Through the Looking Glass ...
Phuket Travel Blog› entry 2 of 4 › view all entries
Our hotel rooms had been organised through an acquaintance back home whoâ€™d told me that someone would pick us up from the airport. But without an official piece of paper I remained a little worried that no one would be there when we got off the plane. It wasnâ€™t until I saw the little sign with my name on it that I finally breathed a sigh of relief. The guy actually owned a tourism stall and fish and chip shop right on Patong Beach, and the staff were really pleasant and helped make our experience in Phuket a positive one. They drove us to and from the airport, booked activities for us, and gave us some good discounts too. Our only complaint is that theyâ€™d booked double-bed rooms, and two of us couldnâ€™t get moved to a twin room for the first night. Oh well, at least it suddenly made sense why the woman who picked us up from airport seemed so confused that there were no girls with us, and then pointed out the gay district as we drove past!
The first night was a truly surreal experience. We headed out on the town and were quickly caught in a torrential downpour. We then jumped in a tuk-tuk (small, open taxi thing) and were dropped off at Bangla Road where we were suddenly surrounded by more neon lights and bars than Iâ€™ve ever seen in such a small vicinity. Thereâ€™s a lot to be said for Bangla Road, but at the same time itâ€™s hard to know what to say. Depending on who you are, you might find it grotesque or incredible.
What stood out the most is that there are Thai women everywhere who are employed to ... well thatâ€™s where it gets fuzzy. Itâ€™s undeniable that a lot are prostitutes, but some just seem to be there to look pretty and entice you to their bar. But itâ€™s not obvious which is which, as both sides seem just as likely to want to play a game of Connect 4 with you or start with seemingly harmless flirting. As opposed to somewhere like Amsterdam where itâ€™s â€śstrictly businessâ€ť, the trade here appears to be based on making you feel like youâ€™re genuinely â€śpicking upâ€ť. Yes, it was a strange world that we walked into, and I must say that by the end of the trip this seedier side of Phuket got to me, but for that night I was prepared to just go with the flow and try to figure out this crazy place in the morning (well not TOO far with the flow, if you know what I mean â€“ I have a girlfriend after all). Ethical issues about prostitution, and the exploitation of Asian people aside, it must be said that we found a great vibe there. Everyone generally seemed to be enjoying themselves, including the locals, and we had a good time just indulging in booze, dancing and Jenga (there are some AMAZING Jenga players among the Thai people).
Perhaps the most surreal and unexpected moment of that night however was the lightning quick chiropractic session I had in the bathroom of one of the dance clubs. I was just washing my hands when I had my back and neck cracked in two places. The whole thing took less than 10 seconds ... it was pretty awesome, and I didnâ€™t develop any delayed searing pains so the guy was no amateur.
That night marked the latest Iâ€™d stayed up, and the most alcohol Iâ€™d drunk in some time, so it goes without saying that the next day was a bit of a write-off for me. Still, I did manage to drag myself out of bed and take a trip to nearby Karon Beach, where we played a round at the awesome Dino-Mini Golf course (I won!!), watched a guy para-sailing without a harness of any kind, and even took a swim.
We also had a run in with a souvenir salesman who extended the question, â€śhowâ€™s it hanging?â€ť into a 5 minute speech. Yes ... he talked at length about our penises. It was weird, but just one of many references to genitalia that had me asking the question, â€śhow much of the sex obsession you see in Phuket is due to the over-abundance of horny tourists, and how much is really in the Thai peopleâ€™s nature?â€ť