Resilience and the island of Phuket

Clothed with white Burmese white jade- the Big Buddha in the island of Phuket sits atop a peaceful hill, that when hit in a perfect angle, it glistened and shines- multiple diadems of dancing lights with the sun.

As you get closer to the top of this hill on a winding road you start to hear a soft background dharma music as it somehow balance out the fluttering sound the Buddhist flag makes as it dances and catches its rhythmic pattern with the wind. The taxi driver has opened the window just as we got off the main road. Only the gust of wind and the tire rubber you hear as it punctuates through the gravel road.

Small steady stride up the stairs and you begin to feel the gravity of this place. As you look down the dwarfed city below the wind picks up and brings you to an increased euphoria. The Dharma and chants are now beginning to take over the wind and muffles out the noise pollution. Here you can write or carve a message for good luck on a piece of paper or scrap metal lifted for prayers to accentuate the divinity of the very ground you stand on.

The children begin to appteciate the place as they gravitate towards the open space and its peaceful retreat aided by rhytmic soft background mantra.

The people here, monk and tourist alike are most peaceful in their unspoken language and behavior reverent in their carried stature.

The kids begin to absorb the place and catch their breathes. It is a wonderful time to show them the intricate structure and slowly tell them about the culture and traditions of the Buddhist teachings |

It is also a point to remember to dress appropriately when visiting this religious site. Buy a sarong in advance or ask for one for free to borrow at the site center.

We started heading back down just before sunset as the crowd tend to pick up during those hours. We arranged with the same taxi driver to wait for us. Just be punctual about the time you agreed on your return. The people of Thailand are trustworthy and are very kind. I have left my wallet in one of the taxi and was able to retrieve it by calling the driver on his mobile phone.

The next day we hit Phuket town and Kamala beach. There we met up with my brother in law. He’s stayed in one of the beach front hotel and a walking distance to many shops. Many of these streets turn into night markets. Rent a scooter to get around town and is a cheap alternative. We have arranged with the same taxi driver most of the trips to take us to places. They are local on this island and they have many wonderful tips to share and stories to tell.

We had a wonderful lunch here and went on small trips to buy souvenirs. Very common on these streets are shrines with beautiful vibrant colors and burning incense adorned with garland of yellow. These are also the same streets where the vegetable festivals are held annually.

The kids had a wonderful time swimming at the beach just a few meters from the main road. A quick lunch, a dip in the beach, and a nice dessert to go is a nice day trip in my books.

I love to explore small towns. These are places you most likely see locals. I carry a low profile discreet camera that no one hardly pay attention to. We decided stayed at the Hyatt Regency Phuket resort in Kamala beach for that same reason. It was a short distance to nearby towns like this one but quite enough for the family.

The following day we went to see the elephants. It’s never really a complete trip with the family to Thailand without visiting one of the elephant sanctuary. Here we booked a morning tour with green elephant sanctuary. The day consisted of activities like feeding, bathing with the elephants, learning about the mahout and the wonderful stories of rescuing these gentle giants. We enjoyed a wonderful food served after the activity.

clockwise: a mahout and his young elephant during an intimate feeding | bathing with the gentle giants | Joel and India get up close with these beautiful animals during an intimate fedding session

On the fourth day we hit the Damnoen Saduak floating market of Thailand. Here was another wonderful and fun experience with the children. The canals are called the “Venice of the east” as it not only serve as a common channel for transportation but also a hub for business and commerce.

the busy morning rush hour at the Damnoen Saduak floating market buzzling with tourist and locals alike with an incredible atmosphere of hospitality served before you in a most delicate and authentic way the locals have it for many years

The chaotic looking waterway is somehow a comforting appetizer delight as your wooden boat make way to the vendors reaching out their list of menu over to you. The exchange of pantomime gestures with the very distinct Thai language reverberate as the hot served soup is intricately served to you providing a complete ingredient of authentic meal in a 360 view of a beautifully synchronized culinary orchestra of culture and- the very ground zero of diversity all packed in one delicacy of an experience.

Get here early to find fresh fruits and hot food served on the go. Cooking is done on the platform or the very kayak boat itself as the locals confidently balance their way and around the busy canal. Ready your bhat in advance and leave some for tips. This exotic culinary experience is once in a lifetime. The lively waterway provide a complete meal and intricately wrapped desserts and sweets to go. This was by far my most favorite part of the Phuket trip. You meet locals and they open up a world of incredible Thai food. It does not get any more authentic than this.

a local vendor selling fresh fruits while she maneuvers a sea of kayak and competition in a gracefully calculated manner of swift confident movements tapping one boat to another

You will find a Shrine in buddhist temple at Damnoen Saduak Floating Market before the tour ends. You can explore the market on your pace connected by many bridge ways. The market has plenty of souvenirs to choose from and maybe an adventure for fried insects and bugs. A cringe experience for many but a worthy culinary delight for the most adventurous.

This waterway also intersect with the famous Maeklong railway market. This market has a working track that operates several times a day. Here you will see vendors folding up their awning just minutes before the train makes its pass. It is a fun way for the little ones to see a magnificent engineering feat of a machine that interacts with a busy market- up close, in person, a literal inches away.

left: a monk making his way across to the other side of the market | right: the train inching its way in the very narrow market as the vendors routinely pack their stalls just seconds before

Our last few days in Phuket was spent enjoying the amenities in the hotel we stayed at. The place was sitting on top of a small hill overlooking the ocean. On one of the evening we took a walk by the beach and explored the little crabs coming out of the sea bed as the tides receded back. This was also one of the beaches that was heavily damaged and devastated by that fateful tsunami in 2004.

As the sun began to sink into its resting horizon and the blue hour picked up the first hint of diamond little twinkles, I couldn’t help but feel gratitude towards the people of Phuket as they have reclaimed and rebuilt this island and preserved its beauty. I couldn’t help but think of the wonderful people I met throughout this journey and how they have been so good to my family and most especially towards my kids.

During one of our early morning walk we would see few local mahout with their elephants stop and greet the kids as they pass by. We had a wonderful view of the Andaman sea as we ate breakfast or took a relaxing dip in our private hotel swimming pool.

wonderful hospitality accommodations at the Hyatt Regency Phuket resort in Kamala beach

Joel and India enjoyed the local fruits here and had a marvelous time learning about the locals and the friendly people we met. The hotel has also a play area for the kids. Call a shuttle in advance to get to a different part of the resort or take a nice walk around the area to explore and view the sea as it peak in and out of sight from the rolling hills and turns.

It is never too early to bring children with you on an international travel. It takes a lot of work and preparation but you make wonderful memories and learn from each other as you meet people and their culture. You build them up and make them resilient in unexpected delays and circumstances travel brings. Enjoy every travel and waking hours, every exhausting days with them as they build character. It is the most rewarding when they interact with people of different language and they connect with a smile. I enjoyed writing this post while reminiscing on this travel with the family. Sawadikap!

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