Photo Gallery: Eleuthra




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Here are some additional photos of our visit to the island of Eleuthra in the Bahamas.

Our tour guide on the bus tells of the history of Eleuthra
Our tour guide on the bus tells of the history of Eleuthra
During the ride we were shown how to make some crafts, including this headband made from reeds
During the ride we were shown how to make some crafts, including this headband made from reeds
A house shuttered against storms while the owner is away
A house in Governor’s Harbour is shuttered against storms while the owner is away
Myself at Tarpum Bay
Myself at Tarpum Bay
Tarpum Bay homes and businesses
Tarpum Bay homes and businesses. I believe the blue building is a small hotel.
A pile of conch shells
A pile of conch shells
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How to extract a conch from its shell
Extracting a conch from its shell
Slicing up a conch to make a conch salad
Colorful Junkanoo dancers and musicians
Colorful Junkanoo dancers and musicians

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The Mayan Ruins at Tulum




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When you stay in Cancun, it seems almost mandatory to check out some ancient ruins while you’re there. The most popular is Chichen Itza which is 200 kilometres inland. But also popular though not as well known is the coastal Mayan city of Tulum. It is right along the coast 128 kilometres from Cancun.

Tulum was a walled city and a seaport, a major trading hub for the Mayan civilization with a population of around 1000-1600 people. It thrived between the 13th and 15th centuries but was decimated by diseases brought in by the Spanish. By the end of the 16th century it was completely abandoned.

Major restoration work began in and continued throughout the 20th century. It is one of the best-preserved Mayan excavations, though considerably smaller than Chichen Itza.

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This pyramid-like building is known as El Castillo, the castle.

Tour buses leave Cancun daily for Tulum and we took one of these excursions. Onsite, a guide gives you a running commentary on the various different structures.  While you can explore in your own, we found our guide very knowledgable and helpful.

There are many structures on the site. The major ones include El Castillo, the castle, as well as several temples. The Temple of the Wind commands an excellent view of the sparkling blue Caribbean waters.

The Temple of the Wind
The Temple of the Wind

The Temple of the Frescoes stands in front of El Castillo, a  modest structure by comparison.

The Temple of the Frescoes
The Temple of the Frescoes

One of the things that sets Tulum apart from Chichen Itza is its location. It sits on a 12 meter limestone bluff overlooking the sea. Near El Castillo are steps leading down to a beautiful beach. If you’re planning a visit, be sure to bring your swimsuit!

Looking down the steps to the beach
Looking down the steps to the beach
On the beach at Tulum
On the beach at Tulum. That`s El Castillo on the bluff above the beach.

We did not bring swimsuits as we did not know about the beach. But we did take off our shoes and socks and waded through the surf. There is also good snorkeling in the area.

Janis and I in the surf at Tulum
Janis and I in the surf at Tulum

Tulum is a site steeped in history with a majestic setting. Definitely worth checking out on your Cancun vacation.

We’ll end this post with some additional photos.

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The Temple of the Wind seen from a different angle
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Another view of El Castillo
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Tulum is the third most popular Mayan ruin
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Besides the ancient ruins, there is lush plant life as well as carefully manicured lawns.

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Hillarys Boat Harbour




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There are a number of small harbours up and down the coast of the Greater Perth region. The largest, of course, is Fremantle which is a major port. The smaller ones mainly serve pleasure craft and a number of those are tourist destinations as well. That’s the case with Hillarys Boat Harbour, about 23 kilometres from downtown Perth or a 35-40 minute drive. The easiest way to get there is to take the Mitchell Freeway (Highway # 2) and turn left onto Hepburn Avenue which takes you all the way to the marina.

The map above is an earth view of Hillarys. Click on the View Larger Map button and you’ll see it on a full page. There you can use CTL and your mouse to rotate the map any which way you choose.

