The Land of Elephants

Hello from Thailand!

We made it to Phuket and were quickly shuttled to the Marriott Vacation Club.  Being a vacation club, we have a two bedroom, two bath condo plus washer and dryer!  The last is the best news for me!

Monday morning started off right with a delicious breakfast buffet (Cory ate Thai stir fry!) followed by our first elephant adventure!  We booked a private tour through American Express Travel with a guide, driver, and private van.  First stop, all four of us rode Ton Tao; the kids even rode on his head!  This was as amazing as you can imagine…unlike anything else I’ve ever done!  During our ride, we saw trees that produce a white sap-like substance we later learned was rubber; there were rows and rows of these trees here and all over Phuket.  Next a 3.5 year old black elephant put on a show for us!  He played the harmonica, hula hopped around his trunk and gave kisses on our cheeks!  The later being Teddy’s favorite!  As we drove to the next activity, our observant Bea commented on the Thai houses saying “they use different materials to make theirs.”  Yes, many of their homes have tin roofs, no doors and dirt floors…different from home but no less a home.  Before we enjoyed our river ride on a bamboo raft, I accidentally sprayed Deet directly into my eye!  What a mess that was!  What was a lovely rafting experience for Cory and the kids was less than comfortable for me.  I tried to flush my eye out with water but it wasn’t enough (more on that later).  Lunch was delicious though with traditional Thai food.  Swimming at a waterfall was next where Cory had fun using his GoPro!  It was a full day of adventure so the kids slept on the way back to the hotel.  After cleaning up, we ate at Ginja where I had yummy prawns with chili sauce.

The next morning, I waked up to a swollen, red eye, so I called the UAB Travel Clinic who said to flush my eye for a solid 15 minutes.  Cory got bottled water (since you cannot drink the faucet water here) and used four 1.5L bottles to flush my eye.  That was the ticket!  No matter if you cannot flush you eye out immediately, do it as soon as you can.  That made all the difference in the world!  I was almost back to my normal self and definitely ready to enjoy breakfast after that.  Today was a beach/pool day.  Cory took the kids to the water while I enjoyed a 30 minute (only US$10) massage on the beach.  That was delightful!  You could hear the waves crashing.  Because of that Cory and the kiddos didn’t stay too long as the waves were pretty forceful.  So to the pool the kids and I go while Cory headed off for his massage.  The pools are super fun with elephant and turtle statues everywhere and slides!  Tonight we went to the famous FantaSea dinner show (1 hr away).  We didn’t realize it wasn’t just a show but a whole theme park with carnival games, vendors, animals to see and ride, etc.  We saw white tigers and even pet a 3 month old baby tiger.  It was super fun but we got rather nervous when we realized the show didn’t start til 9pm!  The best part of the show were the very elaborate costumes and Thai dancing!

After a very late night, we had to hustle for our tour the next day as we all slept in but luckily we had the same guide on a private tour again.  Staying on the north end of the island, we had an hour drive to our first stop at Karon Lookout.  It has a beautiful, long beach and was the area hit hardest by the 2004 tsunami.  13 years later, they’re still trying to rebuild.  More elephant trekking; you cannot do too much of this!  More culture was next at Big Buddha, a 48 meter tall marble statue built 10 years ago and still under construction due to it being completely funded through charitable donations.  It was BIG and very impressive to see!  Lunch sent us to a tourist destination but it was surprisingly delicious.  Thanks In Sea!  It also turned out to be a great photo shoot stop for Chinese tourists…with Bea as the star of the photos.  Teddy wasn’t up for smiling for their pictures…quite a funny scene.  Being a Buddhist country, Wat Chalong Temple was on our itinerary for its cultural and architectural significance.  It has numerous buildings that told of Buddha’s history, praying temple and even had of one of his bones on display.  Today was filled with lots of Thai culture and our final two stops included a Cashew Factory and a Gem Factory.  They were very proud of each!  We ended our day with some pool time, movie time and general chilling for the whole family.

Our next day here was all about relaxation.  We all played at the pool before we had arranged for a babysitter for the kids while we had a couple’s massage at Sala Spa.  It’s the rainy season here but this afternoon was the only time it rained during our whole week…which was perfect!  We hit a local (not touristy at all) restaurant, JJ’s Bar and Grill for supper tonight and boy was it good!  The Thai people are so hospitable!  The owner made sure we didn’t wait a second for anything!  Likewise, the Marriott staff has done nothing but ooh and goo over the kids too.  The Thai people are some of the most friendly people you could ever meet and we’ve had a blast getting to know them!

This trip was really our first time to do organized tours as a family on trips like this and today’s was the pinnacle of great experiences!  On this trip, we had the pleasure of meeting a professional travel writer and photographer, Kelsey (from KY aka RovingFox) and loved chatting with her about her adventures!  This excursion took us to the mainland of Thailand for a final elephant trek….and elephant bathing!  It hasn’t gotten old to ride an elephant but bathing was the icing on the cake!  Bea was so brave and even rode an elephant out of the water all by herself!  Another delicious Thai meal awaited us at the camp before heading back to our hotel.  The kids napped in the car so we headed to the pool when we got back.  Thankfully we did as we realized there were lots of activities happening this evening for Loy Krathong…a Thai festival celebrating renewal and connection of life to the water.  Our awesome hotel staff prepared games, a pageant, Muay Thai demonstration, and a ceremony to put our krathongs (beautiful floral floats lit with candles and incense…and sent off with a strand of hair and fingernail clipping for good luck) into water.  Who knew we’d get to be apart of such a special celebration for the Thai people!

On our last day, we rented a car and drove down into Phuket Town.  We laughed when we realized the car had no heater; it’s unnecessary here!  We found some open air markets to shop in and haggle!  I love doing this!  Lunch was at Kopit’am…a delicious find from Google!  I drove us back to our hotel so I would get a little practice before I do it with just me and the kiddos next week in Brisbane.  Because each destination on this trip they have driven on the other side, it didn’t feel that foreign to either of us.  This last evening in Phuket, we packed up and showered in prep for our 9 hour, overnight flight to Sydney…which is nutty that this flight is longer than our flights to Europe!

I still cannot believe I get to go back to Australia for the third time!

Feeding elephants

Elephant tricks

Pool at JW Marriott

FantaSea

Karon Lookout

Mary drinking from the water hose!

Big Buddha

Wat Chalong Temple 

Sala Spa

Fishing with the babysitter

Riding bareback

Hats the elephant trek guides made them

Loy Krathong

Old Phuket Town

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