An Asian Walkabout (Chapter 6)

Phuket Travel Blog

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Not a sign likely to be seen on a California beach...

Hey gang,

 

I left Langkawi by ferry.  Now don’t picture a ferry like the ones you see in movies that can take cars on them.  This ferry was basically a passenger boat.  Not a big boat, but not a small one.  There were about ten rows with ten seats each and a center aisle splitting them down the middle.  In the bow, there was another twenty or so seats about a half level down.  We were treated with the movie “Predator” on a single screen, but only made it about three-quarters of the way through it before we arrived in Satun.

 

I went through customs and received a third entry visa stamp in my brand spankin’ new passport.

It’s very nice of the government to provide a map. I’ll be sure to stop and check it out as I run for my life from a 200’ wave.
  My old one is retired at home and is the proud bearer of 23 countries.  I really like our new passports; they did a nice job with them.

 

As I exited customs, I was welcomed by a stampede of taxi drivers asking me where I wanted to go.  I needed local currency, so I told them I didn’t need a taxi now.  One older gentleman was very persistent though and walked with me as I tracked down a money changer.  I glanced back a couple times and he would smile as he continued to follow.  A nice man - I smiled too.

 

After getting some cash, we headed back for his taxi.  He walked to a moped and I waited.  I guess in the back of my head I was thinking he was going to zip off and pick up a car somewhere and come back to get me.

Morning view of Kata beach on Phuket island.
  We played a little game of charades and I got the index-finger-to-nose signal when I realized this was the taxi and he wanted me to hop on back.  I chuckled to myself and jumped on.

 

Thankfully, my backpack was able to rest on a bit of the seat behind me so I didn’t have to bear all the weight on my shoulders.  The 20 minute ride to the bus station, which only cost me $2, was really very enjoyable.  Even with his helmet on, I was a head taller than my little chauffer and so I had a great unobstructed view.

 

He dropped me off at the bus.  I never checked any bus schedules, so I wasn’t sure when one would be leaving for Phuket.  I was fortunate to find the last bus out for the day leaving in less than two hours.

Kata Night Bazaar where much alcohol is consumed.
  I bought the ticket, grabbed some snacks, and boarded the bus when it pulled in the station around noon.

 

My seven hour bus ride to Phuket was most memorable.  The bus was nice, although not as spacious as the bus into Kuala Lumpur, but it had a toilet and the required element – air-conditioning.  Let me paint a picture of the ride for you in one sentence.  It was Knott’s Berry Farm’s “Soap Box Derby” meets “Montezuma’s Revenge”.  And if that doesn’t work for you, think “E” ticket version of Disneyland’s “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride”.

 

The ride started out normal enough - enjoying the scenery, reading, and friendly chats with locals and fellow travelers.  After a couple hours, we made the standard roadside stop with many vendors selling a variety of products.  I’ve heard the bus drivers get a kickback for stopping at these places.  It apparently comes in the form of food, gasoline cards, or sometimes just cash.

 

It wasn’t until we were about halfway through the trip that things started to get interesting.  Now, driving in Southeast Asia is much different than driving back home.  I’m comfortable with this.  This guy, however, took “different” to a whole new level.  Driving fast and passing slower vehicles in a car is one thing, but to do this in a double-decker bus is something quite different.

 

Our driver would speed along until he was three feet from the car in front of him and then quickly throw the wheels into a 45 degree angle.  We would jet out into a sea of oncoming vehicles and as the other drivers steered toward the shoulder, he would turn at the last possible moment back into our lane.  I’ve got to hand it to him though, he had his timing down.  As the wheels rose from the ground in our turn into oncoming traffic, he would turn back again just in time to avoid tipping the bus over or a head-on collision.

 

I tend to take cues from the locals for a variety of things while traveling.  So, when they all started talking, pointing, and looking a little wide-eyed, I knew this wasn’t the typical bus run.  This driver was definitely on a mission.  Whether it was to become a Formula 1 racecar driver or not being late for a hot date, I’ll never know.

 

(Note to self: in the future, when using a shoe box sized toilet with a maniac driver, sit down.)

