Explore the mountain slopes and jungles above Chalong by elephant, marveling at how easily these gentle giants cope with the rough terrain. It’s possible to see baby elephants up close and talk with their mahouts about the traditions and heritage of the elephant culture in Thailand. Once essential in the rubber and forestry trade, the population of elephants in the country has undergone a massive decline as they are no longer being used as beasts of burden.
If you’re travelling with children, or just like to mess about with water, this is a great place to spend a day. Its 6,400 sq m of attractions includes water slides, a ‘lazy river’, a spectacular wave pool and exhilarating rides. The water park is safe for kids, and hosts many activities especially aimed at youngsters as well as a good choice of eateries and snack stalls.
The warm, azure seas around Phuket are perfect for messing around in boats, or for serious boating if you’re experienced. Hiring is possible, but one of the best ways to get on the water if you’re here in December is to crew for one of the magnificent racing yachts gathered for the Kings Cup Regatta, held off Kata Beach. The regatta is the most famous yachting event in Asia, begun in 1887 and attracting a number of the world’s best yachtsmen and women as well as crowds of the ‘beautiful people’ who show up at sailing events worldwide. On average, about 100 yachts and their crews come here every year for the event.
If shopping ‘till you drop’ is an essential part of any holiday, you’ve come to the right place. Phuket’s long time popularity as a tourist destination has honed its appeal to shoppers to perfection, with everything from local souvenir markets, malls, department stores, boutiques, factory shops and handicraft stores in Phuket town, along the beaches and in resorts across the island. Although the island isn’t the cheapest place in Thailand, there are still bargains everywhere, and haggling is both expected and fun. Expect a stunning selection of fashion wear, shoes and bags to die for, home décor from lights to beautiful fabrics and beautifully-designed jeweler from costume through silver to high-carat gold.
Essential ingredients of the island’s coastal ecology, Phuket’s mysterious mangrove forests can be explored by kayak, mountain bike, ATV or on guided nature safaris. Whichever your choice, the watery world of the mangroves is a fascinating spectacle of primeval swamp, varied bird species and deserted beaches. Since the tsunami, mangroves are being hurriedly replanted to provide a natural barrier against a repeat of flood damage and huge waves.
In Thai Buddhism, with its mystical and shamanistic connections, the amulet is an important protective element worn by the majority of Thais. Crafted in metals, stone and other materials, these tiny shrine figures of the Buddha or famous abbots and monks, encased in silver, gold and crystal holders are also highly collectible and can, with rare examples, be extraordinarily valuable. One of the most famous outlets for amulets of all kinds is the Phuket Amulet market, held in a tiny soi (lane) off the town’s Rassada Road. Its 20 dealers, highly knowledgeable in this complicated field, are visited by devout Buddhist and collectors from all over the world as well as from Thailand itself. In this incredibly superstitious country, an amulet is an essential means of protection.
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