I hired a car for the weekend so we could explore the island further. Phuket is not a massive island, but takes over an hour to drive from the top to the bottom. Saturday started with a trip to the boat lagoon, on the way we popped into HomePro, a very clean sparkling version of B&Q, / Home Depot. I wanted some little brass/copper nails but despite checking at various hardware stores around, the island has yet to yield up it’s store. HomePro was no better. It’s a bit like the banana thing, we have failed to buy any from a shop so far, in fact when asking for them in shops we generally get a polite giggle in response. Is it because they grow on trees everywhere, is it a bit like going into a greengrocer in the UK and asking for leaves. Anyway the boat lagoon is the centre of the yachting scene here in Phuket, there are two marinas there, plus lots of hardstanding, travels hoists, workshops and chandlers. I didn’t like the place at all, the lagoon itself is a dredged pond, someway inland from the sea and looked very muddy and stagnant. The surrounding buildings where very much of an 80’s style, concrete functional food/yachtie supply orientated. Lots of super-yacht type people paying over the odds for espressos. and a gang of charter companies and their suitcase dragging customers making their way to and from their week in paradise. However the chandleries were a delight, the main one, East Marine was very posh, selling turnbuckles you might use on 3/4 inch wire, and a less posh and cheaper AME marine selling everything at a good price. They welcomed me in when I said I had a long list, they apologised that they couldn’t offer me a coffee as East marine do, but filled my hand with little sweets instead. I think they will get my business. I have a few thousand dollars to spend here, life buoys, danbouys, safety lights, fenders, kedge anchor, chain, rope etc etc.
While I was getting over excited at the range of shackles and hose clamps on offer, Kathy had popped around the corner to the supermarket specialising in stuff only richer yachtie/westerners would buy. She was made up, they had frozen veggie stuff, and marmite and things she hasn’t seen since her last trip to Tesco in Liverpool. I actually found two types of alcohol free beer, both German so I’m not expecting much, but worth a try. I suspect we will be here again.
From Boat Lagoon we headed north to a nature park with a Gibbon rescue centre. This was very interesting, and a young lady volunteer from London explained the horrific story that some of these Gibbons have been through, and how it may seem cute to have your picture taken at the beach with a baby Gibbon clinging to you, but if you knew just how many gibbons were killed to get that one baby you would be very shocked. Also once it stopped being a cute baby, it would meet a horrible end. In the meantime drugs are injected into the little Gibbons to keep them manageable for tourists. Very very sad that trade, and it was wonderful that there is a place here helping them and trying to re-introduce them into the wild. They have become extinct in Phuket due to hunting, and sadly many of the rescue ones are beyond rehabilitation, so will live their days out in the centre here.
From the Gibbon centre we walked up the path further into the forest where there is a waterfall.
Lots of people seem to come here to picnic and cool off in the water. I’m glad we came after there had been lots of rain, I am fed up of waterfalls without water, I’m thinking Nidri and the last one in Malaysia.
From the nature reserve we headed over to the the beaches on the west side, these are very nice, lovely sand, not too commercial and a decent array of vendors nearby so you won’t starve.
We drove down the coast heading for the fleshpots of Patong, curious to see how bad these places are when the sun sets, and also to stock up at the big C supermarket here. We had a nice Indian/Thai dinner at a beach restaurant, followed by a walk along the beach in the dark. Then back to the car via Bangla Street. I had heard this street was an evil place to visit, but I found it most pleasant. Everybody seemed to be into sport, for just a few baht we could watch a game of table tennis, or ping pong as they seem to call it. Also lots of young ladies were keen for us to have a drink with them, for just 80 Bhat, most reasonable. I did notice a glaring mistake at the end of the street, where the sign for the Hard Rock Cafe seemed to got the words all mixed up, I expect they must feel a bit silly about that.
Back home to the boat and on Sunday we headed on down to Phuket old town for the street market. Unfortunately I got the times wrong, so we arrived as it was setting up, still it was very pleasant walking around the streets, the place reminded me of Penang in architecture, and it turns out it was founded as a tin mining town in the 19th Century, and the wealthy merchants from Penang setup here to take advantage of this trade, and they brought their ways with them. It seems Penang was almost as easy to work with back then as Bangkok was, but then the borders between Malaysia and Thailand have been quite flexible. One taxi driver I had in Langkawi was Thai, I asked how long he had been there, he said ‘600 years, and don’t get me started’ so I didn’t.
After Phuket old town, we drove north to Sarasin bridge, that links the island to the mainland, there are lots of stalls there and it’s a nice spot to watch the sunset, but we were a bit late for that, still I enjoyed walking around the stalls, and being laughed at when asking for some bananas again.
This week I’m doing boat jobs, the sails are being made now and I need to find a liferaft and get the bowsprit work started.
Kathy has more interesting details to follow soon.