For the very first time, I’m writing this, while sitting at an actual desk.
A small achievement I know… I’ve previously written these things with the laptop perched on my… Well… Lap… I’ve written these things while sitting at the dining room table… But for the first time ever, here in my new apartment, I actually have a desk… I’ve actually got an office too… Well, It’s Jo’s office, but while I’m here I might as well use it right?
Will the quality of these musings increase? Probably not.
You’ve got to love honesty, haven’t you?
So yeah, we have a new apartment… We lived at our previous house for almost two years, and we did love that apartment… But, I think we needed a change, the lockdown and the subsequent working from home thing really brought home to Jo that she needed space, our apartment did have space, I’m not going to say it was small because frankly my friends it wasn’t… But it lacked outdoor space, the balcony was too small (1st world problems I know!) Jo needed a space where she could unwind after a hard day at work… And now we have it.
Our new building is an older building (I do hope that makes sense) the floor space is double what we had in our other building and the balcony is at least four times the size… It’s a balcony we can actually use… And use it, we have!
Prior to our move, we had a little holiday (a holiday I hear you cry… Isn’t your entire life a holiday?) we had a long weekend coming up and Jo wanted us to go away, to unwind before we moved into our new apartment… We couldn’t decide where to go for a while, we both put ideas forward, but nothing seemed to feel right… Eventually, we decided to go to Phuket, a place we have visited before, but this time we chose an area we have never been to… Kamala beach.
I found (what looked like) a nice place to stay on Kamala beach, we flew out from Bangkok and were met by our taxi driver, who took us directly to the apartment, as we approached he casually commented that he used to live near Kamala beach, and was there when the tsunami of 2004 hit, he told us three of his friends died on that day… The tsunami is something I always think of when visiting these beaches, I feel like the luckiest man alive every time I see this beautiful coastline… But still, there is sorrow… So many peoples lives were ruined on that day… Local stories and tsunami warning signs never fail to bring back thoughts of that day.
We arrived at the apartment and I have to say I didn’t feel too impressed, the town was empty, I felt like we had booked the wrong place… Our apartment was nicely set out tho, the rooms were large and we had a sea view (it was dark when we got there, so not much of a sea view)… We went out for dinner, had a couple of drinks, and we’d sort of decided to have an early night… Then we discovered a bit of a beach party going on a short walk from our restaurant.
There are not many (actually barely ANY) tourists in this part of Phuket at the moment… So, as far as beach parties go, this one was probably quite a laid back affair… Music played, people drank, people mingled… Then I spied “Cheryl”.
I have no idea what her real name was… In fact, I don’t think I really cared… I labelled her “Cheryl” and for the duration of this blog, “Cheryl” she shall remain.
As I said, folks were drinking, folks were mingling… Cheryl was dancing like a person possessed.
At first, I thought she was some underage girl who had snuck into the “adults’ ‘ party, her friends were swaying to the music, but Cheryl was throwing her arms into the air and stomping around in the sand. She was shorter than the other girls too… I turned to Jo and pointed out the “kid” who was making a bit of a fool of herself… When we left the restaurant and decided to have a few drinks at the bar with the beach party I discovered Cheryl actually wasn’t a kid after all, she was a fully grown (albeit rather short) adult… But still, she danced like a thing demented… who I’d now decided was dancing like a woman who is “totally over a bad break up” but not over it at all… The dance of the heartbroken woman… Or maybe… Just maybe… Cheryl was just a bad dancer.
There were other dancers too, three women who worked at the bar danced wearing dresses made of what looked like a fishing net… Or a fishnet dress I suppose.
Music played, the girls danced, everyone was having a great time, we were being served drinks that seemed to be getting more and more generous with every serving… Life is good… I’m not sure what time we left the bar… All I know is both me and Jo were nursing a hangover the very next day.
When I first arrived at Kamala beach I wasn’t overly impressed with the place… However, in the bright sunshine I saw the beach in all of its glory… Without a doubt one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen, a little piece of paradise… And due to COVID 19 we pretty much had the beach to ourselves.
We spent the day relaxing, well… Recovering… We went to a beachside restaurant for some lunch, where we met a waitress named “Swy” or “beautiful” in Thai, as her name suggested, a beautiful girl with an infectious laugh and a smile that simply refused to go away… She made us feel special every time we walked into, or even past her restaurant, we found out later that her boss made a point of keeping the restaurant open even if they had no customers, just to make sure her staff were getting paid, it’s nice to hear that even in these tough times, some employers are actually thinking of their staff… Sadly COVID has taken its toll on many of the beach resorts here in Thailand, people have lost their jobs and many are struggling to survive.
