Yes, the tsunami is back. What made this very clear to me was a restaurant review I read in the Phuket Gazette Newspaper. It’s a nice newspaper and the food reviewer is a long time friend of mine and an all-round nice guy.
I ran into him for a drink last week and he immediately said, ‘The editor has been cutting my column down.’
Me, being honest to a fault, I said, ‘look, you only mentioned one European dish and then said they have Thai food. You did not mention the price and rambled on about your wife and child, not a very interesting review to me.’
He’s a good man and the next week mentioned the prices of a new restaurant in a hotel, 990 baht for Sunday brunch.
I would not be holding my breath for a bus load of customers to come running in at these prices. While I am at it let me mention the link that Stick had last week to the NY Times which read something like, ‘Phuket, The most Luxurious Vacation Destination in the World.’ Kind of surreal I thought as it mentioned the $750 a night hotel rooms, very pretty and all that. Phuket has 15 and 20 dollar a night rooms here a block from the beach. The NY Times did, I think, a disservice to the island. How many customers will come because of this story? You tell me.
But wait, I am writing about the restaurant review. The restaurant is a few blocks from me on Visit Road. It has been shut for a year and the new owner did a wonderful job of fixing it up, new décor, twinkling lights, four attractive Thai girls standing outside. Big parking space in front; you just want to drive right in there. Except for one thing – it’s always empty. The Gazette did real good and gave him some opening press in October. Why would someone want to open in the slow season? To get the kinks out and be prepared for the up coming high season you say? Here it is in the middle of January and they still don’t have any customers. The Phuket Gazette always being nice guys gave him a review a few weeks ago, a page and a half of babble about the writer’s house, car and family. A little slip shod on the writer and I dare say the editor also. I said to my pal, okay you mentioned only one dish, rolled beef with red cabbage. Being a restaurant guy for forty years I knew this would be a cheap cut of meat, steamed for a few hours and the cabbage probably soggy. Not for me.
‘How was it?’ I asked him.
‘So- so,’ he replied.
And there you have it. But the heartbreaking last sentence really got to me and is the reason why I am ranting on, sorry about that. As the reviewer, I would have thought it over and not printed it, possibly the reviewer felt it sounded brave. It was a death knell if any thing. The last sentence was a quote from the owner. ‘We got through the tsunami and we’ll get through this’. I sat there for a few minutes, not knowing what to say or think. I felt like running over there, putting my arm around the poor schlemiel and saying as gently as I could, ‘the tsunami is here my dear friend. It’s all over us, it’s all around us; can’t you see it?
That old trite saying fleeted through my mind. ‘Do you want to make a small fortune in Thailand?’ Just look at what’s happened: governments changing, tanks on the streets of Bangkok, the prime minister's office taken over so he has to hold meetings in the old airport, Phuket airport closed by protesters and then the big one, Suvarnabhumi Airport closed by protesters, Box jelly fish reported in the Andaman Sea, and now a jelly fish brigade has come to visit us.
My friend Dana goes swimming to Nai Harn Beach every day, also my friend Michael swims there often. They are both sick now. Is it from the jelly fish or the sewage being pumped into the ocean?
‘How’s it going over there?’ I asked Dana.
‘Not good, I used up my entire bottle of vinegar washing myself off yesterday and Michael go a long tentacle wrapped around his face. He was in so much pain they had to call an ambulance. He had a huge red scar from his forehead to his throat but the doctors say it will go away in a month.’
‘How about today?’ I asked.
‘We went to play badminton on the beach and it’s covered with small jelly fish. You don’t really want to step on them.’
‘How about the tourists?’
Dana laughed. ‘Last year they had four rows of chairs across the beach and now there are just two rows and it’s half empty and I for one am not going in the water any time soon. Now this fact while mentioned slightly in the Bangkok Post and Phuket Gazette is widely reported in the online site, Phuketwan.com.
I went out last night; four bars in Rawai have been closed, a big restaurant on Sai Yyan Road has been closed for well over a year. I think they are asking 24 million baht. Shop houses and upscale homes are springing up, most houses starting at 12 million and then taking off for the sky. They are all empty.
Hasn’t anyone heard the tsunami alarms going off?
As a final check I drove to Kata, not many girls in the bars and a total of three customers at eleven in the evening. I continued my foray into Karon. Tuk-tuks have sprung from the wood work, hundreds of them I say, pesky filthy thieves. I found a few parking spaces but these mobsters chased me away. You know, all the bars looked quiet as death anyway. So I just drove back to my house muttering, ‘They’re not going to get my money.’
So, finally in closing I say. ‘The Tsunami is here. It should be obvious to every one.’
P.S. I like the Phuket Gazette and my friend the restaurant reviewer. The Phuketwan.com site seems to have it all over them.
Lastly, good luck and best wishes to all the expats who have invested in businesses here.
Not This Year is all I can say.’
RESTLESS AND RANTING IN RAWAI
It's not going to be a good year for many…