No you don’t!
Day 88/138 2022/2023 Viking Neptune World Cruise, Phuket, Thailand
Day 89-90/138 at sea
I’ve been having trouble getting the blog up, to write about our adventures in Phuket, since the internet has been really terrible as we cross from Thailand to Sri Lanka, on the Indian Ocean for the past 2 days. Regardless, now I’ve finally got the Wix blog program up and going so we will see how much I can write before it crashes, and I cannot upload photos. I’m enjoying this World Cruise immensely but I am really looking forward to having my 5G internet back, when we return home to Canada!
Phuket City on Phuket Island the largest island in Thailand was our destination today. A little smaller than Singapore, Phuket is 222 square miles and the island was on the major trading route between India and China. Phuket was never colonized by a European power though, unlike many of the other places we have visited in Indonesia and Malaysia on this trip. Phuket formerly derived its wealth from tin and rubber, but now it is mainly a place where tourists from all over the world head to for white sandy beaches, night markets, bars and nightlife and scuba diving.…plus a few more things that we were about to find out about!
We were using local tenders in this port and the tender even brought a large floating raft which was attached to the Neptune. And the tenders were air conditioned and also had fans in them! We have never had air conditioned tenders before! That certainly was a welcome treat!
Since we were not interested in the included excursion or the optional excursions for this port, we took the opportunity to do independent exploration in Phuket. Because we were not on an excursion, the first tender we could take was a 10am and our back on board time was 5pm. Luckily the tender ride was not very long though, so we were on the shore shortly after 10:15am.
An air conditioned tender! Woohoo!
The first thing we noticed as soon as we got to Phuket, was that weed was legal. Everywhere we looked there were cannibals shops with crazier names than the last place!
And if you didn’t want to buy weed, you could always visit a tailor and have a weed jacket made, just to make a statement.
A lovely shade of blue….don’t you think?
And if you can’t afford a jacket, why not just get a shirt made instead at half the price?
A nice green shirt too!
But if that is not your thing how about something for Old Men?
The Old Man Tattoo Shop! Luckily for us out old men did not indulge at this establishment today!
Well so far all we had seen just walking down the beachfront street was touristy stores, weed shops, and tattoo parlours. This place has to get better doesn’t it?
We found a Starbucks on the beachfront promenade and our friends from the ship, Bill and Donna were having a coffee out on one of the patio, and they proceeded to tell us that the washrooms upstairs, over the Starbucks were clean and there was no charge to use them. Some places in Phuket actually charged 20 BAHT or 80 cents Canadian to use the toilet. The toilets on the beach charged more at 30 Baht or $1.20 Canadian, so finding free, clean toilets was a big deal!
After walking around for awhile we decided that we would use the time in Phuket to get caught up on some grooming since we saw ’spa’s everywhere and 3 of us needed a pedicure and one needed a haircut.
Richard found a place he was comfortable with for his pedicure, and he elected to go first.
Check out the sign on the door “Rassanee Massage, Open 10am-12 m, No Sex, No Sex”. Well that is very reassuring, since all he really wanted was a pedicure! Yeesh.
While Richard got his pedicure which was to take 45 minutes, we walked a bit further down the strip to see what other unique features Phuket had.
Surfing at a sidewalk cafe! For about $40 CAD Surf House Phuket offered a 60 minute surfing lesson and friends could sit and eat at the cafe and watch. Interesting. We elected not to do that while Richard was having his pedicure, since one broken femur in a lifetime is enough for me!
Gene needed a haircut, so just 2 establishments down from where Richard was getting his 300 Baht ($12 CAD) pedicure, Margaret found Gene a barbershop where he could get his hair cut for 300 Baht. A great deal!
When Richard finally finished his pedicure, me and Margaret decided we would get ourselves pedicures too at a place in between where Richard and Gene were getting their hair cut. Richard decided to wait outside in the heat instead of sitting in the air conditioning. As Richard was sitting on the cement bench between establishments he had a visit from a young Thai lady who said to him “Hey Mister, I want to be with you!” To which Richard replied “NO YOU DON’T.“. And with that she was off! Phuket certainly is an interesting place so far…..
After we had all had our 300 Baht treatments, it was time for lunch. We were thinking about going to the beach for the afternoon, since the beach shopping strip did not have much appeal and all of the night markets did not open until 4pm; so we compromised and went for some Thai food on a nice beach patio, overlooking Patong Beach.
The Thai food was good and tasty and it was nice to have some locally made, authentic Thai food, since we were after all in Thailand!
