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Captain Jack’s Thailand Trip – 2004 Edition Part 3


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The Mighty Wizard’s Thailand Trip – 2004 Edition Part 4

By The Mighty Wizard


The Mighty Wizard’s Thailand Trip – the 2004 edition

Part IV

Lek and I left by bus for Phuket town. It rained on the way from Surat Thani to Phuket, but that didn’t dampen my curiosity about this trip since I had never been to Phuket town before. I had always arrived by plane from Bangkok and
had gone straight to Patong Beach. We arrived at about 6:00pm. Phuket town appeared to be more lively than Surat Thani. We left the bus station and grabbed a cab for Patong. We shared the cab with a young Thai man, about age 20, who worked as
a busboy at a hotel / restaurant at Patong. He spoke good English and told us that he was from the Lamai area of Koh Samui! What a coincidence!

As we drove through Phuket town, I looked closely at the environment. I noticed that the town had some old buildings whose architecture fascinated me. They were nothing like anything I had seen in Thailand. They appeared to be of the type
of open stone structures that might have been built by British Imperialists when they ruled much of Asia. I wish I had had more time to look at them and photograph them.

The traffic going from Phuket town to Patong was horrendous. It was a harbringer of what was to come. I had been to Phuket in 2000, so I was somewhat prepared as to how big of a resort Phuket had become, but I was still taken aback as to
how busy the winding roads were now. Just before getting to Patong, I had the driver stop off at a travel agent so that I could get a room and buy some airplane tickets back to Bangkok. We got a room at a fairly new hotel called The Boutique.

When we got to Patong, I could not believe how big it had become. Patong must be twice as large as it was when I last visited 4 years ago. It is gone through indescribable changes since I first visited the shabbily constructed place 14 years
ago. When we got to the Boutique, Lek called Nong and told her to come by the hotel the next day. That night, Lek told me stories about some of the men who had fallen in love with some of her working girl friends. Some were sad, while some of
them were quite raunchy. Ah, a bargirls’ life! I couldn’t help but feel both sadness and laughter at the same time.

The next morning, I once again awoke early. I went out shopping for food and sweets. I walked along the roads next to Patong Beach, remembering what it was like the first time I was here so long ago. Back then, the world was still young,
new, and still full of excitement. I turned to walk along Soi Bangla, only to find that the Soi Bangla I had once known was now called THANON Bangla! A cute street sign, complete with dolphins said so. So, the old road had gotten a promotion.
As I walked along Thanon Bangla in the morning looking for stores, a man rode up on a motorcycle and hailed me. I could tell from his voice that he was an Australian. He asked me about myself and then started talking. OH NO! It was www.rci.com
again! He was trying to get me to come visit a nearby hotel so that I would listen to someone give a talk about joining a travel club! This time I told him, “no thank you I am not interested.”

When I got back to the hotel, I had found that Nong had come by. Nong was a large breasted 22 year old who had come to Phuket 2 years before from Bangkok. Thoughts drifted through my head about either having some short time alone with Nong
or making a threesome of things, but Lek wasn’t interested.

We agreed to go out to the beach. One thing that has puzzled me for years (along with many Stickman readers, no doubt) is the issue of paying for beach chairs and everything else along Patong Beach. I have long suspected that the Phuket government
has used the beaches as a cash cow for generating revenue and that perhaps some graft might be involved. I flagged down one of the old Thai ladies who walks along the beach selling sodas, water, fruit, and ice cream to beach goers. She told me
that a woman who wears an orange or yellow jacket has paid 30,000 baht for the rights to sell goods on the beach. Whether that 30,000 baht was per month, or per year, I don’t know. The same goes for renting chairs. The men at the beach
have paid for the rights to collect from people sitting in the chairs. Ditto for the jet ski and parasail operators. It used to be that the government asked for a percentage of sales, but people who worked the beaches used to underreport how much
money they had brought in. Ergo, the government went to imposing a flat rate on would be vendors to operate along the beach. Problem solved.

While at the beach, I told Lek that I wanted her to go parasailing. She initially didn’t want to go saying she could not swim, but she eventually gave in. She loved it. After we had been at the beach for about 2+ hours, Nong suggested
that we take a trip to Laem Promthep (Cape Sunset). This idea was appealing to me as I had never been to any of the other beaches on Phuket before. But before we took off, I went to a travel vendor to buy some day passes to take Nong and Lek with
me on a tour of Phang Nga and James Bond Island.

