Wetsuits OK, so I was still thinking about the water on our first day in Phuket, when I went into HotWaves and ordered a couple of custom-made wetsuits. The biggest downside of diving is the neoprene we need to cover ourselves in unless we are diving in very warm water. The choice is either stuff yourself into a rubber suit or freeze. Since I’m not an off-the-peg shape I have never been happy with my wetsuits, so I decided to have a couple made. One full-length, 5mm suit for diving in Oman in winter, complete with zippers at the ankles and wrists, and another, thinner, sleeveless shorty, which should be more comfortable than the one I have now. I’ll try it out tomorrow. Sorry, no pictures… no one looks good in a wetsuit, and Mme Cyn perhaps worse than many. Fortunately, the fish don’t care.
Car We rented a car on our ‘off-gassing’ days* and went around Phuket island. The Goat had wanted to rent motorcycles, but we didn’t have any proper shoes (and I’m a sissy anyway), so we opted for a jeep. The jeeps were all out, so we settled for a tiny little Toyota Yaris, the sort of car that would get eaten by 4x4s in Dubai. Even so, it had a little back up warning beep like a Mac truck. This grumped the Goat no end. Oh, that and the fact that every time he went for the turn signal, he hit the windshield wipers. Every time. I’m so glad he’s not the type of guy who minds when you laugh at him.
Wat Chalong, where we stayed, has a rather famous Buddhist temple, or wat, so we had a look. The Thai wats are very ornate compared with the Japanese temples, and this was no exception. One thing they do that the Japanese don’t is set off fireworks. Next to the temple, there’s a big brick oven. You buy firecrackers from the monks and throw them in the oven, and they explode with a series of bangs. I’m not sure why. In Japan you clap your hands in the temple to get the attention of the gods, and maybe since the Thais are rowdier, more joyous types, this has the same effect.
Wildlife The Goat, having never ridden on an elephant, decided it was time to rectify the situation. I have done so, and I know better. However, since he was so set on it, I took my Dramamine and we went. He was up for the hour long ride, but I rather put my foot down at 20 minutes. I think he was glad of it, too. He could happily have ridden all day, but it must have been wearing on his nerves to have me cling to him and squeak every time the animal took a step. Now, intellectually I knew it was perfectly safe, but perched 15 feet up in a wobbly houdah with your toes curled into an elephant’s neck is no place for a middle aged sissy like me to be.
There was a little café bar at the elephant place where a couple of gibbons were hanging around. Charlie and Lanaia were part of the furniture and quite friendly. Later on, however, we visited the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project in Kata. Young gibbons are popular pets here, and the locals often take them to the beaches for tourists to ooh and ahh over and have their photos taken. Unfortunately, the tamest ape turns aggressive once it matures, and these animals are then abandoned or abused. The GRP reintroduces them into the wild in the national park, where they are supposedly safe from poachers. It doesn’t always work that way, but they try.
We also visited a butterfly garden, where various common and rare species are bred and preserved. The Goat was fascinated in particular by an Atlas moth, which one of the breeders handed to him. Impressive, but it’s still a bug.
Aquarium Phuket has a marine biology research center and aquarium. We got there late in the day, but they said we could stay past closing and we had the place almost to ourselves. This was great, since the highlight was a tunnel through a very large tank that housed leopard sharks, eagle rays, black tip reef sharks, and any number of large shoaling fish. With nobody else there, they turned off the people-moving sidewalk and we got to stay as long as we liked. It was excellent. I just wished we’d managed to see these creatures while we were diving. Maybe next time.
By the way -- for those of you who wish the full details and lots of pix, I refer you to the Grumpy Goat's blog, in particular the "Thai Dive" and "Thai Dry" entries, where he's done a much better job documenting our adventures. Of course, he's got time. He's only back at work... I'm still diving!
(NB for you non-divers, you have to take a break from diving now and then to let the nitrogen escape your body tissues, or you feel awful. Smart people don’t dive 24 hours before flying either, so that’s an off-gas day too.)