Thailand is one of those places I thought people did backpacking during a gap year from studying as a kid, so you can understand my pure joy at hearing Brian had a week between gigs whilst out in Asia and that I was able to join him and have a weeks holiday in Phuket.
A dream come true!
This was the middle of July and my research told me this was ‘low season’ so quite a high chance of heavy rain but still warm and fairly quiet. It turned out to be absolutely perfect, we got drenched just once and this was on a 5 minute scooter ride from our hotel to the golf course (of course we had to have a game whilst we were out there). It was dry when set off and a minute in the heavens opened, we were soaked through immediately and of course it stopped instantly as we reached the clubhouse entrance!
The hire of the scooter was actually great as most of the roads we travelled on were next to the coast and we saw some amazing scenery. It’s not something I would have had the confidence to do but Brian is a good driver so I happily clung on the back taking it all in, it was like a scene from Dumb & Dumber in our gorgeous helmets. It also gave us the freedom to explore and as it was low season the roads were not too busy although there were still plenty of bikes weaving in and out of traffic to be aware of.
One particular day we travelled down to Patong Beach, as we wanted to visit the famous Bangla Road. I can’t say I’d like to stay there for very long, there was quite a strong smell around the place, it was very busy and dirty looking but good to have experienced it all the same. It was eye opening to witness the ‘massage parlours’ with ladies and ladyboys dolled up outside to attract customers!
On that note we did have 2 genuine Thai massages over the week, not in Patong though, they were places recommended to us by a friend. One was right up my street, a really strong massage to relax the muscles. The second one was the complete opposite, although we were a little burnt so I think that’s the reason they took it easy. Each Thai massage seems very bespoke and they respond to exactly what you need.
We luckily stayed about a 30 minute drive from Patong at the Outrigger Laguna Phuket Beach Resort. It was absolutely gorgeous and everything I had imagined from looking at travel blogs about Thailand. The hotel sat on a beautiful beach where we could watch the sunset each evening sipping our pina coladas. One thing that really pleased me was the lack of plastic, we had metal straws and water was always in reusable glass bottles. This was consistent in any bars or restaurant we visited too!
Even though the Elephants showed no signs of distress to my untrained eye, I knew this was no life for this incredible animal. On reading more about this when I returned home my research gave me a more negative slant towards sanctuaries in general. Like most I was probably drawn in by the clever marketing but the fact is that these ‘sanctuaries’ may not be all they make out to be.
On the face of it I would say at least we are moving in the right direction and that these sanctuaries have got to be better than having an Elephants vertebrae destroyed being ridden everyday. Now the worry is that so few opt for this kind of barbaric interaction that the elephant owners are setting up money making sanctuaries instead!?
At the end of the day an elephant still needs to have gone through the ‘Phajaa’ to break its spirit in order for them to be around humans. What did surprise me and sums up the debate nicely, is that it has been proven that elephants can be rehabilitated and released successfully back into the wild.
Perhaps if we are going to protect our Elephants and ensure they are safe from poaching and dying out through deforestation then nature reserves would be a better option. Here visitors can appreciate Elephants from a distance and witness their natural behaviours.
If I had the chance to do this again I would choose to visit one of the 2 National Parks in Thailand rather than a ‘sanctuary.’