Our last little piece of Thailand. The third day of the cruise brought us to Phuket.
Now, I was most concerned about how to pronounce Phuket. It turns out it's poo-get...or maybe foo-ket...the books don't agree. I was rather afraid to say anything at all for fear of sounding like Thomas. Our neighbor's maid who comes to babysit now and then is Ethel but Thomas calls her 'Awful'. Attempts to correct him ended up with 'Eff-hole' so we let that one slide back to his original interpretation before it got any worse.
Anyway, 'Patong Beach and Harbor' I can say, and that's where our ship's tender disgorged its passengers. We had no plans. None. We wore swimsuits under our clothes, carried towels and sunscreen and cash and that was the whole plan.
Not a half bad plan if you ask me. Patong used to be a fishing village, but now it is the most popular beach on Phuket. Generally we avoid going to anyplace described as "most popular," but the southern part of the beach wasn't great for sunbathing and therefore still unspoiled and lovely to wander. Huge seashells. You would never know the Tsunami had come through and devastated the area 5 years ago.
Going north to the popular and developed stretch of the beach we were, perhaps, a little put out (though not surprised) that if you wished to sit on one of the countless beach chairs you had to rent it. Mike solved this by purchasing beers from a cheerful Rastafarian, entitling us the right to lounge on the chairs at his beer stand. Ha!
To further tourist up, Bethy had a few beaded braids put into her blond and spraypainted red hair. She agonised over the colors of the beads. Purple and pink were shoo-ins, but the third color was tricky. She finally chose blue to please me. What a kid.
Our kids charmed the locals by using their Thai catchphrases, though I doubt it netted us any discounts. Cruise ship in harbor and looking as pale as we do, there's no pretending to be anything but tourists. Albeit well-behaved ones. I hope.
We avoided jellyfish, most of the hawkers, swam in the warm salty waters, got sand in every crevace, and then wandered the town, looking for lunch, wandering past craft stalls and suit- in-one-day tailors and massage parlors.
Patong Beach is best known for it's nightlife, and there are signs for "drunk people crossing" and other classy sorts of establishments. Thomas fell asleep at Molly Malones Irish Pub during lunch. I snapped a photo of him passed out on the bench, half under the table, on a towel. Should be good for his graduation slide show. The one I took later works too:
Funny kid: he loves to suck on lemons and limes.
Now, where I took this photo was yet another bar. It's starting to sound like we did nothing but drink. It's true that that is one of the major pastimes on Phuket, but let me emphasise that we were there for hours and hours while we played on the beach a lot and walked through street markets and did lots of sightseeing too. We were responsible, honestly.
No, really, it's true!
Oh, never mind.
This bar was interesting -you could tell that once night came the establishment was for getting anything you wanted. We chose it as it was open to the beach and seemed clean. There were vaguely seedy places stacked up one on top of one another all along, but in the daytime at least, this particular place was more wholesome: everybody appeared relaxed and happy.
Plus we could escape pretty easily back to the street if necessary.
The short-shorted low-cut tight t-shirted, long dark-haired Asian staff of girls were far more interested in playing with our kids than seducing customers. (Who can blame them?) They even had a Winnie the Pooh game for Bethy and Thomas, who played happily and enjoyed being fawned over.
I appreciated that even a family with little kids could do fine on Patong Beach. That's the friendliness of the Thai for you. We could, and possibly even should, have escaped to more picturesque parts of the island, but decided laziness and acceptance were the words of the day.
I also laughed at myself that the stretches of beach with the chairs and underdressed tourists (why, oh why do women insist on going topless when it says over and over again in the guidebooks please do not go topless it embarasses the Thais and is completely inappropriate?) held no appeal for my camera...it wanted photos of happy kids and fishing boats.
Traditional Thai fishing village, tucked away back from the touristy beach.
While wandering the seller stalls, we had seen several versions of a rainbow dress that was perfect for Bethy. I mean, it could not have been more her. I finally negotiated with a husband and wife for one, which was truly fun. Beginning by being polite, I moved on to being incredulous, then I teased the man and invoked false wrath on his wife's behalf as they "argued" about what price to give us, she pretending to be bullied and he pretending to be tough. Very good cop, bad cop. "Woman power!" I exhorted her, "you are wearing pants too! You are a strong Thai lady!"
End result: 150 Baht, $4.56.
Sailing away, we watched gray angry looking clouds swirl in and envelop the island, and the advancing lines of a downpour. Once again we'd missed the rain.