In a nutshell, the nights in Patong or any city in Thailand is not for the faint of heart. This is without question the most overtly sexual place on earth. You can not take ten steps outside your hotel without being bombarded with offers ranging from happy ending massages up to and including – what the locals refer to as Boom Boom.
The verbal offer for Boom Boom is always accompanied by the woman balling her fist, bending her arms 90 degrees at the elbow and with a couple of quick aggressive hip thrust – they call out “hey big handsome Americano you want BOOM BOOM with me. Me love you longtime” Leaving no doubt as to the meaning of boom boom. And when you beg off any interest in a massage or a little boom boom the next course offered is “you like Ladyboy, Mr?”.
Once the sun goes down in Thailand it would seem anything goes. There is no such thing as a legitimate deep tissue therapeutic massage. And walking down Bangala Street in search of a nice blues club and a cold beer requires fending off a gauntlet of hawkers offering ping pong shows, ladyboy shows, massages, Russian Strip Shows, Thai Strip Shows, boom boom and many other services that remain a mystery to this Farang. By the way, Farang is what they call us white guys in this part of Southeast Asia.
For a while this is all pretty amusing and becomes a bit of a game creating new and imaginative ways to beg off (My first night I was a catholic priest and chaste – seem to work pretty well and they took my blessings and offers to pray for their souls in good humor). But in time the constant propositioning tends to wear you out. Clearly, a lot of Faranges respond positively or there wouldn’t be so much supply. But it all seems so surreal. Women, men, ladyboys of all ages all offering themselves for a few dollars with absolutely no shame or embarrassment. For them selling themselves by night is no different than the hawkers during the day selling bracelets, magnets, and silk scarves to feed themselves and their families.
So, after two nights of running the gauntlet I decided to try a new strategy – find a structured activity to occupy my time. The first attempt at this was a show called Fantasea. It was billed as an extravaganza dinner show including singing, dancing and parading elephants. It turned out to be a ridiculous waste of time and money.
The night began with a nearly one hour bus ride picking up other people foolish enough to purchase tickets. Then once we arrived at the venue (a cheesy low rent version of a Thailand Disney World) – we were herded thru the park to an enormous banquet room to assigned seating. This was a little strange because the room seated thousands and there were less than a few hundred of us.
Fortunately, the seafood buffet was actually good and I enjoyed a combination of Thai and western foods. One funny moment was when the banquet host brought these two huge black Bahamian women to sit with me they threw a fit. I’m not sure what their problem was but they wanted no part of this big bellied Papa Smurf! In time, they settled down accepted their fate and waddled off to the buffet lines.
Holy Crap! Could these women eat! They both came back with two plates of food stacked 6 inches high. They dropped the plates at the table and went back for more. I like to eat, but watched in a combination of fascination and horror as these women shoveled plate after plate of everything imaginable down their throats all while complaining about the quality of the food and size of the men in Thailand.
As I watched the scene around me I began to wonder where was the floor show supposed to take place. Turns out nowhere near the banquet hall and no time soon. Seems the show would be in the Elephant Palace and not for another two hours. This was fine for the two Bahamian Pachyderms they could just graze for the next two hours. But what the hell was I supposed to do in a kids park?
The staff recommended I visit the zoo or shop for souvenirs for two hours. I don’t like the concept of keeping animals in cages so had no interest in the zoo and had even less interest in buying a bunch of overpriced crap made in China so I just watched the girls eat until a hawker came thru announcing a free cabaret show on the street’s main stage.
Turns out the 45 minute free cabaret show was the only thing interesting in the entire night. Once the doors opened to the Elephant Palace I learned, along with a thousand other very angry ticket holders, that cameras and cell phones were not allowed in the theater.
We were searched and our contraband phones and cameras were all locked away to prevent the theft of intellectual property. We were then marched to assigned seats to await the “Extravasea” Which turned out to be two hours of people in costumes running back and forth across stage and around parading elephants. In short this was the worst Eastern Dudley Do Right Special I have seen in all Asia.
And I still had an hour wait for my phone and an hour drive back to the hotel to look forward to. If offered the opportunity to see the Extravasea – Don’t Do It.
My second night of a planned evening turned out much better. I bought a ticket to Simon’s Cabaret. This Cabaret of singing, dancing and a little vaudeville comedy was performed with an entire Ladyboy cast. And you can judge for yourself from the photos – but these boys made absolutely beautiful and very talented women. They all looked incredible, were very good dancers and the ones that actually sang had great voices.
I had sort of imagined Simon’s Cabaret was going to be just a seedy little dive with a half a dozen performers taking the stage one at a time and singing karaoke style. Boy, was I ever wrong. The very plush theater seated at least 500 people and every seat was filled. Turns out they sell out three shows a night 7 nights a week!
The show is professionally lit and choreographed, the background sets are top notch and the outfits the girls/boys were wearing were perfect for their individual body’s. The dance routines were imaginative and precise. These ladies took great pride in their show and obviously spent a lot of time rehearsing. Again, no photos during the show but after the show the cast were happy to pose for photographs. And I was happy to take photos for my blog including a few with the girl/boys.
My last day on Phuket Island I decided to see the rest of the island on my way to the airport. I rented a car and driver for 6 hours and began my day visiting the Big Buddha on the southern tip of the island. And yes, it was a big ass Buddha! And I enjoyed wandering around the grounds. After the Big Buddha it was on to Wat Chalong for a quick walk thru then lunch at the Blue Elephant.
The Blue Elephant Restaurant and Cooking School is located in Phuket City’s Old Town and is housed in a beautiful yellow colonial era mansion. The 11 restaurant chain of upscale Thai dining establishments began in of all places Belgium in 1980. The Thai celebrity chef has been married to a Belgium for 40 years and decided she wanted to bring traditional Thai imperial cuisine to the world long before Thai food was cool.
Since then the couple has opened Blue Elephant locations in Bangkok, Phuket, Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo, London, Paris and Malta. These restaurants are considered the best of Thai cuisine in the world. And if you decide to go – this is not casual dining and bring your credit card!
I showed up for lunch after a morning climbing the hills and up the steps to the Big Buddha so lets just say I was a little damp from the heat and humidity. The hostess immediately attempted to take me outside to dine on the veranda but I was having none of that. I insisted on enjoying my lunch in one of the more formally decorated dining rooms with air conditioning.
Once seated, staff quickly figured out that I wasn’t there for a big mac and fries. I enjoyed one of their signature alcohol infused fruit drinks – a Blue Elephant Mai Tai while I waited patiently for Duck Thai Spring Roll appetizer followed by a Grouper in Flower Sauced Luck Lu entrée. And I finished the lunch with a very nice Chocolate Mousse made with rich Belgium Chocolate and a cup of Earl Gray.
The food alone is worth the price but when combined with the ambiance of the old colonial mansion and the attentive and well trained staff the entire experience is a bargain and well worth the price if you wish to impress someone special. That is as long as some sweaty big bellied Papa Smurf isn’t sitting at the next table spoiling the moment lol.
After my wonderful lunch I made a quick tour through the colonial architecture of Thalang Road and Soi Romanee then on to the airport and my flight to Chiang Mai. But Chiang Mai is a story for another day….