Thailand Day 3 – Big Buddha

from the top of the island

Alternate Title: Delephantg
Alternate Title 2: I’m gonna write a book!

We agreed to meet for breakfast (brunch?) around 10 am, and found a decent little place down a side street (can’t find the Soi’s name) across from Soi Seadragon. I believe it was the Eurasian place you can see here. People were more adventurous with their meals here, and everything was great. I learned about Coke Light here, which is their version of Diet Coke, the only diet soda I found the whole trip. And yes, I ordered their version of chicken strips again.

We did a little shopping (I bought some sandals) on the way back to the hotels for some relief from the sun and our bowels and then hit the beach. I got to the beach about 15 minutes before everyone else showed up. After wading in the water up to my calf, and wandering around for a bit, I got to watch a team setup a parachute ride for some of the tourists.

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Patong Beach Sign
( @ the head of Bangla road, not our image )

The beach
So the parachute ride worked like this; boat has a very long rope tied to it, other end is tied to a harness and a parachute. The rider is harnessed into the parachute and then the boat drags them around, and the wind pulls the rider into the air. A fun ride for all, probably somewhere near 100 feet in the air. The twist here, is that a small Thai-lander rides the ropes between the harness and the parachute with the rider. No harness, just him sitting on the ropes. His purpose is to keep control of the parachute and assist with the landing. The wind was going pretty good and so were the waves. So when the boat backed up to the beach to toss the rope to one of the land crew, it got pushed all the way in. As they finally managed to get the boat back into water that was deep enough for it, it was literally jumping (leaving the water) as it hit the waves. Pretty fun to watch. Then the rider is pulled into the air, while a small Thai-lander pulls some circus type maneuvers to position himself on the ropes behind the rider. That’s gotta be a rush the first time. When its time to land (maybe 10 mins later?) as they approach the ground, the Thai-lander jumps off the ropes, still hanging on to them, and drags the rider the last few feet to the ground and uses their weight to stop them from being dragged who knows how far. I imagine that the first few times they tried this without the Thai-lander on the back, they nearly killed a few riders. Images here.

Thai-lander riding on the back of the parachute
(also not our image)
On the beach, watching the parachute riders

The rest of the guys showed up while I was watching and watched with me for a bit before we decided to stroll down the beach. The sun was out, probably 40% cloud cover and it was hot. We walked down the beach for 10-15 mins and found a beach-side bar that we decided to get some drinks and food at. We received a text from Bucho around this time that he was on the ground and checking into his hotel. We sent him a ping and ordered another round while we waited for him to find us. A short time later Bucho found us and another refreshing round was had.

We didn’t have anything planned for this day so we went back to our hotel rooms for a re-group and some relief from the sun, with the goal of meeting at my room as soon as possible for some discussion about what to do next. A few google searches later and we had a plan to take a tuk-tuk to the Big Buddha.

pimped out Tuk-Tuk

Tuk-Tuk’s
I’m going to talk about the Tuk-Tuk & the ride in the Tuk-Tuk first, as it was an adventure on its own. It was one of the older, smaller Tuk-Tuk’s with the seats over the wheels on both sides. They have a drivers area (front seats) and then the back area for the passengers. You can see one here. These make up probably 60% of the vehicles that aren’t scooters (which are probably 80% of total vehicles) on the island (and all of Thailand?). The padding on the seats in the back is lacking, and is barely enough. We rode three to a side and were quickly on our way. I think this ride cost us 1500 TB and was probably 45 mins long. We spent most of the trip talking about how crazy the driving in Thailand is, and how efficient the people seem to be at it. The back of the Tuk-Tuk has a space like there should be a door at the back, but I didn’t see a single Tuk-Tuk with a door back there. The windows all seemed to be just a little too low, so you were always bending down just a bit to see out of them. Drinking and smoking is allowed in the back of a Tuk-Tuk and we took full advantage of this.

The other thing about Tuk-Tuk’s and all cars in Thailand is the customization’s. Everything was customized. Tuk-Tuks almost all have crazy lights, and speaker systems, including plexi-glass covered amps and flash-to-the-beat led lights in the sub woofers. I found some images online that are great examples. The Tuk-Tuk we rode in was older, some of the lights didn’t work, and he didn’t turn on the music much because we were talking, but you could tell it had been the shit in its day.

Fat Americans
On the way to the Big Buddha, the driver needed to stop for a few supplies at a 7-11 and a couple of the guys used this opportunity to stock up on some items. While we were waiting for them to finish up, the Tuk-Tuk driver came over to chat with us that were still in the back. He commented that the 6 of us big guys were going to be a bit of work for his little Tuk-Tuk. He made a couple of jokes about us being big around the waste line before grabbing a pretty good handful of my stomach and giggling. I’ll admit it took me a second, but I giggled too. We joked about getting out to push if he needed it, and were soon back on the road.

On the way up the hill, there were a couple of places offering Elephant rides and interactions. More about this on the way down. There were also places that looked like you could rent dune buggy but smaller type go-carts that looked like a lot of fun. But most of our time was spent focusing on the crazy driving and the things about it that were just accepted as the norm.

Big Buddha
Big Buddha

Big Buddha
We arrived at the Big Buddha and noticed that this was a no smoking no revealing clothing area. It was a respect thing and we all were fine with it. It wasn’t until we were at the bottom of the steps of the Buddha that we realized how high up we were. The Big Buddha is placed on top of the highest mountain on the island and from there you could see basically the whole island of Phuket. It was a pretty spectacular view. There were probably 50-100 stairs up to the Big Buddha from the first viewing area and I was a bit surprised to see I wasn’t the only one struggling a bit. Its good to be 40 and a bit out of shape in the US.

