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Sunday, 7 August 2011

Travels in Thailand, part 2

Our first sightseeing trip out was a drive round the southern part of Phuket island, basically to see something of the countryside and to get a feel for the place away from the westernised Patong Beach.  On the road south down the west coast, we were tickled to see an elephant road warning sign, followed shortly after by elephants which looked like they were clearing logs from a rubber tree plantation - really cool!

Not your everyday road sign!

Garaging for the Thai equivalent of D7 bulldozers!

There were many spectacular views from hills all round the southern part of the island and the height seemed to accentuate the cloud formations.

Magnificent cloudscape

We stopped at a shrine where it was apparent how much the elephant is part of Thai culture, with literally hundreds of elephant effigies of all sizes draped with garlands of flowers.

Elephant Central

Next stop was to look at the Big Buddha statue at one of the highest points in the south of the island and boy, was it impressive!  Close to 50 metres high, made from concrete and was in the process of being covered entirely with marble tiles about 150 mm square and 15mm thick - that's one heck of a lot of marble and one heck of a cost.  Clever fund-raising though.  For 100 baht (about US$3), you could buy a tile, put your name on it with a felt tip pen and it would be cemented in place, name side down!

Big Buddha from a distance

Close-up, showing the individual tiles

Sticking on the tiles - what's OSH?

Next stop was Wat Chalong, a large temple complex which was maintained in impeccable condition and the ornate architecture was a joy to look at.

Main temple building

Colourful interior

Amazing carving

Standing in the direct sun for long without a hat was inviting trouble.  Jennie may have packed the kitchen sink when leaving NZ, but her sun hat was one notable omission. No worries though, a quick visit to a local market stall and parting with the equivalent of a couple of bucks or so solved that problem!  It's probably the right time to mention a really appealing trait of the Thai people - their great courtesy and politeness.  Stall holders and shopkeepers might ask you to buy something but if you say no thanks, that's the end of the matter and they'll still happily pass the time of day with you.  Contrast that with Bali for instance where you're continually hassled. The Thais are lovely people, with a great sense of humour.

Hats, bags and anything else you care to mention at rock bottom prices

Here's where the day started to get expensive!  Before we headed back to the hotel, Jennie wanted to have a look at a renowned manufacturing jeweller in Phuket town.  Thailand mines its own precious gems and with the high levels of craftsmanship and low wage rates, the implications were that real bargains were to be had here.  Now I don't know how other members of the male sex would have handled the situation, but I'm a craven coward and also loving my better half to bits; had an inkling how this was going to end up.

The manufacturing side of the process was really interesting, right from cutting and polishing the stones, through to making the finished piece, be it a ring, brooch, necklace or whatever.  Entering the showroom was another story entirely, trying to look casual whilst trying to stop eyes watering at some of the price tags.  Question: How does a guy counter the argument that similar pieces would be hugely more expensive in the West?  Answer:  not a clue and neatly backed into a corner by the female of the species.   Inevitably, Jennie found a bracelet in white gold set with sapphires and diamonds which she fell totally in love with.  In an attempt to cut a deal, I suggested that it should be an advanced present for our 40th anniversary next year to which she readily agreed (with me having a mental picture of all the bike goodies I could eventually buy for an equivalent price).  The speed of the agreement lead me to conclude that the brownie points amassed by yours truly for this transaction will have probably evaporated well before I can get any bike gear.  Have other guys noticed the extremely short shelf life of  "guy points"?  Sigh........

Nice, but not as nice as new leathers, boots, replacement helmet........


Less expensive adventures in Thailand to follow........




12 comments:

  1. Wow - awesome bling! Now you'll have to fork out for a fancy dinner somewhere special so Jennie can give it a public airing... (just think of it as earning some more helmet points)

    Am really enjoying your travelogue - what a fab time you must've had. Welcome home!

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  2. Hi Sue!
    Now let's get this right. I spend even more money to get a lower number of brownie points for just a dinner to replace those already earned? Yep, I can see why the informal women's network outshines anything created by males in the history of the world ;-)

    Thanks for the kind words and I'll try and keep you entertained for a couple more posts!

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  3. Spectacular sights and scenes (and bling as well), can't wait to see more.

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  4. Thailand is a fabulous place. The sights, the temples, the traditions and the people all have a charm of their own. My brother lives in Chiang Mai in the north and I am lucky to have been there a few times to experience what a great place this country is. It is good to read that you are both getting to see so much and especially the elephants – how cool are they? The food you had looks great and the petrol in bottles at the roadside must have been a shock, but as a system it does work well, especially for the thousands of small bikes that are there. Have fun!

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  5. Thanks VStarLady!
    It certainly is a nice place. On balance, I probably prefer Vietnam but it would really be splitting hairs.

    Gary,
    I'm going to comment a bit later about Thai systems and their approach to life but have to agree with you that they're very organised and everything worked perfectly for us. They really delivered.

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  6. Gorgeous pictures, amazing architecture. My favourites are the big Buddha and the dragon carving.

    I am not so much into bling (except for motorcycle related stuff a.k.a. farkles). Roland currently gathers points while he is ordering more stuff for the Vespas ;-)

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  7. Cheers Sonja!
    Delighted to hear that Roland is earning points! Also delighted that you seem to be riding the Vespa as much as the H-D! Jennie has entered a competition to win a Vespa which she saw at Auckland Airport on the way out, so fingers crossed...

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  8. Beautiful necklace Geoff, Jenni is indeed a very lucky women.

    I feel it prudent that after having been with you on a couple of rides, I am in the same court as your daughter and wife, as such I feel it would be rude of me, not to offer my expertise and assistance on the purchase of new "fashionable" motorbike gear. We could perhaps take in some of the mens fashion shops on high street while we are about it. You have my number just call when you are ready.......

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  9. Roger mate!
    ...and spoiled too, because I know what's good for me :-).

    From someone with black GoreTex and a yellow hi-viz jacket, that's the pot calling the kettle black, hehe. Wait until spring when you see my silver and black 2 piece leathers and then you can offer advice. You'd better be wearing your dark sunnies though :-). Thank you for you exceedingly kind offer.

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  10. Stunning pictures from your adventures Geoff. And a stunning trinket for Jennie to.

    I love the architecture pictures. I cannot imagine sticking all those tiles to the statue. What a job. Although it is beautiful.

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  11. Try to catch up. So I will slowly be adding more comments. But the trip looks wonderful. I love the colors, the elephants (and their garage), the dragons, the tiles and especially the sapphires. Jennie has very good taste. :)

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  12. Thanks Lori,
    The vivid colours are wonderful, especially the temples. I was brought up Church of England with mournful services and matching mournful décor! I might have kept the faith if I'd been Buddhist!

    I shall say nothing about the sapphires, sigh....

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