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Published: June 26th 2017
Geo: 13.0615, 80.2478
We had one day at sea between Singapore and our next port of call, Phuket. Our normal routine was followed. We went to the quizzes and though we got close we were still one or two off the pace. We sailed through the Straits of Malacca where there were rows of ships all traversing the waters. It was great watching the traffic from our balcony and we were amazed at the number of ships going in the same direction as ourselves. This ship has been sailing at a much faster pace than the Astor. It is also amazing to observe the varying colours of the sea.
We arrived at Phuket Port about 6-30am on Saturday, 16th January. We watched from our balcony as the ship backed into the quay. There were several resort hotels scattered around the bay with rich greenery and white beaches. After breakfast we left the ship about 9-20am. At the port there were many market stalls set up for our perusal. We changed some money, looked through the stalls and then engaged a taxi driver to take us into Phuket town. We organised that he would pick us up about 4pm to take us back
to the ship. Then it was about a 30 minute drive into the main city.
The weather was overcast but very humid. Our driver had an "arrangement" with a jewellery shop in the town and he dropped us off there and we went in to look around. We were effusively greeted by the manager who kept trying to sell me a pair of sapphire earrings. Everything was “half-price” but they had some nice bags and other souvenirs there so we did end up buying some things as gifts etc. From there we walked along the street towards the markets. Though some of the town's buildings could do with some paint the streets were very clean and there were some buildings which were very attractive. We found a café, The Circle, and even though it was only 10-30am we settled in with a beer and used their free WiFi. It was very overcast and the day was humid but there was a fan so we spent an hour or so quite pleasantly.
We then walked down to the Market. This was a typical Asian market with open shop fronts selling all manner of goods. Food, clothes, shoes were all on sale and there
were a couple of motor bike repair shops and others with household goods. We then walked up a side street and along a parallel street. Here there were some smarter looking hotels with restaurants and other small boutiques. We went into an Antique shop. In the window Fletcher's eye had been caught by 8 Chinese figures, in porcelain. We asked the owner about them and were told they were the 8 lucky men. They were a set and we could have them for $A720. If we could have bought one or two we would have but we don't have room for all eight.
In the same street we happened across a Buddhist temple. This was called Sam Thang Shrine and had been founded by Hokkien Chinese in 1891. It had been recently renovated and was resplendent in its red and gold colouring. We walked down the alley way and explored inside. Typical of these places there were many statues of gods and small buddhas with a main altar behind the front table ladened with fruit and food offerings. We had to take our shoes off to go in and a small boy came in with us, to check up on us
I think. The main doors were carved into spectacular statues of angry looking gods.
We then went back to one of the nice restaurants we had seen, The Baba. This was part of the On On Hotel. We dined here in air conditioned comfort. We had several small dishes of Thai food including spring rolls, four types of fried seafood, Thai sausage in pastry, a red duck curry and stir-fried beef. All were excellent. We washed it all down with Chang beer. Having used their free WiFi too we walked back the way we had come.
Past the jewellery stop at the next intersection there was a main roundabout which looked like the centre of the town. Across the road there was another shrine which we also explored. This was more rundown than the first one but it was larger. A lady attendant smiled at us and made sure we took off our shoes before entering. Again the many statues had their offerings and looked down on us, some benignly, others with a more fierce countenance. We noticed a minaret down the street so investigated to find a well- kept mosque. Then it was time for a refresher. We stopped at
a corner café and I had a lemonade while Fletcher settled for a Mango milkshake. We then walked back to our rendezvous point and found our driver waiting for us.
Though we wouldn't rush back to the town, the attraction here is more the beaches and resort hotels. Anyway, we had seen another corner of Thailand and had some interesting experiences.
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