Before I left Australia a friend of mine told me that I should book my tours when I arrive in Phuket, though the main reason that I came here was to visit James Bond Island (and I have already booked that tour through the travel agent, namely because I had read up on in the last time I visited Thailand and I was particularly interested me). Anyway, after dumping my bags, and having a rather interesting experience at one of the many bars outside the hotel, I went to the tour agency that the hotel recommended (ironically it was just across the road). It turned out that I didn’t even need to negotiate with her because she sold me the two trips at the child rate (I sure don’t look like a child). So, that done, I returned to my hotel for some down time, which basically involved sitting at my computer writing stuff (which was a part of my original plan, though after booking the tours that was going to be a little difficult).
Anyway, it soon became apparent that I simply wasn’t going to be able to do that, namely because the Hard Rock Cafe (which was across the road) suddenly fired up and all that I could do was resist the pull that the music had to me, and that little voice saying ‘why the hell are you sitting in your hotel room when you could be out there having fun’. Well, I guess that logic was irrefutable, so I grabbed my book, some money, strapped my money belt around my waist (and under my T-shirt – the one thing I know about places like this is that you need to keep your valuable very close at hand, which means in a secure pocket around your waist) and descended into the sights and sounds that was Patong Beach at night.
Experience the Night
As I have said quite a few times, I have been to Bangkok, so I have had a taste of what the Thai nightlife was like, but I have to say that I simply was not prepared to what I encountered this first night in Phuket. For some reason I had decided to take my umbrella, which was quite fortunate because a few times the rain just suddenly bucketed down. The umbrella, despite being cheap and nasty, held up quite well, as did my shoes, however I decided that since a previous experience in Hong Kong completely ruined a good pair of Nikes (okay, they were ten years old at the time, so I guess they were coming pretty close to their used by date), I put getting a pair of thongs (that is flip flops for those of you who aren’t Australian) to the top of my list of things to do.
Anyway, my first stop was Hooters, simply because I had never been one and simply wanted to check it out. Well, I can’t say that it was all that impressive, and the drinks were pretty pricey as well. Okay, the Hooters girls did burst out into moments of dancing, but it really didn’t enthuse me all that much. However, what I did find amusing was one of the signs plastered on the walls:
‘The more you drink the more you think you have a chance with a Hooters Girl – you don’t’.
That made me laugh, simply because I looked at the Hooters Girls, and then at the bars across the road, and noted that if one were really that drunk, one could simply leave Hooters and walk across the road. The other amusing sign I noticed was:
‘Hooters Girls wanted – female only’.
I’ll let you put two and two together on that one.
So, that was my one and only experience of Hooters, and in any case I was in Thailand – I really didn’t want to spend time in a place that was little more than an American Chain Store. Anyway, I walked down the road in the general direction of the beach only to discover a pub called ‘The Drunken Leprechaun’. Typical Irish Pub I thought, until I walked past the entrance to be greeted by two miniature Thai dressed entirely in green. As I walked past I suddenly stopped, looked around, and sure enough – two Thai dwarfs dressed entirely in green. If you don’t believe me, they even let me take a photo of them:
Well, all I can say is that now I have seen everything. Mind you, I decided not to grab one and demand the he tell me where he had hidden his pot of gold (though I’m sure they may have had to put up with a few drunken revellers doing just that).
That short walk took me past a few massage parlours, and sure enough outside each one of them were are collection of girls all asking me if I wanted a massage. I quickly came to realise that if you stop and say no thankyou to everybody that tried selling you goods or services you simply won’t get anywhere (and stopping is actually a really bad thing because it is completely irrelevant that you are saying no because the act of stopping suggests that you can be persuaded – though sometimes you have no choice but to stop simply because they will stand in front of you – not that that happens all to often – most of the time they sit on a step out the front saying ‘massage, massage’).
Then I hit the beach. I didn’t actually realise that the beach was that close, so I decided to walk along it for a while, not really knowing where I was going, but heading in that direction anyway.
Suddenly a firecracker went off behind me.
Well, it seemed like, at that instance, that you were free to set off firecrackers. However, being the cautious person that I am, I jumped onto the internet to discover that it is actually illegal. Well, it might be fun, but I guess the fun stops when the firecracker lands on a thatched roof, starts a fire, and you discover that your travel insurer will refuse to pay for the damage. Mind you, you still do get vendors wandering around the beach trying to sell you firecrackers, but then again this is Thailand – everybody’s trying to sell you stuff.
