Thursday, August 26, 2010

Backpack to Phuket, Thailand

สวัสดีครับ, Sawatdee khrap ...

Yeah, it's time to find out and take a look closer at Thai's sacred land. Instead of Bangkok, we decided to visit Phuket, a resort island in southern Thailand. This initiation came exactly a year ago, when we got a promo airfare to Phuket. We went there on May 28 until June 1, 2010. We chose Thailand as the destination of our journey because we wanted to explore the twin of Bali as a tourist destination that confound the elements of culture, spiritual, and natural beauty. The difference is, you'll find the element of Hindu culture in Bali, while in Thailand, you'll find the Buddhist-based culture. But I feel different about Phuket, we'll not just find the Buddhist tradition, but has also been acculturated with Islam.

First of all, we found out about Phuket on the internet and there are some spots which illustrates that Phuket is not as beautiful as it is, but that was all wrong. At first we hesitated to go to Thailand after gathering information via internet. But our curiosity was disappeared when we came over there and take a look closer.

Day I: Phuket Town

Yep, in this post I will only enlighten you about everything in Phuket. Once we arrived at the airport of Phuket, we were little amazed by the airport, so small and quiet but neat and clean. From the airport, there were so many transportation services that could be offered headed for Patong (Patong is sorta Kuta in Bali). But at that moment we were not headed there, but to Phuket Town which is located in the southern island of Phuket since we've booked accommodation there.

To go to Phuket Town, there are several transportation alternatives that can be used:
  1. Taxi: BHT 600
    Taxi can only be filled by four people, and they are mostly offered once we get out of the airport. Often we found taxi drivers who can speak Indonesian or Malay.
  2. Minivan: BHT 150/person
    Minivan should be shared with other passengers. If It was full of passengers, then it may started to run.
  3. Airport bus: BHT 80/person
    This transportation is the least expensive among others, shaped like the Trans Jakarta bus. We took airport bus to go heading to Phuket town.

The condition of highway at that time was very quiet and wide, took approximately 1-1.5 hours to Phuket town. In fact, Phuket town was small-and-quiet town. However, Mostly people there were very obedient to traffic rules. We checked in to a hostel called "Phuket Backpacker", located on Ranong Rd. Maung T. Taladyai Phuket, 83000, Phuket. The lodging costs BHT 260/person. Inside the lodging, we shared a room with overseas backpackers from all over the world.

That afternoon, we strolled around Phuket Town. We found that the school there was facilitated with the temples. On the corner of the roadside, we saw the electricity poles with chaotic wires hanging out and produced horrifying noises like electrical shorting. Very scary! We passed Phuket Thaihua Museum, China-style temple in T-junction, and ended up in a deserted temple. Then we went inside.

Entering the evening, we stopped at the roadside restaurants for culinary. The price was not too expensive and not too cheap. After that we strolled around the old town of Phuket. There were bunch of old buildings that we didn't know exactly still functioning or not. And not far from there, there was a garden with a large dragon statue perched in front of it. Based on information from Chocky, its name is "Dragon statue in Suanchalermprakiat 72 years Queen Sirikit the Buddhist Era 2547". After that, we felt hungry and bought some fruits in the traditional markets, mango and dorian :D

Day II: Kamala Beach - Patong - Jungceylon - Temples Tour - Promptep Cape

On the second day, we decided to rent a vehicle for full-24-hours. The rental place was not far from the hostel. It costs BHT 350 for bike rental and the rental car costs BHT 1050. Since we were five persons totally, it was decided that we would rent a car than a motorcycle. The first spot we visited was the anonym temple as we don't know its name, haha. Since the day was the Vaishya - Buddhist holy day - so we saw many people praying there.

Having complacent enough wandering and taking pitures at the anonym temple, then we continued the trip to Wat Phra Nang Sang which is located in Thalang district, about 30 minutes from Phuket town. From the information we got in the internet, it was reportedly said that there was a mummy of former Abbot Luang Pok Bai inside the monuments, but we did not find it all, it was just turned out to be ashes. It is said that this old temple was built just after the Nine Troops War during the period of the two heroines of Phuket (Tao-Tepkasadtree and Tao-Srisunthorn). Although others say it was built in the period of Pranang-Leud-Khaow (white blood princess). There are many Buddha images and contemporary figures of Thai life but this temple also shows a large statue of Guanyin or Kuan Im, the Chinese goddess of mercy, which is an indication of the many Thai's with Chinese origin down here.

Departing from Wat Phra Nang Sang, we headed down to the next temple, Wat Phra Thong, still in the area of Thalang district. Wat Phra Thong is the oldest temple on the island and was created when Thalang was still Phuket's capital. According to legend, Wat Phra Thong houses a golden Buddha image that emerged from beneath the earth many years ago. The story tells us about a man whose son died mysteriously after tying his buffalo to what he thought was a post but which was actually the conical peak of Buddha. The golden image was revealed to the man in a dream but attempts to dig it up failed. Villagers covered the exposed part of the image with a plaster bust of Buddha's head and shoulders. It can still be seen today.

Before continuing the journey to the next temple, we stopped at the Jungceylon mall near Bangla Road. We got past the Kamala beach with a view point facing to the sea and hills as background like Santorini. Arriving at Jungceylon, we explored briefly and then went to Banzaan area (located not far from Jungceylon) to take lunch. At Banzaan, there were several food stalls which integrates each other such of food court. The food prices there were quite affordable.

After having lunch, we continued the trip, going to Wat Chalong temple, located near Chalong Bay. Wat Chalong is Phuket’s most important Buddhist temple and is the biggest and most ornate of Phuket’s 29 Buddhist monasteries. Some temples were very stately and people came in droves to pray for Vaishya celebration. Many local Thais and Asian tourists will set off fire crackers and ask for the lucky lottery numbers, and have their fortune told. The firecrackers from the chimney sounded very loud and deafening. The buildings in the Wat Chalong is complex includes viharn (assembly hall), ubosot (ordination hall), monthop (pavilion) and sala (hall). Most of these were the work of Phra Maha Fuang Suchanonatho, a skilled draftsman who also became an abbot of Wat Chalong in 1978. A sacred relic of the Buddha is also kept in Wat Chalong. It is housed at a repository beneath the stupa of Phramahathat Chedi (mahathat means "great relic stupa").

Once satisfied to take photos and buy souvenirs which were sold there, we immediately went to Prompthep to catch the sunset. This is the best place to view sunset. Depending on the time of the year, the tall grass at Promthep Cape may change from verdant green to golden brown. The name Promthep comes from "Prom", which is Thai for the Hindu term, "Brahma," signifying purity, and "Thep" means 'God.' Local villagers used to call Promthep Cape "Leam Jao", or God's Cape. It was an easily recognizable landmark for the early seafarers traveling up the Malay Peninsula.

Yeah, it was our journey in Phuket. Stay tuned for the next journey at Phiphi Island.
ขอบคุณครับ/ค่ะ. Kob kun khrap ....

*The photos were taken by me, Chocky, Elly, and Wawan.