The Buddha is made up of concrete with a white tile surface on the outside. There are several statues of old kings, generals, and gods all around the outside and then maybe 10+ statues of Buddha and (I’m assuming) important Monks on the inside. It was in a state of construction, but looked like it had been in this state for a while. There was one (alive) monk sitting in the middle chanting into a microphone that was broadcast across loud speakers so that you could hear the chanting across most of the entire place. Several people in our group seemed a little surprised by the fact that it had a tile (small, like 6″ x 6″) surface.

We were there for maybe an hour before we jumped back in our waiting Tuk-Tuk and started back down the hill. Our driver asked if we wanted to stop by the Elephants on the way down and it was agreed that we did.

Feeding the baby elephant

Elephants
The Elephants were probably about 5-10 mins down the road and there were some mixed opinions on the morality of the situation. The elephants looked sick (discoloration on their skin) and were either chained across their bodies to thick concrete poles (think freeway supports) or chained to the ground with very short chains (5 ft?). The workers around the place were splashing water on the elephants and feeding them by either tossing food on the ground or throwing it at the elephants. One of the workers used a thin rod to smack and elephant in the face a few times that was unpleasant to see, it didn’t seem to hurt the animal, but it did seem like he was smacking it pretty hard. Later as we discussed it we pondered how hard one has to hit and elephant to get the animal to notice it.

There was a baby elephant chained to the concrete block it was standing on that they were allowing people to feed and take pictures with. It seemed pretty happy, and even seemed to dance a bit when fed, but the chain around its ankle caused me not to take part in the picture and feeding activities. TheGopher and I sat in the Tuk-Tuk during this part of the adventure and the worker nearest the baby elephant cat-called us to get out of the Tuk-Tuk, calling me “Big Boy” and TheGopher “Girly boy” (I might be wrong on the exact name, but you get the idea).

While sitting in the Tuk-Tuk, TheGopher and I noticed that one of the elephants had what looked to be a deformed penis. Not that I normally focus on penis (ok.. maybe a bit), but they’re kinda hard not to look at, being 3 ft long, 6 in across and just dangling there like a malformed leg between two good legs. The penis in question looked… not ok. The best description I can give is that it looked like the head had been in a blender for just a second. It was purple and pink and looked almost shredded some. When it urinated, the urine came out like a shower head. It disturbed TheGopher and I to the point that neither of us could shut up about it for 15 mins after we left, and I find myself cringing over it now as I write this. No one else seemed to notice it.

As we were getting into the Tuk-Tuk to leave the elephants the driver said he wanted to stop by a shopping area and if we stayed there for 10 minutes he’d get a stamp on some type of Tuk-Tuk driver reward system. We agreed and were on our way. 20-25 mins later we pulled into what looked like a very new strip mall area made up of 3 buildings with about 4 shops spaces in each, half of which were empty. We pulled up directly in front of one jewelry and souvenirs shop and he directed us to go inside. At first, we were just playing the part, but a couple of the guys found a few things to buy for their families.

The rest of the ride back to Patong it was raining very hard and the driver had put down the plastic windows on the Tuk-Tuk. It was too hot and humid to leave them down so we figured out a way to half open them to allow some air in without soaking us.

The rain was off and on as we got back to Patong and we decided it was time to go for dinner. We went to an Italian/Indian/Thai place across the Soi (side street) from Eurasian that we went to that morning. This is where godoloju decided he was ready to try on some spicy curry. He ordered spicy and the girl said later that he got ‘medium thai spicy’. Either way, by the sweat pouring from his face after his first few bites, we were all wondering if he was going to survive the experience. He ate the whole thing happily and said it was great, so I assume he got what he wanted. The jet lag was catching up with several of the group and the conversation was not as lively as the rest of the nights.

Just a pretty picture of the beach

2 for the price of 1
We next decided to try another strip club to see if it we just happened to find a weird one in Suzy Wong’s. This one was called the Harem and was near the start of Soi Seadragon. We were a little early and there were 5 girls to every 1 guy. The girls quickly descended on us and once again it turned out to be a very pricey, yet unfulfilling experience. One of us had the attentions of two particularly attractive girls and enjoyed his time at Harem more than the rest of us. We weren’t here long as most of us couldn’t muster the energy from either jet lag or wallet pain, and decided to go back to the hotel.

3 of us decided to go back out and just wander. I specifically wanted to see the end of Bangla road and a few specifics that were supposed to be at the other end. So we wandered to the end, taking in the sites, then took a right and wandered some more. We ended up doing a big loop that I would estimate at 1-2 miles worth of walking. Near the end of this stroll, I managed to find something that I was looking for and this led us to go back to the hotel.

I believe one of the two I was walking with went and found what he later described as a ‘bad’ massage, and the other went to bed. I however, took a quick shower and had a couple of smokes, then decided that I wasn’t done and went back out to see if I could find someone interesting to chat with. I walked a lot, probably went up and down Bangla 3 or 4 times and many of the side streets. I ended up at a bar near the end of Bangla and had a pleasant conversation with a freelancer. We entertained each other for much of the rest of the evening and I went to bed around 3:30 am.

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