Lazing in Patong
Phuket Travel Blog› entry 3 of 11 › view all entries
December 25th, 2007 – by: dfoo
The first challenge in a foreign land I faced this morning was catching the songathiew to Patong Beach. Having not mastered the intricacies of the Thai language yet, I had no grasp of the numbers. So had no idea how much to pay. Someone at the hostel kindly advised me it would be 25BHT. Okay my guidebook says 20BHT, but its been a year since it was published. So fair enough a 5BHT increase was quite normal. The ride itself was good. Being the local transportation means, you get a good glimpse into the locals on a songathiew ride. There would always be more locals on than tourists, heading to the many beaches that dot around Phuket. On these rides they really cram you in, and if the conductor/driver sees that you leg is not pressed tightly against the stranger next to you, you are told to move up. I thought it was quite comical. Anyway before I knew it the conductor was going around the compartment of the songathiew and collecting the fare off everyone. Having only arrived in Thailand last night, I haven't had time to familiarise myself with the local coins. So I handed her a crisp 20 BHT note and searched through my wallet for coins to make up the remaining 5BHT. After searching a good minute or two, I gave up not understanding the value of each coin except the 10BHT coin. So I gave her a 10BHT coin, however she refused to accept it and took another crisp 20BHT note from me. If I was able to communicate in Thai I would have told her I already paid 20BHT, and demanded my money back. But I couldn't so I let it slide. In between me figuring out the coins she had collect money off the rest of the bus and forgot that I paid 20BHT already. Anyway it was only at this moment that I realise that everyone else has paid 20BHT for the ride, and I was misinformed at the hostel. That's one of the funny things about Thailand. The advertised price is not often the real price. You can often get away with paying less. Lesson learnt.
It was a strange feeling getting off the songathiew at 10am and being faced with an almost empty Patong Beach. Besides the occasional beach chair being occupied or traveller walking along the board walk searching for breakfast there wasn't a whole lot of activity. Not what you'd expect from the 'busiest' beach in Phuket. I guess a lot of people had one too many drinks on Christmas Eve. That or celebrating Christmas with family. With no family in Thailand, I did what Christmas orphans do. Find other orphans. Lucky for me via the magic of the Internet and TravBuddy I had pre-arranged a meeting with another orphan in Phuket today. That orphan was Sweetvivvie.
I rang Viv as soon as I got to Patong and she said her friend was still asleep and she was going to do some laundry in the meantime. So with time to kill before my first TB meeting cherry would be popped I opted for a place to sit and a few refreshing drinks. I wouldn't normally start drinking before midday, but it was a really hot day, plus I was on vacation. So why not. I gave an acknowledging nod to the 2 other people at the bar and sat down to have the best pint of beer I've had in a long time. The simple pleasure of having an ice cold beer served in a frosted glass on a hot summers day can never be underestimated. Plus since the bar was right on the beach, I could get in at least an hour of people watching under my belt.
Before I knew it, my phone was buzzing and I was on my way to meet the girls. It was surprisingly easy to spot them, good thing TB has profile pictures. With the usual plesantries and idle chit chat out of the way we settled down in a restaurant for a quick bite. As it was now close to midday. Had my first chicken pad thai, which would be the first of many. Afterwards we went to the beach for my first tanning session of Thailand. I wasn't going to complain. I sure needed the rest. As soon as we stepped on the golden sand, we were guided to some comfy beach chairs and relieved of 100BHT for the service. This actually didn't surprise me, due to previous beach chair experience in the Greek Islands. I still think it is a little odd when beaches get commercialised like this. You wouldn't find a beach chair in sight on Bondi Beach. But when in Rome.
We wind up lounging in these chairs until sunset. The girls had to head off to get changed for dinner tonight. But before they did, Viv actually manage to help me secure a cheap ticket to a tour of the Phi Phi islands they were going on tomorrow. I would never have thought bartering with travel agencies/stalls for tour packages was possible. Somehow Viv worked her magic and got a tour which says 2,800BHT on the leaflet down to 1,500BHT. That's phenomenal work in anyone's books.
As the sun was well and truely down and the last songathiew had gone, my options in getting back to Phuket Town were well and truely limited. It was either a tuk tuk or a scooter taxi. As I was by myself it made economical sense to get the scooter taxi. The tuk tuk would have cost twice what the scooter cost me. I was initially quite apprehensive taking a scooter back to my hostel. I don't know 4 wheels is always better than 2. The scooter driver knew I was well and truely out of my comfort zone when I went to wrap my arms around his rather rotund belly. I didn't care how it looked. I didn't care if he was uncomfortable. He was probably thinking if this guy holds onto my waist any longer I'm going to drop him off in the bushes over there. Luckily he didn't. Before I knew it I was actually enjoying the ride and egging him to go faster around the bends in my mind. It was at this time I also realised that there were actually places to hold onto the scooter at the rear of the seat. So without further ado I moved my arms to the rear. I sure he was relieved, as was I. My arms were actually getting a bit tired at that point being fixed in that position, not to mention the sweat dripping through his shirt and getting onto my hands was getting a bit gross.
Anyhow. As I still hadn't recovered from the sleep deprivation the night before, I was not in the wandering mood tonight when I arrived back at the hostel. So I went two from two and walked the 10m to the 7 Eleven and got another frozen meal and a cold beer. With my belly full and warmish beer in hand I lounged across the lounge in the TV room of the hostel ready for a night of DVDs. It was at this point that a stranger introduced herself to me. It was another TravBuddy (Michelle24). I actually knew she was staying in the Phuket Backpacker but didn't quite recognise her with the glasses. God 2 TB meetings in one day. Anyway she was on her way out to dinner and I had already eaten. So with hellos and small pleasantries exchanged I slumped back into the lounge and she jetted off to dinner.
As I had an early tour to the Phi Phi islands the next day and Phuket Town not offering a whole lot of night life. I finished watching the DVD that was showing with the other backpackers dotted around the lounge room. Then proceeded to head to bed. Hoping for a good nights sleep for a change.
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