We decided that even tho we came to Phuket to relax, we would have at least one night in the “party” orientated part of the island, so we headed off to Patong for a night of drinking.
Getting to Patong was not the easiest task… Near our apartment was a small taxi business, we asked about getting a taxi later in the evening and arranged to be picked up from our building at 8 pm… By 8:15 our taxi had still not arrived, Jo messaged the driver but he did not respond, so we walked to the taxi place ourselves… Eventually, the driver appeared, he opened the door of the taxi (A large 4X4 vehicle) and we got inside… As we got in we realised that what had once been a 6 seater vehicle was now a 4 seater vehicle, being as the front two passenger seats had been ripped out… At this point we should have thought “fuck this” and gotten out of the car, but we didn’t.
As we sat in the car, and I wrestled with the seat belt, which did not want to play ball at all, the driver opened up the bonnet of the car and began messing around with the engine… Again, at this point we should have gotten out, but again… We didn’t.
The driver got into the car and started the engine, at which point he was joined by another, smaller man who sat in the passenger seat beside him… At this point I was getting a bit anxious, I had visions of the car being driven to a secluded place and us being robbed… As the car pulled away I was already silently planning a course of action if the car was indeed driven to a secluded spot… Batter the short one and strangle the big one…. Sorted!
The driver made his way toward Patong, the route took us over a large hill with a very steep incline, the road was dark and the driver was (as Jo pointed out later) possibly under the influence of drugs… He drove at speed, and at times on the wrong side of the road toward Patong, eventually, we got to our destination… “What time do you want pick up?” the driver asked… “No fucking chance” was my reply… Jo paid his mate the pre-arranged 200 baht fair… “No, No” he argued “400 Baht!” Jo protested a bit but for the sake of 200 baht it simply wasn’t worth the hassle…. 400 baht paid and one taxi company who will NEVER have our custom again.
So we were in Patong.
We’ve been to Patong a number of times before, it’s one of our favourite party places… This was, of course, before COVID-19.
Bangla road is Patongs version of Soi Cowboy in Bangkok or Walking Street in Pattaya… Bangla is the hub for beer bars, gogo bars and all manner of things in Patong… We’ve had many good nights here in the past, it was sad to see so many bars closed and the street so empty.
I wanted to go for at least one drink at “The Parrot Bar’’… It was a bar where we’ve had many drinks in the past, it was the bar where I learned that you can never win a game of connect four against a ladyboy, it was one of my favourite bars in Bangla road… The bar was empty, I didn’t recognise any of the girls who were working there… There were no customers… We sat down and ordered drinks, Jo chatted to one of the girls about how quiet it was as I looked out over the street, amazed at how different it was… How empty it was.
As we drank we noticed a golden coloured soi dog wandering up the road, Jo carries dog treats in her bag, she’s done this ever since we had a run-in with an aggressive a few holidays back, her plan is that if a dog gets a bit aggressive she can distract it with food… There is sense in there somewhere… Anyway, along comes the golden coloured soi dog, Jo pulls a dog treat out of her bag and offers it to the dog… Despite being hungry, she took the treat so gently, she walked a short distance, sat down in the street and began to eat… I don’t know if it was seeing Bangla so quiet, I don’t know if it was how gently she took the treat, I don’t know if it’s just because I’m a big wuss when it comes to animals…But, watching her eat that treat, I felt tears well up in my eyes, I composed myself just as she finished… She stood, walked over to us, sat down and looked at Jo as if to say “I don’t suppose you’ve got any more dog treats have you?”
Jo pulled out another treat, Goldie (as I then decided was her name) took the treat, lay down and enjoyed it.
We left the bar and walked a short distance to another bar we knew on Bangla… Amongst the beer bars and gogo bars this bar stands out for a number of reasons, the main one being, this bar actually employs girls who actually know how to pole dance.
