Sun, sea, sand and spa….( Phuket – From the travel diary )

It takes a little over three hours to get into Phuket from where I live.  Cathay Pacific, Air Asia, Dragon and Thai provide daily flights to this popular tourist destination to the south of  Thailand. While descending into Phuket the Indian Ocean far beneath gleams in the morning sun.I wonder if the sea is a Sapphire blue or an Emerald green with the turquoise dark coral reefs strung in a haphazardly fashion across the length and breadth of the shallower parts of the ocean. Was this the innocent looking stretch of water that caused so much of devastation on boxing day across Indonesia, India, Thailand and a few other countries around the Indian Ocean?  Never underestimate nature’s fury I concluded just a short while before I could hear the tyres of the A320 sliding out to it’s designated place. The runway of Phuket International airport is nestled between the hills and the sea and the air craft smoothly landed  a few metres over the white stripes of the grey strip.

A pleasant weather, twenty-seven degrees with around seventy percent humidity greeted us. The airport by itself is relaxed like the town, with a bit of chaos strewn around. Thailand offers free Visas for the next few months as an incentive to get more tourists back into  the country. Tourists abstained from holidaying in Thailand after political unrest and anti Government protests took over the busy Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok.Luckily there were no red shirts that greeted us when we landed.

This was one holiday where I wished to do absolutely nothing besides indulging in some pampering of the self.  It was time to recharge, rejuvenate, refresh and relax whilst being connected to all good things that Phuket offered. I did not take my best friend Mr Mac along with me and hence the absence on this blog over the last few days.  However much I tried to shun all things electronic and tried to be numb to it’s endless appeal, I caved in to checking emails, Twitter, Facebook and blogs on the beloved iphone while sipping virgin pina coladas. The drive to the JW Marriott ( JWM )resort and spa is roughly around twenty minutes from the Phuket International airport. The resort is located on the Mai Khao beach. A pristine stretch of eleven kilometres which borders the National Sirinat Park, a turtle conservation area.  What is really appealing is the  extensive water bodies that make up the resort combined with breathtaking landscaping of tropical greens.

The first evening was spent by the sea, enjoying a soothing massage and listening to the sound of the waves as it came crashing on the shores. I love watching the sun set and I try to capture the sea scape with the camera. The setting sun invokes poetry too.

Saying good bye

I watch you finish your journey,

fiery flame of hope and  passion,

Over yonder I see a silhouette,

Beckoning you to return,

You seek your home ,

It seeks you too,

I wonder who awaits you,

How long does she wait,

I ask questions , you do not listen,

You answer in shades of crimson….

And when poetry was finished it was time to enjoy the finest Thai food. What is it about food that satiate the senses? Why is it that I surrender completely to the spices and aromas which conjure up magic as one watches the silver crescent sitting on black velvet embedded with pieces of glimmer?

The days were spent in allowing the body to relax in the Mandara spa. The magic of aromatherapy is worked through every muscle and the tension begins to release. I wish I could do this everyday. I wish I could swim in a pool of bright red petals, I wish I could feel the orchids near my toes, I wish I could smell the jasmines and primroses, I wish I could open the windows and take in the wisps of the salty sea air…

Phuket is exotic and so are the nearby Phi Phi islands ( James Bond Island ). Thailand’s jungles are springing back slowly. Elephants roam freely and I visited the Siam elephant safari which is home to retired elephants. It is also close to a gigantic white Budha seated atop lush green hills. The safari also is home to three baby elephants which participate in meet and greet the tourists. Thankfully, the calves were not made to do anything strenuous besides kicking footballs and trying to use a paint brush. The retired matriarchs lazily carry the occasional tourist and she is guided effectively by the mahouts.  There is a cultural park in Phuket that comes alive by night called the Fantasea. Fantasea is enjoyable as it showcases the culture of Thailand via a dance drama called the “ Legend of Kamala”.But what is despicable is the usage of elephants and even tigers in the theme park and in the show. I was jaded to see two white tigers being cooped up in an enclosure to please the humans. I was even more disappointed to watch Tiger cubs being used to entice the audience for a photo opportunity to make a quick buck.  I scurried away from the park as quickly as I could feeling rather helpless. My angst towards the human race as always takes the form of poetry which I shall share later.

I returned to the golden sands and the blue waters. I return to the setting sun. I swam with the turtles and chased the orange waters. Can beauty remain the way it stands I wonder…..


29 Responses to “Sun, sea, sand and spa….( Phuket – From the travel diary )”

  1. Sharmila,

    Who is the artist?