The Breakwater complex has a fine dining restaurant upstairs and a more casual rendez-vous below.
The Breakwater complex has a fine dining restaurant upstairs and a more casual rendez-vous below. The large boat moored there is the Rottnest Island Ferry.

A couple of breakwaters enclose the marina. where many private boats are moored. One of the Rottnest Ferries docks here. The other’s home port is Fremantle. But for visitors, it’s the shopping mall and restaurants that are the big attraction. Formally called Sorrento Quay, it features wide boardwalks and a concert staging area completed in mid-2016.

Reataurants abound here. You can find casual fare like Grill’d or Dome to the the classy Breakwater which has four facilities, the casual Lower Deck to the upscale Ishka Restaurant and adjacent Reid’s Lounge. You can also reserve the Akoya Suite for corporate functions and even weddings.

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Zeno’s Cafe and fro-yo are among the many food service outlets at Hillarys. Much of the quay and boardwalk is on stilts above the water.

There are specialty food places like Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream, Belissimo Gelato, La Chocolateria and more. Or fast food like Subway or Little C’s Pizza. Scrolling through eateries on their website, I counted 34 of them. There are also a lot of specialty shops. Everything from clothing stores to souvenir shops to a barber shop and a candy shop. Around 30 different shops.

Art Affaire Gallery
Art Affaire Gallery, one of many gift shops at Hillarys

While the mall is open air, it does have a skylighted roof over the passageways.

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The quay and boardwalk wraps around an inner bay with beach and waterpark.

The complex of restaurants and shops wraps around an inner bay which includes some shallow beaches for swimming. And on the shore is a large children’s complex called The Great Escape which includes a waterslide park. Unfortunately the lease ran out for The Great Escape and it is currently closed until a new tenant can be found. But it is scheduled to partially reopen for the Australian summer starting November 26th.

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Cockatoos like to hang out near the waterslide park.

When we first visited Hillarys in May 2015, the waterpark was a popular hangout for wild cockatoos.

At the other end of the complex you’ll find the Aquarium of Western Australia. We never got around to visiting it so I can’t rate it. And there is an apartment hotel complex, an exciting alternative to staying in a large hotel.

A bridge and walkway over the harbour connects the mall and the shore. There you’ll find another restaurant, the Hillarys Yacht Club, the Department of Fisheries building and some commercial buildings. You’ll also run across the Three Dolphins statue and fountain.

Sarah and her friend Natasha with the Three Dolphins.
Sarah and her friend Natasha with the Three Dolphins.

A short walk takes you past a couple of shallow beaches and back to the other end of the quay. Here are a few more restaurants and still more shops.

Hillarys Boat Harvour at night.
Hillarys Boat Harvour at night.

We happened to visit Hillarys one Friday evening and the quay is beautiful lit up in the evening. For some entertainment, Perth’s Northern Ukulele Group meets here every Friday from 5:00 to 7:00 PM. I never would have guessed there were so many ukulele players in Perth. And that’s just one club. There’s a website that lists ten different groups of enthusiasts. Who knew?

If you’re there on a hot sunny summer day, you may want to spend some time at Sorrento Beach which is just a short walk away. Like most Western Australian beaches, this one has pristine sandy beaches, a grassy park area and barbecue areas for family picnics or group outings.

The boardwalk from Hillarys to Sorrento Beach.
The boardwalk from Hillarys to Sorrento Beach.
Sorrento Beach
Sorrento Beach

Since opening in 1988, Hillarys Boat Harbour has continued to be a popular venue for both locals and visitors. Do check it out. And if you are arriving or leaving around 5:00 to 5:30, you can catch a glimpse of kangaroos in the wild at Pinnaroo Valley Cemetery. I know that sounds odd, but check out the article I wrote about it a while back. We’ve been back several times. One of the best places for kangaroo watching in my opinion.

Below is a link to an additional photo gallery as well as to some Hillarys Boat Harbour attractions.

