Singapore laws are tough, but clear. You jaywalk and you’re fined on the spot. You will also pay when you litter and drug peddlers get a death sentence. No wonder the walls of Singapore’s buildings are clean and so are the streets, much cleaner than any other Western city.
The state scans the media for content and block those that are inappropriate. One cannot deny the efficiency of the system for in Singapore you can walk anywhere without fear any day or night. One can’t do this in other large cities. This is something other countries can emulate.
This tiny country which is also a city is composed of the large island of Singapore and 63 smaller islands. Located off the southern tip of the slender Malay Peninsula, this southeast Asian city-state is just 90 mi/145 km north of the equator. The small state’s rapid pulse belies its languid, tropical climate.
There are fourteen major nationalities represented in the more than three million people living on the big island. Most people though belong to one of the seven or eight Chinese groups. The national heart beat is sparkling Singapore City which is a wonderful place.
Sir Stamford Raffles arrived in 1819 in the Sumatran trading centre and claimed it for British commerce. The harbour with its strategic position, and free port standing stimulate rapid growth. There is a tombstone at the end that says the name of the deceased and this epitaph from Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936), British author, poet “A fool lies here who tried to bustle the East.” The Naulabka, chapter 5 ( Naulahka 1892 which Rudyard Kipling uncharacteristically misspelt)
SINGAPORE British colonial remnants, Islamic, Hindu, Chinese, Buddhist, Confucian, and Malay elements all describe the lively tropical city-state of Singapore. We felt obliged to visit the long bar at Raffles’ Hotel where Singapore Sling was created and imagined ourselves sitting along side such literary luminaries as Kipling and Maugham. We even lounged elegantly (tried to anyway) at the Long Bar as we sipped the Singapore Sling not in a satin suit as Jean Harlow probably did.
Although the Malays lived on the peninsula long before anybody else, no one can truly claim to be a native Singaporean. The Malays lived here and Geylang Serai became their commune in the 1840s before the Chinese and the Indians arrived when the British troops cruelly dispersed the floating village at the mouth of the Singapore River in the mid-19th century.
You can still see the Peranakan influence which we thought referred only to those of Malay background but the Cultural Museum seems to indicate that it also includes those from other backgrounds like the Chinese and the Indians. The Museum has a collection of cultural artifacts and traditional implements. There was even a display of a traditional wedding, complete with hand-sewn garments, accessories and bridal chamber.
Geylang Serai Corner can help one gain a better understanding into the lives of the Singapore Malaysians for it is the cultural heart of the Malay community in Singapore. The first Indian who arrived with Stamford Raffles in the 19th century had to cut away the thick jungle but quickly adopted the ways of the Singaporean society.
Little India, an ethnic neighbourhood with Tamil cultural elements, is one of the most real districts in Singapore. It is a cheerful and colourful place which makes it a must-see place. The food is delicious, the athmosphere authentic where you can look for imported products. Look for imported products from the subcontinent. Shop at Tekka Centre to browse for silver, brass, exotic jewellery, jasmine garlands, and genuine silk saris.
Start at Little India Cultural Corner which is near the Little India Arcade. Here local young artists painted the colourful Indian-inspired murals near the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple which is dedicated to the wife (Hindu Goddess Kali, the Goddess of Power) of Lord Shiva.
Fondly called the “National Mosque of Singapore, Sultan Mosque is named for Istana Kampong Glam (Sultan’s Palace) which is the historic home of Malay Royalty in Singapore. It is now used as a Malay Heritage Centre. There are many shops for those who will go to Mecca for the required hajj (the largest pilgrimage in the world and the fifth pillar of Islam). One can check out the prayer rugs, elegant Islamic art, handicrafts and spices.
Practically Speaking Currency: Singapore dollar Shop: 9 am to 7 pm Info: Visitor Centre (1 Orchard Spring Lane) or browse to: www.visitsingapore.com PO: Opposite Merlion Statue Browse: Orchard Road, Arab Street, Raffles City Transport: Taxi, MRT Buy: Everything and Anything
Arrival Information: The ship docked at Jurong Port near the Malaysian frontier. The pier is approximately 40 minutes from the main Orchard Road shopping area.
The Chinatown is one of Singapore’s largest districts. It was first formed by the immigrants from Xiamen in the 19th century. They use Feng Shui to direct how to place objects for best flow of energy and harness this to improve luck and create a safe and harmonious home that boosts the spirit and inspires one to reach the highest aspiration.
Much larger than its original Telok Ayer (watery bay) enclave, the district is not exclusively Chinese. Sri Mariamman or Mother Goddess is Singapore’s oldest Hindu temple is around and near Jamae Chulia Mosque with two tall minarets.
Chinatown is divided into four main districts: Kreta Ayer, Telok Ayer, Tanjong Pagar, and Bukit Pasoh, each with its own distinctive flavour. The heart of activity is in the Trengganu and Smith Streets which is also known as the Food Street in Kreta Ayer.
