20.08.2007 - 20.08.2007 -17 °C
I flew to Phuket, from Koh Samui, with Bjorn. Bjorn and I met through a mutual friend who I had met on Samui. John is the mutual friend and he comes from Bolton, he's almost 70 and runs a ladyboy cabaret bar on the island....like most men of his age living in Thailand he has a much younger 'companion'. I met John one day at the Three Gems Project, he's an amicable guy with a kinda boyish look about him and given his actual age this was endearing to me. Not only does he have a boyish look, he has a child like quality too. John likes to joke and very much enjoys whizzing from go go bar to go go bar on his moped....seemingly up to mischief behind his partners back!
As I said, it was John who introduced me to Bjorn, and one happy night this pair and I went whizzing from go go bar to go go bar....I'd swapped the easy riding go go boy dancers of Pattaya for the hells grannies of Samui :-)
Bjorn and I clicked straight away, we seemed to have the same sense of humor and laughed at the same silly jokes that John made. Bjorn, from Sweden, is a good looking 6'6 slim man who, at 55 years old, reminded me of Sean Connery....not that he particularly had a sticking resemblance to the OO7; he's got that sexy middle age man kind of persona. He'd run a rather successful arts production company back in his homeland and chose to give it up to start a new life on Samui; Bjorn is on the island looking at prospective investments and flew to Phuket with me to collect his new motorbike.....fortunately, for me, Bjorn had quite a few friends in Phuket and when we arrived he introduced me as his new found friend.
We arrived in Patong, at the Paradise Complex, in the early evening and the atmosphere was vibrant, exciting and alive with the hustle and bustle of bars and clubs setting their stalls. It was much like Boyztown in Pattaya, money boys selling their wears and ladyboys dragging themselves up to the nines! I checked in my guest house, The Aquarius, only to find that it was a gay sauna come brothel. The room was lovely, but the downstairs was a hive of western rice queens looking for cheap Thai sex! As I'd booked and paid for four nights on-line there; I endured walking through reception and witnessing men of a certain age lairing at Thai boys of a much younger age. Although, it was a great people watching spot at breakfast time; I checked out and stayed just around the corner at Bjorn's friends guest house - Connect.
It was at Connect that I met my first real money boy...Boy's his name and he's a bank clerk. He and his partner Ulf own Connect and, notwithstanding luck, these two wonderful people took me under their wing and divulged all the local do's and don'ts. They pointed out the places to go and also pointed out the local mafia run establishments that were a no-go! I thoroughly enjoyed staying at Connect and met sooooo many good people, Vicky for instance. Vicky's the transsexual manager of Connect, she lives there with her mum, and was one of the kindest people I have ever met....she too looked after me and when Boy and Ulf flew to Sweden for a holiday she showed me around the pubs and clubs.
David was the Italian stallion that managed the Kiss club, a club that offered a pretty good show and played the funkiest tunes likely to be heard this side of Manchester....I danced like I wasn't being watched and met Art, Kenya, Nut and Boom there.
Art's a local tour operator who had had an horrific accident with his motorbike and an electric pylon. He'd joke about his injuries but to look at them, they were awful....he had, what looked like, very very bad bubble scars on his torso. And though he joked; he was very embarrassed about them.
Kenya is a Thai person trying to be afro-Caribbean, he owns a few restaurants and clothes shops near Patong beach and is a very generous Thai person....he's the only Thai person I encountered who bought drinks without expectation or return on his altruism!
Nut is a bit of a nut, a lovely one....but a nut all the same! He too had had a motorbike accident and consequently has had a steel plate put in the side of his head, he kinda looks like a stroke victim and I mean no offense. He's the sweetest guy and had fallen for an English man before his accident, when the English man visited him after the crash....he left him without explanation!! And Nut was still, two years later, hung up on this guy! As Nut spoke broken English; he asked me to phone the English guy to establish his reasons for leaving....well I did and the English guy was none too happy!! He told me to go forth and multiply before hanging up!! Poor Nut, he really couldn't understand.....bless!
Boom, as the name suggests, exploded into my life like an alka seltzer....full of fizz. I spent a few of my night times in the Paradise Complex with Boom... some of my days too, he's funny, shy and oh so bright. His English isn't that great, but neither is my Thai. We managed to communicate through the shared languages we know, by universal body language, and the eye contact that can only be understood by those we make a connection with. We had such a laugh going from ladyboy show to go go bar to disco and back again, the more drunk he got the more the shyness slipped away....he was swinging his hips on overload and dancing like he was being filmed by the end of the night. We enjoyed every last moment of the show we made of ourselves....soooo many people picked up on the buzz and joined in, especially the money / lady boys who, as you might imagine, have very little inhibition!
One day Boom and I took a tuc-tuc ride to Phuket town and I saw some very harrowing things......bargains galore!! Clothes (genuine labels) are so cheap that it was most harrowing to resist. As most of you may know.....I'm a bit of a shopaholic who loves his bargains, but my rucksack is so full... it actually split on the flight to Phuket!
During the Phuket town visit I was amazed, no....dumbfounded, at the low self-esteem many Thai people hold of themselves, many want to be 'white' and perceive themselves as ugly because of the darker skin they have. Boom, for instance, uses foundation and powder to whiten his skin, and Thai people of the north are revered as they are fairer in skin tone! I've even seen TV adverts that promote beauty products encouraging South Asian people to 'whitten up'....I mean, what's that all about!!