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Barcelona: La Rambla and More




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After visiting the Parc Güell, the four of us split paths with the wives opting for shopping and Chris and I deciding to take the Hop On Hop Off and get an overview of the city before meeting the girls later to wander up La Rambla. The Barcelona Bus Turistic has three different routes and we took the western route which took us past the Olympic Stadium as well as the waterfront.  One of the first buildings we passed was the Casa Mila, better known as La Pedrera. This is one of the buildings designed by Antonio Gaudi.

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La Pedrera, designed by Antonio Gaudi and built from 1906-1912

The Summer Olympics were held in Barcelona  in 1992 and many of the buildings and public spaces are a lasting legacy. The Montjuic Communications Tower is in the Olympic Park and was used to transmit television coverage of the games.

The Montjuric Communications Tower is 446 foot tall tower designed as a stylized Olympic runner carrying a torch.
The Montjuric Communications Tower is 446 foot tall tower designed as a stylized runner carrying the Olympic Flame.

The Olympic Stadium is still used and was home to Barcelona’s football team until 2009. Many rock concerts are staged there. It was built in 1927 and completely renovated for the 1992 Olympics.

The Olympic Stadium
The Olympic Stadium

Cable cars run from Montjuic to the waterfront and are very popular though we did not go on them. The bus took us past the waterfront where we got off to explore on our own before meeting the ladies.

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The cable cars offer a great view of the city and the waterfront

Barcelona’s waterfront is amazing. Extensive broad pedestrian paths, many shops and restaurants and a lot of intriguing public art. There is a lot of interesting architecture. One prominent feature is a giant sculture of a fish, El Peix, by Canadian architect Frank Gehry. Gehry is also known for the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain and the Experience Music Project in Seattle.

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Broad plazas and interesting architecture abound on the waterfront. The golden fish sculpture is by Canadian designer Frank Gehry.

Another sculpture is of Gambrinus, a giant lobster. It used to be the mascot of a restaurant called Gambrinus. When the restaurant closed down, the city bought and restored the lobster as public art. A right friendly looking chap he is!

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The unusual sculpture of Gambrinus, the giant lobster.

At one end is a large public beach. The Spaniards are not as prudish as some and topless sunbathing is common here.

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Barcelona’s beautiful beach

We walked up the beach and out along the breakwater, stopping to dip our toes in the Mediterranean for the first time. The breakwater is popular with fishermen and just for walking along.

Out on the breakwater
Out on the breakwater

We walked back past the Spanish Natural Gas Company’s building and along the boardwalk to the statue of Christopher Columbus to meet the ladies. Along the way we noticed many parked motorcyles as well as places where you could rent bicycles. Bikes and motorbikes are very popular in Barcelona.

Bicycles for rent!
Bicycles for rent! These are like a ride share program and you have to be a member to use the bikes. You just pick one up from one of the many locations and cycle to another close to where you want to go. Lock it up and pick up a new bike when you’re ready to head back.
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The statue of Christopher Columbus is in a square at one end of La Rambla

The statue is at the end of La Rambla, Barcelona’s famous street market, and the four of us headed out to take in the sights. And sights there were. The street is full of stands selling a myriad of different products. Fruits, vegetables and other foodstuffs, to be sure, but also exotic pets – ferrets and hedgehogs, as well as a lot of birds.

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Food stalls on La Rambla
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Exotic pets for sale on La Rambla.

There were also a lot of street entertainers. Very popular are the human statues, people dressed in colourful costumes and posing as statues until someone drops a coin in the hat at which they become quite animated.

A colourful human statue
A colourful human statue

There were also a number of entertainers dressed as popular cartoon or movie characters. We saw one dressed as Jack from The Nightmare Before Christmas, and another as Edward Scissorhands. Drop a coin in Ed’s box and he would pretend to snip your hair.

Finally we got to the end of la Rambla – the Plaça de Catalunya. A number of hotels and other buildings overlook the square, a central meeting place for many. We had dinner at one of the restaurants near here.