In the past, water was drawn from a well and taken in bullock carts thus the name of Kreta Ayer which in Malay means water cart road. There are shops, restaurants, and loads of people drive the hectic speed. Telok Ayer’s Thian Hock Keng Temple is the temple of heavenly happiness which is also among Singapore’s oldest and most ornate Chinese temples.
Reclaimed land has put the harbour some distance away. Local Culture and ’Singlish (Singapore dialect) can be perplexing for the unfamiliar ear. Browse to : www.singlishdictionary.com for an explanation about some of the fusion of words you may hear in the streets.
This was how Singapore welcomed us, “Selamat dating di Sigapura”. Singapore, officially the Republic of Singapore, is an island city-state, off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula. It is made up of 63 islands, including mainland Singapore.
The main island, widely known as Singapore Island, is officially called Pulau Ujong. It is 137 km (85 miles) north of the Equator, south of the Malaysian state of Johor and north of the Indonesian Riau Islands, and is the smallest country in Southeast Asia.
The name Singapore was derived from Malay words singa (lion) and pura (city). Folklore attributes this name to a 14th-century Sumatran prince Sang Nila Utama, who, on alighting the island after a thunderstorm, renamed it Lion City after spotting an auspicious beast identified as a lion.
Malay is Singapore’s national language and “Majulah Singapura”, the national anthem uses it. There are really four official languages (Chinese, Malay, Tamil and English. British English is the basis of Singaporean English but it goes to pidgin or Singlish which is commonly spoken on the streets. It is integrated with the grammar and vocabulary from different Chinese dialects, Indian and Malay languages.
The Singapore dollar (S$) is the currency of Singapore with the abbreviation as SGD. The Monetary Authority of Singapore is the Central Bank which is responsible for issuing the currency. The Board of Commissioners of Currency was established in 1967. The Singapore dollar was redeemable at par with the Malaysian ringgit until 1973.
It can still be exchanged at par with the Brunei dollar. In fact, to celebrate 40 years of Brunei currency agreement, a commemorative S$20 note was launched the back of which is the same as the Bruneian $20 note started simultaneously on June 27, 2007.
Thomas Stamford Raffles arrived on the main island in 1819 and signed an agreement with Sultan Hussein Shah for the British East India Company to improve the southern part of Singapore as a British trading post. Singapore then became a British possession in 1824. The Japanese invaded and gained possession of Singapore in 1942 but the British repossessed it in 1945.
Before joining the Federation of Malaysia, Singapore declared independence from Britain on 31 August 1963, as a result of the 1962 Merger Referendum of Singapore. But Tunku Abdul Rahman removed Singapore from the Federation two years later, after intense ideological differences between the ruling parties of Malaysia and Singapore.
The symbol of Singapore is the Merlion, a half-fish, half-lion beast. The “Singa” or lion stands for the animal that the founder of ancient Singapore, Sang Nila Utama, saw which looked like a lion, and the fish is a tribute to Singapore’s history as “Temasek”, the ancient sea town. The name Singapore comes from the Malay Singapura which is Sanskrit for Lion City. Lions most likely never lived there. The beast seen was probably a tiger.
The national Flag of Singapore was first approved in 1959, the year Singapore became self-governing in the British Empire. It was approved again as the national flag when the Republic gained independence on August 9, 1965.
The Singapore Arms and Flag and National Anthem Rules identify the flag’s symbolism and composition of its elements: red represents “equality of men and universal brotherhood” and white, “pervading and perpetual purity and qualities.”
The shining crescent moon “corresponds to a young nation on the ascendant”. The five stars “represent the nation’s ideals of democracy, equality, peace, progress, and justice”. By the second half of the 20th century, the crescent and star came to be known as a symbol of Islamism. Singapore’s flag then was seen in this context by the nation’s Muslim activist.
SingaporeWe entered the Singapore Strait passing Horsburgh and proceeded through the long Fairway towards the berth by March 25. We had breakfast early so we could go downtown. We could not find the gangway because where we were waiting was still closed and no ship’s employee could tell us when it would be opened but Rita found a way and we followed her and reached the Harbourfront Centre in 45 minutes.
There we could not find any internet connection so we looked for a shoe repair shop which was still closed. We looked around and I found some trinkets and postcards. Finally, the shoe repair shop opened and we asked the usual questions for which we did not receive a satisfactory answer so we went back to the ship, had our lunch, worked and rested a bit before leaving for our Tea at Raffles Tour.
There we enjoyed an afternoon in style. We enjoyed a brief stop at Raffles Landing Site before making our way to Raffles Hotel. The hotel, which opened in 1887 and started life as a ten-bedroom bungalow, has a guest list that include the likes of Charlie Chaplain, Queen Sophia of Spain and Joseph Conrad.
