Island Hopping @ Phi Phi Islands Pt 2

If you’re ever in Phuket or Krabi, don’t miss out on island hopping around Phi Phi Islands by speedboat. The scenery is amazing! You really have to see it to believe it – even photos don’t do it justice.

There were too many pictures so I divided them into before and after lunch . Read the first part : here 

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We spent a wonderful morning swimming at the lagoon in Koh Phi Phi Ley and looking at monkeys on Monkey Beach. On to the next part of the itinerary (a very important one) : Lunch! Our afternoon meal was at Koh Phi Phi Don, the largest. main island in the Phi Phi archipelago and the only one with people on it, around 3,000

I was surprised to learn that the name (pronounced Pee Pee – hold it with the jokes there, folks) comes from Malay, not Thai : Pulau Api-Api (Fire Islands), due to the numerous pokok api-api (mangrove trees) found throughout the island. Predominantly Muslim, it is long thought to be one of the oldest  communities in Thailand.

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The beach was lined with speedboats. We docked, and our guide, Johnny, told us to be back in an hour. We walked across the sand to a canteen area where food was served, buffet style.

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The noon sun was high up in the sky, and the canteen was hot. The beach view was mostly hidden by tall palm trees and various shrubs.

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Decent food. 🙂 There was spaghetti with tomato sauce, chicken in a savoury sauce and fried fish nuggets. The meal was included in our tour package.

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Still had some time, so we went to take some hipster shots on the beach.

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Even though everything looks fine and calm now, Phi Phi Don has seen it’s share of disaster in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. More than a 1,000 people died, swept away by massive tidal waves. The infrastructure was also almost completely destroyed. Although the island has rebuilt itself as a tourist haven once again, locals hold a memorial every year to honour the departed, and as a reminder that the sea can be both provider and taker.

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After our meal, we had to get some exercise in. The boat stopped somewhere near another island, and we went snorkeling.

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I couldn’t take any pictures, which was a shame because the views underwater were so pretty! There were all sorts of corals and creatures on the seabed, and the water was so clear that the sunlight shone straight to the bottom.  Our guide gave us snorkeling masks, and we literally went swimming with the fishes  (in a less sinister sense, of course). I saw an electric blue one with yellow stripes and a fat pink one. 😀 The mask wasn’t good though, coz it kept slipping and salt water would get into my nose and eyes.

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Our final stop on the tour was Khai Island, which was like a pitstop for everyone out island hopping. The beach was busy with tourists; with some sitting on lazy chairs under rented umbrellas and others playing in whatever space there was between the speed boats (which was not a lot). There were many stalls selling food and snacks. Be prepared to pay a heftier price though.

After all, it is a tourist place.

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We were attracted to the smell of food fresh off the grille – squid, shrimp, lobsters, sausages, fish wrapped in foil and chicken wings. Couldn’t resist, even though we already had lunch…

The chicken wings were perfectly done, but they cost 150B (!) (Rm17 – enough for a full KFC meal back in KL). We also had fresh, springy squid that came with tangy fish sauce.

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Went swimming for a bit. Scraped knees on rocks and hard sand. Some irresponsible tourists threw garbage into the sea.. almost cut myself on a piece of broken glass from a beer bottle.

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The sky turned dark around 4.30pm, so it was time for us to head back to Phuket (a 40min ride).

All in all, it was a great tour and value for money at only 1400 B – including shuttle pickup, lunch, fresh fruits and cola. And the view of the vivid blue sea and dark green islands will definitely take your breath away.

Now that’s what I call a holiday! 🙂

Island Hopping @ Phi Phi Islands, Thailand Pt 1

If you’ve ever watched The Beach (starring a still baby-faced Leonardo Di Caprio), you’ll remember the breathtaking shots of pristine blue waters and soft white sand surrounded by limestone green hills. They were shot at the (now rather commercialised) Phi Phi Islands, off the coast of Phuket and Krabi. Having come all the way here, there was no way we were going to miss island hopping and seeing  the beautiful beaches for ourselves!

H & I had arranged for our hotel to book an island tour for us on Sunday morning. It cost us 1400B (RM167 / USD39).  The shuttle bus arrived to pick us up at 8am sharp. It was a 40 minute ride to the coast, where three other tour groups were waiting to be taken to the islands via speed boat. We had to wear different coloured strings so we knew which guide to follow.