 

Pleasantly surprised, I arrived safely in Phuket Town.  The assault of the taxi cab drivers began anew.  I locked eyes with one and we headed off to his vehicle.  Yes, you guessed it, another moped.

 

I really didn’t mind.  I enjoyed my last two-wheeled taxi and this ride was no exception.  And just as with my last taxi driver, this guy was short enough that I had a nice view of my 30 minute night ride to my hostel.  Perhaps small stature and weight is a requirement for a moped taxi driver just like it is for a horse jockey.  I could see some logic in it…  saves on gas, ya know?  :)

 

Terry, the Norwegian owner, checked me into my accommodations.  I booked what I thought was a shared double with air-conditioning and a shared bath.  It ended up being just a private, but he gave it to me for the same price as I reserved on the Internet.  I had looked for a hostel, but couldn’t find any in the area.

 

I settled in and headed down for some food in his restaurant on the first floor.  He had a huge menu (over 250 dishes).  I went with the fish and chips, which was quite tasty.  I enjoyed a long chat with him and then walked around town (Karon/Kata Beach) for a bit before heading back to sleep.

 

I woke the next morning, showered, and went downstairs for some breakfast from Terry’s plentiful menu.  I came down to find Terry having breakfast with two beautiful blondes.  And when I say beautiful, I mean absolutely stunning women that would not have been out of place walking down the catwalk surrounded by super models.

 

Terry caught my eye as I came in and I thank the powers that be he invited me to join them.  He introduced us.  As it turned out, Zoe (pronounced Zo-ay) was Terry’s niece and Ana (the short version of her hard to pronounce name) was Zoe’s childhood friend.

 

We had the normal traveler small talk during which time Terry excused himself to check out some guests.  Zoe really missed her uncle and planned a trip around coming to visit him (later I found out he’s her second father – she lost her father when she was a child).  They had flown into Bangkok and spent a couple shopping days there before flying to Phuket late last night.  They’ll stay with her uncle for three weeks and then spend another two weeks traveling around Thailand.

 

They were excited to go to the beach and since I’d been there the previous night, I offered to show them the path.  Now, it might have been that they were just being polite, but they both seemed genuinely happy to have me join them.  And let me tell you, as I was changing into appropriate beach attire, I was giddy with excitement to be joining them.

 

We hit the beach, pick a spot, and they took off their cover-up things.  Three words…  Oh my god!!  I can’t be sure, but I think my knees buckled when I saw them.  I was sure someone had just poured a bucket of ice cold water over my head because I had a hard time catching my breath.  They were works of art.

 

They had super model faces and figures much more appealing than many of those same super models.  I’ve never before seen bikinis fit someone so well.  It was as if they were custom tailored and they left very little to the imagination.

 

They both arranged their tanning areas and started to lotion up.  I was playing it cool, trying very hard not to stare, when Zoe asked me if I’d put lotion on her back.  Ummm, yeah…  I must have died last night and this morning started a heavenly afterlife.

 

I most definitely didn’t want to do a slack job on Zoe, so I made sure I was very thorough.  No rush job from me.  Ana must have seen the quality of my work because she asked me to help her out in what could have been taken as a very flirty manner.  Yep, my family is going to be sad -- I must have died last night.

 

We hung out together all day and I can say it was the most fun I’ve had in a very, very long time (it was even better than game night!).  We took dips into the ocean, walks along the beach, played Frisbee, and soaked up the sun.  One thing I determined early in my day of fun was these were two very kind, funny, and intelligent women.  And did I mention they were drop dead gorgeous?!

 

We all went out to the Kata Night Bazaar that evening for drinking, dancing, and socializing.  When I told them I don’t drink alcohol and have never been drunk, they felt a need to get me to drink like so many others.  Clearly, if I did choose to drink, doing so with these women has been my best offer to date.  I had a fabulous time and we stayed out quite late.  I went to bed completely sober (unlike my two bar hopping companions).

 

Today was a big day for the ladies.  Yesterday they told me they both had appointments to get “tap” tattoos at the monastery in the central part of the island.  Tap tattooing is a traditional method of marking that doesn’t use an electric needle, but instead uses a bamboo shoot with the ink.  What made it even more special for them was not only the talent of these monks, but also the ceremonies performed.