The world famous hotel now boasts an impressive 14 restaurants (making the choice where to eat the most taxing part of the day) and lounges including a French Restaurant, New York-style deli, a bakery, Indian curry house and a steakhouse. Upon arrival we were given a walking tour of the hotel visiting the Raffles Hotel Museum.
Afterwards, we had some free time walking around and browsing at the shopping arcade before taking tea in the Tiffin Room. Here we enjoyed a fantastic afternoon tea, stuffing ourselves silly, in lavish surroundings soaking up the atmosphere of one of the world’s most famous hotels.
The afternoon tea is a buffet-style high tea with coffee and tea. Tiffin Room is in the lobby of Raffles Hotel which is the place for North Indian fare with a delectable buffet spread for lunch and dinner. A buffet breakfast and high tea is also served daily. Josh was our tour guide who told us many stories.
He said there are 1000 ships on any given day in Singapore. In fact they get 20 million a year making them one of the busiest ports. Singapore is small just 23 km from north to south and 42 km from east to west and shaped like a diamond something. They had their independence in 1965 which is just the right time because of the industrialization.
The part we were on, Jurong, used to be a swamp but their history really started 700 years ago when someone saw a fish called Singa. Then the next 100 years they were ruled by five Malay kings. In 1890, a 38-year old handsome man founded Singapore. He came two times, the first two being short and then in 1823 he stayed for 8 months. He came out with a town plan.
The North was kept for the civic government with Raffles as the last of the European hotels. South of the bank was given to the Chinese and the banks. He built schools for the natives that was very near Raffles Hotel. He was against drugs.
The HDB built satellite houses which is subsidized by the government. Each apartment is a 3-room flat with two bedrooms and one living room that costs S$180,000 which used to be S$15000. Now it is more than S$200,000. There are ERP signs that stand for electronic rate pricing but Josh said it really means electronic robbing people.
There are now three universities in Singapore. They have 700 sq. km and Josh said Research and Development means Research and Dispatch. Every child is entitled to a basic education. Population is less so getting more babies is encouraged instituting a baby bonus system.
Their subway is one of the best. Their population consists of 74% Chinese, 14% Malay, 9% Indians. Singapore River is the river of life. To the left is the Treasury Building and the Supreme Court. There are four languages. English is the administrative language, Chinese is one of the official languages, Malay is the national language.
We spent 20 minutes in the museum and their shop there. We had tea which was good but I think the whole thing is overrated. Then Josh took us to the Marina Sands Bay where Sir Thomas Raffles stands on watch. He lived from 1781-1826. He first landed on 29 of January 1819 as agent Of British East India Company.
The Civic District includes Raffles, Asian Civilization Museum, Victoria Theatre and Hall, Concert Hall, Dalhousie Obelisk, and Esplanade Park. Josh pointed to the ficus tree which he said is also known as the strangling tree. Then he explained the two sets of statues. One is entitled From Chettiars to Financier done by sculptor Chem Lian Shen. Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s Prime Minister got the river cleaned and had the reservoir started. No one believed this visionary man could do it but he did.
October to February are the best times to visit. Then he mentioned again the size of Singapore but seems opposite to the one he mentioned before. From North to South it is 42 km and from east to west it is 23 km. There are two integrated resorts meaning it has hotel, casino, convention centre and theatre.
He pointed to the speakers corner and said they have no national resource. It’s the only country where you can bring fruit but not cigarette. In the 1820s, the Chinese immigrants are from the south; now they are from the north.
The first time caught littering you will be asked to sweep the floor or streets wearing orange uniform that says Corrective Worker Order. That is why their country is clean and green. They burn the waste and turn them to energy. He said you can do anything you want as long as you’re not caught.
We visited their famous Long Bar where the Singapore Sling was created in 1915 by Mr. Ngami Tong Boon, a Hainan’s-Chinese bartender. In the Raffle Hotel’s museum, we saw the safe in which Mr. Ngami locked away his precious recipe books, as well as the sling recipe hastily jotted down on a bar-chit in 1936 by a visitor who asked the waiter for it.
Originally, the Singapore Sling was meant as a woman’s drink, hence the attractive pink colour. Today it is definitely a drink enjoyed by all, without which any visit to Raffles Hotel is incomplete. The recipe is as follows: 30 ml Gin, 15 ml Herring Cherry Liqueur, 120 ml Pineapple juice, 15 ml Lime Juice, 7.5 ml Cointreau, 7.5 ml Dom Benedictine, 10 ml Grenadine, a dash of Angostura Bitters, garnish with a slice of Pineapple and Cherry.
Raffles Hotel, established in 1887, was designated a National Monument in 1987. The hotel has 103 suites, each tastefully appointed with period furnishings and amenities to cater to the discerning traveller. The many gardens and courtyards complement the elegant architecture.