Any woman can wear a skimpy outfit, grab a pole and shake her arse. It’s simple… It’s basic… It’s what 99% of the pole dancers do in these places…And if I am honest with you, pretty much all of the men that come to these bars want. This particular bar, however, does things differently… This bar has girls who understand the art form that is pole dancing… Proper pole dancing… Yes, there are elements of “basic dancing”… But these girls go the extra mile with gymnastics and contortionism… It’s art… It’s beautiful… It should be an Olympic sport.
We sat and ordered drinks… A Thai girl was dancing on the stage, she hung upside down on the pole, she put all the other girls to shame with her moves… Suddenly a young Thai girl appeared and said “you’ve been here before!” After a few seconds of confusion I recognised her, we’d seen her the last time we came to Patong, we’d spent about an hour playing dice games with her and chatting, it was weird… She must see (Well, must have SEEN thousands of people before COVID) thousands of people, and somehow Me and Jo stuck in her memory… I’ll call that a victory for treating these girls with respect.
The Thai girl on the stage finished her routine and climbed off the stage, a tall blonde Russian looking girl got on the stage, Jo noticed her applying lotion to the pole “She knows what she’s doing” she said… And my friends… She did know what she was doing.
For the next five minutes or so this girl put on a display that was simply amazing… She finished her routine and sat at the back of the bar, none of the other girls paid her any attention, they seemed to actively avoid her… I’m not a fan of these European girls working the bars in Thailand and taking money from the Thai girls… But seeing her being treated like that made me feel sorry for her… The Thai girl climbed back onto the stage but something was wrong… It was as if she’d seen what the Russian girl did and simply decided she could not compete… She danced for a few seconds, stopped and started looking at her phone… She danced again, but stopped to chat to her friend…At one point she lay on the stage, on her belly, shaking her arse while texting on her phone… Meanwhile, the Russian girl sat in silence at the back of the bar.
After a few more drinks in a few more bars, we ended up at a bar called “Roy”… My dad’s name is Roy… So it seemed quite fitting to have a drink there… We got chatting to a few of the girls working there… Goldie the soi dog turned up too… We sat chatting and drinking for a couple of hours as Goldie got treats and fuss from the other girls… We had a lengthy conversation with a bar girl called “Mint”, she told us how her mom knows what she does for work, reading between the lines we think her mom is a bargirl too… She told us how she works to give her son a decent education, she also told us that she hasn’t had a “customer” in over three months…. After buying a few drinks, we said our goodbyes, exchanged hugs and made our way back to Kamala… Thankfully with a safe driver this time.
The remainder of our time at Kamala beach was taken up with relaxing by the beach and eating delicious food at the beachside restaurant, laughing with “Swy” and promising not to drink too much the very next day… A promise we always managed to break… We did get a taxi to visit “The Big Buddha”, one of Phuket's most famous landmarks… The statue was impressive, but my highlight of the day was when we were driving back and we saw elephants in the forest.
I was concerned when I first saw the elephants… I hate the way elephants are used here… I hate the fact that tourists ride them, I hate the fact they are abused… So I was worried that if I looked closely I’d see chains in these elephants, that these elephants were part of this terrible tourist industry… However… I saw no chains…. These elephants seemed to be free… I was relieved… We were told later that these elephants were actually elephants that had been rescued from the tourist trade… It was truly special to see them.
All too soon our time in Kamala beach came to an end, it’s a beautiful place and we met some amazing people while we were there, we plan to return… I hope Kamala can survive, the tourism industry here has been devastated by COVID, businesses are closing, people are struggling… There are plans to bring tourists back to Thailand, but these plans have to be safe AND realistic… Two things that when it comes to COVID, are going to be very difficult to manage.
We need to keep the people safe from infection, we need to keep infected people out, but we also need to let people in… Currently, we have a 14-day state quarantine system in place, whether folks that come to Thailand have to pay to stay in a quarantine hotel at their own expense, which means, if you want a two week holiday here, you actually need to book a four week holiday, twice the cost but definitely not twice the fun… Short term visitors are simply going to look elsewhere… The long term 6-month visitors may go for it but it’s by no means assured… Surely a better system would be to have a system where a visitor gets a COVID test in their own country, is issued with a health certificate, then they fly here, are given another COVID test upon landing (using a 24-hour testing system), then they go to state quarantine for one day while awaiting the test result, if they are cleared then they continue their holiday, if they have COVID upon landing then they go to a hospital and then flown back to their home country when they are cleared to do so… Maybe I should find a Thai official and show them my ideas…
Ah well, until next time…