Friday, January 7, 2011

Royal Caribbean Cruise: Day 3 - Phuket Excursion

Day 3 of the cruise and we are in Phuket already!

The view from our stateroom window as we reach Phuket
It is really worthwhile having an Oceanview stateroom. This is the view from our window as we pulled into Phuket.

Again, you have a choice of staying on board the ship, or hopping onshore for excursions (there are lots of mini tours you can book these via the Shore Excursions Desk on board).

Tenders transport passengers back and forth every 15 mins
If there is no port large enough, the ship anchors itself offshore and gets served by tenders (boats) that transport passengers back and forth every 15 minutes.

The cruise ship looks grand compared to the other boats!
When you look back, you really appreciate the size of the Royal Caribbean ship. It looks grand compared to the other boats!

Arriving at Patong Beach
A short while later, we arrive at Patong Beach. It kinda reminds me of Kuta, Bali. Anyway, this is where we meet up with our designated tour guide - Yee Leong and I have been given the Temple Visit and Holy Places excursion. We're delighted to find there are only four people on this tour today, including ourselves. So we get a nice minivan with lots of space, instead of a lumbering coach!

Pranang Sang Temple in Thalang is the oldest Buddhist temple on the island
Pranang Sang Temple is the oldest Buddhist temple on the island, erected some 545 years ago in Thalang when it was the capital city. The grounds are where the battle of Thalang took place in 1785 when the locals fought off Burmese invaders.

The temple is decorated with large bilingual paintings and murals that depict Buddha's life and Phuket's recent history. It's also got a main hall that has bizarrely not been completed for more than 100 years, due to many accidents and delays.

This place is also known as Temple of the White-Blooded Lady. Legend has it that a princess was framed and executed, but the white blood that flowed from her wounds proved her purity and innocence. Somehow it reminded me the Mahsuri legend from Langkawi, and I was surprised to find a linkage with Phuket. It seems her descendents are living here now.

This temple also suggests that Buddha has a different pose for each day of the week (and indeed, two poses for Wednesdays - night and day). There is also a reclining Buddha statue outdoors, and a mummified abbot at the temple.

Next up - Prathong Temple. "Phra Tong" means "Golden Buddha" and this is the site of a mysterious half-buried Buddha statue.

It was found by a boy who tied his buffalo to the protruding head that was then covered in mud. The boy and the animal both died shortly, and appeared to his parents in a dream and told them about the statue. But everyone who tried to remove the Buddha statue from its place soon suffered misfortune or death. So they have covered up the statue with gold and built a temple around it. It is highly revered by the locals, and even the King visited it at one time.

Click on the right to read the full details.

Leaves of the sacred Bodhi tree are suitably heart-shaped
The tour guide showed us a Bodhi tree. These are sacred to Buddhists, and the leaves are interestingly heart-shaped.

Saeng Tham Chinese Shrine, one of the oldest in Phuket City
Next we visited the old town in Phuket. Our minivan was able to handle the little alleys that big buses are not allowed to! We visited the Saeng Tham Chinese Temple, "Temple of the Serene Light", which is remarkably similar to many Chinese temples elsewhere. A large proportion of Phuket's population are Chinese immigrants who arrived in the 19th century to work in the tin mines. These brought along their beliefs and set up their own places of worship.

Monument of the two heroines who led the defence of Phuket against Burmese attackers in 1785
We also passed by the Monument of the two heroines who led the defence of Phuket against Burmese attackers in 1785. Sisters Thao Thep Kasattri and Thao Sri Soontorn tricked the Burmese army by disguising women as soldiers and parading them around town, to give the impression that they were getting reinforcements. The Burmese, who were in larger numbers but famished, soon retreated.

Rang Hill or Khao Rang gives you a panorama of the city
The tour also brought us to Rang Hill or Khao Rang. It's a hilltop park that gives you a panorama of the city.

Khao Rang Breeze - the restaurant atop Rang Hill
There is a restaurant up here called Khao Rang Breeze, perched above the steep jungle slopes. I wondered if it's any good, but we didn't have time to try it.

We bump into the wonder twins Calvin and Cherie!
We bump into Calvin and Cherie, who almost look like the Wonder Twins here. They are off to the Thai massage segment of their excursion. Lucky people!

Monument of the Father of the Thai Navy, HRH Prince Chumporn
Well, it was not all Buddhist and Taoist temples. We were also brought to the Monument of the Father of the Thai Navy, HRH Prince Chumporn. They revere him deeply for his deeds to the nation, and you can see shrines dedicated to him along the coast of Phuket.

Phuket's famous cashew nut factory, run by Chinese Thai
We made an unscheduled pit stop at the Sri Bhurapa Orchid cashew nut factory where we could get some (free) refreshments. Unlike the others, this 5.5 hour tour does not include any lunch or tea or snacks.

Luckily we did so, as this was where we bumped into Eunice who was finishing her elephant ride tour. We cajoled her into joining us for Promthep Cape.

Wat Chalong - Phuket's largest and most sacred shrine
But one more temple to go before we get to the panoramic cape. Wat Chalong, Phuket's largest and most sacred shrine.

Wat Chalong houses many amazing things
Wat Chalong is full of legend and history. It's seen healing miracles, and the revered abbots there have played pivotal roles in overcoming rebellions and mediating peace.

The latest addition is a special chedi housing a precious relic - a fragment of bone from the Lord Buddha. It's right on top, with a majestic spire reaching heavenwards.

Wat Chalong temple spire
It's the grandest temple we've seen so far. Elegant, ornate and very imposing.

Promthep Cape overlooks southern tip of the island
We didn't stay long at Wat Chalong as it was already closing. We headed to the famous Promthep Cape. It overlooks the southern part of the island, and commands a beautiful view of the sea.

Lots of elephants around the Four-faced Buddha Shrine at Promthep Cape
There is a shrine here too! The four-faced Buddha shrine, encircled by scores of elephants. I wonder if it's related to the Erawan Shrine in Bangkok...

We did many experiments to get the starburst effect
It was sunset at Promthep Cape, so we played with silhouettes, trying to get the the sunny starburst effect. Eunice's ponytail came in handy as a focusing point.

After a day of temples, some meditation is appropriate!
After a full afternoon of temples and holy places, it was only natural to partake in a little meditation.

Back to the ship at dusk
And soon it was time to go back to the ship. It looked gorgeous, like a scintillating jewel upon the sea.

Not a single food shot in this post, I'm afraid. But the feasting continues back on the ship!



  1. Wah, Tuesday seems to be the Buddha's most "relaxed" day lah... :)

    (No offense intended. Metta metta.)

  2. What an extraordinary post with pictures and clever captions galore! I imagine the amount of work must be quite earth shattering...

  3. Great pix! I was on the Penang/KL cruise and yah, the food does taste as good as it looks. Got some of them food pix up at my site too. ;)

  4. LFB: Well-spotted, Kenny! I also like Tuesdays!

    Eunice: you changing from tour guide to teacher? :P Of course, this post got distinction cos got starburst Eunice!

    Cool Insider: Hey thanks! I'm really glad you like it. Took me the better half of an afternoon!

    Cavalock: Cool! Yes, Royal Caribbean does pay attention to's not bad for a cruise!

  5. Thank you for posting.
    I've been looking at some of the posts on this website to get an idea about travel in Phuket for my next vacation.


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