Rudyard Kipling once said, “Feed at Raffles”, and certainly there is a variety of restaurants at the hotel, including Raffles Grill (an aura of timeless elegance sets the tone for the Hotel‘s formal dining room. The cuisine is light and innovative, characterized by a blend of classical and contemporary French cuisine complemented by service that is attentive yet discreet),
Tiffin Room, Bar and Billiard Room (most well known for the legend of the “Tiger under the billiard table”. This colonial yet stylish restaurant serves an international buffet for lunch and dinner on weekdays while a lavish brunch is offered on weekends), Royal China at Raffles (A top international Chinese restaurant operator based in London, it is well-known for its signature dishes such as lobster noodles, crispy duck in pancake, roast suckling pig and traditional dim sum items).
Empire Café (The ambience of Singapore‘s cafes and coffee houses popular in the 1920s provide the setting for the hotel‘s casual dining restaurant. The food is an eclectic blend of international staples and local favourites.), Raffles Courtyard (For an unforgettable experience amidst swaying palms and lush tropical gardens, savour alfresco dining at its best with the finest ocean-fresh seafood selections prepared in light Mediterranean flavours).
Ah Teng’s Bakery (Delicious home-made pastries, cookies, cakes and other sweet treats are the highlights of this cozy café. Perfect for an early morning ‘cuppa‘, Ah Teng‘s provides a warm and inviting dining experience.
Seah Street Deli (This New York style delicatessen offers a unique menu of an extensive selection of homemade entrees, American sandwiches, salads and “honest-to-goodness“ burgers, with portions that are decidedly generous and service remarkably friendly).
Long Bar Steakhouse (This steakhouse offers grilled prime cuts of Australian and US beef, quality seafood and a tantalising selection of cold and hot appetizers), Shinji by Kanesaka (Enjoy the cult-status Kanesaka style of sushi in a cosy and intimate ambience.) This is the first venture outside of Japan that is helmed by Chef Kanesaka. Edomae sushi techniques with novel ideas offer the definitive combo of rice and the best fish, showing the two-star Michelin chef’s quest for the great sushi.
Raffles Creamery introduces Cold Marble Teppanyaki, a new way of designing a personalized blend of ice cream creations, every one a work of art. So have these ice cream artists entertain you as they whisked up your selected combinations teppanyaki-style on cold marble.
Famous bars at Raffles include the Long Bar (Home of the Singapore Sling, the earth-décor of this two-storey bar was inspired by Malayan Plantations in the 1920s. The bar also serves traditional pub favourites that are available for lunch and snacks.), Bar and Billiard Room, and Writers Bar.
Also at Raffles is the Raffles Amrita Spa which combines relaxation, fitness, nutrition and treatment exclusively for the use of Raffles Hotel residents; Jubilee Hall, designed in late Victorian style, has 388 plush seats, velvet curtains, a balcony, an expansive stage and beautiful murals on its wall. TheRaffles Hotel Museum showcases intriguing memorabilia and period photographs of Raffles Hotel, Singapore during the romantic Golden Age of Travel.
There are more than 40 delightful shops at the Raffles Hotel Arcade, where one can buy floral bouquets, Raffles souvenirs, collectibles, wines and gourmet foods. All can indulge in the variety and premium quality offered by the internationally famous brands and the unique specialty stores that will please even the most discriminating shopper.
There is a lovely 1890s ornamental cast iron fountain in the Palm Garden. The Lawn, an outdoor function area, is located between a fountain and timber pavilion. Cheers to being in the midst of beauty for we just had to sip Singapore Sling in such surroundings. Can you blame us for lingering over that drink till the last drop?
Just in case you plan to be pampered at Raffles, here’s the breakdown of the cost in Singapore dollars for single occupancy per night which is subject to change without notice plus applicable taxes: Courtyard 1350, Palm Court 1450, Personality Suite 1550, Grand Hotel 5800, Sir Stamford Raffles and Sarkies suites are priced upon request for they are famous by their best location in the Hotel, their elegance, spaciousness and the quality of the displayed art. Shops at Raffles include Patek Phillip, Rolex, Louis Vuitton, Tiffany & Company and other top lines too many to mention.
Josh the tour guide was so talkative; We think he enjoyed our company as much as we enjoyed his show. It was almost seven pm when we got to the dinner. We just told the waiters we’d eat upstairs which we did and then called it a night because we were tired.
And will we ever forget the tea we had at Raffles, where in addition we had the first taste of Singapore Sling at no less than at the Raffles’ Long Bar where it was born? Well, we got hooked and now order Singapore Sling when dining out. But still we found Raffles overrated.
We watched the gangway raised as we bid Selamat Tinggal/Jalan (farewell in Malaysian) to Singapore, a country we admire so much not only to it being the second richest country in Asia but also because it is clean and a safe place to live and is the resident country of Yo Yo, one our favourite QM2 employees who bought a condo there without a kitchen. We also saw QM2’s transit the Sinki Channel and her entry back into the Singapore Strait followed by the Malacca Strait, sailing for Phuket which is 541.6 miles away. This reminded us to complete the Thai & Indian landing cards.
