2009 World Cruise – It rained again. I wrote in my journal, “I am getting heartily sick of rain. Surely it is time for some sunshine. I think we have had six sunny ports-of-call so far.” But we were not lucky enough for sunshine in Phuket, Thailand.The good news though is: I GOT TO RIDE AN ELEPHANT! How awesome is that? So much fun. If I actually had such a thing as a Bucket List riding an elephant and a camel would be on it. (The camel ride had to wait until our trip to Australia in 2011 – very short ride around a paddock – but a much longer one into the Sahara Desert on our Grand Mediterranean Cruise in 2012). So…Check. Check.
We had a day at sea after leaving Singapore and it was St. Patrick’s Day. The decorating crew did another bang-up job for our Emerald Isle formal night with an Irish inspired menu at dinner.
Our wine steward, Ceasar, even found John some Guinness; it was bottled in Singapore so tasted slightly different, but John was pleased to have it.
Phuket is an island off the coast of Thailand. It is the largest island of Thailand (810 sq kilometers or 503 sq. miles), the most populated, and the most visited. The island revolves around and thrives on tourists from Asia and Europe. There are six direct flights per day from Scandinavia and five flights per day from France in the high summer holiday months. The island has a population of about 500,000 and hosts 6 million tourists per year! The west coast of the island has all the beautiful beaches and luxury hotels. We were docked on the east side which is more tropical forest and small villages. The port allows the docking of ship of a maximum length of 210 meters (690′) and the Rotterdam is 240 meters (780′) so the captain had to get special permission to tie up – but not at the dock below.From the pier we drove north through the Chalong Highlands to Bukit Safari which is an elephant sanctuary but also trains monkeys to harvest coconuts and has traditional ox-carts you can go for a ride in. When we arrived we had a demonstration of how latex is harvested from rubber trees.
The Mukat (Pigtail) monkey show was very entertaining and we got a real appreciation for the dexterity and intelligence of these little critters.
It is important to do your exercises to warm up before work. The monkeys (males only) are trained to climb the palms and twist off the coconuts so they fall to the ground to be picked up. For our demonstration the monkey also loaded the coconuts into a cart and pushed it over to the trainer so he could show us how they split the coconuts.
This was a fellow in our tour group who volunteered to be tied up so the monkey could untie him.
After the ‘work’ demo we were treated to a few tricks. This baby elephant is 6 years old and she can dance, bow, play the harmonica and paint with water colours.
We got the opportunity to feed her some cucumber chunks and bananas.A short ride in an ox-cart around the grounds was next. While we waited for our turn to ride the elephants John sat on this big water buffalo.
We climbed a platform and stepped off onto a bench on the back of an elephant; two persons per bench. Then a group of seven elephants (there were 14 altogether so we were in a rotation) took off to do the walk through the jungle. There were four buses of tourists at the safari so the elephants had a busy day.
It wasn’t long after we set off that the rain began and umbrellas were handed round. When we had gone about half way on our 30-minute ride on the rugged up and down trail our guide stopped the elephant, hopped down and asked for my camera so he could take some photos for us. Then he asked me if I wanted get off the bench and sit on the neck while we walked on further. Well, yes, of course I did! The visit to Bukit Safari ended with a Thai cooking demonstration and a delicious lunch. By the time we got back to the ship at 3 the rain had stopped and it was sunny and hot. We wandered through the dockside bazaar for a little while, then went aboard for dinner.
The ship sailed at 11 pm. Thailand was our last port-of-call in Southeast Asia. We sailed for three days before arriving at our first of two stops in India; Cochin. Following a full day in Cochin we spent two days in Mumbai. The first day in Mumbai we left the ship at 7 am and flew to Agra to visit the Taj Mahal.