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While waiting for other guests to arrive, we sat in the shade on plastic chairs. This super friendly doggy came up to us and demanded to be petted. She was so cute! Whenever we stopped petting her, she’d put up a paw and pat us, like ‘Why did you stop?’ She eventually dozed off to sleep and H couldn’t move her foot.

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There was a safety briefing, and the tour guides will try to sell you stuff like waterproof phone cases and flippers, which they said were to protect your feet from sea urchins. They cost 100B to rent. I would not recommend getting them coz it was a waste of money – I ended up not using them at all because they were bulky and difficult to swim around in. The water is so deep when you go snorkelling that you wouldn’t be able to touch the bottom anyway.

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And off we went! The speed boat sliced noisily across the water. The weather, unlike the day before where it rained all day, was sunny and bright – perfect for island hopping. We were in the boat with about 15 other tourists, mostly white men. H & I were the only two Asian girls and it was a little awkward being surrounded by beefy dudes with tatts. They gave us water and cola to drink, because the ride was one hour long.

Our guide called himself Johnny, ‘like the pirate!’ he chuckled. He was very helpful throughout the trip and liked to make jokes.

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I couldn’t believe how rich the colours were. Not that we don’t have islands in Malaysia, but everything here was just so… vivid. The sky was a clear light blue, which contrasted with the sea’s deep sapphire. Sandwiched in the middle were fluffy white clouds.

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If this scene looks familiar, that’s because this is the place where Leo and gang shot The Beach. The dark and imposing mountains with steep cliffs loomed over the sea like slumbering giants, casting shadows on the boats. In the movie, it was digitally altered to include more mountains, and the beaches were ‘flattened’ to make it more paradise-like… that beats me. It already looked like paradise to me.

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Koh Phi Phi Ley island is the second largest among the cluster that make up Phi Phi Islands. Our boat entered through a narrow opening into a lagoon, surrounded on all sides by cliffs. There were many other boats filled with tourists, some of whom were already splashing about in the water.

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The water. I’ve never seen sea water like that in my life. The colour was blue and crystal and clear and turqoise and teal, all at the same time.

You know that feeling you get when you’re in the face of nature’s beauty and it just hits you, how small humans are against the power of nature? I got that, standing in a boat, looking into the sparkling crystal waters of the Andaman Sea.

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Parts of the lagoon looked shallow, but our guide warned that it could be up to 30ft (!) deep.

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We anchored. Time to go into the water! I felt a little ashamed because everyone on my boat knew how to swim. I put on a life vest and just bobbed about in the water. Accidentally swallowed a mouthful and it was so salty! Even saltier than normal sea water. 😡

It was super relaxing, despite the number of tourists. Most of them kept to the area around their own speedboats, and although it was sunny, it was cool under the shade of the cliffs.

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Half an hour later, we were on the boat again heading towards Monkey Beach. The beach and its surrounding area is inhabited by dozens of macaques. Your guide will be selling peanuts so that you can feed the animals, but be careful because the macaques can be quite aggressive.

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I found this scene funny.  Tourists on the boats, looking at monkeys looking at tourists. 😀

The monkeys were not afraid of people at all. I guess they see them all day, everyday, so they’re used to it.

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The water here was also a clear blue, while the sand was like fine, talcum powder.

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It’s hard to find such clean water on West Malaysian beaches.

I have too many pictures of our island hopping trip, so I’ll be putting up Part 2 soon.

Stay tuned!

Khon Kaen Mookata, Phuket – All You Can Eat BBQ

Who doesn’t like an all-you-can-eat buffet ? A food fest where you can gorge on an endless supply of meat, seafood, vegetables and other goodies sounds like the perfect dinner at an awesome holiday.

Ladies and gents, welcome to a Thai ‘mookata’, or bbq buffet.

Combining the best of both buffet worlds, , guests can choose to either grill their meat and seafood over a hotplate, or dunk them into a boiling hopot, all in one go. How’s that for convenience and variety?

Before we move on to the eating part, let me tell you a funny story. H & I were super hungry after a whole day of sightseeing around Phuket, so we were raring to hunt for a Mookata. There was a famous one located some ways from our hotel in Patong, so we decided to rent bicycles and cycle there.