By March 26, as usual, Artsiom went overtime again but who cares for we were sailing down the Gulf of Thailand. We felt compelled to read the reading materials on Phuket that QM2 so kindly provided for us so we can be good and ready to enjoy the next port of call.
On Phuket we start with this quotation: "I felt as confused when it came to Thai Cuisine, especially after reading the section in my phrase book on all the goodies available. Try phat phak bung fai daeng (morning glory vine in fried garlic and bean sauce), especially when the menu’s in Thai script and your pronunciation is liable to bring you lightly grilled cockroach braised in a sauce of lizard’s eyeballs.” - Mark Moxon, British writer, Thailand: The Thai Language.
Thai people are very hospitable. Until the 1980s, the kingdom’s pretty sparkling green water of the Andaman Sea islands seldom saw visitors other than backpackers despite the fact the Phuket society is fairly cosmopolitan. Most are descendants of Indian, Malay, Chinese, Thai, and Indonesian immigrants who came to work in booming 19th-century tin mines.
Fishermen, farmers, and cultivators of pearls continued to pursue their trades quietly in the background. Discovery came fast and furious for in the 1970s, developers arrived to plow and demolish and build. And then the tourists soon followed.
What had been sleepy Patong grew into a popular resort, but the island’s central mountains and national parks are stunning. Coconut plantations, rubber groves and tiny traditional villages remain. Roughly the size of Singapore, Phuket is widely known for its pretty beaches and fine resorts.
Most resorts lazily drape across the lower slopes of the verdant central hills that reach gently to the sea. Without question, the most luxurious hotels are on the island's western side. (rocky eastern shores are not suitable for plush resorts). The most developed and most popular section is around Patong Beach.
Few people were unaware of the Boxing Day 2004 earthquake off Sumatra and the deadly tsunami that followed soon after. Although sections of the Patong Beach area were struck, Phuket was spared widespread damage. And because tourism is important to Phuket’s economy, things were quickly set right. Now no one on the island takes nature’s potential lightly. Heed the lesson - respect the sea.
Patong was once a sleepy fishing community and has become a pretty busy place. There is always something going on and every desire associated with tropical paradise has been considered. The beach community is also a busy commercial district. Thawiwong Road, the main road, is also known as Beach Road and is parallel to the waterfront lined with Tuk-Tuks, food stalls, small shops, hawkers offering imitation watches.
You will have to judge hygiene for yourself, but the tempting aromas are enticing and stall foods are just not served in a restaurant. Simpler stands are mobile and some merchants carry goods on their backs. The lack or little historical interest does not matter for the crowd is fascinating.
Ao Pansea’s Amanpuri and Ao Bang Tao Laguna Resort are the best. The coastal developments going on North of Patong Beach vary from “very secluded” to highly noticeable. Some of the island’s most lavish properties are sheltered in small coastal enclaves.
Those who are young or young at heart can visit Phuket FantaSea (the ultimate Cultural Theme Park). The rich tapestry of Thai culture and history was the motivation for the Kemala Bay theme park. There are shows, carnival games and elephant rides.
Due to the comparatively shallow waters around Phuket, there are quite an assortment of marine life in the sea. There are more than a hundred identified reef species in the coral reefs and thousands of other marine animals. Around Phuket, one can see whales that sometimes pass by, long-nosed dolphin and the Indian porpoise as well.
Phuket’s interior portrays a bleak counterpoint to the coastal resorts. There are pineapple and rubber plantations just five miles from the beach. The mountainous Phra Taew National Park, the major portion of which is a tropical rain forest, is in the island’s northeastern section and where you can see wonderful waterfalls and trails.
The park’s Gibbon Rehabilitation Centre rescues native animals and restore them to health and return them to life in the wild. It’s good to hike along the raised wooden Thachatchai Nature Trail where students were taught to restore two mangrove areas and the importance of these to the ecosystems.
Practically Speaking Currency: Thai babt Shop Hours: 10 am to 9 pm Info: Pierside (on arrival) or: www.phukettourist.com PO: Thanon Thawiwong Road Browse: Thanon Thawiwong and Rat Uthit Songroi Pi Roads Buy: Thai silk, gems, kalagas (traditional Burmese wall hangings) are sold in Bangkok’s handicraft stores but at lower prices at the Chatuchak weekend market and cheapest at Thai-Burmese border towns. Before buying, make sure they are handmade.
Arrival Information: The ship anchored off Phuket. Tenders run to Patong Beach Pier. Phuket Town It takes a little more than half an hour to drive the 12 miles to Phuket Town, but songthaews (covered pick up trucks - a major mode of dependable and cheap transportation) and taxis are lined up ashore to take visitors who want to go.
If you love adventure and you can hold your breathing a long time!), tuk-tuks or samlors are 3-wheeled, open-sided buggies are accessible for shorter drives. While driving around, look for interesting models of the Portuguese-Chinese-Malay buildings that are exclusive to southern Asia in Phuket Town.