 

The monks go through a variety of ceremonies to basically help determine not only the location of the tattoo, but what the actual tattoo will be.  I equate it to a Native American ritual where an individual receives what type of animal their spirit guide is.  This ceremony is performed in a room with just two monks and the one receiving the tattoo.  After about an hour of ceremony, one of the monks gives the tattoo.

 

When they told me about the ceremony yesterday, I thought to myself that if I ever did get a tattoo this would be the only way I would do it.  The main reason I’d never gotten a tattoo before was that I could never think of anything cool enough that I’d want on my body for the rest of my life.

 

They asked me if I wanted to get one with them on the off chance that there would be someone available to give it to me (they made their appointments 4 months ago).  I told them honestly that I thought the whole process was really cool and although I don’t want a tattoo now, if I ever decided to get a one in the future, I would come back here to get it.  I did take them up on their offer to join them at the monastery (I didn’t know until I got there that I couldn’t come in with them and watch).

 

They rolled out of bed around noon and by the early afternoon we were on mopeds to the monastery.  As we rode (and all that morning), I was thinking more about the tattoo.  It really did sound cool (although the part about not knowing where the tattoo would be placed seemed risky).  Part of me loved the spirituality associated with this type of tattoo and it would definitely make some interesting small talk.

 

I daydreamed of them asking me again to get the tattoo with them.  I then thought of requesting something from them to give me a morale boost so I could gather enough courage to do it.  What form would this morale boost take?  Hmmm, how about getting a kiss from each of them?  Hey, it’s my fantasy…

 

As we arrived, they really did push to get me to do it with them.  They were very persistent and flirtatious in their attempts.  It was the opportune time to ask for my morale boost, but I chickened out.  I instead told them that we should check to see if it was even possible for me to get a tattoo now.  To make a long story shorter, it was and I did.

 

I won’t even try to describe what our tattoos look like.  You can check out the pictures and see for yourself.  The location of mine wouldn’t have been my first choice, but it’s not bad.  It shouldn’t be a problem with my nursing career.

 

We all finished and they, of course, wanted to go out drinking to celebrate.  They again tried to get me to drink and when I built up the courage to request a morale boost from them, they seemed very happy to comply.

 

Just like when I put lotion on their backs, I think they were taking their cues from me.  They were very thorough and didn’t rush.  And let me say for the record, my morale has never been more boosted!

 

So… I drank.  And for the first time in my life, I got drunk.

 

Now, since this is a family travel blog, I won’t go into the details of what happened when we finally came home for the night and they asked to come into my room…

 

Before I continue, however, I do have something that I’m curious about.  Please take a moment to think about it and give me an honest answer.  Did any of you really buy this whole story??  Jeff drunk… Tattoos… Super models… (and not just one, I went with two!)

 

Admit it, who went searching for the pictures of my tattoos before finishing the story?  Hehe, yes, I’m a bastard.

 

Sorry for the deception, but with so many of you asking if there was any holiday romance, I decided to give you some (since up to this point there hasn’t been any).  The trip was a little mellow as well, so I decided to spice it up for some better reading.

 

This chapter was accurate up to where I met the two women.  I promise to leave the fiction behind in future chapters and stay strictly with non-fiction.  Next chapter I’ll finish off Phuket.  Northern Thailand (Chiang Mai) comes next and my time there has been the most enjoyable (and insanely busy) of the trip to date.

 

Peace be with you,

Jeff

 

P.S. Jennie jan, your book selection was very enjoyable.  Thanks for the suggestion.  :)

 

griselgonzalez says:
I couldn't believe what I was reading since it was so completely out of character... but, as contradictory as it sounds, it also never occurred to me that you were LYING! Bad Jeff! ;)
Posted on: Jul 28, 2008
jlzehra says:
i was in disbelief the whole time. Your wild boyness doesn't involve tatoos or drinking. your kind of wildness is much better :) i do have to admit, for the 1 split second that i thought..."is this true?" i was a little jealous ;)
Posted on: Jul 28, 2008
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