  2. Prashanth K.P. Says:

    @supershamz: Wonderful post. Honestly feel jealous that I can’t be there out and out enjoying the splendors of a wonderful Island filled with none of the traits, agonies, agitations or tension prevalent in our Country, India, right now.

    Have a good time.

    Thanks for the post.



  4. Hi Sharmila,

    Beautiful pics…lovely place…

  5. Sharmila,

    You ask: Can the beauty remain?

    Only if we do our part.

    One thing we have to decide – will we restrict our efforts to the playgrounds for the ultra-rich and keep those beautiful, or will we spend money in places where the less fortunate live, to let nature breathe again after industry has polluted it?

    It can be done with strict laws – the forest where I grew up near the Industrial West in Germany is much cleaner and healthier now than it was 40 years ago. But money will have to be spent and belts will have to be tightened – whose belts will it be?

    • Well said Renate. There needs to be an unequivocal effort made despite which strata of the society is occupying the areas. Happy to hear about W Germany. In a way I am glad that there are a few places in India too which are neither getting promoted or marketed to attract tourists, we are unable to maintain places the way they should. And yes, each one of us must do our part. Each one of us most go green, recycle, plant more trees and try to reduce emissions in the air. Above all, we must learn to respect nature.

  6. Chitra Malai Says:

    heh shur beautiful pics n u described very beautifully ya…waiting for an opportunity to visit phuket:)

  7. Nature works very mysterious way…or so shall we perceive finding it totally non comprehensive and beyond our imaginations. Changeability is the law of nature. Its hard for us to understand Nature’s cycle as not many discoveries have been done yet. Some changes are unpleasant and disagreeable to us so we call it natural disasters. However human nature to intervene and break the natural cycle is unpardonable and undeniable. It causes nothing but imbalance and proves to be a catalyst to speed up the process of those unwanted changes. yet ‘for few $$ more’ we overlook that and leave that burden of doing things right on someone else’s shoulder……Oh..! well…! we are humans….! And only humans make mistakes…! haha…! We make all those innocent species pay the price of our mistakes…! hehe….! we the superior ones….among all races….! 🙂
    Nice pictures….Sharmila..! Is that you in the pic. posing for painting, sitting on the bench…?

  8. Thanks MonaLisa, glad you liked the pictures. Nope, not me there posing. 🙂 It is the lady who was selling the fruit baskets for feeding the elephants. I swear, we make mistakes at the cost of another species. Sometimes, when nature breaks her fury via earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, it is her way of fighting with us.

  9. MonaLisa,

    You are so agreeable, yet why do I always disagree with the first thing you say. I wonder.

    🙂 Kidding. I am just playing with words. Don’t reply to that.

    What’s the point in reading or writing a blog if one does not have opinions? Right, na?

    Your view of a benevolent Nature and a hostile human is the same trap that Buddhism as well as the evolution theorists fell into centuries ago and continue to prevail in.

    Nature is beautiful. This planet is beautiful. No two ways about that.

    But look closer at each picture that Sharmila has posted.

    Can a human being survive in it?

    Can one drink the ocean water? Can one eat off the land infected by germs? Can one take shelter under palm trees?

    What is benevolent in Nature for human life? nature is useful, not benevolent.

    In my opinion, this planet has to be saved for sustaining human life, not for restoring it to the stone ages.

    Nature is a strong force, no doubt. But the human mind is stronger.

    And, regarding the survival of the fittest among species, if one had to choose between a domestic pet and a kid, the pet has to leave. No questions asked. The kid is not in the house for humoring the parents. The pet is.

    I will not dwell on the shortcomings of Mystic Buddhism. That will take a 100 comments and probably go against a few things that HH Dalai Lama has succeeded in preaching. It’s not all that bad in practice for human-to-human interactions.

    Suffice to say, my opinion is, Nature is what it is. Mercy and hostility are human characteristics. Personifications do not alter a reality. They summarize it.

    Vedic scriptures personify Nature to extreme lengths. The Air talks, the Wind sings, the Earth cries and the Sky thunders. The result is complete confusion.

    It is poetic and wonderful. No doubt. But Gautam Buddha got so annoyed with the rhetoric, he wrote a new chapter in history by devicing a live-with-nature-and-die-early doctrine.

    In short: Let’s be here and now and enjoy ourselves.