Big. Mistake.

For one, I hadn’t ridden in a long time and the hotel’s bikes were way too big for my short legs. I basically wobbled all the way to the restaurant – it was a miracle that I didn’t fall off at all! Secondly, the traffic around Patong was pretty crazy. I escaped death by getting run over by a motorbike one too many times. After that episode, we swore not to cycle there again lol.

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Anyway. We got here safe and sound, and just in time for dinner! The Khon Kaen Buffet and BBQ is located across the street from a fire station. The large resto has no air conditioning, but is roofed and can easily seat up to a 100 people. You eat first, and pay later.

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Visitors were a mix of locals and tourists. There were also many white men accompanied by Thai women. Hm.

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Naturally, we made a beeline for the food area, where you can pick from almost every part of the pig – liver, intestines, belly, etc. There were pork slices marinated in different sauces, as well as seafood, chicken and fish.

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Don’t forget to pick up a few pieces of lard. They’re not for eating, we use them to oil the grille plate.

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H & I grabbed a bit of everything. My tray here had needle mushrooms, fish fillet, slices of pork belly and pork meat, shrimp, chicken, intestines and ham.

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The grille/hotpot is placed on a stove. Let the cooking begin!

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They give you a kettle of broth to refill the shallow hotpot whenever it seems like it’s going to run out. We cooked most of the seafood in the hotpot, and let the meat cook on the grill. The pork and seafood was yummy, but the real star here was the chicken. Tender and juicy, the texture was so  bouncy that it felt like firm fish meat. It had been marinated in some spices like black pepper, and the meat had absorbed the flavour well. We ate until our shorts threatened to explode. Of course, I have a separate stomach for desserts so I had ice-cream too lol.

PS: The grille gets black and messy towards the end, so be careful when cooking those last few pieces of meat.

Our meal came up to about 350B (RM41/USD10), inclusive of a bottle of Coke, which was still value for money considering that a lot of buffets in Malaysia cost more than that.

The place is a bit hard to find coz it’s not along the main road, but trust me, the hunt is worth it. 🙂

KHON KAEN BBQ BUFFET 

Soi Ratchapathanuson,

Patong, Kathu, Phuket,Thailand (Turn left before the APK Hotel and go straight til you see a fire station). 

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We walked off our dinner at a night market just next to the restaurant. It was a field with makeshift stalls and funfair like game booths. The grass was muddy because of the rain earlier, so we carefully stepped on wooden boxes laid down on the ground to make a walkway.

Locals were sitting at tables in an open air area, swigging beer and watching a guy sing on stage. There were some random drunk guys dancing below the stage with not a care for the world.

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A really nice meal to wrap up an equally awesome day! We cycled back to the hotel and got a good night’s sleep.

More of Phuket to come! 🙂

 

Phuket Weekend Night Market – A Shopping Haven

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The Phuket Weekend Night Market is a definite must-see when in Phuket Town, especially if you love cheap souvenirs, clothing, and glorious street food (For me, it’s the latter :)) Located near the Central Festival Shopping Mall, the large market is open on Saturdays and Sundays only, from 4pm onwards.

We only had one hour to explore hundreds of stalls, so we went blitz shopping ! The area is mostly covered, but the walkways are narrow and can get dirty after the rain – so wear some comfy shoes. From pyjamas to cheap singlets printed over with ‘I Love Phuket’, to imitation ‘designer’ handbags , pouches, watches and the like, there’s surely something for every shopper.

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One thing to look out for is the beautiful carved soaps. These beauties are not for washing, but they’re so pretty that it’s difficult to resist buying them! They were mostly in the shape of flowers like roses, frangipani, orchids, carnations, lilies and lotuses, done in realistic and beautiful colours. They smelled really good too. 😀

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100B for a small one, 300B for the bigger ones. They come in a wooden lacquered box.

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There were also adorable elephant-shaped ones! 🙂

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Smexy erotic literature, with illustrations of lovers and promises of scandalous storylines, were openly displayed in this ‘bookstore’. Not something we see in Malaysia. 😀

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The food section was what I was looking forward to. Exiting the souvenir and clothing area, my nose was assaulted by the fragrant smell of cooking food and stalls selling all sorts of delicacies.

