Friday, 13 November 2009

Mrs Tall and her Two Daughters Do Thailand.

Wow, I can't believe how slack I've been and how long this has taken me to post - things have just been hectic the last few weeks (but more on that another time)! Living life just gets in the way sometimes...
I haven't had many nicknames in my time. Generally they're variations on my name - Ness, Nessa, Essna, Big V, Evilness, Loch Ness Monster, and most recently, Stretch. One friend calls me Pants (but that's another story for another day). But upon visiting Thailand, I discovered that there are at least two more nickname options out there for me.
Option Number One: Mrs Tall. I'm not entirely sure why the stallholder felt that communicating with me on a first-name basis (as Mrs Tall is, of course...) would improve his chance of selling something to me, more than simply calling out "You buy! You buy some-sing-some-sing! You want another dress/hat/pants/bag/shoes? (erm, but I'm already wearing one... why would I want another??) Cheaper than Best and Less!" would. Or why implying that I was my friends' mother would flatter me into whipping out my wallet. Oh yes, apparently Mrs Tall has two daughters. You heard it here first - Kirsti and Kat are apparently my kith and kin (good alliteration, huh?). In fact, not only are they my kith and kin, but I'm apparently old enough to have borne them both. And they look exactly like sisters, too...

L-R: Kat, Kirsti, Me. See? Must be sisters. Did everyone else notice the striking resemblance? And also how I'm clearly old enough to be their mother?

Option Number Two: Beautiful Cowboy (aka Wanessa the Beautiful Cowboy). The one day I'm chanelling Keith Urban...

...and the sea kayak guide decides to take a shining to me. Dude, cooing "beautiful cowboy" to me as we paddle through sea-caves IS BOTH CREEPY AND WRONG!!! I think it's because I knew that I couldn't wrestle the little bugger into the ocean and then take off in the kayak, because I couldn't paddle it for peanuts. Incidentally, though, the cowboy hat (purchased on our first day at Patong beach for reasons of sun protection rather than fashion) drew a lot of attention, and usually positive attention. Either they really like cowboys in Thailand, or the hat works for me... or the hat really doesn't work for me. That's an option too.

So, I just realised I haven't told you anything about my trip.

The plane ride from KL to Phuket gave us a taste for what Thailand would be like...

... hot and colourful! (Seriously. I don't think they had the air con on.)

This is me looking remarkably chipper upon our arrival at the Mecure in Patong beach (even the spectacular upholstery on the plane couldn't keep me awake for long).

See, told you I looked chipper.

This is our room - see Kat waving from the bathroom! After a minor initial freak-out we realised there was a curtain in there. Whew!

This is the pool, where we spent quite a bit of time swanning about drinking cocktails.

This is also the location where I realised that of all the hotels in all the world, the three people I would least want to see on a holiday (or anywhere, for that matter) had decided to stay in MY HOTEL!!! I find it unlikely that they shared the sentiment, given that I was probably barely a blip on their radar nearly ten years ago, which is why it perplexed me that two out of the three of them didn't seem to be able to handle more than a sarcastic lip-stretch. I wasn't asking for friendship, or to share a holiday, I just thought that a polite conversation would be nice. After all, the Traveller's Code explicitly states that when you see someone you know overseas, you should exhibit both joy and excitement to see them. Clearly they didn't get the memo. The third of them made more of an effort, but she was always the nicer one of the three. I don't understand people sometimes.


So, what did we do while we were there? Oh, the things we did!

For starters, we lay on banana lounges at the beach allllll of the Thursday ($5 for all of us for the whole day) and freaked out a little when we realised that the parasailing guide dude wasn't actually harnessed in, and could in fact come crashing down at any point. We also marvelled at the hand-holding service offered by the local girls (generally utilized by 50-something Western men), and at the number of fat Westerners who seemed to think string bikinis are okay (by the way, I'm not separating ourselves from that category, but honestly, I don't think we were anywhere near as bad as a lot of them. Made me feel quite good about myself, actually!).

We ate Haagen Dazs for lunch/afternoon tea (not my idea, by the way - I was still full from the buffet breakfast - but who am I to turn down icecream on a hot day?? And in Thailand, EVERY day is a hot day!)

and chased it with a beer when it began to rain and we needed shelter.

Incidentally, those who were actually there would recognise that this is not actually a photo from this particular day, but it aptly demonstrates that that a) Connect Four is difficult, and that b) there was beer consumed, and it was whilst sheltering from rain. But the sheltering from the rain thing fell through when we got impatient, so we got wet. Very wet. Oh what the heck, I'll share that with you too...

On Friday, besides bumming around and shopping at markets and getting Thai massages (who'd have thought having a small Thai woman stand on your hamstrings and manipulate your back could feel so good??!), we saw the lady-boys at Simon Caberet in the evening (put your hand up if you spent most of the show thinking about getting a breast augmentation). I was a little saddened to see the lack of enthusiasm in some of the performers because it really hammered home that this is something they do for Westerners, because Westerners want it. One lady-boy (who was more boy than lady, and who had more of a keg than a six-pack) did a cracker of an impersonation of Tina Turner, which was great!!!

We went out to Phi Phi island on the Saturday, and saw The Beach (from the movie, based on the novel by Alex Garland), aka Phi Phi Lei, swarming with more fat Westerners, just like every other beach in Phuket (obviously I'm generalising because I actually only went to one beach and drove through another two).

We found Nemo.

(obviously that's not actually Nemo, or even the Nemo(s) we saw, because a) he's a cartoon character, and b) we don't have underwater cameras. And can I just take this opportunity to express how FRICKIN' AWESOME the snorkelling was there!!! The colours! The fish! The weird, freaky, unidentifiable things! It was coooool)

We saw monkeys on Phi Phi Don.

