Back in 2007 which seems a lifetime ago, my boyfriend and I decided that I needed to step out of my comfort zone of what was primarily western based holidays, travel east and discover with palms pressed firmly together the beautiful Thailand. Phuket was the destination of choice for my first taste of South East Asia, a lovely little boutique hotel tucked away in the foot of the hills in Patong.
Phuket 10 years ago is a different place to what it is now. It was just short of 4 years previous that the horrendous boxing day tsunami had caused much devastation to the island along with many other regions. The aftermath of this natural disaster was still very much on display throughout Patong, lamp posts by the beach still at an angle, a clock encased in a cage in a public toilet still stuck at 10:25 the time the wave struck. We travelled along to the next beach to surprise some friends who owned a beach bar, to be greeted by huge construction sites emblazoned with “5* HOTEL COMING SOON”. It was all gone and nature had inadvertently cleared the ground for mass tourism.
Back in Patong and the now infamous Bangalore Road, by day a few shops were open and you could walk from the beach to the end in a couple of minutes……..but when the sun started to dip below the horizon the shutters went up and the girls came out to play. Possibly my favourite holiday pastime like many other folk is people watching and my gosh do you get an eye full on Bangalore Road aka Porn Street. Once you find a nice spot bar to sit and watch you are set for the night. I will let your imagination run wild as there has many a TV programme covering the exploits of what goes on once the sun goes down but leave you with this, 1 guy trying to negotiate with a lady for his mate…it took longer to negotiate than it did for the deed to be done if you get my drift.
3 things stole my heart in Phuket, the landscape. Pristine crystal clear oceans with rugged cliffs that show you a different picture from every angle.
The food is out of this world. I went only having really eaten a very limited amount of fish and spice, within 2 days I had set myself a goal of eating something different everyday, whether it be dried squid (vile) or red snapper (divine) I stuck to. The lesson I learned very quickly plastic chairs and paper table clothes make my tummy happy, rattan chairs and pristine ironed white table clothes make my tummy sad. Something I have stuck with to this day and if there are no chairs and tables even better.
And last but by no means least the people. Yes I know they work in tourism and they get paid piss poorly to be nice to cash welding tourists like me, but take some time to sit down and talk to them (not in the girly bars you’ll get charged by the syllable) and you will learn from them, more than any Lonely Plant book, tour guide or travel rep.
Little did I know that when I left the safe haven of Heathrow airport that my love affair with Asia was just about to begin.