All was going well with lunch until I accidentally knocked my glass of matcha green tea, juice over. Oh well, we quickly wiped it up with the extra napkins on the table, and gave the server the broken pieces of glass. Luckily no one was cut with the broken glass. The server asked if we wanted anything else to eat and then advised us that we would be charged 100 Baht ($4 CAD) for the broken glass. I argued with him and said it was an accident. The next thing we knew, we had his manager come over and tell us we had to pay for the broken glass. Sure enough, when the bill arrived, there was a charge for a broken glass of 100 BAHT. Broken glasses must happen often enough that there is a button on the cash register already programmed to charge 100 Baht for each time a glass is broken. Anyway, it left a bit of a bitter taste in all of our mouths after such a nice lunch.
Our detailed bill for lunch.
After determining at lunch that the cost to rent a beach chair and umbrella on the beach was 100 Baht each and then we had to pay 30 Baht each to use the changing facilities, we all decided to bail on going to the beach. The heat was extreme and we were at the end of 7 straight days of heat, humidity and touring, so we walked back towards the pier after doing a bit more souvenir shopping. I had wanted to get a pair of the comfortable elephant pants that everyone was now wearing on the Neptune, as well as a cotton shirt with elephant on it. Who knows if they will last past one wash cycle, but for 400 Baht, they are a novelty and cool in the heat!
As we were almost at the pier to catch the waiting tender back to the ship, we saw a motorcycle under a pick up truck. There were 3 guys trying to rock the pick up truck sideways to get the motorcycle out from under the truck. Finally a bunch more guys came and were able to rock the truck enough, to get the motorcycle out from under the truck. I guess it must happen often, as everyone seemed to know the drill on how to get the motorbike out and upright.
All hands on deck!
We were dying of thirst after our Thai food and from walking back through town to the pier. Luckily we found a street vendor with ice cold coconuts in a cooler by the pier. We bought two cold coconuts to drink the coconut water for $2 USD. The coconuts were so refreshing and we drank them before we even reached the tender.
I’m sure that if we had spent more time in Phuket enjoying a nice beach resort, and visiting some of the cultural sights and night markets we might have a different impression of Phuket, but after one rushed day, being tired from 7 days of ports in a row, Phuket is not on my ‘wanna go back’ list. I felt like Phuket was like a low class Las Vegas on steroids. If you’re into beaches I am sure it is a wonderful spot, but not being a beach lover, it did not have much appeal for us. I would like to go back to Thailand, but to Chang Mai to see the elephants and to golf at some other places in Thailand. I know Thailand is not defined by Phuket and perhaps we would even consider a nice beach resort in Phuket as part of another trip. My judgement of Phuket is probably clouded by how tired we were after the multitude of ports, and the fact we did not hire a guide to show us around the highlights of Pbucket.
As we left Phuket, the squid fishing boats were everywhere with their green lights bobbing on the night waters like beacons for the squid they were trying to catch.
And so ends our time in Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia! We really enjoyed visiting many different places in these countries that we never knew about or had experienced before. I’ve learned a lot through our travels to these foreign lands and experienced some really interesting excursions such as visiting the elephant rehabilitation centre in Koh Samui, seeing the orangutan's near GeorgeTown and many fabulous metro travels in Singapore, with the highlight for me being the Rain Vortex at Jewel at Changi airport and the City Gallery and its amazing structural art in K.L.
And now we have three well deserved sea days to relax and recuperate before we go at it hard again in Sri Lanka!
Day 89/138. A busy sea day!
I started my day by seeing Pedro! Yes he is back! I had Pedro, the osteopathic doctor, acupuncturist, and reflexologist work on my shoulders and neck. With all of this blogging, I needed a good treatment and he knew exactly what to do. Thank goodness for having an osteopath onboard the Neptune! Pedro has been amazing! He had a month off in Portugal and boarded again in Singapore and he will be on until the end of the World Cruise, so I have another treatment with him on a future sea day.
We have another art teacher! Christine Newton from the U.K. joined us in Singapore with her husband and she is a water colour teacher! Yeah! We are back to painting! Christine was on the Viking Star last year so some of the people who were on last year’s World Cruise (that really did not go around the world), are familiar with Christine. Christine has told us that she will teach us many different watercolour techniques and by the end of the cruise in London, we will know as much as her, but we will not be as practised as her. Well that is reassuring!
I knew that art class would be very busy so I got to class at 1:20pm for a 1:45pm class and luckily I was able to get into the class. Our first project was to do a painting of a floating market and Christine provided very detailed written instructions of how the watercolour was to be done. Initially I thought, “Oh NO RULES!”, but that quickly changed as we got working on our project. In addition to the detailed instructions we were given by Christine, she also provided a illustrated print out which told us and showed us what each watercolour brush did. I have many water colour brushes that I have purchased along the way in Honolulu, Auckland, and Eden, as well as at home in Florida, but I did not know what each brush was capable of, so I think Christine will be very helpful to advancing my knowledge of watercolour painting!
