Phuket (pronounced Poo-ket)
After the Andaman dive trip I was dropped off to Patong Beach, Phuket. There are some really great beaches and places to stay in Phuket. Patong is not one of them, but it provided sufficiently cheap accommodation for me to stay for a few days while I waited for an old friend to arrive whom I haven’t seen in years. More on that shortly.
Given that I’d be in Patong, I used the time to sort through the photos of the dive trip and check out what Patong had to offer. Everyone had told me to avoid Phuket (specifically Patong) like the plague. It turns out you should avoid Patong like an STD, because at no point will you feel clean there. The main culprit, ‘Bangla Road’. This is a road that can most accurately described as the entire strip in Las Vegas condensed and squeezed into a 400m road.
It has at least the lights, perhaps not the glitz, of Vegas. I’m sure it has a higher density of strippers and ‘working girls’ (I’m told they prefer to be called ‘professional girls’). Walking through it is like nothing else. Promoters, drinks, show girls, and more all on display.
A friend who frequented the professional girls described the process (etiquette) to me. He would go into one of the establishments and sit at the bar and near the working girls. After a bit of joking around he would buy them a drink. All drinks for a working girls cost 200 baht. After a bit of chatting you may feel that you get along with the girl and seek to further your relationship with her. Unfortunately she’s at work, she is a professional after all. So you are obliged to compensate her employers 800 baht to excuse her from her professional duties. After that depending on how well she feels you got on with her, she may further her relationship with you or require some additional persuasion of the Baht kind. Most people will never find out whether their 1000 baht minimum spend was with the gender they intended. But I suppose people were either naive to the deception, or as the name suggested they thought, ‘Phuk-et’.
That of course is just one way to experience Phuket. The other way is for it to be force upon you. I was walking through a street one morning in search of a coffee shop with good internet where I could upload the videos I created from the diving footage. I had my headphones in as this tends to ward off taxi drivers, restaurants and other hustlers who try to sell you things by shouting at you as you walk down the street. Having headphones while you walk, fends off the touters. Unfortunately it fends off the weak ones, with a shallow commitment and feeble conviction. Those who want, will stop you. As I walked along a Thai lady stood directly in my path waving both hands. I moved slightly to the left. She intercepted. I moved slightly to the right. She intercepted. So I slowed, and removed my headphones.
She said, “Hello sir, how are you?”
I replied, “Sawat-di krap. Sabai dee krap. Sabaidee mai?” [Hello. I’m good. How are you?]
The lady said “Sabai dee. Sir, you want massage?”. [I’m good. Sir, you want massage?]
Uh oh, I knew where this is going already. I declined the offer and chuckled.
She holds my shoulder with one hand and starts massaging it, and says “Sir, are you sure?”.
I chuckled some more trying to trivialise her attempts and politely reiterated that I’m not interested and I’m just looking for a coffee shop.
But she persisted, “Are you sure you don’t want a massage, it feel good” she whispers, as her hand reaches down to massage me further in a place that revealed the true nature of the services she offered.
I once again – in a very English way – declined thanking her for her offer of a service, and walked away quickly insisting that I have somewhere else to be. Of course as this went on all the other masseuses on the sides of the street laughed hysterically.
I marched on and endured through the unruly local professional girls for the next few days until my friend, whom I was most looking forward to reuniting with, arrived. Patrycja, now a former line manager, current advisor, and trusted friend came to Phuket with her charmingly logical boyfriend for the Easter weekend. I found a place that looked amenable on the Internet, but not a place I’d recommend – The Speakeasy – for us to enjoy dinner. We had a great night catching up and at least discussing some of the worlds many problems, alas we didn’t have long enough to solve them. Next time. Patrycja & Olivier, thank you again for dinner and I’ll see you in Honky.
The next day, I took the first ferry out to Koh Lanta, Krabbi.