Plaça de Catalunya
Plaça de Catalunya

After dinner we wandered around for a while. We wanted to see the Sagrada Familia at night, which we did. Along the way we noticed great crowds outside every pub and bar. The local football team was playing their great rivals, Madrid and everyone wanted to catch it on television. The home team won and Barcelona became a sea of honking vehicles and flag-waving crowds. A fitting end to our last day in Barcelona.

Sagrada Familia at night
Sagrada Familia at night

We loved Barcelona and it is definitely on our list of cities to visit again!

Click on the Photo Gallery link below for more pictures, or just scroll on down if you are on the main page.




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Sculpture by the Sea, Cottesloe, Western Australia




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In British Columbia they have had an annual sand castle competition for many years. It used to be held on the beach at White Rock, later moving to Harrison Hot Springs. But a couple of years ago it moved again, this time to Parksville on Vancouver Island. Contestants from all over the world attend, building sand sculptures which last for a few weeks before the weather takes them down.

Heroes and Villains was the theme of last year's International Sandcastle Competition at Parksville, British Columbia in July 2015.
Heroes and Villains was the theme of last year’s International Sandcastle Competition at Parksville, British Columbia in July 2015.

But Sculpture by the Sea in Cottesloe, Western Australia is another thing again. Not ephemeral sculptures made of sand, most of the sculptures here are permanent, though not in their permanent location. These works of art are made of wood, stone, steel and other durable materials. They are scattered along Cottesloe Beach, some on the sand, some on the grassy areas, and some in the gardens.

This giant stainless steel pig is one of over seventy sculptures at this year's Sculpture by the Sea exhibit at Cottesloe Beach, Western Australia. Exhibit ends March 20th.
This giant stainless steel pig is one of over seventy sculptures at this year’s Sculpture by the Sea exhibit at Cottesloe Beach, Western Australia. Exhibit ends March 20th. This piece is called Pig of Fortune # 2 by South Korean artist Tae-Geun Yang.

The event started in Bondi, a suburb of Sydney, in 1997, the brainchild of a fellow named David Handley. The following year it expanded to five locations to help promote the Olympic Games in Sydney. They included Darwin, Noosa, Albany and the Tasman Peninsula as well as Bondi. But the additional showings were one-offs. it remained a Sydney event until 2005 when the event was launched in Cottesloe, a suburb of Perth in Western Australia. It has been an annual event there ever since.

This year’s exhibition runs from March 4-20th. My wife and I checked it out Tuesday and had a great afternoon. Getting there is pretty easy. The town is very close to Fremantle and easily accessible by car. The beach is along Marine Parade. It is a short fifteen minute walk from the Cottesloe train station (1.1 kilometres) or a ten minute bus ride if you prefer.

These giant sculptures are along the roadway just before the beach. They are also part of the exhibit.
These giant sculptures are along the roadway just before the beach. They are also part of the exhibit. The sculpture set is called Land of Giants: Quiver, Queen, King, Jester, Giorgio and is by American Peter Lundberg.

We drove in and found lots of street parking on Marine Parade, though it might be rather busy on the weekends. We parked just south of the beach and walked in, taking a path that took us past a couple of sculptures along the street and then down to a Cottesloe landmark, the Sun Dial. This isn’t part of the exhibit but is worth checking out any time. It keeps accurate time any time of the year. The instructions on how to read the sun dial are a bit cumbersome but easy to understand.

The sun dial is a large one just at the south end of the beach.
The sun dial is a large one just at the south end of the beach. Not part of the exhibit but worth seeing.

From the sun dial we walked up past the Surf Rescue building and came across several sculptures along the way. We decided to walk out on the breakwater, which also had a number of pieces of art on it, for an overview of the whole beach, then slowly made our way along the beach checking out the works. This year had works by 77 artists from nineteen different countries including Canada and the United States. The major sponsor is Rio Tinto Mines.

