To go out and do anything (even going to a restaurant for food) can be a challenge when you don't speak the language. The easy route is to not try new things, which I have done all too often. I was going to be alone in Phuket for a few days before the folks I was meeting with showed up, and I was afraid I'd stay in my shell and not do anything with those days. Of course, it is a resort, so relaxing for 3 days wouldn't be that bad. But instead, I made a point to see what activities they had and try something new. And I went a bit overboard.
I had settled on either trying scuba diving or wind surfing. In the end, I have done both. I spent a few hours on the lagoon here on a board and can get around without falling off too much. And I also took a 2 day course to get the first level of PADI certification for scuba diving. The second day of the course was 2 open water dives at a reef, and the sea life there was amazing. Saw a sea turtle, rays, moray eels, trigger fish, clown fish, and hundreds of others. Spent some 2 hours under water between the two dives.
Beyond that I also found time to swim, kayak, sightsee, get a Thai massage, eat way too much, etc.
Here is a nice sunset shot at the beach from our resort. Tough life, eh? I guess it is hard for people to think that I am roughing it with my job. This is the third resort I've been to for work this year. Went to Puerto Rico last April for a sales meeting (though I didn't get to enjoy it due to bad head cold). Then Cheju Island in August and now Thailand. I don't have plans for any more of these in the near future - I guess I will actually have to pay for my next trip to a resort.
Thailand is a beautiful country and the people seem quite happy. My scuba instructor was Dutch, but has lived here for some 11 years. He said that the Thai people love their country and would not want to move. Most every Thai person that he knew that left Thailand, came back before long. Thailand has everything they would want, where other countries all seem to come up lacking in some area or another.
I was about to write that I didn't see much of the Thai culture because I was staying at a resort and was insulated from the population. But then we went out to an area called Patong Beach in town one of the nights, and oh my god was I amazed… Maybe not culture per se, but definitely one hell of an experience and one you won't see in too many places in the world.
This is a strip containing a few bars in Patong Beach (a town that caters to tourists). Most of the girls there are 'bar girls' (a nice name for prostitutes). When you walked by, the girls would come out and try to talk you into the bars. At times, they would literally grab onto you and try to physically pull you in (sometimes grabbing you in areas which aren't normally grabbed…). A coworker said he felt like a movie star with all of the attention being placed on him. I thought the whole place felt like spring break on steriods.
The views in the bars reminded me of bar scenes from the movie Good Morning Vietnam (women sitting close, or on, the male patrons trying to drum up further business). And the picture isn't the one place in town like this, but an example of what many of the bars in town are like. The strip with this stuff went for over a mile and included most of the side roads shooting out from the main road. Had to be literally hundreds of bars and thousands of bar girls. It sure seemed that the bar girls greatly outnumbered the available male patrons.
I don't know why, but it seems that Thailand is known for sex change operations. And it appears that the guys who change themselves to girls like the bar girl profession. It was interesting trying to determine which ones had the operation and which were real (of course, without getting up close and personal).
Along with the bars, there are lots of stores selling just about anything you would want for a souvenir. Lots of name brand clothes (all fake) at very cheap prices. And lots of Thai products and souvenirs.
It appears that the bar girls seem to like Americans but not Koreans. One asked me where I was from, and when I said Korea, she just about turned and ran. But an American had women flocking around him. I don't think I look very Korean, so her knowledge of geography and races must be lacking a bit.
Another bar had various floor shows. In the center of the bar was a boxing ring, where they held Thai boxing matches. Between matches, they also had a snake charmer. He had 4 different snakes, including a large Burmese Python and the cobra you see above. He also did hold some snakes under some control, including making some roll over and play dead, and would also bring people from the audience up to the stage.
Yes, the picture below is me on the stage with the snake charmer… Yes that is the same cobra as in the picture above… Yes I was drunk…
It was interesting to see so many female tourists in the area. The bars and bar girls were very prominent in all areas, with probably more of these bars than there were restaurants or stores. And many guys were on the street holding fliers for various sex shows (which go well beyond a woman taking her clothes off) trying to drum up business from any tourist who walked by. It seemed a bit surprising to me to see female tourists all around and hanging out at the same bars as these bar girls. I wasn't totally comfortable with the whole situation - I could only imagine how a woman would feel around all of this sex trade.
Interestingly, the labor costs appear to be next to nothing, but products from outside of Thailand are comparable to most other areas (perhaps a touch cheaper). We were quoted a price of about US$12 for a bar girl for the night. But the beers at the bar were similar in price to much of the rest of the world. So if you were bartering, a girl for the night would cost you about the same as 4 foreign beers. Oh, you are supposed to bargain, so the girl might have gone for only 2 or 3 beers in the end…
Overall, I found Thailand to be a wonderful place. The people are very friendly (and not just the bar girls), the landscape is covered with lush, tropical vegetation, and the prices were amazingly cheap for many things (an example was my diving lessons - which cost me under $200, where in the States it would be closer to $1000). More than once during the trip did thoughts of settling there pop into my head. Definitely worth going back for another visit.
I don't expect to have any updates for a while because I will be in the States for a week.Previous Post - Back to Menu - Next Post