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There were fish cakes done fresh to order in a large vat of oil….

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Too cute to be eaten fried quail eggs…

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Mountains of preserved and pickled fruits…

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And of course, fried bugs. There were fat, juicy-looking bamboo worms, thin and almost french-fry like worms, crickets and grasshoppers seasoned with pepper + salt. There was a small sampler on each spread, but I couldn’t bring myself to try even one D: I know they’re supposed to be a good source of protein and everything… maybe if I grew up in a culture where it’s the norm. I mean, I’m ethnic Chinese, and we eat some pretty crazy shit, but bugs will not be on my menu of favourites any time soon.

Would you try fried bugs? 🙂

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This shiny, colourful display of (what appeared to be) mini fruits and vegetables caught my eye. Turns out, they were desserts. Unique to Thailand, luk chup has bean filling (red bean, mung bean, etc), with a chewy, bouncy exterior and soft, mushy bean paste on the inside. They were a joy to look at and tasty, but that colouring though.. not something you’d want to have every day. 😀

 

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Of course, I couldn’t come to the market and not have Iced Thai Milk Tea. I fell in love with this drink ever since having it at a tea house back in Malaysia, so I vowed to myself that I’ll have an ‘authentic’ one once I got to Thailand! Brewed with black tea, the drink gets it’s signature orange colour from spices such as star anise, crushed tamarind and cardamom, before being sweetened with condensed milk. The resulting flavour is something like Malaysia’s teh tarik (pulled tea), but sweeter and stronger with a strong hint of spice. My drink was only 20B (about Rm2+ or USD0.56)!

I wish we had more time to explore the food section, but we had to rush off as our guide’s time was only until 5pm. I highly recommend paying the Phuket Weekend Night Market a visit for some cheap and fun shopping therapy 🙂

Talad Tai Rot (Phuket Weekend Market) 

Chao Fa West Road, 1km south of Central Festival shopping Mall

Opposite Wat Naka

Opening hours: 4pm – 9pm, Sats – Suns

 

 

 

Jui Tui Temple & Put Jaw Shrine, Phuket Old Town

While looking up places to visit in Phuket’s Old Town, one of the recommended spots was the Jui Tui Shrine. We still had a bit of time left, so off we went!

The shrine started off as a simple, single storey structure – but has since moved from its original location along Soi Romanee to Ranong Road. The new shrine is bigger, more elaborately decorated and apparently quite a sight during the annual Phuket Vegetarian Festival! It is dedicated to the deity Tean Hu Huan Soy, patron god to performing artists and dancers.

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Now that you mention it, the temple decorations do have that ‘Chinese opera’ feel to it –  bright, colourful flags and lanterns lining the entrance, as well as intricate tapestries hanging from the ceiling.

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Tapestry with colourful tassels and golden dragons,  surrounded by flower motifs.

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Tean Hu Huan Soy sits on the highest position, surrounded by other Chinese and Taoist deities.

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One of the interesting structures here is the ‘firecracker house’ – a thin, fiery red building next to the temple’s entrance. It’s four pillars are ornately carved with figures of golden dragons on blue clouds and green waves, while lion dogs (kei lun) guard a ‘door’. The building is actually used during festivals to throw firecrackers in, to reduce noise and air pollution. 🙂

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Just next to Jui Tui is the smaller Put Jaw Shrine, the oldest Chinese temple in Phuket dating 200 years old. Dedicated to the Goddess of Mercy or Guan Yin, there is a statue of her along with her two side deities, Little Red (Hung Ha Yee) and Nazha. The architecture and temple decorations are purely Chinese, with little Thai influence. Wooden red doors inlaid with gold carvings, red and yellow lanterns, red cloth and dragons adorned the place.

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The inside was fork shaped, with a main altar and two side areas. Each housed dozens of deity statues. Visitors can try their hand at fortune sticks – you have to shake a container filled with wooden sticks until one falls out, then read the fortune on it.

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Guan Gong, or Lord Guan, is a Chinese deity with a red face, armed with a signature curved spear-blade. Said to be a real-life army general, he is considered a God of War and stands for brotherhood and rightneousness, being the patron deity for many Chinese businesses. Due to his strong and intimidating presence, it is said to ward away evil and bad luck. This table seemed to be dedicated to Guang Gong and other similar gods.