Overview of the beach from the breakwater. The beach house dates from 1996.It is on the site of an ice cream parlour built in 1910.
Overview of the beach from the breakwater. The magnificent beach house dates from 1996. It is on the former site of an ice cream parlour built in 1910. We thought the cranes beside the beach house meant construction was going on. We were wrong!

Many of these pieces must have been moved in by truck as they are huge. Others look like they might have been built in place just for the exhibit. They varied greatly in theme and content. Many were clearly abstract. Interesting shapes with no other significance than their beauty. Others were geometric patterns. Still others had themes. There were several with an environmental theme. And many were representational, often quite whimsical.

This piece was called The Pilgrim.
This piece is called The Pilgrim by Australian sculptor Russell Sheridan.
The Burden.
A Burden by Australian artists Suzie Bleach and Andrew Townsend
This sculpture consisted simply of posts with place names in Australia accompanied by red posts with a number on them. The legend indicated what species the numbers signified. All of these species are now extent.
This sculpture consisted simply of posts with place names in Australia accompanied by red posts with a number on them. The legend indicated what species the numbers signified. All of these species are now extent. It was called simply “The Red List (Extinct)” by Australian artist Rebecca Westlund.

A few of the pieces had motion as part of the display. I took a video of one which was a circle of colourful poles with streamers running between them. A class of school children were exploring it at the time. The piece is called Kakashi by Lithuanian Ameican artist Zilvinas Kempinas.

Another was simply called “Eye” and consisted of an LED screen embedded in the dirt and surrounded by some foliage. But if you looked closely, well, darn if it wasn’t an eye! And it was looking around! Kind of creepy actually. It’s by Danish artist Anne-Marie Pedersen.

We ventured further up the beach and found more interesting pieces. One was called Book Cave and consisted of a large number of hard cover books glued together to form a cave. Another was a simple but large geometric figure of wood.

Book Cave
Book Cave by Australian artist Juliet Lea.

As you can see from the pictures, there were a lot of people on the beach not paying much attention to the artwork, just soaking up the sun, swimming and having a good time. The weather was warm, and bringing along your swimsuit and a towel is good idea. Make a day of it.

A geometrical wooden sculpture anchored one end of the exhibit. Lots of sunbathers and swimmers were at the beach.
A geometrical wooden sculpture anchored one end of the exhibit. It’s called Sømærke by German artist KWY and Portuguese artist Lise Kassow. Lots of sunbathers and swimmers were at the beach.

Wandering up behind the beach house, we came across a stainless steel sculpture of a chubby flying boy. We could see our reflection in it quite clearly.

We could see our reflection in this stainless steel sculture.
We could see our reflection in this stainless steel sculpture. It’s called City Dreams by Chinese sculptor Gao Xiaowu

And still further along we came across the largest of the sculptures called Re: Generation. It consisted of a curved bald pate on the ground, a multi-sided face that appeared half buried and a very large fully emerged multi-sided face. They were all in white porcelain or something that looked like white porcelain.

Re-emergence.
Re: Generation by Australian artist Sonia Payes. The couple on the ground were oblivious to the sculptures or anything else for that matter.

We came eventually to the Search and Rescue building which had a room full of smaller sculptures on display. Many were miniatures of ones we saw on the beach and all were for sale. Prices ranged from around $900 to thousands of dollars. My wife saw one selling for $46,000.

Smaller sculptures, many of them replicas of the larger ones, were on disolay and on sale inside the Search and Rescue building.
Smaller sculptures, many of them replicas of the larger ones, were on display and on sale inside the Search and Rescue building.
One of the smaller pieces on display inside.
One of the smaller pieces on display inside was of a tethered elephant.

We also saw a monitor showing a video of a woman in a mermaid outfit suspended in the air on wires. Nearby was a large framed photograph of the mermaid without the wires. I asked about it and we found out the artist was going to be doing his “performance art” at 4 PM by the beach house, so we headed back to take it in. The artist is Chinese photographer Li Wei.

