On Missing Thailand While in Thailand: Phuket

Of all the places I’ve lived in Thailand, from the jungle to the coast to the big city, I prefer Bangkok. And after 7 years in this glorious metropolis, (gloriopolis for short, copyright BKK7) my love for it hasn’t waned. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss the laid-back style of smaller burgs and the sweet salty breezes of the southern islands. I had the good fortune to spend all of 2012 in Phuket, and I do long for those days from time to time. That was back before Tinder, so the beer bars and clubs were positively teeming with gorgeous women. I nearly gave myself whiplash every time I left the house, there were so many hotties, and not just in the bars. They were everywhere, just walking around like regular people, seemingly oblivious to their own hotness. Times have changed since then, but I still wax nostalgic for those erotic escapades (eroscapades for short, copyright BKK7) of yore.

I first started visiting Phuket whilst still living in the middle of the Krabi jungle. The bus to Phuket Town ran straight past my house, so I’d jump on on a Friday after work and be on Bangla Road by dinner time. Patong was a Willy Wonka fun factory for adults, and compared to Ao Nang felt like a bustling city. The mall was a marvel. The beach wasn’t pretty but it was definitive proof you were on holiday. Everyone on it knew as much, too. The cumulative vibe screamed “Fuck it, let’s go nuts!” The sea, the sand, the tunes, the girls, were a straight shot of kickass to the amygdala. From Soi Sea Dragon to Tiger to Hollywood nightclub, it was a six-senses saturation of seduction and song. It was impossible to predict what craziness might ensue, because something crazier than your craziest idea would always happen, putting your wildest dreams to shame. The number of times I 1—laid eyes on the prettiest girl I’d ever seen, 2—struck up a conversation with her, and 3—ended up in bed with her became too numerous to recount. And it was effortless. In fact, it was inevitable. Maybe they put something in the drinking water in Phuket because I’d never met so many hot girls that were DTF. Or maybe it was just an era, because I visited recently and it wasn’t the same. The vibe had turned decidedly…….greedy. Every bar seemed to be a vacuum cleaner aimed squarely at ones wallet, and there were far less really hot girls. That’s a Thailand-wide phenomenon. Where they might be going is a topic I covered in a previous blog for BKKNites (called “Where Have All the Hotties Gone?” which I’ll repost here in the near future). But at least for those early years, Phuket was a dreamland.

I even went so far as to move there in 2010, after leaving Krabi. I got a studio apartment in a small fishing village north of Kamala Beach called Bangtao. It was positively serene. Wedged between the main road and the beach, Bangtao was made up of resorts, niche restaurants, and beer bars, plus a handful of massage joints. I became fast friends with Jo, a Canadian restaurant owner who’d built his entire eatery himself by hand. It was full of old Western memorabilia, plus tons of other curiosities, both Thai and Canadian. He ran the place with his Thai wife, Nok. Hence the name Nok and Jo’s. Seven was a regular fixture there, adding his own dishes to the menu (like the Chilito, a burrito filled with chili first conceived by the deviants at Taco Bell in the US) and drinking all the Kepler’s Cider in their fridge. A few doors down from Nok and Jo’s was a beer bar-massage joint combo called Heaven. For a few months, I gave free English lessons to the staff of both places and DJ’d in the bar most evenings in exchange for free beer. Every morning and afternoon I took a walk on the beach. I watched more magnificent sunsets than I could count. On weekends I motored in to Patong and rampaged through Bangla Road like an escaped convict. I even managed to score a girlfriend—briefly. Her name was Em, and she was breathtaking. She was also crazy, and refused to believe I wasn’t cheating on her every time we were apart. Eventually, I had to let her go. It broke what was left of my heart, a little bit.

After that, I began to construct my version of a harem that would evolve into the winning formula that governs my life today. Patong was the perfect ecosystem in which to test out a pimp lifestyle (pimposystem for short, copyright BKK7), because it was small. Everybody knew everybody else, so anyone trying to keep a harem had to be adept at being covert as well as manipulation. I say with no small amount of pride that I took to it like a duck to water. I even managed to keep extended relationships with two sets of best friends, convincing each to keep our liaisons secret from the other. Those nefarious antics in Phuket make my current Bangkok debauchery (Bangkauchery) seem like child’s play.

Along with the beaches, babes, and bliss, Phuket had an element of danger that simply doesn’t exist in BKK. In fact, I still carry a knife in the city, even though there’s really no need (although I do use it from time to time to cut cigars), a habit I developed while in Krabi and can’t seem to break. Phuket, like most of the south, is a little wilder, a little more ting-tong, a little less-tethered than the north. The best way I can describe it is, no matter how festive the music or how much fun people appeared to be having, a fight could break out at any moment. I remember one instance in a beer bar on Soi Kepsub, there were a bunch of drunk working-class British expats tying one on, and in the space of about a minute they went from singing along with the jukebox to punching each other and knocking over beers, tables, and chairs. The Thai bar owner came at them with a meat cleaver and split one guy’s head open. All between the start and end of “Tubthumping.”

Then in 2012 I was offered a job in Bangkok. Believe it or not, after 3 years of small towns, beaches, and islands this city boy was ready for something more urban. And I don’t regret the move—Bangkok is one of my top 3 favorite cities along with Barcelona and Berlin. But these days, I do sometimes wax nostalgic for that slowed-down, laid-back life, the secret deserted beaches between Patong and Bangtao, the home-cooked taste of Nok and Jo’s, and all the dark-brown untamed, magnificent fillies that used to populate every nook and cranny of Phuket. There’s not another place in the world like it.

Swing by on Friday for a Frowback, and cheers to that emerald island paradise on the Andaman I was lucky enough to briefly call home. Maybe you thrive forevermore. Peace!