Little did I know that I was about to have one of the greatest adrenaline inducing experiences of my entire life. What was it, Mighty Wizrard, you ask? Was it a night in bed with a Katoey? Did I have a foursome with a group of 17 year old
girls? Did I smoke the best ganja to be had on the planet? No, silly rabbits! I rented out a jeep and drove in Thailand!

To get to Laem Promthep during our limited time in Phuket, we were either going to have to wait until the next day or rent out a jeep that afternoon. And so it was that I rented out a jeep. As we did so, it started to rain. I asked Nong which
direction Laem Promthep was in. She pointed towards the direction of the winding roads from which Lek and I had entered Phuket the day before. As we wended our way through the drizzling rain, I found myself quickly beginning to regret having done
this. The vehicle traffic along Patong Beach has become horrific. The roads leading out of Patong seemed even more steep and winding when it is you doing the driving. The drizzle made matters even worse. Of course, Thais are like the British and
Japanese in that they drive on the wrong side of the road. The wheel was on the wrong side of the jeep. Thai school children, who happened to be leaving school and walking home at that time of day, were in the habit of suddenly darting in front
of my vehicle without looking behind them. You get the picture.

Still, with determination I made progress. It was about 3:00pm when we left. After about 20 – 30 minutes, we made it to Kamala beach. We passed by Phuket Phanta Sea soon thereafter. And yet, a bit of doubt had been gnawing at me. I
noticed that the beaches were to my right hand side. We passed Surin Beach… Hey wait a minute… Surin? Phuket Phanta Sea? I pulled over when we approached Choeng Thale and the statues of those two Thai women. I looked at the map.
God Damn that Nong! We were going the wrong way! I immediately turned around and started back towards Patong Beach. We then had to fight our way through Patong traffic at 4:30pm. Awful. The girls noticed that I was really upset, but I tend to
get over times when I am angry rather quickly.

This time we were going in the right direction. We made it through Karon, Kata Yi and Kata Noi beaches. Along the way, I noticed an area near Laem Promthep called Niaharm Beach which vaguely reminded me of the Patong Beach of long ago. We
finally made it to Laem Promthep after 5:00pm. I was tired, but still ready to see what the Cape had to offer.

I was surprised to see that there were lots of people at the Cape. There was a large walkway and viewing area – it is called Cape Sunset after all. There was also a prominent Buddha statue, to which both Nong and Lek offered prayer.
Meanwhile, I checked out a lighthouse and statue that was dedicated to a figure named Abhakara Kiartiwanges, Prince of Jumborn. The prince, born in 1880, was the 28th child of Chulalongkorn the Great, known to Thai history as Rama V. The prince
had studied in Britain and was considered the founder of the Thai Royal Navy. As I walked away, after contemplating the statue and writing down details, there suddenly was a loud bang followed by lots of popping noises which lasted for about 1
minute, accompanied by the smell of smoke. Someone had let off a whole truck load of firecrackers nearby the statue. It was a startling experience that one wasn’t quite prepared for at such a place.

Our drive back to Patong was delayed for about 1 hour. When Lek, Nong, and I got back into the jeep, it was getting dark and I found that for some reason the headlights would not work. I had been shown how to activate them back at Patong, but for some
reason they would not function now. It took quite a while of fiddling around before I got the headlights to operate. As we drove back to Patong, I thought that maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing that I had driven in the wrong direction earlier
that day in getting to Laem Promthep. I had gotten a look at Surin and Kamala beaches. I was still mildly disappointed that most of the beaches were nearly as crowded as Patong. Nai Harn was still relatively uncrowded and I have not really had
a good look at the other places such as Rawai Beach or the beaches up on the north end. I have to admit that my interest stemmed from a desire from years ago to move to Phuket to retire. The Internet has spoiled all of that.

That night, Nong, Lek and I went out on a walk along Thanon Bangla. The crowds were huge. Lek was happy to see Phuket. She said it was a lot like Pattaya – lots of farangs! I bought her one of those dice games that you occasionally
see working girls play in the bars. We stopped in some overpriced bars where lots of tourists were gathered. Nong met a guy from Germany who offered her 500 baht for a long night. Nong told him no, later telling me after he had left that he was
a Cheap Charlie. We visited the Rock Hard, where Nong said the girls wanted 3,000 baht for a long time night. I can tell you that all of this was a far cry from what it was like even 4 years ago, not to mention 14 years ago. I really began to
wonder if I wanted to go back to Patong ever again. The place has absolutely been overrun, not to mention while walking about that morning I saw even more construction taking place.