As you may have gathered from my writings so far.....I'm a bit of a people kinda person who loves engaging with different cultures, alternative backgrounds and diversity. But some of the sights that I have seen has almost blown me away, of course the temples, mosques and churches can be outstanding, but can you imagine turning a corner and there are a couple of elephants just standing there; can you imagine looking up and seeing a family of monkeys playing chase along a roof top or snakes being sold and charmed....it's a kind of surrealness that takes a moment to register. But even more strange is seeing a whole family riding the same motorbike....I mean; I've seen a set of parents with their two children, and the bloody dog, riding the same moped...that's five species on one small contraption....now, how mad is that!
Phuket reigns supreme as southern Thailands tourism king, it's Thailand's rock and roll and Phukets popularity isn't just hype. The beaches are luxurious and I often looked out at the lovely jade coloured sea while sitting on the squeaky clean sand, para-gliders glided, banana inflatables bobbed, weaved and overturned, and swimming in the water was like taking a dip in a hot spring. Patong beach, one of the many beaches set along this large teardrop island, is a dizzying dose of neon and nightlife is abundant. As said, the Paradise Complex offered the gay traveler an opportunity for a headansitic couple of weeks and Patong's beach front afforded heterosexuals the same. Molly Malone's Irish bar was a particular favourite haunt of mine during some of my days, it nestled between Mcdonalds and other western and Thai eateries.....Molly's served a great pint of freezing cold guinness at 4 pound a pint! and is located just across the road from the beach. It was a lovely spot to sit and watch life pass by, and the sunsets were as awesome as I'd ever seen.....like an orange fireball slowly outing itself in the jade waters that stretched as far as the eye could see. The colours in the sky are like mixing black with blue and swirling it around and around with a fork until the scene laid out in front of me was like a old black and white movie.
Karon beach was my next beaching bumming location.....well not quite, I stayed at the Diamond Resort and Spa.... a five star treat that helped sooth body, mind and spirit. I spent three nights here and really didn't do that much other than chill. The beach isn't that great in Karon, and besides I hadn't spent time surrounded by this opulence in quite sometime. The room I had was sumptuous, large and extremely clean. The hotel has its own spa so treatments and treats were available as I walked a few feet from my room. And the pool areas and bar were so well staffed that I only had to raise a hand and a fresh cold Singah beer was placed in it.....what more does a Welsh boy need? Breakfasts were superb, buffet style with eggs to order to my liking and service that filled my coffee cup as soon as it was empty. I did venture from this haven like hotel from time to time and found some of the best seafood restaurants that served king prawns the size of kittens, eight cost less than a tenner! Nina was a lovely person I met at the restaurant, and one of the only females I'd conversed with in a while, unfortunately I didn't have my camera with me because she is one of the most beautiful women I've ever met....5'6, a figure to die for, short black hair, eyes like midnight and skin that is as smooth as silk. Nina's illiterate and could neither read or write, though she spoke very good english; I spent a wonderful five hours with this Thai beauty. We chatted about each others lives and I was fascinated by her story of how she had been brought up in a very poor village near Chang Mai, fought her way out of the poverty that surrounded her childhood and (even though illiterate) now runs a very successful business in Karon....I'm loving meeting the people that I am, and feeling sooooo honored to have this wonderful opportunity too.
Kata was my final cove of call where I found a sweet little guest house called the Orchid. Unsaturated by tourists and prostitution; Kata truly, for me at least, is a little slice of heaven on earth......I stayed and thoroughly enjoyed my week there. The Orchid guest house itself is certainly not up to the standard of the Diamond resort, nevertheless the staff there are definitely five star. Orchid has about twelve very large rooms and at 12 pound a night it was perfect...two minutes to the beach, two minutes to the shops and restaurants and just across the road from the internet cafe. Starting my day in Kata often involved going to the Bon cafe for a morning cappuccino, the Italian owner and his staff are so sweet and by the end of my stay in Kata were on great terms....I loved walking in the cafe and knowing I would be greeted with a very warm welcome, and not even having to ask for my coffee was a treat....as if by magic it would appear on the counter hot and fresh. The same feeling was apparent as I walked in the Kata Beach Bar, a beautiful spot on the cove like beach where I often sat to watch the sun go down....I thought the sunsets at Patong were amazing, but the sunsets from here made me feel like I was watching the rebirth of the sky, transforming from the stunning day time blue to a peaceful night time grey. I was such an early evening regular at the Kata Beach Bar that the staff often came to greet me and on seeing me entering the bar and the barman would prepare a fantastic margarita cocktail.....Mmmm! My view from here also included watching the surfers surf the breaking waves that came wonderfully crashing on to the golden sands, and seeing the locals play their football and volleyball matches almost, but not quite, made me want to join in!
Orchid has a lovely bar too, Dor, Ling and Sunee are wonderful hostesses that play a mean game of connect four and occasionally I would manage to beat them.....though not often! It was at Orchid bar that I met Andrew and Leslie Miller from Cardiff, and Rick and Jane from Bristol, it was like being back in Wales reminiscing about the good 'ole days. I met Will here too, Will is a Chinese Malaysian and was in Kata on business.......he's an IT specialists and lives in Kuala Lumpur (KL). How lucky am I, meeting Will was a God send as KL is my next destination.
Will collected me from the airport in KL on the 19th of August and I've been having a great time here in Malaysia ever since. It was good of Will to collect me and it's fantastic having my own personal guide who has been showing me many things most tourists don't get to see. Having a friend in Will and his family in KL has also helped that feeling of displacement I feel on arriving in a new country, it really helps because I don't feel out of place or a lone traveler.
Well....that's it for now, it's Malaysia's 50th independence day celebrations weekend and I'm off to see the fireworks and join in the fun. Take care of yourselves, and each other, and I'll be in touch in a while when I'll let you all know about my experiences of Kl, Mallaca, Singapore and Borneo...........happy, happy days xx