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On another table stood many statues of goddesses like Tian Mu (the Heavenly Mother) and the Goddess of Mercy, Guan Yin.

It was a quick trip as the temples were not big, but it has nice architecture and is worth a visit. Devotees can also pray for blessings. Who knows if they’ll come true? (But in that case, you’ll need to make a return trip here to ‘repay’ the favour! :))

Temple opening times: 8am – 10pm.

Soi Phuthorn, Ranong Road

 

 

Cashew Nut Factory & Soi Romanee, Phuket

The rain on our first day in Phuket was pretty relentless. After our Snake Show, the sky still hadn’t cleared, so our guide brought us to the Sri Bhurapa Orchid Co. Ltd factory, which specialises in cashew nut products.  

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The ‘factory’ doesn’t really look like a factory at all. The main building has a big shop loaded with rows and rows of cashew nut items, seasoned in flavours beyond imagination. Other than plain and honey, there was also seaweed, wasabi (!), chocolate, and many more!

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We hadn’t planned on getting ‘souvenirs’ this early into our trip, but since we were already here… the items were all nicely packaged and quite pricey. We were looking for big bags of wholesale cashew nuts but couldn’t find any. 😦  Had fun sampling the different flavours though!

Did you know that there’s something called cashew juice ? (Made from the fruit). It’s sweet and slightly sour, with a refreshing taste.

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Two workstations were also placed at the back, so that customers can see how the process is done. The staff uses a sharp skewer to poke the nuts into a nutcracker, then presses down to peel off the hard shell. They did this with super speed and precision while chattering away.

The nuts will later be baked over a slow fire for long hours to remove all the poison (apparently cashew shells are poisonous in their raw stage)

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We left 1000B poorer.. but this is a good place to visit on a rainy day, if you have cash to spare and you like munching on snacks.

Sri Bhurapa Orchid,

Thanon Kwang (opposite Kinnaree Media),
Tel: 66(0)76 263 787-9.

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By the time we got to Phuket town, it had (thankfully!) stopped raining. Our first stop was the Old Quarters, or Soi Romanee in the heart of Phuket’s Chinatown. The beautiful Sino-Portuguese shops are similar to ones found in Penang and Malacca in Malaysia. Residents of Chinatown are mostly ethnic Chinese who have assimilated into Thai culture. “Many do not speak Chinese anymore,” our guide, Lek, explained.

Since the tourist boom, many of these old shophouses have been converted into guesthouses, restaurants and chic little cafes.

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For awhile, I felt like I was walking down a typical street in Penang – the architecture is very similar. Not surprising, seeing as how the Chinese migrated to Phuket and settled down in towns as merchants and business owners, just like in Malaysia. The shophouses usually have a business on the ground floor, and a private home upstairs. Despite the sweltering tropical heat, these houses are very cooling on the inside – something that modern houses has struggled to emulate.

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H & I were surprised to see that a Malaysian car, the Perodua Kancil (they’re obsolete now) all the way in Thailand! My mum had one of these compact car and they were super convenient to park and squeeze among roads during traffic jams. 🙂

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The structures along Soi Romanee have been restored to their former glory; painted over with colourful coats of pink, yellow, blue and green. Architecture lovers will like the exquisite detailing found on each facade – from balusters to gold carvings, framed windows and old wooden doors.

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Across the street was a wat (temple). It was closed because the temple is located within the a school compound.

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We saw so many fat stray kitties while in Phuket! None of them seemed to want for anything, judging from their well-fed bodies, unlike poor strays in Malaysia. 😦

 

Stay tuned as we explore more of Phuket’s Old Town!

Dancing with Snakes – Phuket Cobra Show, Thailand

Hey, guys! Sorry for the lack of updates – I’ve been super busy rushing deadlines, since our magazine is due to be printed soon. 🙂 Now that that’s over and done, I finally have time for a breather. (I’m also working on a side writing project but major writer’s block kicked in… figured it would be fine to sleep on it for a couple of days.)

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Let’s get back to my recent Phuket trip ! Halfway through our tour, it started raining heavily and we were forced to run back to the car. It floods easily on the streets – after a short downpour, many roads were inundated with a few inches of muddy water. I’d hate to imagine how it must be during the rainy season! Good thing our car was a big, high SUV.

