Bangkok, Thailand – Now this, this was the Thailand I was expecting. My time in Phuket was three days of in your face sensory overload. Of course, I stayed in Patong – the party capital of Phuket – which explains a lot of the high octane energy coursing through the place. But, there was still the beach, the sun, the food, the people, the hagglers, the “massage parlor” girls, the Tuk Tuk drivers, the constant noise. You name it, it was there, and I loved every minute of it. To top it off, I went on an amazing sea canoe tour in Pha Nga Bay that provided several more amazing moments.
It was also fun to observe the tourist mix. Tons of Aussies, Kiwis, and Russians (with a few other Europeans thrown in) meant a completely different beach culture than in the US. Football and surfing out, soccer in. Board shorts and one piece bathing suits out, Speedos and string bikinis in (seriously, these things made most American women look like prudes). Everyone was tan and fit (I definitely was not fit or tan – unless you count my farmer’s tan) – you could count on one hand how many truly overweight beach goers there were. Which means, either only the fit and tanned came out to the beach or Americans really are getting fatter (unfortunately, I think it’s more to do with the latter reason).
I may have left Phuket for now, but I have a feeling that I’ll be back – hopefully, for a longer stay and with a few friends in tow. Here’s some highlights that made this experience so great:
- I’ll start by getting my one gripe out of the way. Rather than take a taxi to and from the airport, I took a minibus to save money. According to my hotel’s website it could double the time from the airport to the hotel, but it was still a 75% savings over a taxi. What wasn’t mentioned is the company holds the bus until it’s completely full. In my case, that meant waiting for the next flight to arrive so the last two seats (out of nine) could be filled. Believe me, I was more than thrilled to stand in the afternoon heat and sun with my bag on my back, while the drivers sat in the bus with the air con on until we we were almost ready to go. Rat bastards.
- Upon entering my hotel room I realized that I had sacrificed a little bit of quality for the location when booking. The walls were thin, the toilet was in the shower, and my view out the window was a cinder block wall – which, due to the lack of natural light, made the place feel like a dungeon. However, I grew to really like the place, despite the construction noises from across the street at all hours of the day and night (seriously, who needs to cut wood or pipe at midnight?). But, the place was clean, the location was excellent – right in the middle of Patong, less than 5 minute walk to the beach – and the staff was extremely nice and friendly. What more could you ask for, except for ear plugs?
- I took a calculated risk (at least in my mind) and almost burnt out my razor while shaving. When I plugged it in with the adapter, it was running very slowly. So, rather than cutting my beard growth, it was pulling it out. Seeing as this was no better than using a pair of tweezers, I thought I would take a chance and plug the razor directly into the wall. It worked great until I was almost done, when I noticed a smell similar to burning plastic. I looked down at the razor and noticed a wisp of smoke curl up. I immediately unplugged it, putting it aside in hopes that it would still work. Why bother, since I was almost finished? I had a Hitler mustache that I really didn’t want to walk around with. After inflicting a nice razor burn on my upper lip, I was able to shave it off with the razor plugged into the adapter. I know shave everyday to eliminate the tweezer problem.
- The only drawback about the hotel’s location was that I was surrounded by “massage parlors”, which means I got harassed every time I stepped out the front door. The ladies, and sometimes lady boys, would sit in front of their shop just lying in wait for their prey: white males, especially solo white males. On the main roads they would simply yell, “Massage? You want massage?” at the top of their lungs as you walked past. However, on the side streets, including the area around my hotel, things became a little hairier. Instead of yelling from their chairs one girl would intercept her prey on the street, ask if you want a massage, and stand in your way while thrusting a list of massage choices in front of you. The more you tried to ignore her or simply walk past, the more harassment you received. My first day in Patong this included having my arm grabbed, butt pinched and slapped, nipple twisted, and I’m pretty certain a girl tried to pull off the Meg Ryan moan from When Harry Met Sally. While it was amusing (what guy wouldn’t be at least a little amused over a gaggle of cute girls fawning over him), it was still annoying. I guess now I know what it’s like to be a girl, although I don’t think it’s nearly as bad as the ladies make it out to be.
- To simmer down the harassment, I thought I would try a different approach on day two. Instead of brushing past the girls and just saying “no”, I stopped to chat with them for a few moments. When the massage question came up, I simply said not now, maybe tomorrow, and walked away. And, it worked. Except for one girl. She kept saying she wanted to walk to the beach with me, but she could only leave work after she gave me a one hour massage. I told her my standard I would come back, maybe tomorrow line, and went on my merry way to the beach. When I walked back a couple hours later (the parlor was on the way to and from the hotel) she came sprinting out of the parlor yelling, “You came back!” My initial thought was, “Shit, she’s still there.” Followed by, “Shit, how did she remember me?” Followed by “Shit, I knew I should have shaved my beard.” I tried telling her I was tired and going to take a nap (she couldn’t still be there when I went to dinner in a couple hours, could she?). Not one to give up, she became incessant about going back to my hotel to take a nap with me. So, I picked her up, set her aside, kept on walking and in the future reverted back to just saying no and dealing with the harassment.
- Food Update – First, I have a confession to make: I broke down and ate Burger King. In my defense it was my first day in Phuket, it was there, it had air con, and I was starving. Moving on. I found a couple of cheap restaurants with some excellent food. I finally had Phad Thai (amazing), as well as Green Curry with chicken, beef, and prawns (yummy). And, I found a grilled ham, pineapple and cheese sandwich – with fresh pineapple (heavenly).
- In the interest of space and time (I think this post has gotten long enough), I’ll save the sea canoe tour for a later post.