Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Phuket Day 2: Fishes, Cashew Nuts and More Sand

Looking up at the fish at the Phuket Aquarium
Today we started off relatively early at 9.30am as a driver picked us up to go from the west side of Phuket to the southeast side to Cape Panwa where the Phuket Aquarium is. A group of school children happened to be there at the same time as us and overall it was a neat place to visit.

We saw all different kinds of sea life, from shrimp to clown fish, electric eels, giant groupers, sharks and even sea mushrooms.They were sectioned off in relatively small tanks which seemed sad for eels and large fish who didn't have much room to move around in.

Cute little shrimp, this one with long whiskers!
Nevertheless it was neat to see things we hadn't seen before or up close. There wasn't much explanation about what we were looking at, or where their natural habitat was. We'd never seen sea mushrooms before, so colourful and looking almost like flowers.

I'd been told by a friend that Cape Panwa was a nice area, but when I saw was a small beach area; however the aquarium was right by the military base which seemed like an interesting location for it.

At the entrance of the base and every other government building and school is a picture of the Thai King who is 85 years old. His son is 65 years old, which is an interesting comparison with Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles...

One big fish among small fishes...
Afterwards we headed further south to Rawai Beach. The same friend recommended this place as a good one for a seafood meal and we did just that for lunch. There are many seaside restaurants and we went to one by the beach.

We ordered mussels steamed with lemongrass, chillis, and Thai basil, but we were disappointed to see that while the mussel shells were large, the meat itself was very small! Nevertheless the broth was delicious with white rice.

Another winner again was steamed fish with lots of garlic, chillis and lime. It arrived hot over a flame which further cooked the chillis in the broth to make it even spicier. The fish was perfectly cooked, meaty and had the hint of chillis. Loved the excess garlic!

However we were very disappointed with the dessert of mango with sticky rice. Don't get me wrong -- the mango was delicious as now is the perfect time for it, but the sticky rice was hard and seemed like it was left over from the day before or not cooked enough. It was also too saccharine sweet.

Meanwhile, our fish for lunch, steamed with chills
We did a bit of shopping as well. Phuket seems to be known for cashew nuts and honey, and every other city tour includes a visit to cashew nut and honey factories. We went to a cashew nut place run by Chinese (there were red banners with Chinese characters on it) and saw how cashew nuts came from a fruit that will become ripe next month.

The nuts are extracted from the fruit using a machine and then either processed plain or a number of different flavours -- wasabi, tom yum, chocolate, paprika, honey... needless to say we tried pretty much all of them before buying some. We also tried an apple juice mixed with cashew nut juice. Who knew? It has more of an apple flavour, but refreshing all the same.

Extracting cashew nuts from the yellow fruit
Phuket is also known for rubber and our driver told us that Thailand sells a lot of latex to China. One of the ways latex is used is to make thin mattresses and we checked out a showroom where we saw lots of mainlanders lying on beds testing out these mattresses. Many bought bolsters.

We weren't quite impressed with them and they were quite expensive as well at 20,000BHT ($625).

Finally we made it back to our hotel and after a nap we did another walk along the beach at sunset. There seemed to be much more garbage washed up on the shore today compared to yesterday -- beer bottles in particular -- but no one seemed to mind. We didn't see any garbage cans for people to throw trash in...

These cashew fruits will be ripe next month onwards
It was neat seeing small kids playing on the beach, busy making sandcastles for the first time or thrilled to play in the water.

There were parachute sailings for 1,200BHT and we watched a few mainlanders try this ride that lasted only a few minutes. They were strapped into a vest followed by a thin life jacket.

A mainlander trying his hand at parachute sailing
After they were attached to the parachute they were pulled by a speedboat with another guy hanging onto the passenger to help anchor them. Must have really interesting views up there, though you sometimes have to wonder how safe those things are...

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