Well, I’ve been home for two months and I suppose it’s time to write my final thoughts on this trip. Like with any other major life event, as you get further and further away from the actual event and you get re-immersed into your daily routine, the enthusiasm and some of the details fade a bit, but, for me, certainly not the overall feeling of having had a terrific time.
Our tour leader Pranee is actually from Phuket and while we were there, we were fortunate enough to meet her mother. I suppose that is part of the reason it has taken me a little bit longer to write this. After sending Pranee a photo I took of her with the elephants, she let me know that her mother had passed away shortly after we returned home – which makes this post all the more melancholy. And to be clear, it’s not as if I knew Pranee’s mother before the trip or became fabulous friends with her during the trip. It’s just a reminder that eventually, we all lose loved ones.
Our first day in Phuket was spent at a resort for the second cooking class of the trip. While everyone was slaving away over hot stoves during the morning, I wandered the beaches taking what photos I could. The afternoon was spent poolside and I even ventured out into the deep on a paddleboard. The only thing I’ll say about that is that, at times, getting older just sucks. There is no doubt in my mind that I do not have the strength nor confidence I had just a mere ten years ago. I have been out on a paddle board before but it was on a lake – and I did fairly well. However, in the water off Phuket, with the rolling waves, I did manage to fall in. I was able to get back onto the board but spent the remainder of the time on my knees rather than standing up. I had neither the confidence nor the core stability to stand up any longer. But, it was still challenging and I enjoyed the adventure. The water was a fabulous shade of blue and if some of the others of the group had gone with me, it might have been a bit more fun, but it was still totally worth it.
While I was on my walk earlier in the day, I spotted a gigantic white Buddha on an adjacent mountain top and the next day, Pranee was able to arrange a driver for me while the other members of the group attended their third and final cooking class. The white Buddha was simply spectacular. The construction has been completely funded by donations and while the actual Buddha is finished, the grounds and base of the statue are only about 80% completed. To be sure, it is a tourist attraction but I think that once completed, this will be a must-see place for visitors. There were hundreds of 8” signed marble tiles, purchased by worshippers, that had not yet been installed and I am not sure if those will get to be used on the grounds since the Buddha himself was completed. The Buddha is about 40 feet tall and can be see for miles. Had the haze not made the skies so grey while we were there, I am sure photographs of the Buddha seated on top of a mountain would be amazing.
One of the other places we visited on the outskirts of Phuket was a rubber plantation. The rubber plantations line the highways for miles. The rubber trees are grown in perfectly straight rows and the bark of the trees is quite pretty. None of the trees we saw had a diameter any larger than eight inches. The ground cover beneath the trees is pineapple of all things, making the land very productive. Pineapples were sold from carts all along the highway. When pineapple is served, one of the things you can add is a sweet and salty mixture that includes a little bit of cayenne pepper. It was absolutely delish! (This same salty, sweet, hot combo is also great on pomelo.) We were shown how the tapped sap from the rubber trees is turned into a latex sheet which is then sold to a latex dealer that visits the farm on a regular basis.
On our visit to the older part of Phuket, which is similar to many old, historical downtowns, I found it to be both charming in its history and a bit rundown – which is neither good nor bad and just a part of its appeal. There were not as many photo opportunities in Phuket as with the other cities which is probably not exactly true. By the time we arrived in Phuket, I think I had already taken nearly 1200-1500 photos and I was getting tired. In addition, we did not visit as many temples as we had in the other cities. We did visit several beaches and I tried to get photos of some of the long boats on the beach but I am not sure I was that successful.
And so, like all good things, the trip and my blogging about the trip, have finally reached their end. One natural question might be whether or not the trip changed me? I think the answer must be yes. I can only hope that it’s for the better but I won’t be the judge. New friendships were made and others evolved. There were many places along the trip where I found myself contemplating living in a hut on a beach or a secluded piece of property growing my own coconuts, pineapple, bananas and raising chickens – I liked that part of the globe that much. There is no doubt it would be a simpler life and I think with a bike and a scooter, I could do just fine. Should my career as a blogger or photographer take off, it would certainly be worth considering. But shortly after having thoughts of abandoning all civilization, I remember that I have not stepped on the continent of South America, done a yoga class in Costa Rica nor seen the changing of the guard in London. There is so much of the world left to see and I am itching to see it all.
Until next time.