Phuket: Sunsets and Speedos
We’re left with two more days to enjoy at Kata beach, and no appointments to keep. We weigh up the options and costs for returning to Krabi airport and decide to simplify matters by booking another cheap Air Asia flight direct from Phuket to Bangkok. We then settle in to relax for the remainder of our time on Phuket. Phuket is known for being crowded and commercial, especially in comparison to the quieter island of Koh Lanta. A lot of your experience hinges on the accommodation you’re in and what you want to do during your stay. For us there’s a large mix of the good and the bad, but overall it’s a very relaxing few days. Just what we were looking for.
The town at Kata is loud and boisterous. The roads are crowded between all the tuk tuk drivers and the shopkeepers or waiters that are on the prowl aggressively hunting potential customers. Cries of “hello”, “tuk tuk” or “just looking!” follow us wherever we go. The irony of shopkeepers calling us into their shops to view t-shirts bearing slogans like “No, I don’t want a ****ing tuk tuk!” isn’t lost on us. Soon you become accustomed to keeping your head down and walking unobtrusively in an attempt to just fade into the background. This never works of course. You walk with a narrow focus on where you’re trying to get to and it’s like rushing through a dark tunnel as snatches of words echo around the walls, “I have shorts for you… Movies and DVDs… Rolex Sir, I have Rolex… tuk tuk…”.
Some of the men will shadow you along the street still talking about their wares when their stall is far behind. I wouldn’t fancy walking alone through here at night. There’s a vibe just under the surface veneer of amiable friendliness that doesn’t quite sit right and makes me uncomfortable. Some of the locals on the streets are particularly unpleasant compared to most of the other places we’ve been in Thailand. It’s not just the tuk tuk drivers constantly haranguing you. It’s virtually every person you pass. Many of the local men leer openly, making comments that are obviously derogatory about the female tourists even though the Thai women are similarly dressed. I soon come to the conclusion that ultimately, a lot of them just have no respect at all for the tourists they earn their income from. Their manner clashes with the general perception that Thailand is a very friendly, welcoming place.
If you enjoy the clamour and noise of a busy tourist resort then this won’t bother you too much though – and this is a very popular location for the Swedes to visit, so they must be happy. Every second restaurant or establishment seems to be Swedish-owned. We haven’t seen so many offerings of European food in a very long time. It tends to be expensive compared to local Thai fare, but not bad quality for a holiday resort. It’s not easy to find a pure Thai restaurant, though the Swedish ones all serve Thai food aswell. Ultimately we mostly avoid the town itself and remain at the Spa. Only two things bring us into town – dinner once a day, and icecream. Like Bonnie and Clyde bandits, we hit every convenience store in town at some point to raid their supply of 18baht cornettos and feed our habit. These are the perfect accompaniment for a stroll along the beach.
The Spa has a small, quiet cafe that produces a great breakfast and lunch, but doesn’t quite cater to our icecream cravings. Other than that, the Spa is an extremely pleasant place to spend your day. A safe haven in the midst of the big town. We do spot an Indian man passing through the cafe from time to time trying to convince customers to enlist his services as a fortune teller, but there’s no hassle in general. Our spacious room is mostly insect-free apart from the ubiquitous ants whose bites tend to be smaller and less itchy than the collection we’ve already obtained. The largest and ugliest blotches on our skin can finally start to fade into oblivion.
Late afternoon is our favourite time for strolling along the beach. The locals are frantically hauling boats ashore and dragging them off into storage for the night. The beach is only about a kilometre long and is curved like a horseshoe with the small island Pu sitting just outside the bay. Due to the angles involved, both Pu and the sun appear to follow you along the beach depending on which way you’re walking. A large scale optical illusion for your viewing pleasure. We pass impromptu games of beach volleyball and children frolicking in the water. Most people are an unhealthy shade of dark leather or ludicrous orange. We avert our eyes from the many Speedo-wearing Northern Europeans. The news that this is a serious fashion faux pas just doesn’t seem to have spread to the Swedes. We pass men doing a Simon Cowell with the Speedos hitched up to their waist. Even worse is the guy strutting his stuff in Speedo thongs, oblivious to the Thai couple taking photos of his rear and collapsing in hysterics at the sight. Kata is a surfing beach for part of the year.
While the surfing season is officially over a month ago, there are still plenty of surfers taking advantage of the waves in the evenings. The waves steadily break close to shore so most don’t even bother with a leash on their board. About twenty can be seen sitting in the water patiently waiting for a big wave to ride in on. Behind them a veritable armada of boats rock in the deeper waters. We’re not sure if there’s usually so many dotted about the bay, but there’s an annual regatta on according to a banner at one of the hotels. This might explain the barrages of fireworks let off periodically at night to startle everyone in the vicinity. With all the activity around the beach it’s easy to see that this is the life blood of the resort. While the midday sun is more than we like to bear, the evening activities on the beach could fill up many days.
Walking the beach is one way to make yourself feel less fat after the effects of being on the road for so long. For every skinny person you pass there’ll be a shape of mammoth proportions lumbering along. Sometimes it’s all I can do not to sit down and stare in abject fascination at some of the men ambling down to the waters edge. The sheer volume of their bellies seems sure to unbalance them with their disproportionately small legs. Somehow they manage to shift the colossal weight, and without having a heart attack either. It’s impressive in a scary way that they can even function while carrying around so much. Especially in heat. I can barely drag myself around at the hottest parts of the day. I can’t contemplate doing much more than waving a finger if I had so much extra to carry. It’s still the rainy season here. Some evenings there are clear evenings where the sun sets perfectly – casting a rosy glow through the light streamers of white cloud in blue skies. Other evenings are more humid and you can literally smell rain lurking in the air. For our last evening walk we dally, watching the surfers long enough to see the dark clouds gathering as we head back off the beach. We’re just short of the Spa when the heavens open leaving us to run the last few yards and burst into the cafe as a heavy curtain of rain starts to fall, much to the amusement of the owner who notes our good timing.
The rains are torrential, sheeting down, but are relatively brief. Once the dust of the day has been washed away you can venture back out for dinner on glistening roads washed clean. As an added bonus, the streets are that bit quieter. It would be easy to drift along through the days here, but unfortunately this is just a brief interlude at the end of what’s been a hectic three months before we endure the long journey home and go back to reality.