A Trip To Karon Beach, Phuket
I arrive in Phuket, noting a sign at the airport that says the meter taxis charge the meter fare plus 100 baht. I doubt that any of them charge the meter fare, and why is it plus 100 baht in Phuket and only 50 baht at Bangkok airport anyway. The notice
is probably as ineffective as the sign at Bangkok airport saying (in Thai) that touts are fined 1000 baht, yet dozens of them operate within sight of the police who, as usual, do nothing. Hey, why work when you get paid anyway?
I am collected from the airport, so I don’t care. Check into my hotel, the Phuket Orchid Resort in Karon Beach. Try the door onto my balcony, and it comes off in my hand. Call reception, who send three housekeeping girls who come, have a look, giggle and leave. I expect they’ve gone to get help. Still, after all my years of experience of Thailand, I think they’ve gone to get help. Some things I just never learn. No. Twenty minutes later, nothing has happened, no-one has come. Call reception. Sorry sir. What would I like to do, change room perhaps? Yes please. Two members of staff arrive 10 minutes later. They take me to a new room. Of all the rooms they could pick, they’ve chosen one that isn’t ready yet. Sorry sir. Maid hurries to finish preparing the room. Then they change their mind and decide to put me next door, with a big bed instead of two small beds – nice gesture.
I go to the lobby shortly after. Should you make a note of my new room number? Crosses out old room number, writes new room number on a folder they’ve given me that allows me breakfast. That’s all. Go out for lunch, and find a meal, some soup. Getting it wasn’t easy. I go in, sit at one of about eight tables. Staff ignore me for five minutes until, just before I decide to leave, a waiter asks if I’d like to eat. Now, if you go into a restaurant anywhere in the world it should be obvious that is why you are there. Except in Thailand. Especially the fast food places, and especially McDonalds. There, people go in to do their homework, sleep, just sit there in the air-conditioning. If you go to the McDonalds in Silom, as I did on several mornings for breakfast recently, you will discover the place is populated with people having what appear to be job interviews and private tuition classes, rather than breakfast. For many, buying food in McDonalds is the last thing on their mind. So, maybe the waiter wasn’t asking the obvious. If you’re Thai.
Go out for a stroll, have three men try to shake my hand. I don’t think they want to be my friend. I think they want to sell me something – a suit to wear on the beach across the road, perhaps? A massage? A girl? A massage by a girl – in a suit? On the beach? I don’t want to find out. What I do to these men is something I’ve learned from the Thais. If you do something that upsets them, try to argue with them, show them beyond all shadow of a doubt that you are right and they are wrong, they will blank you completely. It is as if you are utterly invisible. That is how I treat these people who want to shake my hand.
Having not ordered a suit, or a massage, or a girl, I return to my room for a nap, having got up early and having grown several weeks older today. Why? I took a taxi to the airport. I know how I’m going to die. It will be in a Bangkok taxi. Where? Probably flying off the expressway at 130 kph to land on grid-locked traffic on Rama 4. The only thing I don’t know is when. Woken by a phone call from reception. Sorry sir, who are you in that room? We don’t know. What room were you in? Why did you move? No door, I say. Sorry sir.
Evening arrives, and I search for a quiet beer. Enter a small bar. Girl approaches. You buy me dlink? Why should I, I ask, deciding to play a game. Because you handsome man, she says. Then shouldn’t you buy me a drink, I say. Irony is lost on her and she just sits there looking blank. I move on. I find a beer bar area. All the bars are identical, and all play loud music that mixes poorly with that in the bar next to it. And the bar next to that. I find a bar with no music, hoping their system is broken. No. As soon as I order a drink the music goes on. Never mind, it’s the best I can find, and there’s a short skirt that interests me. I spend three hours there, and am their only customer. The next night I do the same, and again I am their only customer.
How do these places survive? And how can the girls manage to sit there, from 3pm to 2am, doing nothing. How? The short skirt tells me for doing that she receives 3,500 baht a month. Short times? Long times? Not a chance. Even a customer and a lady drink would be heaven. It’s really tough for these girls. Be nice, guys, please. Trying to give them some business I meet up with another Stick Chronicler I enjoy reading, Frank Visakay. Even he leaves without finishing his drink. Later, the owner arrives. She is a young Thai lady, and I use lady deliberately, and five months pregnant. She is charming and her English is good, and she is married to a Swede. She tells me of a sad tale, of an English scum, one of many as we know that have taken to polluting this part of the world. He rang the bell at her bar several times, everyone was happy and having a great party she says, and then he refused to pay the 7000 baht bill. She cried and wanted to hit him, but her husband warned her off, afraid of the bar becoming known to the police for such things. I told her that it would have been nice anyway if a few of her friends had followed him away from the bar and extracted compensation. Or maybe, as in every other country I’ve been to, she could ask customers to pay for each drink when it arrives. Like in the pubs the English scum go to back home.
Back to my hotel. I have a recommendation if you are considering staying at the Phuket Orchid Resort. Find somewhere else. The walls in the room are rough cement. At least they paint them. The first day the stain on my towel was brown, the second day grey. You don’t want pictures. Also on the second day my bed sheet had a hole in it. A plate left outside my room before I arrived, containing a neatly folded napkin and a knife and fork, was there three days later. Why? How can housekeeping, anybody, just leave a plate on the floor for days. Maybe it was an offering of some kind. They charge 50 baht a day to use the in-room safe. I swear it’s true. There was a beeping noise that I recognised as a battery running down in a fire-detector or such. Actually, it must have been the emergency lighting system. It was beeping for four hours. No one fixed it, despite girls sitting at a housekeeping desk within earshot.
Before I went out to dinner I spoke to reception. There is an irritating beeping that will go on all night and keep people on my floor awake, I tell them. Would you like to change rooms, sir? Fixing it never occurred to them until I suggested that might
be a better alternative. Guess if they fixed it? Twenty fours later it was reduced to a weak pop. No problem any longer, and no battery in the emergency power system either.
Walking back to my hotel one night a man passes me carrying a large iguana.
Very humourous indeed. I am surprised the scum got away with what he did, to be honest…