  10. A bit off topic, but wanted to share this on the blog –

    It was probably the April of 1974. Bangalore was getting warm and gulmohars were blooming at the IISc campus. I was the only girl in my postgraduate department and was staying at the ladies’ hostel. Other girls were pursuing research in different departments of Science. I was looking forward to going abroad to complete a doctorate in computer science. I had been offered scholarships from Universities in the US… I had not thought of taking up a job in India.
    One day, while on the way to my hostel from our lecture-hall complex, I saw an advertisement on the notice board. It was a standard job-requirement notice from the famous automobile company Telco (now Tata Motors)… It stated that the company required young, bright engineers, hardworking and with an excellent academic background, etc.
    At the bottom was a small line: ‘Lady Candidates need not apply.’ I read it and was very upset. For the first time in my life I was up against gender discrimination.
    Though I was not keen on taking up the job, I saw it as a challenge. I had done extremely well in academics, better than most of my male peers… Little did I know then that in real life academic excellence is not enough to be successful?
    After reading the notice I went fuming to my room. I decided to inform the topmost person in Telco’s management about the injustice the company was perpetrating. I got a postcard and started to write, but there was a problem: I did not know who headed Telco
    I thought it must be one of the Tatas. I knew JRD Tata was the head of the Tata Group; I had seen his pictures in newspapers (actually, Sumant Moolgaokar was the company’s chairman then) I took the card, addressed it to JRD and started writing. To this day I remember clearly what I wrote. ‘The great Tatas have always been pioneers. They are the people who started the basic infrastructure industries in India, such as iron and steel, chemicals, textiles and locomotives they have cared for higher education in India since 1900 and they were responsible for the establishment of the Indian Institute of Science. Fortunately, I study there. But I am surprised how a company such as Telco is discriminating on the basis of gender.’
    I posted the letter and forgot about it. Less than 10 days later, I received a telegram stating that I had to appear for an interview at Telco’s Pune facility at the company’s expense. I was taken aback by the telegram. My hostel mate told me I should use the opportunity to go to Pune free of cost and buy them the famous Pune saris for cheap! I collected Rs30 each from everyone who wanted a sari when I look back, I feel like laughing at the reasons for my going, but back then they seemed good enough to make the trip.
    It was my first visit to Pune and I immediately fell in love with the city.
    To this day it remains dear to me. I feel as much at home in Pune as I do in Hubli, my hometown. The place changed my life in so many ways. As directed, I went to Telco’s Pimpri office for the interview.
    There were six people on the panel and I realized then that this was serious business.
    ‘This is the girl who wrote to JRD,’ I heard somebody whisper as soon as I entered the room. By then I knew for sure that I would not get the job. The realization abolished all fear from my mind, so I was rather cool while the interview was being conducted.
    Even before the interview started, I reckoned the panel was biased, so I told them, rather impolitely, ‘I hope this is only a technical interview.’
    They were taken aback by my rudeness, and even today I am ashamed about my attitude. The panel asked me technical questions and I answered all of them.
    Then an elderly gentleman with an affectionate voice told me, ‘Do you know why we said lady candidates need not apply? The reason is that we have never employed any ladies on the shop floor. This is not a co-ed college; this is a factory. When it comes to academics, you are a first ranker throughout. We appreciate that, but people like you should work in research laboratories.
    I was a young girl from small-town Hubli. My world had been a limited place.
    I did not know the ways of large corporate houses and their difficulties, so I answered, ‘But you must start somewhere, otherwise no woman will ever be able to work in your factories.’
    Finally, after a long interview, I was told I had been successful. So this was what the future had in store for me. Never had I thought I would take up a job in Pune. I met a shy young man from Karnataka there, we became good friends and we got married.
    It was only after joining Telco that I realized who JRD was: the uncrowned king of Indian industry. Now I was scared, but I did not get to meet him till I was transferred to Bombay. One day I had to show some reports to Mr Moolgaokar, our chairman, who we all knew as SM. I was in his office on the first floor of Bombay House (the Tata headquarters) when, suddenly JRD walked in. That was the first time I saw ‘appro JRD’. Appro means ‘our’ in Gujarati. This was the affectionate term by which people at Bombay House called him.I was feeling very nervous, remembering my postcard episode. SM introduced me nicely, ‘Jeh (that’s what his close associates called him), this young woman is an engineer and that too a postgraduate.
    She is the first woman to work on the Telco shop floor.’ JRD looked at me. I was praying he would not ask me any questions about my interview (or the postcard that preceded it).
    Thankfully, he didn’t. Instead, he remarked. ‘It is nice that girls are getting into engineering in our country. By the way, what is your name?’
