Thursday, February 23, 2006

Day 3: Adventure in Phanga
I woke up at 6.30am and then got ready for our adventure.

The pre-arranged van came to fetch us. The driver was not Narin. Anyway, the van took us to a gas station. There we were transfered to the tour bus - James Bond Discovery. We got a lady tour guide. She introduce herself as Harmonica. Funny lady. Her real name is Mon - which means beautiful lady. She took the name Harmonica as it is easier to remember, especially for the Europhean. Plus, her voice will be the music to our ears for the day. The bus left approximately 8.30am.

The bus crossed the highway bridge into mainland Thailand. We were heading to Phanga Province.

The bus reached the elephant camp. It was more like an eco-tourism camp. Harmonica started with some education about the elephant. There's generally two types of elephant: African elephants, and Asian elephants. African elephants are bigger, and have bigger ears as well as longer tusks. The Asian elephant, on the other hand, are smaller and have smaller ears. Their tusks are also shorter; some female elephants have no tusk at all. Elephants can live up to a hundred years. Each 'pregnancy' can last up to two years. Generally, female elephants behave better and easier to train. Thus, for safety reason, the camp only use females in the camp, except for the baby elephant show.

The camp have a pair of male and female baby elephants, but today, the female was down with a stomachache. The male baby elephant, named Rambo, is seven years old. Rambo performed the standard circus tricks - sitting, standing on two legs, and playing harmonica, the music instrument. At the end of the show, the audience were allowed to feed Rambo. Just give him 20 Baht and he would get the the fruit basket for you.

After the 'edu-tainment' show with Rambo, we were got the chance to go on elephant rides around the orchard. This was not the bare-back kind, there was sort of saddle-cum-chair to sit on. That didn't mean it was less fun, we sat crossed leg to avoid slipping off the chair when the elephant went down hill. The hill wasn't exactly a hill, just a slope by a creek. Being on the elephant gave you a totally different perspective.

Next was, ox cart ride. The cart looked like the original cart used by the working people. Like Uncle Jeq said, we went all the way to Phuket to ride ox cart. It was a quick bumpy ride .

After that, there was the rubber processing demonstration. From rubber tapping to drying the rubber sheet. They have the old hand-cranked machine to process the sheet. We left the camp at 11.00am. Headed to jetty about 20 min away.

From jetty, took long boat to Pan Yee Island. The long boat was not the kind of boat I had imagine - shallow wooden long boat powered by small engine. It was actually a big boat able to sit 30 people comfortably. It was powered by a huge diesel engine.

Pan Yee island is inhibited by Muslim community. 200 years ago three families from what now is Indonesia, came to this island. They were fishermen. Now, there are around 250 families. We had a sumptious lunch - rice, chicken, fish and vegetables. The 'rendang' I brought remained untouched throughout the day.

From Pan Yee, we left in the long boat for Ta Lok Island. The boat docked at what looks like a floating platform. From the platform we got on an inflatable canoe - 2 person per canoe. We didn't have to paddle, they provide a 'guide' to do that. Most of the guides are muslims. We canoed around limestone formation that makes the island. We spent about an hour in Pa Lok. Then we left for James Bond Island - not by the canoe but by the long boat.

We reached the island famously known as James Bond Island. We passed this Island on day 2. According to Harmonica, this island was featured in James Bond 'Man with the Golden Gun'. The film was shot on 1974 with Roger Moore as James Bond. No one lived on the island but ten years later, the Thai government decided to turn it into tourist attraction. There were booths selling souvenir. 30 minutes later we left for Phanga jetty.

We reached the jetty and boarded the bus to Phuket.

The James Bond Discovery bus dropped us at Pearl factory for transit. According to Monica, it is a kind of government requirement that they stop and transit there. About 30 minutes later we were on our mini bus (which actally a van) heading to Patong.

We reached Tony Resort, our hotel. I left my day pack and went for a traditional Thai massage at "Let's Relax" nearby. It felt like checking into a hotel with receptionist receiving you - and your payment - at the counter. They also served welcoming drinks.

We were taken to our cubicle and were given clothes to change into. The clothes looked like a free-size pijama. The ambiance of the cubicle was very relaxing - dim light with soothing music in the background. The lady washed our feet in basin of water and flowers. Then I lay on my stomach thinking that the massage is similar to traditional Malay massage. I was in for a suprise.

The most obvious is that we were fully clothed. The massage consisted of systematic 'groping', streching and applying pressure on the muscles. No massage oil was used.The lady massus started 'groping' the legs from the base of the foot to the thigh. I think the 'groping' is how they diagnose what's wrong with you. They applied pressure using their hands and elbows where it hurts. They 'folded' and 'bended' your legs in ways you never know you could! These 'bending' and 'folding' effectively streched you legs. The same was done on your arms.

Then a short break before flipping over for the back massage. Then we were asked to sit. They 'folded' your arms, 'streched' and 'twisted' your body. Then leaned back for a little head massage. Again, you would be asked to sit. Don't be fooled. The minute I lifted my back from the thick mattress, the massus pushed it all the way forward - effectively 'folding' me into two!

Another short break and we continued with more head massage. The two-hour session ended with The massus applying pressure on our arms and front torso using a small pre-heated sack of oil-scented-herbs. I left feeling invigourating.

We went for dinner at an Arab-Indian restaurant near our hotel. The food was good.

After dinner, went for a walk around Patong town / bazar. Last night to soaked in the sights and sound of night life in Patong.

Back in hotel. Started packing all non-essential things. Tomorrow would be our last day in Phuket. Time breezed by.

No comments: