Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Phuket (pronouced Poo-ket).

Christmas was already behind us and 2011 was on the horizon. For us it was time to leave Phi Phi Don and set sail to the Island of Phuket, more precisely at the town of Chalong, where it is possible for us to resupply in fuel and food before leaving Thailand in direction of Sri-Lanka. After two days of grocery shopping and working on the boat, oil changes and inspection of the riggings, we wanted to visit the place a little. On this new-year’s eve we hired a taxi driver who took us across Chalong on board of his red “vehicule”. Of course, the ride in this 4-wheeled smurfette was more exciting than visiting the tourist sites themselves! Note: if you find that I look a bit sloppy with my unshaved beard it’s because I’m presently growing a beard and I’m still in the phase of looking like an homeless but in a couple of weeks it should look better.

Our first visit was to see the Big Buddha, which is visible from almost half the Island of Phuket. The 45m (145 feet) high marble covered statue was very impressive even though the construction of the site was not yet completed. A stairway is planned to provide access inside the statue and that, we can assume, should help the Buddhist followers to get closer to the Nirvana although I personally believe that taking a plane is a more efficient way, in terms of the height achieved, to do the same! Of course, here we assume that getting closer to the heavens means getting away from the center of the earth because if we climb inside the statue then for a Canadian, who is on the other side of the earth, we are in fact going down! All right, I guess I am asking too much for a philosophy developed at a time when the earth was flat! More seriously, look at the statue and can you determine the sex of Buddha? I am not an erudite on the question but I think that, although the first Buddha was indeed a man, he/she represents the ultimate state of a conscience or the state of a being at the end of the line of rebirths and in which case the sex of the being is not really important when presented in its spiritual representation. Wow, did I just say that?

On our way back from our visit of Buddha our driver suggested that we stop for an elephant ride! We thought we’d seen everything after climbing at the top of hill on board of his taxi propelled by a lawnmower engine but apparently Thailand had more for us to experience. Then hop we jumped on Mary’s back, a 21 years old elephant and already mother of a little 5 years old pachyderm, for a 1 hour ride in the surrounding trails. No doubts that an elephant ride is something special but let’s say that the beasts are not really driven to exhaustion by their owners. In the first half hour Mary made us cover the impressive distance of 500m (540 yards), which represents a speed of 1 kmh (0.6 mph) or, if you prefer, twice as slow as a human being walking at a comfortable pace! During the second half hour we simply came back on our steps. Of course, to attain this racing snail speed Mary had to stop once for her physiological needs, and God knows how impressive the needs of an elephant can be, three times to eat some bushes and twice to drink in the little water ponds along the trail! Well, we were not there to cross half of Thailand on the back of an elephant but it was still impressive to find a mean of transportation slower than a sailboat!
Finally, for our New Years Eve dinner we didn’t feel for something too exotic so we went to a little French restaurant, L’escale, in the hearth of Chalong where we enjoyed a very good magr├Ęs de canard, with the little sweet sauce, prepared by the French chef and owner of the restaurant who expatriated from his native France to offer his culinary talents in South Asia. After the meal, we came back to the dinghy but without realizing it we arrived at exactly midnight and as we put our feet in the little inflatable fireworks went off everywhere at the same time including on the pier just a few feet from us! It was really impressive to see but knowing that the guys lighting the rockets in question are far from being certified firework experts we quickly motored away in the middle of the water and far from the shores to watch the fireworks, which fired up in all directions we would look. We saw many fireworks in this trip but this one was really the most impressive.
Happy New Year 2011 to everyone and Danielle and I wish you Happiness, Health and Prosperity for the coming year.