So the day after seeing at first hand the bright neon lights and sex trade of Bangkok, we took a short hop flight back down to the Andaman sea coastline to see at first hand the bright neon lights and sex trade of Phuket.
As one of the two most developed resort areas in Thailand (Pattaya being the other), Phuket gets its fair share of abuse from backpackers, though having been on the road for nearly four months one can begin to understand why.
Upon arrival, it becomes immediately apparent that to get anywhere on the island costs a relative king’s ransom.
The main resorts do not offer the basic beach hut accommodation we have become accustomed to and as a result the prices of all other goods are reflected by the fact this is a place dedicated two-week tourism and visitors who have cash to spend.
Phuket still offers a good balance for a group with differing experiences and expectations, and the resort of Kata Beach where we stayed does, to be fair, have an awesome stretch of white sand and a fine gently shelving turquoise sea which is ideal for young kids and older folk to swim in during the dry season when the waves are small, and the at times deadly rip currents non-existent.
After one day staking our claim to a series of beach beds, “The Boy” became the recipient of a whole load of plastic beach toys that were generously bought for him by an Aussie family who were just glad to see their 4-year old son playing with someone, even if there was a considerable age gap!
Now, the o.5 is an absolute wooden toy reactionary, but a freebie is a freebie, so what could we do?
“The Boy” loved the beach and particularly the time he got to spend building sandcastles with his Nanna, but he seemed equally at home on and around the pool.
The pool at our “billet” (as my National Service influenced dad insisted on referring to the small bungalow based property we stayed at) offered a small but adequate play area for the boy where he took to the water with each of the family in turn. On one occasion, he even took to the water on his own courtesy of a trip on the leg of a sun-lounger, a commando roll to poolside, and a toddler-startling splash as he landed feet first in the shallow end.
Start ‘em young and make ‘em swim, I say.
Talking of starting ‘em young, the same could be said of the sex trade workers on Bangla Road at Patong Beach, some of whom looked like they were barely old enough to hold a driving licence let alone hold the business end of a fat, balding German’s manhood in exchange for a thick wad of Thai Baht.
Despite appreciating the commitment to the nightly ritual of plastering on heavy slap, and the long hours of practice required to develop such sound pole work, the whole semi-clad shenanigans in this seediest of soi’s left me with a somewhat uneasy feeling.
Mine is not to judge the rights and wrongs of this most ancient of industries, but I feel I should at least comment that sex it may have been, but sexy it was not.
The whole stretch of Bangla Road with its open fronted go-go bars was a market for carnal pleasures: Female, male, or like a Welsh curry (half and half), the choice would be there for all and any peccadilloes, so come take your pick.
Illuminated by neon, flash and strobes, the strip was in fact so light that it allowed me to whack up the ISO on my camera to 1600, open the aperture, and experiment with some street shots without the aid of a flash.
I’ve always detested flash photography and its flat, lifeless illumination, but can say that Patong has opened my eyes to experimentation in nighttime streetscapes that have previously passed me by.
We didn’t spend as much time as I’d like on the strip as the 0.5 was a little uneasy pushing “The Boy” in such company, and the thunderous beats were giving a stern test to my dads claim to industrial deafness.
To be fair, he was finding it painfully noisy to have the racket amplified by his hearing aid and it was patently difficult for him to make head or tail of what was being said amongst the din.
Escaping the throng (or should that be thong?), we commandeered an overpriced Tuk-Tuk to take us back to the relative oasis of Kata and a civilised nightcap back at the ranch.
Patong was fun though, and I’m glad we did it.
I can’t say I’ll be back in a hurry, but if I’m ever short for cash, at least I know there’s a job opportunity for all types on Bangla Street.