The model reclines on the surfboard, ready to be hoisted in the air as part of a performance art piece.
A model reclines on the surfboard, ready to be hoisted in the air as part of a performance art piece.

A model in flowing white robes was strapped to a safety harness and then she lay down on a surfboard hooked by cables to a crane. Another crane had a platform where photographer Li Wei would stand. After a half hour or so of set-up, she and he were hoisted into the air for the photo shoot. She went up and down several times, changing poses each time. I suspect the photographer will air brush out the wires and cables for his finished pictures.

We then went to the beach house which houses a large restaurant called Indiana and had a tasty meal. The restaurant has large windows and a beautiful overview of the beach.

The beach house and the Indiana Restaurant. It's a beautiful old building with a magnificent view. We enjoyed a tasty early dinner here.
The beach house and the Indiana Restaurant. It’s a beautiful old building with a magnificent view. We enjoyed a tasty early dinner here. A nice ending to a great afternoon.

All in all, it was a terrific afternoon. It’s highly recommended. And it’s free!

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Photo Gallery: Sculpture by the Sea




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Here are a number of additional pictures from Sculpture by the Sea at Cottesloe, Western Australia.

The Sun Dial. This large sun dial is a permanent structure and not part of the Sculpture by the Sea exhibit. But it is worth checking out.
The Sun Dial. This large sun dial is a permanent structure and not part of the Sculpture by the Sea exhibit. But it is worth checking out.
These sculptures look like giant chess pieces. They are knitted fabric.
These sculptures look like giant chess pieces. They are knitted fabric. It’s called Big Intentions and is by Australian artist Mikaela Castledine.
Some pieces were extremely simple. This piece is called Rock II by Perdita Phillips.
Some pieces were extremely simple. This piece is called Rock II by Perdita Phillips.
This piece is called "Dust". A smaller version was for sale in the gift shop for a couple of thousand dollars.
This piece is called “Dust” by Australian sculptor Norton Flavel. A smaller version was for sale in the gift shop for a couple of thousand dollars.
This work is like the perspective rooms where things of the same size look different depending on where in the room they are. It won the Rio Tinto grand prize of $50,000.
This work is like the perspective rooms where things of the same size look different depending on where in the room they are. It’s called Parallel Thinking Space by Australian artist Dale Miles. It won the Rio Tinto grand prize of $50,000.
Bubble No. 7 by Chinese artist Qian Sihua. 77 artists from 19 different countries were on display here.
Bubble No. 7 by Chinese artist Qian Sihua. 77 artists from 19 different countries were on display here.
Giant shoes.
Giant shoes. It’s called The First Experience of a Poet # 3 by South Korean sculptor Hyung-Taek Chang.
Janis and friend.
Janis and friend. The sculpture is called Boxed by Harrie Fisher.
Book Cave by Australian artist Juliet Lea.
Book Cave by Australian artist Juliet Lea.
Travelling Bag by Chinese artist Yumin Jing. Stainless steel bag with plants inside. Talk about a nice planter!
Travelling Bag by Chinese artist Yumin Jing. Stainless steel bag with plants inside. Talk about a nice planter! The crane in the background is waiting for the performance artists.
Our reflection in the stainless steel piece called City Dreams by Chinese sculptor Gao Xiaowu.
Our reflection in the stainless steel piece called City Dreams by Chinese sculptor Gao Xiaowu.
A piece of whimsy called "Fun" by Thai artist Naidee Changmoh.
A piece of whimsy called “Fun” by Thai artist Naidee Changmoh.
Can't remember the name of this but I liked it a lot. Very colorful.
Pocono Bud by Taiwanese American artist Tang-Wei Hsu. Very colorful.
One of the three pieces that make up Re-emergence.
Two of the three pieces that make up Re: Generation by Australian artist Sonia Payes. It’s very large and was Janis’s favorite piece at the exhibit.
Another whimsical piece called Catch Me.
Another whimsical piece called Catch Me by Danish sculptor Keld Moseholm.
An amusing piece called Eye. The LED screen has a video of an eyeball that is always moving.
An amusing piece called Eye by Danish artist Anne-Marie Pedersen. The LED screen has a video of an eyeball that is always moving.
Performance art in progress!
Performance art in progress! The artist is Chinese photographer Li Wei.
High above the beach. Photo taken from the Indiana Restaurant.
High above the beach. Photo taken from the Indiana Restaurant.
The model floating in the air on a surfboard.
The model floating in the air on a surfboard.
What it may look like with the cables air brushed out.
What it may look like with the cables air brushed out.
And another pose.
And another pose. 

