Time To Get Out Of Town Part 2
The Rock and Roll Hotel at the far end of soi Bangla in Patong Beach had good rooms for around $20 per day. It had a decent swimming pool and it was possible to get a relatively quiet room.
I got to be good friends with Moe's baby house elephant. Her name was Papui and she was absolutely adorable. I would feed her bananas whenever I ran into her and give her a hug and scratch her on the top of the head.
Papui became a much more intimate acquaintance of mine when she took her trunk and placed it between my legs and hoisted it up flush against the family jewels. She inhaled deeply and took a couple of steps backwards shaking her head from side to side.
Elephants have very poor eyesight, but they have an impeccable sense of smell. Papui was just a little baby but she knew what I smelled like. Downwind elephants can smell things from a considerable distance away.
Ryan turned me on to this really cool gym at Le Meridan Phuket. It cost something like 200 baht per day to use the facilities overlooking this huge outdoor pool. I thought that I had it pretty good crashing at the Rock and Roll Hotel during the evening and using the facilities of Le Meridan Phuket during the day.
You need a set of wheels to get around Phuket. Those motor scooters and motor bikes are so dangerous that I opted to rent a 4 wheel drive jeep. The major car rental companies down by the Holiday Inn wanted too much money so I did business with some Thais who parked their jeeps just off of Patong Beach.
I think the deal was something like $28 per day for 3 days. I know that the insurance policy was totally useless. It had a clause in it that stated "the renter agreed not to operate the vehicle carelessly". It doesn't take a legal genius to discover the blue sky loophole in that clause. If anything goes wrong, the insurer will refuse to cover the damages because obviously the renter had operated the vehicle carelessly.
I steadfastly refuse to leave my passport with anyone. That passport does not belong to me. It is the property of the US government. It specifically states on the front of it that the passport must not be left with anyone except the bearer of the passport.
So you flash the cash with a xeroxed copy of the passport in front of the Thai guys, they turn over the keys and next thing you know you're fun trucking around Phuket. There are 17 beautiful beaches to explore and the island just got a whole lot smaller now that you got a 4 wheel drive set of wheels.
Moe, Ryan and some other dudes from LA South Cali had turned me on to some pretty cool local bars in Phuket Town. They were off listening to the best guitarist in Thailand wail away on his axe at some gig somewhere in Phuket. I drove off alone from Patong Beach to Phuket Town and frequented a local establishment where I downed a beer and left accompanied by a pair of lovely local lasses.
Now these 2 fine ladies were young (probably around 20) and could not speak or understand a word of English. I don't even think they were that proficient at main dialect Thai. Their native tongue was southern dialect Thai and they did not have a whole lot of experience dealing with farangs.
So I parked the jeep at the hotel and took them over to Moe's bar upstairs where the music was cranked, the refreshments were flowing freely and scantily clad women in bikinis were dancing provocatively.
When they saw the illumination of the white lint on their skirts and blouses underneath the black lights at Moe's bar (black lights cause white things to stand out and sort of glow) they had a hissy fit. They were chattering away in Thai and scratching furiously at their clothing trying to make the lint disappear.
An American bar patron noticed the consternation of my 2 lovely young companions and he was grinning from ear to ear. He approached me and stated "Don't you just love this country?"
"It has its moments." I replied.
The sweet, young and lovely Thai women returned to the Rock and Roll Hotel with me and commenced to engage in some enthusiastic hedonistic frollicking. Suddenly I heard this horrible sound. It was like some kind of animal screaming. I disentangled myself, got dressed a bit looked outside the front door of the hotel room and didn't see anything. The sound had stopped.
Subsequent to my re-engagement with the Thai ladies that shrill animal screaming would reappear as it would sporadically throughout the evening.
"What the hell was that?" I thought.
Sleeping between these 2 gorgeous creatures, I had the strangest recurring dream that evening. I was at a market somewhere in Thailand purchasing these giant stalks of bananas and carrying them somewhere. I would wake up, go back to sleep and get the exact same dream again.
The following morning my friendly Thai companions made their own way back to Phuket Town. I took a walk around the Rock and Roll Hotel.
Behind the hotel was a hooch where the mahout lived with his constant companion Papui the baby elephant. That horrible noise must have been the baby elephant crying. I said hello to her, patted her on the head and gave her a hug. She took her trunk and sniffed me.
"Could she identify my scent from that distance?" I thought. "What about that recurring dream? That is so weird."
It was time to 4 wheel drive around Phuket with perfect weather, perfect wheels. on a perfect island. I did Karon and Kata and Phuket Town. I hit the 25 mile long beach north of the airport which at the time had zero commercial establishments on it. I took a lot of film on my 8 millimeter camera.
I looked at my map and noticed a short cut back to Patong beach along a small road that ran adjacent to the ocean coast. I wanted to get that jeep back before I went over the 3 day time limit and had to pay extra money.
The scenery was breathtaking but the day was getting late. The road that I was on was getting more and more narrow and the incline was getting steeper and steeper. I was near the Andaman Sea but I was on the side of a mountain in a jungle. The jungle was getting denser and denser.
