Early morning and the sun just rising, we navigate past the fishing boats which are outside Patong Bay and approach the anchorage.
The wind is strong for this time of day, easterlies, coming from over the island and blowing at 25 knots; we have a discussion about which anchor we should use, the deciding factor being where the wind is going to come from during the day and thus which tender platforms will be in use. I decide to use the starboard anchor and we creep in the last few hundred yards. The bay is shallow and like it or not, the nearest we can get to the tender pier is a mile, a long journey for our boats, however unavoidable in the circumstances. The berth in Phuket proper was occupied by another cruise ship, at least it was meant to be, however I heard later that, due to the wind conditions, she could not dock. Eventually the wind eased sufficiently for her to do so.
I lay out the anchor and 5 shackles (450 feet) of chain, this will hold us if the wind increases and the bottom, being mud and sand, holds the anchor well. By 7:30 we are ready to start our tender operation, which is supplemented by a tender from Patong Bay itself.
The operation to get our guests ashore is efficient and by 10, all those want to go are off; time for Karen and I to ‘hit the beach’. Not literally of course, but our call here last year was stymied by those pesky taxi drivers, so doing some of the sights was going to be nice and no such challenges doing so on this side of the island. The ‘header’ image is taken from the beach, looking towards an anchored “Amsterdam”
Where to go and what to do, that was the question and who else should I ask? Our local ship’s agent of course and he recommended a visit to Promthep Cape, then the ‘big Buddha’ near Chalong and last, but not least, an elephant ride.
So off we set to Promthep and found to our surprise not only a lovely vista, but a beautiful temple there too. Dedicated to the ‘Elephant’ God, it was a blaze of colour, begging for some photos.
Then onto the Big Buddha, on the southern part of the island. It is still being added to, new construction all around, however it lies on a high hill and consequently one has magnificent views to the west, over Chalong Bay.
A bite to eat at a wonderful Thai restaurant, (Green curry for me of course). The restaurant was on the shoreline with a view across to the island of Maphrao. As we were leaving, a truck pulled up and chef started to order his lobster from the ‘catch of the day’; one of these beauties weighed 3.6 kgs, 8 lbs!
Replete, we headed for our final destination, an elephant trek. Inland now and away from the sea-breezes, the heat really struck home, bakingingly hot, the aroma of elephant dung, (if my dad were here, he would be putting that stuff on his rose garden 😕 ), the ‘camp’ had everything; oxen rides, paddy fields, cooking classes to name but a few.
We climbed up stairs to our ‘loading’ platform, how convenient, (not climbing up the side of an elephant), instead it is ‘parked’ in a narrow berth and one steps across and plonks yourself down in a bench seat. ‘Nobli’, (for that is the 37-year old’s name), goes into reverse, out of the ‘slot’ and off we go. The motion takes some getting used to, it’s a sort of ‘rolling and stumbling’ all at the same time. Being the seaman that I am, I critique the method of securing this precarious perch to the lumbering giant below me, hmnn, not too impressed and my thought turn as to how I will leap, should the necessity arise. 😎
Thankfully I did not need to show my prowess of leaping from a moving vehicle and after a while, one became used to the rolling gait, my bum stopped sliding across the bench seat, Karen stopped hitting me with her umbrella and it all became quite enjoyable. We took Nobli for a ‘car wash’, more of a soaking in the intense heat and it was obvious he thoroughly enjoyed it. he then had a good ‘rub’ on a very large rock, scratching his rear legs and nether area, we were at his mercy by this stage, gross tonnage wins….
I return to the ship after this ‘expedition’, leaving Karen and friends to browse the markets and, 3 hours later, we depart Patong Bay, the 1st officer doing the manoeuvering. As I write, we have crossed the Andaman sea and just passed through the 5º channel, south of the Nicobar Islands and thus into the Bay of Bengal. 2 more days at sea before Colombo on the 15th.