Show me the bling!
Phuket Travel Blog› entry 6 of 7 › view all entries
I decided to hire a driver for a few hours because I wanted to do some sightseeing around the island. At only 200 baht an hour, it worked out cheaper than catching tuk tuks and a hell of a lot more comfortable :).
First I went to Wat Phra Tong. This temple is famous for it's half-buried Buddha, supposedly made of 9 tonnes of solid gold. The story of the Buddha and how it came to be there is quite interesting (apparently, it sprang from the ground one day), but the most well-known aspect of it is this: anyone who tries to dig up the Buddha will meet a very painful end in the process. Of course, the legend includes plenty of examples of how this had happened in the past. I'm curious to know how they were able to calculate the weight of the Buddha without being able to dig it out. Maybe they used some kind of radar/xray technology to estimate the size of the Buddha and the density of the gold...
There was also a museum right near the temple, which housed a rather large collection of antiques and old junk. Antiques like Chinese rosewood furniture, ceramic pillows, opium pipes, shoes for binding feet and junk like old television sets and old tools. It was an unusual, if somewhat motley, collection - I imagine there would be some valuable pieces amongst the chaff. Apparently some eccentric millionaire attempted to purchase some pieces from the museum a few years ago but they flatly refused to part with any of it, for any price.
Next stop wasn't entirely cultural - World Gems :P Apparently, it is the largest jewellery store in the world. However, I think that Tiffany's on 5th Ave is bigger. Maybe it's the largest single story jewellery store in the world, or maybe they include the onsite workshops in the rateable size. It was pretty interesting - you could walk through part of the workshop and watch the craftspeople making rings, making settings, faceting and polishing stones. Then you get to the whole point of the exercise - the showroom. There was so much bling on display, I started to get starry eyed from the light reflecting off the gemstones!
I was, however, incredibly restrained and only bought what I'd come here to find - a string of pearls and matching earrings. This jewellery store is quite popular with the tourists because, although they aren't the cheapest, they are one of the largest jewellery chains in Thailand with an excellent reputation and ISO 9000 certification. Everything they sell comes with a certificate/guarantee that what you are buying is exactly what you were told you were buying.
After World Gems, I headed over to Wat Chalong. Chalong Temple is one of the largest temple complexes on the island and certainly the most visited. It was very beautiful, but, without any signage (in English) explaining the purpose of each building, etc. there's not much cultural or religious enlightenment to be had. Many visitors, however, stop at the temple as part of some day trip and presumeably have a guide who can shed some light on the significance of the temple. I just had to make do with admiring the aesthetic elements :)
In the evening, I went to see the Simon Cabaret. The show is made up of katoey, or lady boy, performers with a few token male dancers. It was very entertaining and quite funny at times. Admittedly, some of the dancing wasn't much chop (theyre not professional dancers), but the girls were gorgeous, the costumes were amazing and the sets were very impressive. The routines ran the gamut from large group acts to single performer skits. The shows choreographers showed a keen awareness of their audience, as the acts were set to English, Chinese, and Japanese music and songs. There was even one Korean act.
After the show, you could take pictures with some of the performers but there were so many people milling around, pushing and shoving, that I just couldn't be bothered. I thought it would have been a good idea to give people the opportunity to have a professional photo taken with some of the performers before the show. That way, the photos could be processed during the show and people could collect them afterwards. At 200-300 baht a pop, it could be quite the money spinner - there are two shows a night and the auditorium has a capacity of 600. The 7.30 show was completely sold out, and this is the so-called 'low' season in Phuket.