Portuguese merchants had control for a short time and then the Malay and Malay-Chinese took over. The Chinese Put Jaw Temple (the oldest Chinese Taoist temple in Phuket) is dedicated to the multi-armed Kuan Yin, goddess of mercy. The legend says that although this goddess has reached perfection, she declines to enter Paradise as long as there is misery in the world.
Just outside Phuket Town, the richly decorated Wat Chalong temple (the most visited in Phuket) is known especially for its gold-leaf covered statue of Luang Pho Chaem. Luang Pho was abbot of the monastery and helped put down the Chinese Coolie Rebellion in 1876. At great personal danger, the abbot cared for the injured and was regarded a hero of the people.
Phuket was formerly known as Tha-Laang, Talang, or Junk Ceylon. There are neighbouring provinces but since Phuket is an island there are no land boundaries. The name Phuket is believed to come from its roots in the Malay word “bukit”, which means hill, for that is how the island looked like from afar.
Phuket is about the size of Singapore and is the largest island in Thailand situated off the west coast in the Andaman Sea. It is connected to the mainland by two bridges. Phuket formerly got its wealth from tin and rubber and enjoyed a rich and colourful history as one of the major trading routes between India and China. It is often mentioned in the foreign ship logs of Dutch, Portuguese, and English traders.
In the 17th century, The Dutch, the English and the French all vied for trade with Phuket in the 17th century because the island was a highly loaded source of tin. In 1685, King Narai, the most famous Ayutthaya king whose reign was the most prosperous confirmed the French tin monopoly in Phuket.
However, the French were then barred from Siam after the 1688 Siamese revolution. In 1689, French General Desfarges (also spelled Des Farges) led a mission to re-capture the island but the occupation of the island led nowhere and Desfarges returned to Pondicherry with his men in January (some say February) 1690.
In 1785, the Burmese attacked Phuket. Captain Francis Light, a British East East India Company captain passing by let the local administration know what he observed as the Burmese forces getting ready to attack. Than Phu Ying Chan, the wife of the recently deceased governor, and her sister Mook then assembled what forces they could and cleverly disguised women as male soldiers thus appearing to increase Phuket’s military power. After a month-long siege, the Burmese became exhausted and retreated.
The two women became local heroines, receiving the honorary titles: Thao Thep Krasatri and Thao Si Sunthon. During King Chulalongkorn’s reign (Rama V), Phuket became the governmental centre of the tin-producing southern provinces. By 1933 Monthon Phuket ended thus making Phuket a province by itself.
Today, the Phuket derives much of its income from tourism. Sister Cities of Phuket Province are Las Vegas, Nice, France and Hainan Province, China. Phuket province is twinned with Yantai (its name came from the watchtowers built in 1398), China; Nakhodka, (a port city) Russia; Port Blair, India.
Phuket, ThailandEarly in the morning on March27, we slowed down as we approached Phuket. We were surprised not to get a pilot to guide us on our way but perhaps it was because we were going to anchor off Phuket with ship’s tenders taking us back and forth from the shore.
We went on a tour on a wonderful overview of Phuket, including a visit to the Chalong Temple and a colourful Thai Shop. We visited one of the most enchanting spots on the island, PromThep Cape where we enjoyed wonderful views of the surrounding landscapes and islets.
Wat Chalong is the largest, most important and ornate of the 29 temples in Phuket. The architecture is typical of ’wats’ throughout Thailand. The particular monastery is associated with three revered monks who were famous for their work in herbal medicines.
A highlight of the tour is a lovely performance at the Phuket Thai Village and Orchid Garden lasting about an hour. The show features many vibrant costumes and folkloric dances and presents a peek at the traditional life and culture of the southern Thai people.
A short stop was made in Phuket Town before returning to the ship. Al is the escort from Cunard and he did a good job better than the others but the announcer at the RCT made a mistake and called out #’s 12, 13, 14, 15 all at the same time after which there was a congestion as a result.
But it turned out alright because we had a good tour guide by the name of Num who was an ex-monk. He showed us the way the Thais do the greeting with palms together in front and just nodding instead of a handshake which we prefer.
On the Patong Beach bungalows we saw, Num said 95% of them were destroyed when the tsunami came for a visit on December 26, 2004 so now all the buildings are new. Thailand is a small country 48 km long and 41 km wide but 2.2 million people visit each year.
He pointed to Karon Beach which he said is his favourite. After Leonardo D’Caprio made a movie in one of the beaches it was no longer good because it got crowded. May to October is the rainy season. He said the golden sand makes the water look like crystal. It’s very clean water.
Local people, 100 years ago, made good living from tin. Now their income comes first from tourist, then exports of rubber and latex. There are 14 provinces in Thailand where they grow rubber trees. But in the north of Thailand they grow all kinds of rice which they export like their pineapples which taste the best in Phuket but expensive because you pay 30, 35 baht.
