The flight arrived three hours late and as soon as we I landed, I took a minivan to the Kata Beach Center Hotel, where I had a booking. The hotel is located a couple of kilometres away from the Kata Beach, in a modern self sufficient village of sorts. It had pools, spas, fancy restaurants and expensive bars. I, probably like any other solo backpacker, was a total misfit in the settings of the hotel.
The hotel is a very nice, airy property and is owned by a couple of young friendly expats. The hotel is owned and operated by a couple of South Africans, and by the looks of it, it seemed they knew what they were doing.
I was given a room on the first floor, which had a private balcony, an LCD TV, minibar, a very swanky bathroom, and a comfortable bed. The hotel had free wifi which is always awesome.
I took a long walk to explore the area. The Kata beach was quiet and clean. There were high end restaurants and pubs in the area. I decided to have dinner at one of the Thai-Chinese restaurants. Later, I took a moto cab to the Karon beach, which too similar to Kata, very quiet and clean. There were big hotels and shops at the centre. I decided to stop at one of the Starbucks for some coffee.
That night I spent some time at the pool side. The hotel was comfortable and relaxing but I decided to shift to Patong the next morning. The old guy in the pool, the family of four eating by the pool side, the slow music, this wasn’t really my scene.
So, the next morning I got up early and checked out.
“That’s a pretty big bag you’re carrying.” A guy sitting at the lobby commented as I was checking out of the hotel. I gave him a fake smile and a friendly nod.
I walked for about ten long minutes before I found a moto cab.
“200 Bahts.” The driver looked at me and then my bag. With no moto cabs in the vicinity, he probably thought he was at an advantage and could dictate the terms of bargain.
He gave me a fake laugh to make my offer sound ridiculous. I walked away.
“180 Bahts. Final. Cheap for you.” The driver followed me.
I walked to the centre of Kata beach, from where a local suggested I take a local bus to Phuket Town, which I did. I about the next 20 minutes, we reached Phuket Town market area. One can find a lot of other mini buses to Patong. These buses are used by the local and are pretty cheap.
The Sun Beach Hotel is located right in the heart of Patong Beach Road. The hotel is new and offers good rates. The area in which it is located, is also home to a lot of massage parlours, restaurants, dry cleaners and random souvenir shops. The room was air conditioned, had a TV, private bath, minibar and a very comfortable bed. Pretty good for 450 Bahts a night. Patong beach was quite the opposite of Kata Beach. It was crowded and filled with touts, pretty much like the Pattaya Beach. I walked along the Beach Road, passing the numerous shops selling t-shirts, DVDs and similar stuff aimed mainly at the tourists.
Bangla Road was pretty quiet during the day and I decided to have some food at the Bangkok Burger Co. The burger meal that I ordered was a little expensive in comparison to the Mc Donald’s or KFCs. However, it was cheesier and the burger was bigger as well. After the meal, I decided to visit the Jungceylon shopping mall and watch a movie.
The evenings in the Patong area are quite a mayhem, with the Bangla Road being the epicentre. The road is filled with go-go bars, pubs and popular fast food joints. It is pretty much like the walking streets of Pattaya or Bangkok. It is pretty easy to either fall totally in love with the place or motivate you to pack your bags and leave. However, if you take a walk down the road and try to look beyond the jazz that make Bangla Road what it is, you might find a small alley which is lined with small Thai eating joints. Taking a seat in one of the cheap plastic chairs in one of the open air restaurants, you will realise that these places are probably small “mom and pop” places which has happened to find a place of their own in the otherwise westernised Patong.
“Chicken noodle soup and a Coke Zero please.”
The Thai teenager with a very colourful T-shirt took down the order and shouted it out to the woman behind the kitchen counter. She may have been his mother.
Next to my table sat a middle aged western guy with tattoos on both his arms. He was sitting with a couple of Thai ladies and they seemed to be in the middle of some very serious conversation.
Few minutes later my food arrived and it was one of the best bowls of noodles I have had in Thailand. The chicken was very well cooked and the soup was delicious. The teenager lingered around my table for an extra couple of seconds, probably to see if I liked the food. I gave him a thumbs-up, and he left with a smile.
Out on the road, I found another pub with live rock music where I decided to have some beer and do some people watching. The music was loud and wasn’t very good, but it was better than sitting at one of the sleazy bars, I thought.
As it got late, the road started getting murkier and darker. The performers outside every go-go started getting more and more obscene. At one point, I saw one of them flash in public. It was time to get out of there.
On my way back to my hotel, I decided to book a tour to the nearby islands the next day.
“I want to book a tour for tomorrow.” I told the guy who was hooked to the mini TV that was showing some Thai TV show on his counter. He looked up and asked where I wanted to go.
“There” I pointed to one of the pictures of islands on the posters on his wall.
“That is Similian Island and it is not open for tourists this time of the year.” He told me in his thick Thai accent, punctuated by a lot of hand gestures.
“What other tours do you have? I want to go on a day trip tomorrow morning.”
He brought out a couple of pamphlets from the drawer and placed it on the counter. I decided to visit the James Bond Island and a couple of other nearby islands. We bargained on the price and finally settled on 600 Bahts.
“8.00 am at your hotel. Be ready.”