My teacher’s painting which we could copy or change and behind the picture are the various techniques she will be demonstrating as we travel through to London with her.
My version. I couldn’t finish the painting in the one hour class, so I finished it back in our cabin yesterday. Thank goodness for having my own paints and brushes!
Last evening Margaret organized for 8 of us to all wear our Batik or ethnic clothes we have bought along the way, and to have dinner together at the World Cafe. I didn’t get a photo of the 4 guys, but Gene, Richard, Steve and Mike all looked great in their batik shirts.
My Singapore, LIttle India inspired outfit. It is cotton, and very comfortable. Margaret bought her dress in Phuket, Thailand and when she went to wear it, there was a hole down the front of it. Good thing she is a seamstress and could fix the hole before wearing it! It was nice to see everyone dressed up in the ethnic clothing we have picked up from our travels in this exotic part of the world.
We went to Bruce’s Brain Busters at 8pm after dinner and got completely killed with trying to guess what year certain things happened. For example: What year did Princess Diana get divorced? I guessed 1997 but the actual year was 1996. We had a lot of questions from previous generations which were really just half hearted guesses. Hopefully we get back to regular trivia questions tomorrow!
Day 90/138 At Sea..Indian Ocean.
Our morning started with a text from Margaret on what were we doing in Sri Lanka. I had booked for one of the days to visit the Elephant Orphanage, but after receiving Margaret’s text, I wanted to check how far the Elephant Orphanage was from the place we were docking. Richard called down to Guest Services only to be told that the Elephant Orphanage was going to be a 3 hour bus ride one way! We immediately cancelled that tour and started looking at what else we could get on for Day 3 in Sri Lanka. Given the political and economic environment in Sri Lanka, I did not want to be booking a private excursion in this country, so I was looking on the Viking Voyager app to see what else was available. It looked like on Day 1 we had a Walking Tour of Columbia booked, but the tour did not start until 3pm and we were docking at 8am. That left most of the first day with nothing to do. Hmmmm? What should we do?
After breakfast I headed up to the Explorer’s Lounge to see Margaret and get a handle on what Gene and Margaret had booked for Sri Lanka. I then met up with Richard and we went to Guest Services to cancel the Elephant Orphanage and change our Day 1 Walking Tour for something else. We wait listed ourselves for 2 different tours on Day 3 and left it at that.
We had our second Cooking School at the Kitchen Table booked for this morning with Chef Aldo. A Taste of Indonesia was the name of the class today and we were meeting at 10am at Manfredi’s to join the class. While we were at the class we found out that Head Chef Willie who had joined us Honolulu, has had to leave the ship for health reasons and we had picked up another Head Chef in Langkawi, Malayisa, as few days ago. We hope Chef Willie will be ok.
The dishes we were preparing today were: Gado-Gado a crunch vegetable salad with peanut sauce; Nasi Goring Kampung (authentic Indonesian fried rice with local vegetables and fried egg) and Pisang Onte-Onte (banana flambé, palm sugar and grated coconut; vanilla ice cream).
Since I have a shrimp allergy, the peanut sauce for me would have no shrimp paste in it for the dressing for the Gado-Gado. The red chili paste which we made for the Nasi Goring would also not have shrimp paste and we used soya bean paste and a touch more white sugar to add complexity to the red chili paste for my dish.
I was given the Savoy cabbage to shred with a knife. I have never used a knife before to finely shred Savoy cabbage for coleslaw and I learned a new skill today, which I will definitely use when I get home! Richard had to chiffonade the green onion slices for our garnish on the Nasi Goring and he also learned a new skill. Richard also had to chop the tofu into batonnets so chef Aldo could quickly deep fry them for our salad. There was no meat in the dishes today, so eggs, tofu and the peanuts in the sauce were the protein for our lunch. If I were to make either of these dishes at home, I would use grilled chicken breasts or slice up a rotisserie chicken and add it to the dish. Others who prefer shrimp could add shrimp to either dish.
’Look ma, no hands’
Gado-Gado with shrimp crackers on top for Richard.
Nasi Goring Kampung.
Richard and me split the dessert which was a bit uneventful, and after having one spoonful to taste, I gave Richard the rest of the dish. We had requested 4 cooking classes on the entire World Cruise as these classes suited my dietary concerns. After doing two classes, I have enjoyed them, but I am not sure I want to do anymore. Eating such a heavy lunch at lunchtime, just makes me sleepy for the rest of the day, so we will see if we take any more classes. I have learned a few things though in the classes, and eating new ethnic foods, is exciting and interesting, but does not always agree with my digestion the next day.
