 ft) above sea level, high atop of the Nakkerd Hills . The statue itself is 45 meters (147 ft) high and cost $1 million dollars to build, all from private donations.
It is a nice and scenic drive up a six-kilometer (3.7 mi) road leading to the top of the mountain from Phuket’s main artery. While it does offer a beautiful view of the surrounding area it is sometimes hard to see because of the cloud cover due to the high altitude. Since this was our first time there, I don’t know if it’s always like this or not. Still the statue and temples were very nice and I picked up a few souvenirs while we were there.
After a few hours of looking around we decided it was time to go on the the next tour stop. As we headed out to the van it started raining. On my many trips, this is really the first time that I’ve seen it rain in Thailand.
About half way down the mountain the rain stopped as we headed to the next stop which was Chalong temple (Wat Chalong). Chalong temple is the largest of Phuket’s temples, and the most visited. Locals and many Thai tourists come to pray and pay respects to several revered monks who were the founders of Wat Chalong,. The monks were well known for herbal medicine and took care of local villagers.
Wat Chalong is a big place, with several buildings including the main temple, with statues of the monks where people can pray, apply gold leaf to the statues, light incense and candles etc… There is another building with a tall tower, in which one finds painted walls with scenes from the life of Buddha and many Buddha images. At the top of the tower is what is said to be a fragment of bone of The Buddha himself. There is also a small market place where you can purchase many souvenirs to take with you.
Last on the list was a Cashew factory. This was really just a con job to get people to buy bags and cans of cashews. There really wasn’t much to see just a few old cashew nut crackers behind glass and a huge shop selling all kinds of cashews and flavors. Spicy chili, green onion, wasabi, honey, salted, nori (seaweed), butter, chocolate and a few others were all out for you to sample and buy. But, I have to admit they were good and most people bought some.
Lastly we stopped at a nice little outdoor restaurant for a late lunch before heading back to the hotel.
My wife, her mother and friend are heading back to her parents home in central Thailand tonight. Gene has 1 more day and on Saturday I am heading out to the Philippines for 2 weeks of training.