Actually, that brings up this little thing that I discovered while I was there: you hardly find any beggars on the streets of Patong. I’m actually not surprised considering it is a sea side resort, but then again I suspect that they don’t actually beg but rather try to flog anything and everything off to you – such as the guy selling cigarettes. He was asking 150฿ for a packet when you can actually get them at the 7-11 for 50฿ (I suspect he goes to the 7-11, buys a heap of them, and then goes and sells them on the street to stupid tourists).
I continued walking and before I knew it I was at Bangla Road. Mind you, unlike Bangkok, I had no idea what Bangla Road was about. It turns out that it is probably one of the sleaziest parts of Patong. During the day it is like any other road, however come night they get rid of all the traffic and turn it into a walking street. Unfortunately since my cameras are really bad a night shots, I didn’t take any, but this is what it looks like during the day.
The thing with Bangla Road is that it is very, very hard to walk down and not get accosted by anybody. In fact there are two types of people that will accost you: Bar Girls and guys offering ping pong shows. Okay, as I have said many times, I have been to Bangkok and I know all about the ping pong shows (not that I have ever been in one) and the one thing that is told time and time again, when somebody comes and asked you to watch a ping pong show you are inevitably going to get ripped off. The reason I say that is because in Bangkok that happens around Patpong Market and all of the ping pong shows happen upstairs – and everybody tells you don’t go upstairs. So, I guess the same thing applies here in Phuket.
As for the bar girls, well, they simply want to get you into the bar so you can buy a drink. Many of them simply stand out then front waving signs in front of you displaying the prices of various drinks available. Others are proper bar girls who want to try and syphon as much money out of you as possible. Now, while I could write a lot about these girls, I have done so on another blog (and I am not providing a link) so I will not be repeating myself here other than by saying that despite the fact that they can be a lot of fun, they are still prostitutes and I am not a fan of prostitution whatsoever – I will leave it at that.
I’m really not one who likes to stay in one bar for too long, usually long enough for a single beer. Mind you, most of the bars in Patong Beach don’t have beer on tap – they are all in bottles – and each of them pretty much have the same offering – Chang and Singa (as well as the international beers). The thing is I have yet to work out the difference between Chang and Singha (they are both Thai beers) and a part of me wonders whether they are basically the same beer placed in different bottles. In fact they pretty much cost the same as well.
Before I continue I will have to say that it was difficult not to go out on a nightly basis, particularly since having a quiet night in is simply not possible in Patong – especially with the Hard Rock Cafe blaring out until all hours of the morning. So pretty much every night I would leave my hotel and go for a wander around the streets, visiting restaurants and having a few drinks at the many bars scattered about. It is not just Bangla Road (or my hotel) where the bars are congregated, but you can find them in many of the side alleys as well. Also, not all of the bars are chock full of girls, though that tends to be the exception instead of the rule (I can’t say much for the nightclubs because I went to enter one and the guy at the front insisted on patting me down, and after he had done that I decided that there are much better places to go where you can get a drink without having to be patted down at the door).
As you walk along Bangla road the thing that will stand out are all the bars. In fact there are so many bars one sometimes wanders how they all survive – though even in low season they still seem to be packed out (mostly).
Once again, not all of the bars along Bangla road are full of girls, and they are actually quite easy to work out – namely they aren’t full of girls. As such if there are maybe one, or two, girls behind the bar then you can be assured that this is not one of those bars – but then again there are plenty of other places in Patong Beach to get a quiet drink than Bangla road – most people who come down here aren’t actually looking for a quiet drink.
In fact, one of the bars I stepped into to have a quiet drink the Mamasam was doing everything in her power to stop me from doing so, right to the point where she kept on waving a tissue in front of my face. Realising that that wasn’t simply not going to happen, I closed the book, smiled, and continued my beer. She then looked at the cover and read the title: Lucifer’s Hammer.
“Who’s Lucifier?” she asked.
“Have you ever heard of Christianty?” I replied.
“Well, he’s the bad guy”.
Anyway, back to my story.
I had popped into one of those quieter pubs along the beachside road and one of the things that I had learnt from my previous visits to South-East Asia is that Google Translate on my phone can be a really convenient way to communicate. So, having heard some firecrackers go off I decided to ask the doorman where one can get some. So I jumped into Google Translate, typed in ‘where can I get some firecrackers’ which it then translated into Thai, and showed it to him. He looked at it, and then at me and said ‘Sorry, I can’t read that, I’m from Burma’.
Unfortunately Google Translate hasn’t quite got to Burmese yet. Anyway, that was the last time I asked about fireworks because as I have said previously they happen to be illegal.