And our last three pictures – some of the wild cockatiels from the trees nearby.

Three amigos!
Three amigos!
Buddies.
Buddies. Although wild cockatiels are fairly common in Western Australia, I still get a kick out of seeing them and wan to snap pictures.
This one had interesting colours with a pink belly.
This one had interesting colours with a pink belly.



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Phuket, Thailand – Sunshine, Shopping and Sleaze




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Note: some of this travelogue includes discussion of the sex trade in Thailand. If that may offend you, after the picture of the masseuses, skip to three paragraphs past the picture of Patong at night. 

Our fourth port of call on our Southeast Asia cruise was Phuket, Thailand. Our ship anchored out in Patong Bay for two days giving us ample opportunity to explore on our own and to take an excursion or two if we wanted. We opted to explore on our own the first day and take an excursion the second day. I’ll write about that, a motorboat and canoe adventure in Phang Nga National Park in another post. Today I’ll look at the town of Patong, the largest on Phuket Island.

The Mariner of the Seas at anchor in Patong bay.
The Mariner of the Seas at Anchor in Patong bay.

Because we were anchored in the bay, access to the city was by motor launch – a regular ferry service from ship to shore and back that ran every fifteen minutes to half an hour, depending on the time of day. We stayed on the ship for breakfast and avoided the crush of people leaving the ship by waiting until noon to go.

The beautiful beach at Patong Bay, Phuket, Thailand.
The beautiful beach at Patong Bay,Phuket, Thailand.

The shuttle craft took us to a long pier at one end of the fabulous beach at Patong Bay. We walked up the pier where hawkers were promoting various tours and activities. Moving along the sidewalk, we saw many small mini-cabs and three wheeled vehicles called tuk-tuks, sort of a motorized rickshaw.

The busy thoroughfare that parallels the beach. Lots of scooters and motorcycles as well as small open air taxis.
The busy thoroughfare that parallels the beach. Lots of scooters and motorcycles as well as small open air taxis like this yellow one.

Patong Bay was heavily damaged by the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004. Around 250 people were killed on Phuket, including tourists. But today the town of Patong has largely recovered, though we did see some new construction along the busy street that borders the beach.

The beach itself is fabulous. We left the sidewalk for a while, took off our shoes and walked along the beach before heading inland. Along the shore near the pier were many long-tailed boats for hire, as well as a lot jet ski rentals. The long-tailed boat is a common in Southeast Asia. It consists of a wide canoe like body with an upswept bow and powered by an old automobile engine connected to a propeller by a long shaft.

Long-tailed boats for hire wait for customers along the beach at Patong.
Long-tailed boats for hire wait for customers along the beach at Patong.

Patong is a major tourist center and many western fast food brands were apparent including a MacDonald’s and a Burger King along the shore road. Inland a bit we later came across a Hard Rock Cafe as well as  Starbucks.

One of the first things we noticed as we walked was the huge tangle of wires between power poles. Throughout the town – wires, wires, wires. More wires than you could shake a stick at. Some of them were hanging quite low. We wondered if all of them were live, and if so, how the heck would a repair guy find the right one if there were a power problem.

