Sunday, November 3, 2013

6. Exploring the island of Phuket

Best in the morning, before temperatures reach into the mid-90s.

Phuket is Thailand's largest island. It is smaller than Singapore which is relatively close. The terrain is mountainous which allows for some heart-stopping serpentine motorcycling. Fantastic! Khao Mai Thao Sip Song mountain,  (Twelve Canes), at 529 meter. (1,736 ft) above sea level is the tallest mountain.

The major agricultural industry was, and still is, rubber farming with some palm oil production. As seen on the photographs, the island is mostly covered by forests, there are beautiful beaches to the west.

It is now almost four years ago that the tsunami (Indian ocean earthquake) destroyed most of the coastal areas here, killing more than 6,300 people nationwide (official number), and many more undocumented workers from abroad, working at the numerous construction sites. The coastal beaches of Patong, where I stay, Kamala, Karon and Kata sustained severe damage. Now, none of the devastation can be seen any longer. Everything is being rebuilt and back in business. A tsunami warning system is installed which, thankfully, hasn't been put to the test.

Elephant crossing.
Some small villages have baby elephants which they keep to attract tourists. Working elephant labour camps are unknown here. I hope to see them later in the trip in the eastern region of Isaan.
Most of the tourists here seem to be from China.

Elephants are for "Good luck".
Buddhist elephant shrine.

Some very cool resort architecture.

White-bellied sea eagle from here.
Sorry sight to see them being tied up and domesticated.

View to the north, with beaches Kata Noi, Kata and Karon (from bottom to top).
Patong beach is hidden by mountain rage in the back.

Beautiful and interesting wax-like flower.

Rubber tree with catching cup for the milky latex.

The trees in farms such as these are kept at a height of about 20-25 meters to take full advantage of availability of carbon dioxide for plant growth. In the wild the trees grow up to 30 meters.

The five Buddhist commandments, or "Precepts".

Inside the temple at the "Big Buddha", Phuket, the most revered statue on the island.

The Big Buddha.
 An important landmark, currently undergoing construction to enlarge the support areas around it. 45 meters tall, 25 meter diameter.

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