Since we couldn’t go to any outdoor attractions, our guide ferried us to see the Phuket Cobra Show. The mini ‘farm’ is located within the compound of a paintball/shooting range. It was a simple structure with zinc roofing and a few concrete wells and cages. H & I were the only two people visiting at that time so we had the guide all to ourselves lol.

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The ‘well’ cages were filled with vegetation and rocks. Since it was raining, the water level in the cage was high so we couldn’t see the snakes in them. .__.

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I didn’t know H was afraid of snakes, so she basically screamed whenever we got too close to one lol. There were a bunch of mangrove snakes or gold-ringed cat snake (Boiga dendrophila). They’re slim, mildly venomous (ie you probably won’t die from a bite but it’ll hurt like hell) and very fast.

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A random crocodile chillin in the water.

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A large, reticulated python, which is common in many parts of Southeast Asia. They are the world’s longest snakes, and can grow up to 6m. Although not as large as the Anaconda in South America, the python is not less deadly, with a thick body and powerful muscles. There was even a case in Malaysia where a python attacked a rubber tapper and attempted to swallow the man – but was killed halfway through eating him when police shot the animal.

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Shed skin.

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It was time for the highlight of our visit – the Snake Show! I felt a little bad for having these men risk their lives to put on a show for us, even though it is their livelihood. These are wild animals and no matter how much humans try to train them, they can have a bad day and just decide to bite you. As the guide stressed multiple times during our tour: “The king cobra is highly venomous. If it bites you and you don’t get the antivenom within 30 minutes, you die.”

“How far away is the nearest hospital?” I asked.

“30 minutes.” he said with a straight face.

O-O

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The show was done in a small pit, while we sat on raised bleachers. That made me feel a bit safer,  in case the snakes decided to run amok. It was just the two of us, so it felt like we had booked the entire show!

There were three boxes in a corner, filled with snakes. Music (techno, no less!) blasted in the background, while another staff member did a running commentary.For starters, our performer took out a fat, shedding King Cobra. It stared at us for a couple of seconds, as if it knew that was it’s ‘part’ of the show. 

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Then the guy took out one cobra after another and lined them up in the pit. The hall rang with the sound of sharp hisses. (Contrary to what people say, I think snakes don’t make a ‘Ssssss’ sound. It’s more like a ‘Thhhh’. Like when you whistle through your teeth.)

H & I held our breath – the guy had nothing to protect him other than a thin stick(!), which he used to push and pull the snakes around. They all had their heads reared, bobbing up and down as they stared at the man.

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Then the performer kissed one of the snakes on the head. I bit my nails.

One of the snakes did a booboo while the show was on, so he had to change it for another snake. I learnt something new – snake poop is bright yellow.

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On to the next performer, who worked with two mangrove snakes. These were thinner; their movements fast and agile.

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He then did a trick where he clamped the snake between his lips. And posed for this photo. 😀

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They saved the best for last. A big King Cobra, at least as thick as my arm, and measuring a good 2ms ++. Despite it’s bulk, it moved fast.

Even so, the snake seemed to have a ‘relationship’ with the performer. You can tell that the snake wasn’t really going to strike, it was simply putting on a show. Still, wild animals aren’t predictable – and snakes aren’t exactly fluffy bunnies.

Towards the end, they brought it to me so I could ‘touch it for good luck’ (ie so that they can take a picture to sell to me for 300B).  H ran 50ms away. Contrary to popular belief, snakes do not feel slimy at all – they are cool, dry , and all muscle. It’s like touching a strong, thick bicep (albeit a scaly one)

It was definitely an eye opening experience, one that we wouldn’t be able to find back in Malaysia. For that, I think it was worth the (rather steep) entry price of 500B. If you’re up to more adventure, the show is inside a famous shooting range where you can also play paintball and ride on ATVs.

Check out the video here!

Phuket Cobra Show 

 1/95 moo 5, Chalong, Muang, Phuket, 83130, Thailand
Entry (Adults) : 500B (RM60.40 or USD14)
Opening hours: Daily 9am – 6pm
No scheduled time for shows – they start when there’s enough people. In our case, two.

