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The Lure 2



So there I was, a day to kill, with no job at hand except getting to Phuket somehow. So far I was only two nights into my first Thailand trip and already I rather liked it. I was having a decidedly lazy holiday, which is the way it should be. How can you expect to relax when you've got planes to catch and a daily schedule to keep? I had a plane to catch, but I hadn't booked it yet.

Yes, in my eternal optimism I had decided to just go to the airport and take whatever was going. Swanning into the lobby very close to the latest possible check out time, I found that the limo service to the airport was much cheaper than the limo service from the airport. That was all the convincing I needed. The girl at the booking desk gave me a big smile and told me the driver was in the toilet. Classic. I reasoned that with a spicy diet this might mean a long wait, so I went shopping at the convenience store across the road.

When I returned with some squid-related snacks, a very relieved looking driver was standing with the door open for me. BMW this time, nicer than the Merc actually.

"What time your flight?"

"Not sure."

"You want check ticket?"

"Haven't got one."

"Hahahaha, really?"

"Chai."

"Hahahahaha."

Everything is funnier when you mix your languages.

At first it seemed I might have made a mistake, as most flights had left in the morning (too many tourists in a hurry to meet a deadline). I was even adventurous enough to ask Nok, but they had nothing. I decided to go and book the next available flight with Thai Airways, which was a four and a half hour wait.

Luckily the person who served me second-time around wasn't a trainee and had the presence of mind to check business class seats. Sure enough there was a seat free on the flight before, leaving in three hours. It wasn't much more than economy anyway.

Normally three hours in an airport isn't my idea of fun, but the procession of attractive young girls with their well-padded, sixty-something boyfriends past my table was excellent entertainment. I found myself drinking syrupy micro-brewed malt beer and looking forward to my twilight years as I ate an English breakfast (at 2pm). Then an hour or so in a cafe, followed by another hour at the Japanese restaurant, trying not to laugh at Thai waitresses mixing bargirl makeup with yukata kimonos. The sushi wasn't bad, though.

If there was a business lounge I didn't find it, but I figured my squiddish snacks would make the time fly. Instead they almost made my bacon and eggs fly. I've had some weird junk food in Japan, but these things were revolting. Maybe squid balls wasn't just a marketing concept.

The flight attendant asks me what I would like to drink. I ask for a beer and she giggles and says they don't serve alcohol on domestic flights. I stifle the urge to ask what is the point of being in business class, then? Water is probably a good idea, but it wasn't my idea.

At the bus stop… sorry, airport in Phuket I avoid the confusion of the sweaty baggage retrieval system by only having a carry-on bag. Nine days with no suitcase is surprisingly easy to do when you don't need anything warm. The first guy offering a taxi makes an easy sale. After my driver tries to kill all of the tourists riding mopeds on the highway, he lets the speed drop below 150 for a few moments to negotiate the roller-coaster road over the hill to Patong. Man, this would be a fun road in a decent car with nobody else on the road, but neither of these things seems likely on this island.

We roll into my chosen resort, at the south end of the beach. I'm given a champagne cocktail as I step out of the taxi… things are getting better already. Actually the room isn't as good as the Rembrandt, which was cheaper, but it'll do. I figured out the way to Bangla Road and headed out for my first taste of the Thailand bargirl scene. Incredible that it took 48 hours for me to get started, but as I've said, I hate schedules when I'm on holiday.

The first stop is a bar on Rat-u-thit… or is it Song roi? None of the maps seem to agree. It's half outdoor, with pool tables right next to the road. I have to admit it got my attention when the girls bent over for long shots in short skirts. Unfortunately they weren't much fun when I sat down for a beer. I was beginning to wonder what all the fuss was about as she robotically kicked my arse at connect-four.

They say you can tell how long a girl has been in a bar by how good her English is, but I say that connect-four skills are the litmus test. After all, how much English proficiency do you need? A few days later I saw one girl proposition a guy with nothing but obscene hand gestures. She probably entertained him later with a shadow-puppet display… but back to the story.

After a very ordinary pizza which I didn't finish, I head into Bangla and the semi-famous Soi-Eric. It's Monday night and well past peak season, so it isn't overflowing with cuties, but Scooby has rally on the TV instead of the football, which draws me in. In fact there are only two girls there, but one of them is very friendly and her skirt is fabulously short. She never asks me to pay a barfine, so I just keep buying her drinks until I'm too tired to sit on my stool.

I haven't heard any sob stories so far, maybe the bar scene isn't as bad as it sounded on all of these websites? I had half expected to look out of the taxi window and see paddocks full of buffaloes with their legs in the air. She seemed a little disappointed when I left

without her, but she did better than most of the girls in the Soi that night. Wandering back out into Bangla I wonder who picks up the angry-looking freelancers standing around like chimneys. On my way back to the hotel via the beach I wonder if I will actually spend any time near the water on this holiday.

Incidentally, Beer Lao is now available in Australia. Email [email protected] to find it. You may be disappointed if you don't live in Sydney.

Stickman's thoughts:

Come on, cut to the chase.