Northern Thailand sends many people to Bangkok because it’s famous for beads. They also have good lobsters but they cost 700 baht or $23 for each. They export their lobsters and other sea foods and they have red and white snappers. At the right is Chalong Bay. Thailand is the Land of Smiles like in Vietnam.
The rubber trees you can only tap after five years or they get destroyed for they are just too young and small but they last 30 years otherwise. They can tap them every year except in February when they take a break or the trees will get destroyed.
Wood is not as hard as teak but they make it into charcoal for cooking or making dining table and chairs for 1/5th of the price of those made from teak. Teak ones can cost $2000 US while those from rubber trees cost only $900. Now they are not allowed to cut teak trees so they’re expensive for termite will not eat them.
While we were on Phuket Highway, the tour guide said it is summer from November and April when one can swim but not in the east because there are mangrove trees and long tailed monkeys there. Also there are 122 species of crabs in the east coast so it’s not a good place for swimming. That’s why hotels are in the west of the island and they’re expensive.
We passed by Karon Beach. There were 128 gypsy people (oldest and most interesting are the sea gypsies, Thailand’s famous boat people). The government support their children. They have to learn 44 alphabets and five more with the two dots on top of the letter. The tide is every 6 hours but not more than 3 meters difference. The villa costs $1,000,000 with four bathrooms.
Then we reached Promthep Cape, which is located in the southern tip of Phuket Island. Prom is Thai for Brahma symbolizing purity and Thep means God so put them together, it’s then God’s Cape. It is famous for the spectacular Andaman Sea view and for watching the magnificent sunset.
There is a lighthouse there with elephant statue which is a lucky animal for the Thais. If one kills an elephant he will not be happy for nine generations. Cats also are the same. What they pray for, they get after a month so they come back and bring offerings to the elephant.
The next stop was at Wat Chalong which is situated approximately 8 km southeast of Phuket town. It is dedicated to three highly venerable monks, Luang Pho Chaem, Luang Pho Gluam and Luang Pho Chuang, who with their knowledge of herbal medicine helped the injured tin miners during the rebellion in 1876.
Phuket City has 70,000 population and are mostly Chinese. They celebrate in October when they do not eat meat, drink alcohol or have sex during the Vegetarians Festival, a colourful annual event for nine days from late September to early October. Believing there is no gain without pain, the 2010 participants pierced their skin with sharp objects thinking it will drive away diseases and evil spirits.
Queen Sirikit is four years younger than the king; they have four kids all living in Bangkok. Thai people are not allowed to say anything negative and if they do they will be put in the monkey house or jail for three months. Also, anyone who steals will have something bad happen to them. As proof, there was an accident where all those who stole died.
On the left side is the local market which is open only on Saturdays and Sundays where prices are reasonable. Living in Phuket is most expensive. For what you buy or in hotels you pay 17% extra or 7% for government. This place has everything. They don’t have to work on Buddha Day.
Here we saw the reclining Buddha, white Buddha and the three monks. The white Buddha is made of marble from Burma. They have weddings here and have Chinese firecrackers to bring peace and luck. Lucky numbers are 3, 7, 9 that’s why they light up nine incense for no matter what comes to you, you just move forward.
Then we went to the Thai Village located on Thepkasattri Road about three km from Phuket City which is an extraordinary place for culture lovers. The village provides stunning classical Thai dance performances, sword fighting, Thai boxing, southern customs and elephant shows.
Handicrafts and traditional mining techniques are also featured. The orchid farm outside is worth exploring. They have high humidity though and orchids don’t like this. First export is jasmine rice but 80-90 years ago it was tin. They have no trouble with water and water is clean. They have one dam with clean water, but can’t drink tap water though. Phuket City is to the right while Patong Beach is to the left.
There are 66 million people in Thailand and they like spicy foods. If they don’t get chili sauce they die straight away so they have it even at breakfast. Their Pad Thai is served with banana flower.
The yellow bike is a taxi that costs 40 bahts from Phuket City to Patong Beach. The tour guide also mentioned the cost as 120 bahts but children are only 20 bahts each. Tesco is the largest supermarket and they have 11 in the island. They have only Japanese cars and they’re built in Thailand but there’s no industry in Phuket.
They have to pay 200% for imported cars. The bikers are fined 300 bahts if caught without helmet and must pay to get license back for after a week it is doubled but they earn only 250 baht a day so that’s a problem The Phuket Cultural Centre Show was good. They export pearls. They let the monks do the ceremony to fight evil spirits so each has a spirit house. They get free education for nine years but there’s talk of making that 12.
Phuket is one of Thailand’s main tourist destinations, blessed with superb coves and bays, powdery white beaches fringed with palms, hospitable people, spotless island-dotted seas, excellent accommodations and seafood, delightful Sino-Portuguese architecture; Plenty of sporting and leisure opportunities; a luxuriant tropical landscape. All the above combine to create a wonderful setting for a superb holiday.
