Phuket, Pt. III

Following the Koh Yao Noi adventure/fiasco, we eventually stumbled back to the hotel and agreed to take a bit of a break to rest. Immediately I hop in the shower, which was probably one of the top 10 showers I’ve ever had (top ones being: after returning from the Three Peaks Challenge and Bonnaroo). I flopped down on the bed and meditated on the afternoon for a bit. It would make a great story, wouldn’t it?

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Once recouped, we emerged into the world once again. The normally quiet street was all of a sudden bustling with tables, lights, and wandering people. The night market had arrived. We walked around, admiring the trinkets and food being sold. Needing an energy boost, we decided to make a stop at Bookhemian, a nearby cafe, for some coffee. True to its playful name, it had several books for sale on the wall. It reminded me of The Book Cellar, a favorite cafe of mine in Chicago. Upstairs there was a photography gallery, which we would have totally missed if we hadn’t wandered up the stairs.

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Phuket Town is a bit of an enigma. As I said in my first post, it is suspiciously picturesque, with colorful colonial buildings and more quaint shops than you can count. The wealthy white tourist would likely get quite a kick out of this area. However, Phuket Town maintains just enough grittiness on the edges to keep it grounded, and for those willing to find it. The market wasn’t trying to “be” anything to anyone, unlike many markets in Bangkok that are Western-friendly exaggerations of Thai culture (tiny wooden Buddhas, elephant pants, woven bracelets, etc.). Phuket Town seems to have nestled into a comfortable middle ground. Not sure how long that will last, but for now, it’s enough and it’s lovely.

Sunday morning arrived, and after another breakfast of roti, we were northward bound to the Soi Dog Foundation. I’d read about SDF online and it became one of the few “must-visits” on my list for Phuket. It’s no secret that I adore dogs. Since moving to Bangkok and witnessing soi dogs, it’s been both a blessing and a struggle. I have a local soi dog that I see/pet almost every morning in the same spot.  She makes my early mornings a little brighter. I wonder what she sees in her day. I constantly am worried if she’s okay, if she’s being fed, if she’s dehydrated. That’s for ONE dog. There are thousands in this city. It’s safe to say that I needed to visit the foundation partly to put my soul at ease; to know that there are lucky animals who are in good care and people who are working on ensuring a better life for them.

Upon arrival, a volunteer promptly and apologetically told us that the staff was on lunch and wouldn’t be taking visitors until the next tour in an hour and a half. She suggested that we head to nearby Nai Yang Beach to relax for a bit while we waited. We popped back in the cab. “Nearby” is a relative term, as it took 20 minutes to get there. By the time we arrived, we had about 15 minutes to wander around before turning around to head back to the foundation. Regardless, it was a nice little teaser trailer of sorts, enticing us enough to return again later.

Tour time. We walked around the various “runs” on campus, or enclosed spaces that were separated by animal personality and status. We started out with some of the more recent arrivals and the sensitive pups. Some of them got quite anxious when we started walking around, but they eventually calmed down. At first the noises were jarring and I wondered how the staff dealt with the constant barking, but they quickly turned into normal background noise. We encountered a nice little man-made pond with a path circling it, with several volunteers walking dogs around. It was hard not to resist squatting down and giving each of them a proper greeting – but you can trust that I did so at least once!

Next came the puppies, the medical unit, the cat run, and the elderly dogs. As we walked, our tour guide told us about how the foundation works and what their goals are. In my mind, a shelter would make it a goal to take all of the dogs off of the streets and put them into homes. That’s the way it works at home, not here. Many of these dogs are truly born and raised on the streets, and to snatch them out of their environment like that may be too traumatic for them, especially depending on their age and health. So, SDF makes it a point to vaccinate, treat, and neuter/spay the dogs. 80% of the animals will be “fixed”, so that the population can still grow but not out of control. They will then decide if they are suitable for adoption or if it is best to let them back on the streets. Proudly they have made Phuket the only rabies-free region in the country. It’s great to see an organization not only doing good, but also doing so in a way that suits the culture and the animals’ best interests.

The tour finished and we were free to visit some of the open runs. I got my fill of pets. What shocked me the most were the elderly dogs. There was one pup that had no eyes, but was still venturing out onto ledges. He could sense my being near and was barking for my attention. He was just about the sweetest creature I’ve ever encountered in my life, but also one of the bravest. I hope he finds a home.

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Our time at SDF came to an end, and it was off to Nai Yang again to grab some grub and relax on the beach for a little while. The beach was practically glowing at that time of day, and the skies were dotted with kite surfers. I waded into the water for a refresher and floated idly, watching as the kite surfers zipped past at what was probably a dangerously close range. I’m still here, though. That will likely become a theme for this entire adventure. 

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