Out of nowhere this dude comes busting out of the jungle on a motorcycle. He stopped his bike and walked over to talk with me.
"What are you doing here?" he inquired.
"You're American" I said. Fancy meeting some black American dude in the middle of the jungle on the side of a steep mountain in Phuket.
"Yes, what are you doing here? This is a dirt bike trail."
"I have 4 wheel drive. Does this road go to Patong Beach?"
"Yes, didn't you hear what I just said? This is a dirt bike trail."
"It's ok. I have 4 wheel drive."
The black American dude stepped out of my way with his outstretched arm he pointed at the jungle / mountain trail and stated "Go ahead, be my guest."
So off I went to blaze a trail back to Patong Beach with the 4 wheel drive jeep and avoid paying a late charge for returning the vehicle. The mountain continued to get steeper. the jungle continued to get denser and the road continued to get narrower. Eventually the gauge of the jeep was too wide to accommodate the dirt bike trail.
"Darn it" I thought. "Now I have to turn around and take the long way back to Patong and I am definitely going to be late."
There was absolutely no place available to turn around. I had no choice but to put the jeep in reverse and back out of there. I was going to have to drive backwards down a mountain a considerable distance until I reached a clearing where I could turn the jeep around.
There wasn't that much daylight left and this was NOT an easy move.
Airline pilots talk about moments of terror that break up hours of boredom. I experienced my few moments of terror on that day in Phuket.
I did the best that I could steering that jeep backwards down that steep mountain over that jungle trail. I noticed that I was going way too fast. I had the brakes floored and the jeep was moving way too fast. I slapped on the emergency brake and the vehicle continued downhill way too fast.
The wheels were locked and the jeep was out of control and sliding rapidly down the side of the mountain. The best that I could do was to attempt to steer it backwards and keep it on the trail. Gravity, not brakes or an engine was in control of this frisky momma.
Sure enough, the vehicle could not hold the road and the next thing that I know, I am whizzing backwards through the jungle holding onto the steering wheel for dear life slamming the undercarriage on jungle ridges and barely avoiding trees. Part of the time all 4 wheels of the jeep were airborne until the undercarriage slammed on a ridge to slow the vehicle down a bit.
4 wheel drive don't work so good when you are airborne and facing backwards.
Eventually the vehicle came to rest on a jungle ridge. All 4 wheels were off of the ground and the jeep teetered precariously on that jungle ridge like a see-saw on a fulcrum in a children's playground. With great deliberation I exited the vehicle.
At this point I was running out of 2 things, daylight and real estate. I was running out of daylight because it was close to sunset. I was running out of real estate because I was close to the edge of a cliff. About 20 meters downhill from me was one more small jungle ridge, then the jungle ended and the cliff dropped precipitously (about a 100 meter or so straight drop) into the Indian Ocean.
If I tried to rock that truck forward and it rolled backwards, I'm totally screwed. I am in the middle of nowhere and I need some help bad.
I grabbed my 8mm camera and my water bottle out of the jeep and climbed out of the jungle until I hit the dirt bike trail then I proceeded to run downhill as fast as I could in search of assistance.
Eventually I found some hooches on stilts off the side of the road in the jungle. "Mee khon mai? (anyone here?) " I shouted frantically as best as I could in my bad broken main dialect Thai. Nobody was home.
I continued running downhill as fast as I could. It was better than hitting the lotto that day when I ran into a truck load of Thais coming back from a day of work in the fields on their way home at dusk. I must have presented quite a sight to them all full of dust and jungle dirt some white skinned farang with a water bottle and an 8 mm camera sweaty, out of breath and stammering in bad broken main dialect Thai "Chuay bohm. Rot bohm mai dee. (Help me. My car no good)".
The Thais were all laughing and smiling and having a grand old time. They put me in the back of the truck and drove a ways up the side of the mountain to the spot where the jeep went off of the road. About a dozen of them walked downhill through the jungle with me and we found the jeep.
They gently rocked the vehicle back and forth until the front wheels touched ground and drove it off of the ridge. Fifteen or twenty minutes and three or four ridges later the 4 wheel drive jeep was back on the dirt bike trail facing the right direction.
I thanked all of the Thais many many times. I waied them. I shook all of their hands. I really needed help and they helped me. These were hard-working human beings who exhibited tremendous decency and compassion.
I arrived back in Patong Beach after nightfall and over 90 minutes late on the jeep rental return. I had checked out the undercarriage of the vehicle and there were a few dings in it. The back license plate had been bent up at a 90 degree angle but I had unfurled it with my hands and banged it back to its original shape with a rock.
A Thai guy was waiting for me near Patong Beach. "Boss walk to Rock and Roll Hotel look for you. He at hotel now."
The Thai guy checked out the jeep and took the keys back from me. I began to walk away. I heard a voice call me
back. "Here we go again" I thought.
"You late, pay 200 baht more."
I opened up my wallet, pulled out 200 baht and handed the money to the Thai. He had a grin as wide as the day is long on his face when he took that money.
As I walked away I checked my watch to see what time it was. It was time to get out of town!!!!!!
Oh yeah, that really is time to become scarce!