There’s the life-size statues of heroic sisters, Thao Thep Kasattri and Thao Sri Soonthorn, standing on the decorated marble podium located at Tha Rua. Built by local residents, and opened in 23 May 1967, a yearly fair, celebrate the bravery of these two girls who were instrumental in beating the Burmese in 1785.
They disguised hundreds of women in army uniforms and parading them through the town, making the Burmese believe they had troop reinforcements from Bangkok. This made the Burmese decide to retreat and stay away from Phuket.
The Talang National Museum is where one can learn more about Phuket‘s history. It is just 200 meters from the Heroines Monument, and was established in 1985. The museum shows exhibits on the way of life, culture and history of Phuket and the Battle of Talang.
Saphan Hin is a multi-purpose park and a nice place to relax and be active if you want. It is created on a reclaimed land in 1969. There is a Tin Mining Monument in the centre of the entrance to the park which is dedicated to Australian Edward Thomas Miles. He was the one to bring the first tin dredger to Phuket in 1909.
The Phuket Aquarium is a wonderful underwater world with more than 150 different species from marine and fresh water habitats. Most of the species come from the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand. There are many different displays of marine life, habitats plus issues on conservation and environmental topics making education fun. .
Chalong Bay is Phuket’s largest bay and as such it is the principal boat anchorage there. Visitors to the islands south of Phuket leave from Chalong pier, where bay restaurants are famous for their seafood. Charters to different places can be arranged. Needless to say, it is the centre of the islands yachting business.
Kata Beach is one of the most popular beaches in Phuket due to its stunning palm-lined beach, great restaurant, lively but no raucous nightlife and all kinds of accommodation - all near the beach. It is a great beach for swimming, windsurfing, diving and snorkelling, with a particularly beautiful coral reef just waiting to be explored.
Patong Beach is known as one of Phuket’s main attractions that never fails to impress visitors. Located approximately 15 kilometres from the city, the beach has a wide range of accommodations and shopping arcades, and provides magnificent leisure activities and energetic night time entertainment.
Karon Beach is the second largest of Phuket’s tourist beaches, some 20 km from town. Large resort complexes line the road behind the shoreline, is very white and squeaks audibly when walked upon. The southern point has a fine coral reef stretching towards Kata and Pu Island.
Big Buddha is well known and among Thais as the Phra Puttamingmongkol Eaknakakeeree. Commonly called as the big Buddha, it is 25 meters across the base and 45 meters high. The whole body is covered with lovely white jade marble that glows in the sun, thus making it a natural symbol of hope. The image sits on top of the Nakkerd Hills between Chalong and Kata and can be seen from far away. One can get the best 360 degrees views of the island here.
From the Three Bay Viewpoint one can see the scenic Kata Noi, Kata (a scenic gem with its clear water flanked by hills) and Karon, and just offshore is Pu Island (Crab Island). It is one of the islands best views located between Kata and Nai Harn Beach which is the home of the Royal Phuket Yacht Club.
The tour guide dropped us off at Wang Talang, an international lapidary company the motto of which is “a taste of heaven so deep so true“. They also have a souvenirs corner where they offer genuine Thai silk, elegant ceramics and the beautiful pewter ware which has been produced here for more than a century. Here, we bought Rolyne an amethyst pendant.
We enjoyed the Thai Show in Phuket so don’t let tales of tacky souvenir sellers get you against this island off the southwest coast of Thailand for there remains unspoiled places around winding coastal roads. In fact some call Phuket City a mini Singapore. There are colonial buildings that have become fancy restaurants and bars. We also saw the mansions that were built by the immigrants from China during the 19th century.
You can ride on local buses called Song Thaews (passenger pick-up vehicles) to get from one resort to another and get off anywhere else you want. Just outside Phuket City, you can pick up a new wardrobe and souvenirs during the weekend market from 3 to 9 pm.
Then you can go to Nai Yang Beach where you can try the grilled catch of the day. If there is something fresher than what is on your plate, it is still swimming. After all, you saw the boat that caught what you’re eating just offshore. The only catch is, no pun intended, the place has no phone number, just ask the taxi driver to take you there. Folks, that’s how we tried to eat like a local.
As soon as we arrived, we went to Deck 7 to have a bit of snack and ordered a pizza but they did not have anchovies but we enjoyed it anyway. We were on time for dinner after which we checked with Joy about the internet credit and she said she will study it.
We went to the cabin to do a bit of work before going to see the movie called Robin Hood starring Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett but it was just all fighting and shouting so we left to watch Kenny Smiles at the Royal Court Theatre who is supposed to be the Mad Welshman of Comedy and Songs. His beautiful voice entertained but his comedy was not as good.
As soon as all the boats were recovered, we cleared the anchorage and followed a westerly course in the Andaman Sea as we commenced our voyage for Cochin, 1457.6 nautical miles away. Good we thought for that would take us at least 2 to 3 days to get there. We loved sea days because these uninterrupted days at sea enabled us to have lots of leisure thus feeling relaxed and rested then.