The next morning, as Lek, Nong, and I got ready to go to Phang Nga and James Bond Island, I noticed that my APS camera was missing. Did the girls take it? I didn’t think so. APS cameras were probably hot in Thailand 5 – 10 years
ago, but developing the film is expensive which is one reason digital cameras have superceded APS ones. I had been given this camera by my closest friend about 10 years ago and that camera had gone with me on many a trip. I was not upset because
the camera was not all that expensive. I also knew that it was getting harder and harder to find places that would sell APS film. Digital cameras are all the rage. Nonetheless, it was something of a pang, like having lost a longtime friend. So,
I had to buy a camera if I was to record our day at Phang Nga. I knew from my vacation trip to James Bond Island in 1991 that the island would be a tourist trap and that I would be able to buy a camera there. I did manage to buy a cheap throw
away camera while we were out that day.

Two of the other passengers we picked up while we were going around the other hotels in Patong were from Sweden. They were quite annoyed when we stopped for quite a while at a nice hotel to pick up a husband, his wife, and daughter who were
from India. We also had a couple from Belgium, another couple from Denmark, and us. Nong and Lek told me later that day that the man and woman from India smelled really bad. I could not tell because I have a poor sense of smell, but they made
smelly faces and held their noses behind the poor couple’s back. After the trip, they went around saying “smells like India.” I had to shake my head and suppress a laugh because I had spoken to the couple during the day and
they were really very nice people.

Our guide was a twenty something woman named Mon. She spoke good English, but was not confident of her English speaking ability. I told her not to worry and that her English was fine. Our tour was to be one of those tours where we paddled
on kayaks. This was a great improvement on tours from long ago, where these tours were generally not available.

When we got to Hong Island on our tour, Nong and I climbed into mangrove trees and I tried to climb up a mangrove vine. Lek caught a crab off of a rock as we passed by the entrance to another island. We stopped for a while and were offered
a chance to dive off and swim around in the Andaman Sea. After a few minutes, I coughed up my courage and took the dive in. Despite the sea’s still fairly green color, the sea proved to be unbelievably salty. It was also a bit scary to
swim around in, as I found myself about 50 yards away from the boat and it took a bit of effort swimming back to get back on. I also learned that the islands are made out of limestone and that the natives who settled here 200+ years ago were Muslims
from Malaysia.

When we got back to Patong that evening, Nong said goodbye and gave me her email address. Lek later got very upset with me about this, so I told her that I would not contact Lek. Lek then took a phone call on her cell phone. After she finished
with the call, she told me that a family relative back home was dead. She had told me that she had wanted me to stay with her in her apartment until I had to leave for Don Muang airport the following day. Now she was going to have to leave me
in her apartment.

While in the Phuket airport, I had another déjà vu experience. While Lek and I awaited our flight back to Bangkok, we found ourselves seated in an area of the airport near the entrance where you await boarding. While sitting there,
I suddenly recognized that I had been in this exact area 14 years ago when I had awaited my flight back to Bangkok from my second break in Thailand! There was a place where you could get some food and drinks, get your shoes shined and there was
a statue of Buddha along a wall. It all felt so surreal.

And so it was. We caught our plane back to Bangkok and caught a cab back to her apartment. I had perhaps 5 hours ahead of me before my plane left for America. We kissed our goodbyes and she left me instructions on how to secure her apartment.
I slept for a few hours, then awoke to spend my last few hours watching MTV Asia carry a program featuring the history of The Cure. I am a big fan of The Cure, but as much as I wanted to stick around to finish watching the show, it was time to
go back home

As always, it was a bummer having to go back home and go back to work. I took a flight that went through Inchon South Korea and found myself amazed at the number of flights that were going to Chinese cities. I had also heard a number of people
speaking Mandarin at Don Muang as I awaited my flight to go back home. Years ago I thought that this part of the world would start to feel the influence of China as China developed, but now I was starting to see it all come true.

Well, that ends this tale. Lek writes to me occasionally, always moaning about whether I had forgotten her. I decided to send her some money for Songkran. There were times where I wondered if she were really trustworthy, but I doubt it. I
do think that she really liked me, as she begged me to take her along on another trip the next time I come to Thailand.

As for Chuck and Somkid, it was Chuck who picked me up at the airport as a payment for me having delivered his money to his wife for medical treatment. Somkid came back to join her husband at Thanksgiving time. I have to take my car in next
month for an oil change. We will have dinner at Marty’s restaurant and I will show them photos of my trip. Chuck has told me that he plans to retire in 3 – 5 years and that he and Somkid will go back to Thailand. When he told me
this, I told that it would suck without them. Chuck laughed and told me that it wouldn’t be so bad once I joined them in the Land of Smiles.

Regards

The Mighty Wizard

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