This article was written by Ms Florence Garin
It was on a cloudy Tuesday of October that we left for a day trip to Phuket to discover the rich heritage of the paradisiac Thai island. The tour consisted of five stepping stones in the southern region.
Khao Rang: a hill-top window that opens horizons
The first place is a viewpoint on Rang hill situated in the North West of Phuket town. The spot offers a line of vision of blended elements which represent the different aspects of the island: a mixture between the grand scale of Nature and the traces of humanity. The natural canvas is characterised by the green jungle, the blue sea water and sky and the grey clouds which give a special atmosphere to the site in the rainy season. The relief is also part of the spectacle: the hills all around the town and the islands that you can see at the bottom are representative of Southern Thailand. The white monument built on Rang hill and the red roofs in the centre of Phuket town show the historic presence of the Portuguese during the 16th century. The first stepping stone is a great introduction to capture the essence of Phuket island.
Phuket town centre: a colourful journey
After a few minutes in the van, we arrived at the Phuket town centre. Surrounded by colourful Sino-Portuguese buildings, the tiny streets offer a sense of proximity. The streets visited are plenty of inviting little boutiques, restaurants and coffee shops. Then, we stopped at a Tourism Centre (a typical Sino-Portuguese house) to discover the inside architecture and the food specialities of Phuket. A few steps ahead, different styles of street art brighten the town walls ranging from cubic forms to smooth curved lines. The next halt was at a small Chinese temple to savour the delights of a calm moment. The gold and red colours of the monument captivated our eyes, and the smell of the fruits given in offering and the incense tickled our noses.
Wat Chalong: the largest Buddhist Phuket temple
The three beautiful monuments of Wat Chalong are displayed in a large garden with plenty of trees surrounded by hills. The big Buddha can be detected on one of the hill tops. During the entire visit, we heard firecrackers warding off the influence of evil spirits. The spot is a tourist attraction for both, foreigner and Thai visitors. The first temple with large openings makes you feel as if you are still outside. You can put yourself in a Buddhist skin and do the traditional ritual: consider asking a question about your own life, shake a pot full of numbered sticks until one falls on the floor, then find out the answer in the form of a forecast! Also, you can place a gold petal and a flower for offering before the row of the Buddha statues. The second building is an identical reproduction of a Monkhouse made in wood. Several Buddha statues and tools used by the monks are displayed there. The last and biggest temple has many gold Buddha statues on the ground floor. You can climb marvellous stairs to reach the terrace roof (first floor) which offers a delightful view and allows you to admire the sculpted details. The next flight of stairs leads you to the top floor, where again a wonderful view awaits you! At the centre of the sanctuary, a glass globe contains a Buddha bone, a secret relic. We left this beautiful place to go for lunch in a Thai restaurant close to Wat Chalong.
Big Buddha: the top of Phuket
After lunch, the van drove us to the Big Buddha, situated on the peak of Mount Nagakerd. There is only one road to reach the top of the hill from which the sea can be contemplated during the van tour. Once arrived, the big Buddha is impressive by its large size. The huge construction is not yet finished but the place is worth visiting! Admire the Chalong bay while climbing the stairs! On the hill top, watch the monks praying inside the big Buddha structure! The construction is financed only by the donors: white Burmese jade marble slabs are on sale so you can participate and perhaps inscribe with something which matters to you. The terrace all around offers an amazing panoramic view on the sea and the jungle.
Chalong Bay: from sugarcane to the rum cocktail
The first feeling upon arriving at Chalong Bay rum distillery is like entering a lovely rum bar, especially because you are being served right away a nice and friendly mojito. After savouring a few sips, the distillery visit starts. You can carry your drink along and enjoy both together the rum and the process. The explanation is pleasant, educational, visual and the smiling guide adds charm to it. It takes around twenty minutes and all questions are welcomed. It is interesting to learn that the whole production, right from the sugarcane plantation is handcrafted in Thailand. At the magical hour of sunset, you can taste pure white rum, homemade syrups and buy a few bottles… The tour then ends on a relaxing and tasty note in a lovely place, so now let’s go!
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