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INTERVAL WORLD
Spring 2013 IntervalWorld.com
shrines that are suffused with
incense and the gentle murmurs of
incantation and prayer.
If you are visiting Phuket in late
September or early October, you
may be in time for the annual
Vegetarian Festival
, held in the
ninth lunar month of the Chinese
calendar. For nine days, Phuket
Town is transformed into a spectacle
of parading residents who engage in
amazing feats of asceticism, self-
piercing, and fire walking. As is
customary, many devotees abstain
from eating meat during this time, and
some are even said to receive visits
from the Chinese gods. This often-
astonishing event is shrouded in
ancient mystery.
A very different religious experience
can be found on the ridge atop Nakkerd
Hills, between Chalong Bay and Kata
Beach on the island’s southwest coast.
There sits what is known among Thais
as Phra Puttamingmongkol Akenakkiri
Buddha, or
Big Buddha
. Covered with
white Burmese marble that glimmers
in the sunshine, this lofty 150-foot-
high and 80-foot-wide statue, along
with its surroundings, is a place of
contemplation and worship. Beyond
this extraordinary edifice are sweep-
ing views of the terrain and the sea
below— some of the finest panoramas
on the island.
Another striking viewpoint is
nearby
Phromthep Cape
, situated at
the far southern tip of the island. From
here, you can look south to the ancient
maritime trading routes with India and
faraway Portugal. Also visible are the
Koh Phi Phi
islands,
Koh Racha Yai
and
Koh Racha Noi
. The cape is a wonder-
ful spot to watch the sunset.
In the evenings, Phuket Town is
lively, and the nightlife is varied. Now
a feature of the mainstream tourist
entertainment industry,
kathoey
shows,
or ladyboy cabaret, are among the most
popular attractions. Perhaps the pre-
mier choice for these spectaculars is the
kitschy
Simon Cabaret
, with its mildly
burly feminine entertainment. Watch
performers dressed in flurries of sequins
and feathers as they mime, shimmy, and
dance to an array of musical classics.
Day-Trip #2: Pachyderms and
Paddles
About an hour’s drive northeast of the
island of Phuket, within
Khao Sok
National Park
, lies one of the world’s
oldest rain forests. It is entirely unspoiled
mountain range and jungle. Towering
limestone escarpments dominate the
scenery. Millions of years ago, they
formed a gigantic coral reef five times
the length of the Great Barrier Reef in
Australia.
Jungle trekking is a great way to
enjoy the terrain, especially when
undertaken from atop an elephant.
These thick-skinned mammals move
silently through the undergrowth, and
leave hardly any sign of their passage.
This is very much their natu-
ral environment, and a trip
on the back of one of
these swaying giants is a
curiously relaxing expe-
rience.
If you prefer to be waterborne,
the
Sok River
is perfect for canoe-
ing. You can either paddle yourself,
or hire a guide to do the work and
point out sights of interest along
the way.
Day-Trip #3: What Lies
Beneath
Only eight degrees from the equator,
the waters are warm and the marine
life is varied and plentiful around the
islands of
Koh Phi Phi
. Less than an
hour’s boat ride from Phuket, Koh Phi
Phi is home to one of the world’s most
abundant reef systems. Here snorkelers
are treated to an astonishing array of
coral and gloriously multicolored sea
creatures teeming in exceptionally
clear waters — butterfly fish, cuttlefish,
clownfish, angelfish, harlequin shrimp,
frogfish, octopi, seahorses, hawksbill
turtles, and, farther out, even leopard
sharks and blacktip reef sharks. The
snorkeling is nothing short of spectac-
ular, as well as easily accessible, even to
those with little experience.
Protected on three sides by 325-
foot-high limestone cliffs,
Maya Bay
is famous as the location where many
scenes from the film
The Beach
, star-
ring Leonardo DiCaprio, were shot.
Want to roam the rain forest?
Traverse trails in Khao Sok National
Park on an elephant safari.
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