Cooking school was over at 1pm and I quickly had to get upstairs to get my art bag, and go to art class.
In art class today we learned a quick way to draw a person’s body. Christine brought a large white board with her, to be able to quickly demonstrate to the class on the whiteboard the drawing technique she uses, which is very helpful rather than trying to crowd around a table and watch her draw. Our class today involved painting and using salt to draw paint to a certain spot in our painting. My painting was not dry before the end of class, so I had to leave it over night and will scrape off the salt tomorrow and then try and finish the painting before art class starts tomorrow afternoon where we will be painting ‘Working in the Fields. The class tomorrow is about 3 Dimensional effects with shadows, so that should be interesting.
After art class was the port talk on Sri Lanka. I had gotten wind from Margaret of news that Viking was actually cancelling the excursion to the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage as some guests had raised concerns with regards to the welfare of the animals at this facility. “Since Viking takes these concerns seriously, ….as we cannot guarantee that this excursion will be conducted within our Viking ethos, we are obligated to address these concerns.” A quick google search gives really bad reviews on the Pinnawala facility saying that the male elephants are chained and their guardians poke them to lay down in the river. A recent blog by ‘Hand Luggage Only’ states that the Orphanage is more of a ‘battery farm’ for Elephants where the elephants were heavily distressed. Oh my goodness am I ever glad we had cancelled our visit to the Elephant Orphanage this morning before all of this mistreatment of elephants had come to light! We were already booked on another tour for Day 1 and did not have to worry about scrambling to find another tour. Good on Viking for cancelling this tour to the Elephant Orphanage, but why did it take guests complaining after doing their own internet research for Viking to cancel this tour 2 days before we arrived in SrI Lanka? Who at Viking is vetting these tours that Viking is offering to us? The bad reviews on this Elephant Orphanage are not new. Enough said. I cancelled because we didn’t want to be on a bus for 6 hours in one day. And thank goodness we saw the elephants in Koh Samui, in a wonderful sanctuary where they were taken care of so well by their minders. That recollection of elephants that I want to have from this trip, not seeing chained elephants in Sri Lanka.
We presently have a Viking Operations Executive onboard from Bergen and we were wondering why. Margaret asked him if he was onboard because of negative feedback on this World Cruise and he responded by saying that he usually joins the World Cruise three times during its voyage. Interesting. There has been a lot of chatter about how Viking’s standards have dropped from last year’s World Cruise, to this one. Things like making sure guests were fed on excursions or after excursions comes to mind. I have had comments on the blog that last year when an excursion went out at night and people were not fed, there would always be waiting sandwiches or some snacks in the cabin for people to eat on their return. These ‘niceties’ are not happening this year so is it Viking? Our excursions Manager not organizing it? Cutting costs? Who knows? The fact is there is a difference from previous World Cruises and there are quite a few people onboard who have been on more than one Viking World Cruise, so they would know how things were before. Enough said. Life is not perfect it is how you pivot that matters and what we can do within our control to change our circumstances.
We both made it to the gym this afternoon for a long work out. There was hardly anyone in the gym at 5pm so that was a good use of our time! I was also able to finish the Jodi Picoult book called ‘Leaving Time’ which is about an elephant keeper and her daughter. It is not a new book, but after visiting the elephants in Koh Samui, I wanted to read a book about elephants, and this one was quite a good novel based on real life elephant research. Now I am going to reader about Inspector Chopra and his elephant.
We have one more day at sea tomorrow before Sri Lanka. I am glad we have nothing planned tomorrow other than art class, so that we can both relax and enjoy a pleasant day at sea and perhaps catch a lecture or two to learn a bit more about Sri Lanka. I do remember when I was a child my dad had a man come and visit us from Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) for dinner and I thought that Ceylon sounded so far away and exotic. I wish I could remember the gentleman’s name. I do remember him signing my parent’s visitor’s book, which my dad kept religiously kept and had each visitor sign, for all of the years my parent’s were married. The gentleman signed in green ink, with a fountain pen, and so Ceylon and this gentleman always stood out when I would go back and look at the visitors book. I think my brother must have the book since I haven’t seen it in ages. I’m curious now what was that man’s name??!! Jonathan?
The internet has been very spotty and that is why this blog has taken so long to write and publish. The good new is the Indian Ocean has been a real treat to sail on. Calm seas with warm ocean breezes, and sunny, slightly overcast days at 83F, have been very dreamy in this near equatorial place. Ah…..time to put my feet up and relax!