Unfathomable tangles of wires are everywhere in Patong, and indeed throughout Phuket.
Unfathomable tangles of wires are everywhere in Patong, and indeed throughout Phuket. Note the tsunami evacuation route sign. Patong was heavily damaged by the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami.

In any event, we wanted to find a shopping area so we thought we would head towards some tall buildings we saw not far inland. Walking along we came across endless numbers of small shops and a great many massage parlours, the masseuses sitting outside in uniforms that looked much like flight attendant uniforms.

Masseuses in their blue and white uniforms wait for customers outside their business.
Masseuses in their blue and white uniforms wait for customers outside their business.

We had heard about how prevalent prostitution was in Thailand, including child prostitution. We wondered if these massage parlour were all fronts for prostitution. Fortunately none of the ladies sitting curbside looked underage. They all looked to be in their late twenties to mid-thirties.

But the number of massage parlours was astounding. A dozen or more along a single street. There was one huge massage parlour the size of a small mall. It’s called the Christin Massage and is the largest “soapy massage” parlour in Phuket. Not sure what a soapy massage is? Neither was I until I googled it.

The Christin Massage Parlour in Patoing is huge.
The Christin Massage Parlour in Patong (the pink building) is huge. A little research online revealed that this place specializes in “soapy massage” and is the largest in Phuket.

One of the excursions available to us was described as a Sightseeing and Cabaret Extravaganza, which ended a day of sightseeing and shopping with a visit to “Asia’s biggest transvestite cabaret show performed by the famous lady boys of Simon Cabaret”. So we had an opportunity to explore the seamier side of Patong but we opted to stay on the ship in the evening. But we did take in the view of the town at night from the ship and were amazed by a giant LED screen that looked like it may have been the size of some of the signs on Times Square in New York.

Giant LED screen in the Patong night time skyline.
Giant LED screen in the Patong night time skyline.

Our dinner companions and their thirteen year old son did decide to explore the town after dark. They later told us that there were bandits in motorboats who would drive up close to the dock as people were heading to shore and snatch a purse if they could and then speed off. But they were particularly appalled that some of the sidewalk masseuses pawed at and propositioned their son.

The night before we had discussed our upcoming port of call at dinner and one of our companions asked if we had heard about the ping pong shows. We had not, but I remembered a few years ago a couple of strippers in Vancouver calling themselves the Chiclets achieved some notoriety in the press for an indecent show involving ping pong balls. A search online confirmed that the ping pong shows were exactly that. I won’t go into detail but you can follow the link if you must.

Much of this sordidness is officially illegal in Thailand, but the authorities tolerate it. Their relaxed attitude to such things appeals to me politically as a libertarian, but it is decidedly not a place for a family vacation, though there are many private gated resorts that are family friendly in the area.

But back to our daytime exploration. Besides massage parlours, the leading industry seemed to be medicine. Notably dentistry. We saw many many ads for and offices of dentists, way more than a small town could possibly need. We also passed a large office promoting plastic surgery. Medical tourism seems to be big here as well. And there were a fair number of tattoo parlours.

JungCeylon Shopping Mall
JungCeylon Shopping Mall

In any event, we wandered uptown until we came to an ultra-modern shopping mall called JungCeylon. It featured many western shops including The Gap as well as more localized offerings. There were a few booths promoting condo developments. One of them, Citygate, offered condos from US$64,000 which the company will rent out for you when not using it, promising a seven percent return.

Inside the JungCeylon Mall - three floors of shopping.
Inside the JungCeylon Mall – three floors of shopping.

After exploring the mall and savoring a coffee at Starbucks, we headed back down another street and came across a great many sidewalk souvenir shops catering to tourists. And more massage parlours. And a Hard Rock Cafe. After an entertaining day walking around Patong we headed back to the ship for the night.

One of many sidewalk shopping malls in Patong.
One of many sidewalk shopping malls in Patong.

The next day we were set to explore some sea caves by canoe. That would turn out to be one of the highlights of our trip and I’ll tell you about that in the next post!

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