(which actually turned out to be greedy, evil monkeys that attack tourists)

We ate an appalling Western-geared lunch there, and were also marooned on an island on the way home that consisted of deck chairs and a bar for an hour and a half. Would so much have preferred to go back to where we found Nemo, cos the snorkelling was soooooooo much better there, but not convinced that Kat and Kirsti shared the sentiment cos I think they were a bit over snorkelling by then.

Wow, all that in just one day.

Sunday... well the first half of Sunday was spent reading in our hotel room, because the monsoonal rain pretty much put paid to all other activities. In the afternoon we headed into Patong Town in a tuk-tuk and checked out the Vegetarian Festival, which was probably at least 500m of the main road out of town lined either side with food stalls and makeshift restaurants. It was incredible, as was the food.

Can I just say yummmmmmm. I'd become a vegetarian immediately if the streets were all lined with yummy food like this!!!

Who am I kidding. I like steak too much.
Sorry, buddy.

We caught one of the local buses back to Patong beach and I was amused to realise that the paired bus seats are actually intended to seat three passengers, as evidenced by the number tags (just above the Jesus bars, if you were having trouble seeing them)...

... and yet, this is how much room there was left between Kirsti and I...

... which I feel has more to do with the fact that the seats were actually designed for two Western bums and not three Thai ones, and has no relationship whatsoever on our respective girths!

Monday we rode elephants

(Obviously we're not actually riding the elephants in this picture, we're just standing next to them - and, in Kirsti's case, looking slightly ill at ease. But we did ride them, it's just that all the photos of that kind of look like us sitting on a park bench set in a hairy grey rock, cos they were taken by the manhout from point blank range.)

and watched a rubber tapping demonstration (the guide was suprised that I figured out the answer to the question "why do they only use the bottom 1.5m of the tree?" so quickly - the answer being "because they're too short to reach higher - and then she said that I would have a very profitable rubber plantation if I did the rubber tapping myself. Sure, I'll keep that in mind as a possible career option...). And then we ate some Thai orange curry *drools* (which, by the way, wasn't orange at all), and saw an Evil Monkey get coconuts out of a tree, and rode a water buffalo.

By rode, I meant sat on. He wasn't as comfy as a horse on account of his spine being fairly prominent, but he was pretty comfy.

I'm pretty sure we spent Tuesday spending money and doing a Thai cooking course ...

...OOH and having the tan eaten off my legs by scores of teensy, tiny fish.

It was awesome once you got over the freakiness of it all :) (for photos of me killing myself laughing when I first put my feet in the tank, check out photos of me on Facebook)

Wednesday we went out to Phang Nga Bay,

which was pretty, and to James Bond Island, which was a little smaller than first imagined (perhaps I was thinking of the wrong James Bond movie) and slightly disappointing

but we had a killer lunch at a local fishing village. It was above and beyond what they gave us on our trip out to Phi Phi island, anyway, because it potentially actually resembled what the locals themselves would have eaten. That's where I held a monkey

(ever so glad it was wearing a nappy).

Now, I know we went out drinking two nights on Bangla Road, but I have no idea which nights. Meh.

This is Kat and I drinking from lady-shaped glasses at the Butterfly Bar (not to be confused with a Lady Drink, which is a prominent feature on bar menus and more or less means that you buy the lady a drink, and she sits there and lets you paw her)...

and this is me becoming the Jenga Champion of Cartoon Bar.

I don't remember whether this was taken before or after Kat and I danced on a podium with a go-go girl and a creepy old American from Florida... Good times...

And on Thursday we flew home :( This involved lurking in Jakarta for a few hours whilst they fixed the engine on our plane. I'm glad I didn't tell mum we were flying via Jakarta, cos she would have freaked enough about that, let alone about being stuck there! Surrendering one's boarding pass in order to use the bathroom takes one slightly out of one's comfort zone...

But on the plus side, a lot of people were happy to see me when I got back, which was a nice ending to a great trip.

In summary, if you can handle large numbers of Western men making creepy jackasses of themselves, and being hassled by people trying to sell you things (from dresses and suits to dinner, DVDs and ping-pong shows), give Phuket a crack. Patong Beach is reputably the Gold Coast of Phuket (not that I've even been to the Gold Coast of Australia), and all that stuff is annoying, but if you can get out to the other beaches, or into town, it's a lot, lot nicer. Patong is very tourist-friendly. User-friendly, even. And cheap. Cheap, cheap, cheap, cheap, cheap. It was a little sad in some ways, because it affords ignorant people to experience what they mistakenly believe to be Thai culture, but if you're after an easy no-brainer of a holiday (I have literally never felt safer walking the streets at night anywhere overseas, and have possibly felt less safe at times in Australia), and you want somewhere cheaper than Australia but with more to do than Fiji, Patong Beach would be a good choice.

Patong Beach is also a good choice if you want to see things like powerlines that can't possibly be safe (although I get the impression that being post-Tsunami, they're actually all freshly rewired)...

...petrol sold in glass bottles that sit in the sun all day...

...and occasionally inexplicable and amusing signage.

If, however, you want some culture, a challenge, and some food that isn't geared to Westerners (seriously - whose idea was it to put burgers, pasta and pizza at the front of the menu in EVERY SINGLE DAMNED RESTAURANT IN TOWN???!!!), go somewhere else. I've heard that other parts of Thailand are awesome. I have no doubt the Thai people would be every bit as lovely and accomodating, and you'd just have to learn some Thai to get by, but I suspect your efforts would be well-rewarded.

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