So, here I was, wandering down Bangla Road attempting to dodge all of the touts, until it got to the point that I decided that I might as well step into one of the bars, so I stepped into this one:
Anyway, being the type of person who likes to take photos of places to post up onto the internet at a later date, I proceeded to do just that, as which point the bartenders decided to interpose themselves into the picture. So, I might as well share that photo as well:
As it turns out there are two bars in this building, the Lips Bar and the Lion Bar, however the Lips bar was closed, so basically I was sitting at the Lion Bar. Anyway, this was one of those bars that has girls ‘dancing’ on the bar, though I use the term dancing very, very loosely – in fact I have yet to see one of these Thai girls actually dance, namely because all they seem to do is stand on the bar in skimpy outfits and sway, if that. In fact one of the customers jumped up onto the bar, told the girl to move away from the pole, and then proceeded to show us how a pole dancer really should dance. Unfortunately this didn’t give any inspiration to the poor girl.
I continued down Bangla road, and I must say that you see some really impressive things along these, such as this particular guy dancing in the middle of the street:
Of course I gave him a bit of money since I did take a video that I had every intention of positing on the internet.
My next stop was this place known as Soi Freedom. Now, Soi Freedom isn’t just one bar but a whole collection of bars in a covered alleyway. All of the bars here are full of bar girls, but there was only one thing that I was looking for – a toilet. So, when a couple came up to me to ask me if I wanted to sit down for a drink, I told them of my quest, at which point one of them took me by the hand and led me down to the other side of the Soi where the toilet was located (and it also set me back 5฿). One thing that I discovered is that if you are walking through one of these places holding the hand of a young lady you will not be disturbed – at all. However, considering my views on prostitution, I decided to take my chances.
Another thing I should mention is that along this stretch there are a number of bars that happen to be behind closed doors and there will be people out the front trying to drag you inside. Some of them even wave signs that proclaim ‘No Rip-Off’. Mind you, anybody trying to get me to enter a bar by suggesting that I will not be ripped off indicates that the complete opposite is true. Anyway, just to pique my curiosity, I decided to look inside, and as soon as I stuck me head in through the door a whole bevy of Thai girls looked at me and in unison said ‘Hi’. I quickly took my leave – that is another sure fire indicator that I’m probably going to be ripped off. Therefore, the rule of thumb is that if you can’t see inside the bar then let the buyer beware.
So, after I had relieved myself, the young lady escorted me back to one of the bars where I proceeded to buy her a drink (in a way to say thankyou for helping me complete my quest). At this point she then pulled out a game of Connect 4 and asked me if I wanted to play. Right – Connect 4, that’s different. I agreed, and she promptly proceeded to win. In fact out of all of the games of Connect 4 that I played I only ever managed to win one (and if you are wandering around the bar scene in Patong Beach you will play an awful lot of Connect 4, as well as other games, including Jenga). They also have this game called hit the nail with the hammer. The problem is that the hammer has a sharp point making it really difficult. I cheated by turning the hammer onto its side and hitting it that way – they proceeded to scold me for not playing the game properly – hey, I was thinking outside the circle.
My final stop for the night was a bar known as the Tiger Bar. Actually, like Soi Freedom, it isn’t one bar but a whole collection of bars that are packed in so tight it can be almost impossible to move. In fact every bar I walked past I would have multiple girls all trying to get me to sit down for a drink. Sure, there are probably a lot of guys that would love that experience – however this isn’t an Australian pub, and these aren’t Australian girls. I decided that I would entertain one for a drink, however it quickly became apparent that she wasn’t interested in a drink and a chat, and when she realised that all I wanted was a drink and a chat she decided that she was going to get better business elsewhere and proceeded to leave. I guess that is the problem with the Tiger Bar – there are so many people wandering through that the girls are more interested in making as much money as possible than sitting down for a nice chat – not that you can really talk in here because it is really, really loud.
Anyway, there is probably little more that I can say about the night life, since even if you go out every night everything ends up being the same. I guess one gets to the point where every girl you encounter asks you ‘Where you from?’ and ‘What’s your name?’. I did try throwing out the Westeros line a few times, but it was pretty clear that it went completely over their head. I will say that they can be quite a lot of fun, but in the end most of them are only interested in one thing. Mind you, in the quieter, less crowded bars, if you politely tell them that you aren’t interested then they’ll accept that and continue on as if nothing has happened. In fact one of my fondest memories was sitting at one of the bars around the corner of my hotel playing dice with one of the girls until the early hours of the morning. By the way, this isn’t her:
Anyway, I continue my adventures in Thailand in my next post when I actually see what Patong Beach looks like during the day.
Phuket Phenomena – A Night on the Town by David Sarkies is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. If you wish to use this work commercially please feel free to contact me.