Visiting the Big Buddha in Phuket, Thailand

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One of the must-see attractions while in Phuket is the Big Buddha – a 45-m tall white marble statue perched on the hillside of southern Phuket. The figure is so large that it can be seen from miles around the island. This was our next stop on our day tour ! 🙂

It had been raining earlier, but thankfully the weather cleared when we arrived. Since it is a religious place, we brought our own scarves to cover up our shoulders. You can also borrow some from the counter. They weren’t very strict though – there were many Western tourists walking around in sleeveless tank tops. .

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On display near the entrance was one of Phuket’s famous open-air blue ‘buses’ – which is basically a truck converted to accommodate benches and seats – much like the jeepneys in the Philippines.

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Before anything else… a quick thirst quencher for 50B.

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We popped into one of the shrines, which looked distinctly Chinese with Thai influences. The walls were painted a deep red, reminiscent of Chinese temples, but there were also statues such as the four-faced Buddha (Phra Phrom), elephant God and various figures/paintings of Thai  royalty, monks, etc which were more Thai.

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Resident doggy.

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The accumulation of many, many candles melted into a strangely beautiful mess, resembling stalactites in a limestone cave.

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The place is still under construction, even though the project started more than 10 years ago. This is because the project is almost entirely funded by public donations. Workers were constructing some sort of front hall, so the place was muddy after the rain.

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View from below. Visitors can continue climbing up to the base of the Buddha.

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The temple area is a simple structure with zinc roofing. On one side sat a row of Golden Buddhas, each with a bowl for donations and blessings.

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H and I offered a token of donation at one of the boxes, then knelt down in front of a big altar filled with many different Buddha statues. A monk blessed us tied our wrists with a blessed string, then sprinkled us with holy water and tapped our heads with a bunch of thin wooden sticks (Idk why though.. I guess it’s for blessing?).

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We saw this warm, furry fat cat lying on a stack of newspapers and had to pet it.

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A short climb later and we were at the base of the Big Buddha or to call it by it’s full name, the Phra Puttamingmongkol Akenakkiri Buddha. Made from jade marble, the statue was impressive, and the views from the hilltop were equally magnificent.

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View of the Andaman Sea beyond.

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A large bronze bell and wooden ringer.

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Nagas are a serpent like mythical creature. Depictions of this being is prevalently found in Thai temples.

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Before entering, some temple volunteers asked if we would like to donate by buying a marble piece for 300B (RM36). You can write messages, prayers or whatever you want onto the tile, which will eventually be used to complete the entire Big Buddha structure. We chose not to because it just seemed too touristy and some of the tiles inside had been around for so long that the writings had faded away.

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The bottom part of the Buddha, which I presume will be turned into a prayer area, was still under construction. They have a few statues placed inside, so devotees and visitors can walk in and explore the half-completed structure. The parts not covered in plastic sheets were dusty and rough, while scaffolding was everywhere – overhung with silk mantras with prayers in gold ink.

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It was dark under the shadow of the Buddha, and quiet. We performed some prayers, then wandered around for awhile. The entire thing had an odd effect: like I was walking in a half-abandoned place, where lost people still came to have conversations with God.

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Outside, golden bells written over with messages by visitors hung on a line. They made beautiful wind chime-like sounds when the wind blew, and when my itchy fingers trailed across them.

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There was also a smaller golden Buddha measuring 12ms high, next to the Big Buddha. Made from brass, the Buddha sits on a platform coiled with two Nagas.

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The area around the Big Buddha statue consists of small gazebos and viewing platforms. Some visitors had also placed love locks onto the trees and cables.

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Views from another observation deck. Beautiful!

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We found a different fat cat. What is it with fat cats at Thai temples??

This guy was a bit unfriendly though – hissed at us even before we got near. D:

The Big Buddha is definitely worth a visit when you’re in Phuket, so make sure to include it in your travel itinerary! 🙂 Opens from 6am to 7pm daily, free entry (donations always welcome). While we weren’t stopped at the gate for wearing sleeveless shirts, I suggest dressing decently (at least knee length skirt or pants) to avoid any discomfort. Or bring a scarf. 🙂

 

Yot Sane 1 Chaofa Road ( West ) Chalong Phuket
E-mail: info@phuket-big-buddha.com