Photos from Day 2 in Phuket. If you want to read the dirty details, scroll below the pics. Click any image to start a slideshow.
Day 2 on Phuket started out with wander around Kata to find some breakfast. Eventually I settle on a ham sandwich and iced latte. Prices for everything are definitely higher than I expected, which means that breakfast is about $8 instead of more like $5. Not a monster difference, but slightly disappointing that my American money isnt going farther. Kata (and Phuket in general) is very touristy, which no doubt drives the price up for everything. I am sure there are places to eat off of the main drag that arent quite as pricey.
I stopped by a tourist kiosk to find out about some day trips in the area. Phang Nga bay looks nice, and includes a trip to James Bond Island (an island featured in The Man With The Golden Gun). I have done similar trips like these, and they arent my ideal way to spend an entire day. It isnt super cheap either- about $60 for the day. Not exactly an obscene amount of money, but enough to give me pause and think about it.
I am much more interested in scootering around anyway. While I was in Vietnam this was by far my favorite thing to do in any area (outside of the big cities) that I visited. Get a scooter, strap on the helmet, and just cruise. The scooter price is much more reasonable than a day long excursion- $13 for 2 days. After a short internal debate about what to do, I decide a scooter is by far the best option for me.
I trade my passport and $13 for a scooter key, helmet and scooter. It needs gas, so I zip off to find the nearest gas station. In Thailand, you drive on the "other" side of the road- on the left side. Within the first few minutes, this definitely causes me a few panic attacks and two semi-near accidents (nothing that close or that serious). Within seconds of scootering, I am in heaven. It only takes a minute to feel far away from tourist heaven along the beaches of Phuket.
Before too long the gas station is in site. I line up with the other scooters, and soon make it to the front of the line. Here there is an attendant to take your money and fill your tank. I dont know how to "order" gas- you either say how much money in gas you want to buy or the volume. I honestly dont know which one, so I give him $250 bhat (about $8). He gives me a confused look, and starts filling the tank. Turns out the scooter fills up after $150 bhat ($5ish dollars). So I have a scooter and a full tank of gas- time to go exploring.
There are signs for a "Big Buddha", which seems like a great place to start. I had seen a large buddha statue perched up on a mountain on my first day, so it must be that. The arrows take me off the main road, and soon it is a winding road up a mountain. Along the way, there are all sorts of Tourist Activities. Bird Show! Paint Ball! Elephant Rides!
Before too long I spot my first Elephants, just feet from the road. They are really beautiful animals. I have also seen "Apology to Elephants", so I am aware of how shitty their lives are in captivity. The elephants are swaying back and forth and bobbing their head, which evidently they do while in captivity. They are animals that roam around a lot naturally, so when they are chained up they rock back and forth. It is sad that these huge animals are locked up, but I am not going to be stopping the elephant tourist activities unfortunately.
On my way to the Big Buddha, I spot several more elephant stops. It is still weird to see a half dozen elephants just chilling right off the road. I dont even ask about how much riding an elephant costs, because I am guessing it is expensive and even if I cant save these guys I dont need to help exploit them either.
After another few minutes making it up the mountain, the Big Buddha is in sight. It really is massive- a huge marble statue perched atop this mountain. I wander around, and see my first monkey. Unfortunately, this girl is chained up around the neck. This will likely be a theme during my travels- exotic animals chained up for tourist purposes. The money is on top of an employees head, combing his hair for bugs (an activity that monkeys do to each other). I have always been fascinated by monkeys, so this close encounter is amazing and sad. Amazing to pet a monkey and sad to see it chained up.
I head inside, past all of the touristy items for sale. Then I spot an old monk tying bracelets on people and tapping their head with water- some sort of blessing. THIS is something I can get behind. I wait in the short line, have the monk tie a bracelet on my wrist and splash some water on my head and arm. I put a $20 bhat (about $0.80) into the donation box as a thanks.
The Big Buddha is a short stair climb to the top. It is a pretty cool site- and also provides some regularly seen irony in 3rd world countries. The inside/ base of the statue is right in the middle of a massive construction effort. The buddha itself is finished, but the interior is FAR from done. There is concrete everywhere, and I have no clue what the finished product will look like.
After wandering around a bit and enjoying the sites, I head back down to Wat Chandon- a local large temple. It is only a few kilometers away, and I find it easily. This is a pretty cool temple facility with several structures. It is nothing massive or overly impressive, but worth checking out.
I finish off my scootering by getting some food back near the beach. I head back to my hotel, pretty tired from the day. It is about 4 pm, so I decide to lay down for what I expect to be a short nap before heading back out. Clearly I did not take my own "avoid jet lag" advice, as I am asleep for hours before waking up in the dark. Oops. Oh well- I am still tired so might as well catch up on plenty of sleep to be ready for the next week of activities.
Advice for the day- when in doubt, get a scooter!
Scooter (2 days): $12
Monk bracelet: $1