Blog // Tales from the trail
Phu-ket, as the chirpy (yet classy) Emirates auto-PA system lady blurted out a little too phonetically, was to be our first 'destination' (as Emirates would put it). With all our worldly goods either sold, stored, disposed of or otherwise currently on our person at this instant, we were about to board our flight and start upon our Asian adventure!
With some trepidation, we stepped forwards and boarded the plane - having a number of long and short term concerns in mind; Corallie, "what were we doing leaving perfectly adequate jobs and a lovely home and our darling cat..., to do what?" Keith, "which of the latest action films were to be shown on the flight?!"
On balance however, Phuket seemed a good starting point for a number of reasons, notably it being home to Corallie's parents at current, which made it a very apt 'base-camp' for travels in the region and the other big draw that it was a rather nice place in itself.
It had been about 18 months since we were last in Phuket and arriving now we had noted a number of developments; from local road and infrastructure improvements to many new places popping up around town. A number of these were the result of the authorities having a crackdown on illegal proprietors on the beaches (or more specifically anyone with a shack between the coast road and/or on the beach itself). I still remain in two minds about this, as whilst I respect the entrepeurnerial spirit in the provision of services where required, it does need some regulation to stop popular places becoming overrun. Perhaps someone had decided this tipping point had been reached, however locally, the cynic in me couldn't help but notice hoardings (on the legal side of the road) for new, high-end developments and that the somewhat monolithic Nikki Beach structure remained on the beach.
The Thai's being such friendly and welcoming people, I felt some of the charm had been lost from the smaller developments and the current direction of travel was potentially leading to over-development of bigger resorts.
Still, at current the place still keeps its charm, and the community in Phuket is very varied, with there being both a thriving local population and a growing expat community. This mix makes it an easy introduction to Thailand, presenting a balance of both local eateries, shops, markets & services, along with the more western friendly resorts, bars and golf courses.
We spent most of our time there fitting in with Maggie and Neil's routine, whether that be heading down to a local restaurant, yoga class, cycle ride, market or even golf lesson and massage combo.
One thing we were keen to do whilst in Phuket however, was to meet up with a contact of Corallie's who worked in the marine conservation office on the southern tip of the island.
It was interesting to hear first-hand about the initiatives they had in place, along with the new work being done, and the level of enthusiasm carried above all else. Also key were the challenges they faced to complete the work with the resources available and how vital it was to engaged with the local communities to overcome some of these.
Essential to their work (or indeed any such conservation project) was the data collection and in one area, the novel approach they had taken via social media to allow amateur local divers and the paying public (and dive schools) to photograph and effectively identify the rarer species and tag the location of the sightings. Although still behind all this a relentless effort was required to both educate and motivate the local divers into active and effective participation.
Attached to the facility, we also had the chance to visit the Marine Endangered Species Unit, where we saw the sadder side of things. The unit was available so the public (usually local fishermen) could bring in distressed turtles that, most typically, had been caught up in fishing nets. Whilst the aim was to return the turtles to the wild, many unfortunately had lost multiple limbs and often the ability to dive and would need to spend the rest of their days at the unit.
Finally, we stopped in briefly at Phuket's aquarium on the site to round of what had been both an interesting and informative visit.
We had enjoyed Phuket and catching up with family, but the time had come to hit wider Thailand...
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