Cruise Specialists hosts Steve and Wendy Bodenheimer are continuing to share their journey with us from aboard the 2016 Holland World Cruise. Previously they shared the experience of navigating the Panama Canal, sailing the Pacific in to French Polynesia, the Cook Islands, New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Vietnam and now they’re showing us Thailand.
One short day in a new country is never enough, but we did make good use of our day in Thailand. This country used to be called Siam and is a constitutional monarchy. We were told they are still sensitive about the portrayal of their King in the movie The King and I, so we were advised not to bring it up with any locals.
We were docked in a small port at the southern end of Phuket Island which is the southernmost part of the country. They are still recovering from the devastation caused by the tsunami on December 26, 2004. Tourists flock here for the beaches of Patong Bay but our focus today was elephants and temples. We hosted a Cruise Specialists tour that visited the Siam Safari Elephant Camp, an amazing facility at the top of a mountain that cares for and helps conserve Asian Elephants. We had a wonderful time feeding, petting, and watching one of their youngsters – only 8 years old. Then we had a thirty minute ride through the jungle to a scenic viewpoint. It was the typical image you might have of an elephant ride – two tourists sitting on the elephants back on a little bench seat with a roll-bar in front. The mahout or trainer is right behind the elephants head and controls the movements with his feet and a small spiked pole. The skin is so thick that they don’t feel anything but the pressure. It was an extremely bumpy ride as you feel every step and when it’s downhill you feel like you are falling out.
Our particular elephant decided to play with a vine that was in the road and spent several minutes trying to extract it from the jungle. It took some coaxing by her trainer (they are all females elephants and all male trainers) but she finally continued the ride. Also part of the program were great demonstrations: water buffalo plowing rice fields; rice processing the old fashioned way; how to do 20 different things with a coconut; Thai curry cooking including a delicious sample; harvesting latex from rubber trees and processing it into salable form; sampling Thai style coffee with an unusual corn pancake snack. It was a fun and educational few hours.
Lunch was at a beautiful spot. We actually ate outdoors in the shade overlooking Chalong Bay, not 20 feet from the water. And the food was authentic without being too spicy for Western tastes. A few highlights of our family style menu were batter fried fresh waterweed with shrimp, steamed curry fish mousse in banana leaves and stir fried local pak miang (looks like spinach) with egg. Served with some local Thai beer, we were in heaven. Did we mention it was over 100 degrees today. Up until this point we were in shaded and waterfront areas where there was at least some breeze.
Our next stop was at the Wat Chalong. Wat means temple and there are lots of them in this country. Wat Chalong is one of the most important complexes consisting of a multi-level pagoda and main temple filled with golden buddhas and other ornate artifacts. A walk to the top of the pagoda, without shoes, was rewarded with a 360-degree view. But it was mid-afternoon and we were out in the sun in this incredible heat.We were all pretty exhausted after this stop so our entire bus voted to skip the planned shopping stop (19-0). There was a huge market right at the pier, so anyone who hadn’t had their fill of souvenir shopping opportunities was able to spend another hour in the hot sun. This turned out to be a great tour and our best so far. We’ll have good memories of our short but really excellent stay in Thailand.
Two more days at sea to rest up before we get to Sri Lanka, formerly known as Ceylon. We will have three days there in two ports including two Cruise Specialists tours.
The days seem to be speeding up. We have completed 73 of our 115 days for this voyage. Still lots more to come. We hope you are enjoying the ride.
Contact a Cruise Specialists Expert to start planning your own magnificent adventure 888-993-1318