The next morning, I was ready by half past seven and went out on the almost empty beach road for some fresh air before catching my ride to the islands.
The beach hardly had anyone around and amidst the cool morning breezes and the waves, it was hard to imagine that a few hours from now, the beach will be hijacked by touts, tourists and the like.
The mini tour bus came and we zoomed off to the pier, after picking up a few more people. The pier was more like a meeting place of all the tour buses, like the one we came in. We were divided into large groups and allotted a big boat with a guide and crew.
During the day, we stopped at the breathtakingly beautiful James Bond Island, and canoed across the mangrove forests and limestone caves. In the afternoon, the boat stopped at a very scenic location, surrounded with mangrove trees and clear turquoise water, and we were served lunch on the boat. The sun was hidden beneath the clouds and light breezes comforted us as we gorged on the food. In the evening, we were given the option to either go snorkelling or take a canoe and take off on our own. I chose the latter and after a couple of minutes of moving around in circles, I finally got the hang of it. Canoeing is hard work!
Overall, it was a day well spent and well worth the money I paid them.
When they dropped me off at the hotel in the evening, the neon lights of Patong were back on again. I decided to visit one of the many restaurants by the beach road.
As the waitress brought me the noodles and beer, I saw the signboard with free wifi written on it. I logged into facebook and there it was… Another message from my brother, reminding me to bring him a shark tooth for good luck.
Just as I was about to send him a reply, I received an IM. It was Damien.
“Hey, how’s the weather in Phuket?”
“It’s nice. How’s Ko Tao?”
“The Sairee beach is great. Very quiet. How is Phuket?”
He showed me a few pictures of Ko Tao and the beach did look quite awesome. Or maybe he had a really nice camera. Maybe both.
Sitting in the restaurant that night, I felt I have had enough of Phuket. I have seen all the things I wanted to see. I made up my mind to leave for Phi Phi islands the next morning.
But there was one thing I to needed do before I left Phuket.
Something that will take me out of my comfort zone.
I finished up my food and headed to Bangla road, which was just a few meters away from the restaurant.
He was standing with the guy who had a small stall of cigarettes. He was probably in his early twenties. He was wearing a pair of jeans and a green T shirt. In his hand was a small piece of laminated paper, almost like a menu card that we find in any small Thai restaurant. Except it didn’t have food items listed on it.
It had the list of shows (and acts) that his Go-Go bar offered.
Now the problem was how to approach him without looking like a total pervert. I looked at him for a few seconds. It seemed he was approaching almost everyone who walked on by. Part of me wanted to back out and just relax at some nice bar and listen to live music.
So, I decided to just walk. If he stops me, I’ll take it as a sign and go, if he doesn’t I’ll grab a beer and listen to some music.
He did approach me and I accompanied him to the Go-Go Bar just across the road. He asked the guy at the door to let me in and give me a nice seat.
He smiled at me before making his way back to his spot on the road. The guy at the door gave me the best seat in the house. Right next to the “stage”.
The bar looked shady as hell. There were around five foreigners sitting at the corner of the bar and an Asian couple on the seats next to mine. They had wide smiles on their faces, clearly having an awesome time.
The waitress approached me and asked me what I wanted. She looked Thai but spoke perfect English. I asked her to bring me a beer. She must have been smoking something because she seemed sleepy and tired by the way she spoke. Moving seemed to be a big chore to her. She asked me what I wanted atleast five times, and every time I said “Chang Beer”. Each time a bit louder than the last.
The music was loud and corny. No words. Just loud Thumps. There were a couple of waitresses doing to rounds on the six tables, bring them drinks as they waited for the show to begin.
My drinks came and I decided not to order anything else, because the whole place seemed way too creepy. On any other day, I would have left by now. But not on this night. My last night in Phuket. I didn’t want to regret not going to the Go-Gos when I am lazing around in the serenity of the islands.
“I need to experience this.” I told myself.
Few moments later, the music changed. It was mostly the same, only the rhythm of the thumps was a bit different.
And then, I was scarred for life.
A lady came on the stage with her assistant. She was probably in her forties. Not pretty in any stretch of imagination. And she didn’t have any clothes on. She looked grumpy and didn’t even bother to put up a fake smile for the audience. You could probably hear a collective “Aaargghhh…” coming from all the people sitting in the bar.
Or maybe she was just focussed for the stuff she was about to do.
After a couple of minutes of her terrible attempt at pole dancing, her assistant handed her a small cage full of small frogs. One by one she shove them all into her … you know what. Everyone in the bar either cringed or applauded.
She gave the frogs a couple of minutes to explore the insides of a human being, before bringing them out one by one. All through the performance, her facial expression didn’t change. She must have been doing this for a while. Next, her assistant brought out a small cage with small birds. She did the same with them.
When her assistant handed her blades, I knew it was time to leave. I called for the bill.
Did I get a bill or what…. 800 Bahts!!! For a small beer, which I didn’t even finish because I feared the show would make me puke.
I was being scammed!
At this point, I didn’t care. I paid the waitress the 800 bahts and quickly got out of there. Outside the bar, I looked at my watch.
Just 15 minutes! That was the quickest 800 bahts I have ever spent.