2009 World Cruise – Mar 18 – Day 72 – Phuket,Thailand

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.2009-03-18_1217The 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.2009-03-17_1239 2009-03-17_1241 2009-03-17_1240 2009-03-17_1243 2009-03-17_1245 2009-03-17_1246

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.2009-03-18_1072From 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.2009-03-18_1076 2009-03-18_1079 2009-03-18_1080When we arrived we had a demonstration of how latex is harvested from rubber trees.

2009-03-18_1084 2009-03-18_1085 2009-03-18_1090 2009-03-18_1091The Mukat (Pigtail) monkey show was very entertaining and we got a real appreciation for the dexterity and intelligence of these little critters.

2009-03-18_1093 2009-03-18_1097It is important to do your exercises to warm up before work.2009-03-18_1099 2009-03-18_1102The monkeys (males only) are trained to climb the palms and twist off the coconuts so they fall to the ground to be picked up.2009-03-18_1104 2009-03-18_1105 2009-03-18_1106 2009-03-18_1117 2009-03-18_1118For 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.

2009-03-18_1122 2009-03-18_11232009-03-18_1128This was a fellow in our tour group who volunteered to be tied up so the monkey could untie him.

2009-03-18_1129 2009-03-18_1130 2009-03-18_1136 2009-03-18_1139 2009-03-18_1140After the ‘work’ demo we were treated to a few tricks.2009-03-18_1141 2009-03-18_1143 2009-03-18_1144 2009-03-18_1147 2009-03-18_1151 2009-03-18_1153_edited-1 2009-03-18_1156This baby elephant is 6 years old and she can dance, bow, play the harmonica and paint with water colours.

2009-03-18_1161 2009-03-18_1163 2009-03-18_1171 2009-03-18_1175We got the opportunity to feed her some cucumber chunks and bananas.2009-03-18_117820090317_1036A short ride in an ox-cart around the grounds was next.2009-03-18_1183 2009-03-18_1189 2009-03-18_1193_edited-1 2009-03-18_1185 2009-03-18_1195While we waited for our turn to ride the elephants John sat on this big water buffalo.

2009-03-18_1198 2009-03-18_1199We 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! 2009-03-18_1214 2009-03-18_1219_edited-2 2009-03-18_1220 2009-03-18_1223 2009-03-18_1230The 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.

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