    ‘When I joined Telco I was Sudha Kulkarni, Sir,’ I replied. ‘Now I am Sudha Murthy.’ He smiled and kindly smile and started a discussion with SM. As for me, I almost ran out of the room.
    After that I used to see JRD on and off. He was the Tata Group chairman and I was merely an engineer. There was nothing that we had in common. I was in awe of him.
    One day I was waiting for Murthy, my husband, to pick me up after office hours. To my surprise I saw JRD standing next to me. I did not know how to react. Yet again I started worrying about that postcard. Looking back, I realize JRD had forgotten about it. It must have been a small incident for him, but not so for me.
    ‘Young lady, why are you here?’ he asked. ‘Office time is over.’ I said, ‘Sir, I’m waiting for my husband to come and pick me up.’ JRD said, ‘It is getting dark and there’s no one in the corridor.
    I’ll wait with you till your husband comes.’
    I was quite used to waiting for Murthy, but having JRD waiting alongside made me extremely uncomfortable.
    I was nervous. Out of the corner of my eye I looked at him. He wore a simple white pant and shirt. He was old, yet his face was glowing. There wasn’t any air of superiority about him. I was thinking, ‘Look at this person. He is a chairman, a well-respected man in our country and he is waiting for the sake of an ordinary employee.’
    Then I saw Murthy and I rushed out. JRD called and said, ‘Young lady, tell your husband never to make his wife wait again.’ In 1982 I had to resign from my job at Telco. I was reluctant to go, but I really did not have a choice. I was coming down the steps of Bombay House after wrapping up my final settlement when I saw JRD coming up. He was absorbed in thought. I wanted to say goodbye to him, so I stopped. He saw me and paused.
    Gently, he said, ‘So what are you doing, Mrs. Kulkarni?’ (That was the way he always addressed me.) ‘Sir, I am leaving Telco.’
    ‘Where are you going?’ he asked. ‘Pune, Sir. My husband is starting a company called Infosys and I’m shifting to Pune.’
    ‘Oh! And what will you do when you are successful.’
    ‘Sir, I don’t know whether we will be successful.’ ‘Never start with diffidence,’ he advised me.’Always start with confidence. When you are successful you must give back to society. Society gives us so much; we must reciprocate. Wish you all the best.’
    Then JRD continued walking up the stairs. I stood there for what seemed like a millennium. That was the last time I saw him alive.
    Many years later I met Ratan Tata in the same Bombay House, occupying the chair JRD once did. I told him of my many sweet memories of working with Telco. Later, he wrote to me, ‘It was nice hearing about Jeh from you. The sad part is that he’s not alive to see you today.’
    I consider JRD a great man because, despite being an extremely busy person, he valued one postcard written by a young girl seeking justice. He must have received thousands of letters everyday. He could have thrown mine away, but he didn’t do that. He respected the intentions of that unknown girl, who had neither influence nor money, and gave her an opportunity in his company. He did not merely give her a job; he changed her life and mindset forever.
    Close to 50 per cent of the students in today’s engineering colleges are girls. And there are women on the shop floor in many industry segments. I see these changes and I think of JRD. If at all time stops and asks me what I want from life, I would say I wish JRD were alive today to see how the company we started has grown. He would have enjoyed it wholeheartedly.
    My love and respect for the House of Tata remains undiminished by the passage of time. I always looked up to JRD. I saw him as a role model for his simplicity, his generosity, his kindness and the care he took of his employees. Those blue eyes always reminded me of the sky; they had the same vastness and magnificence. (Sudha Murthy is a widely published writer and chairperson of the Infosys Foundation involved in a number of social development initiatives. Infosys chairman Narayana Murthy is her husband.)
    Article sourced from: Lasting Legacies (Tata Review- Special Commemorative Issue 2004), brought out by the house of Tatas to commemorate the 100th birth anniversary of JRD Tata on July 29, 2004 .

  11. 🙂 Reader,
    I knew it….I knew it…! You will definitely find it (something ) disagreeable…..but ‘Never mind’…Sorry Sharmila…! I have to borrow it from you for a while… 🙂
    Reader…We have agreed to disagree…on almost every matter long time ago…haha…! so…so be it..! 🙂
    But I am in a different mood tonight…so will get back to you on that tomorrow….or so…

    PS :- “agreeable” term has been overlooked….and ignored as per your request/wish. 🙂

  12. MonaLisa,

    Okay. While you come back with that may be I can leave a few more reference to context.

    Both Buddhism and evolution theorists believe in evidence.

    In other words, a belief is supported by evidence. Which is fine and justified too.

    But the fallacy in the outcome is this:

    If a person is simply what he knows, then the knowledge makes him only a dictionary of phenomena, neither the cause nor the effect.

    If the same yardstick of evidence is applied consistently, a person must justify his ability to believe with the same integrity of evidences that he seeks for learning something.

    Simply put, a student must qualify to learn a subject.

    The reality is: A belief is not a phenomenon. It is either a cause or an effect. So, a person who holds a belief becomes a cause or an effect, not a phenomenon.

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