05.08.2011 – 14.08.2011 Sunny 34 °C
We left the Perhentians to return to Penang early one morning, these are opposite sides of Malaysia, east and west, resulting in the 6 hour return minivan drive again. We stayed in Penang for a further two days because of exhaustion from the van drive, whilst there I had to hunt down a HSBC as I thought they had blocked my card. A swift phone call to London using the branch managers phone (major politeness and flirting needed!) told me they hadn’t and it was my traveller card Caxton FX causing the trouble. Apologies for the bitching HSBC, all is forgiven hopefully!
The following day we caught our minivan from Penang bound for Thailand, four hours later we crossed the border which was an experience. Getting out of the van to walk through passport control then getting back in the van on the other side. Random. Another hour and we reached Hai Tai, where we switched to a coach. I say coach, it was like a dodgy old bus with blankets. I actually had a good sleep though for the remaining six hours.
When we finally reached our destination at 3am something wasn’t right, Phuket Town was dead. There was nobody about. After reading how ‘lively’ Phuket Town was in the Lonely Planet this wasn’t what we expected, we hadn’t booked anywhere to stay because the place was supposed to be banging, lucky we didn’t really as it was something out of a horror film.
After getting off the bus we sat down to read through our Lonely Planet whilst being pestered by Thai’s offering us ‘taxi’. Seeing as there were only three or four hostels/hotels in our budget (one of which was used in the film ‘The Beach’ in 1999) we made an executive decision to ‘taxi’ it to Patong, the capital of Phuket. OK, your definition of a taxi is probably the same as mine and not what I was expecting. We had a woman driving who was half blind, with her husband in the passenger’s seat with his ten – twelve year-old daughter on his lap. Bear in mind it’s now 3:30 am too. The car was in dire need of an MOT. I don’t know much about cars but I know when the exhaust, ball joints/bearings and brakes are fucked. The three of them were actually really nice despite my initial scepticism. We had the idea of waiting until 6:00 or 7:00 am in a bar or McDonald’s to save on the nights digs, which I thought was pretty good as we were looking at £10 – £15 a night, it was 4 am anyway and we we’re on a backpackers budget. B agreed. They took us to a hotel having misunderstood we were after a bar and warned us not to go walking around at that time of night/morning because of robbers. Begrudgingly, we took their advice and went to check in. The hotelier quoted 700 Baht (about £14) for a room. I said ‘no way pal. It’s 4am!’ He immediately dropped to 600 then 500. I got out what was in my pocket. 480bt. I said ‘mate, I have 480bt and that’s it’ (and that was the truth after paying the 3 musketeers 400bt to get us to Patong) Unfortunately he shook his head. He explained that any less and he would personally have to make up the difference. I don’t know whether this was true or not but he wouldn’t budge. 20bt short. That’s a measly 40p. ‘Fine, well we’re sitting in the lobby until we can check in then. And I’ll have a can of Fanta’.
6:30 am, the sun finally came up and we headed out in search of an ATM and some breakfast. We found the hole in the wall and… a Subway. I hate Subway but their breakfast subs advertised in the window did look pretty enticing. They weren’t and we shouldn’t have bothered. Microwaved egg in a bit of cold sweet bread from yesterday isn’t my idea of breakfast. By now we were past caring and just wanted a bed. We went back for a kip and woke up at 4pm. Great way to spend your first day in Thailand, in bed, but we needed it.
That evening we got ready and went out for dinner. A whole Sea Bass in lemon sauce with steamed rice for £8 was amazing, it was more than enough for the pair of us. We went on to walk about and see what we’d let ourselves in for. We turned a corner and it was like we had just stepped into a Tardis. The street in front of us was 4 car lanes width, with neon lights and loads of PR Thai’s trying to drag you into their gross establishment. We strolled down and easily had over fifty guys shout at us ‘Ping Pong, Ping Pong, you want Ping Pong?’, ‘Erm not really mate, I’m here with my bird, not on a stag do’. ‘No problem’ he said ‘girls OK’. We thought ‘fuck it, you can’t come to Thailand without seeing a Ping Pong show, right’? Wrong. It was horrible. Free entry and no cover charge, were the points this place was pushing. Great. ‘Drinks menu please pal’. One Heineken, which was the cheapest beer there along with Singha because it’s brewed in Thailand – £16. YES, that’s not a typo. SIXTEEN POUNDS. ‘You have drink each’ he said. I just laughed at him. after telling him politely he wasn’t going to get any more out of us he buggered off. Poor B didn’t get a drink because an OJ or water was £16 too! Wouldn’t kill her I suppose. The show itself was weird. I didn’t enjoy it particularly. What those animals were subjected to was shocking. Frogs, a bird, a mouse and, ten fish or so all went for a trip into the disgusting Thai birds black hole. The real Ping Pong show was crap too. I thought they would be firing balls at each other but they were just popping them out, bouncing them on the floor. The balloon show was repetitive too. They dragged people on stage, charged them 100bt (£2) and made them hold a balloon between their legs all in a row, while one of the ‘girls’ then used a pea shooter to pop them all. After three rounds of six people doing this we became bored. Once is enough, you won’t need to see that again.
James Bond Island Boat Trip. The James Bond boat trip which was average at best, the sea kayaking was fun but our kayak was captained by a Thai rather than being able to paddle ourselves. The actual James Bond island was disappointing, used in The Man With The Golden Gun, being just a big piece of rock sticking out of the sea, there is no James Bond memorabilia or souvenirs for sale, the locals have definitely missed a trick there. Suppose the best part of the trip was meeting two Australians, Marita and Mick, and Lucian and Marina, an English bloke and his Russian wife who lived in Saudi. That night turned out smashing, we met up for drinks later and got absolutely hammered. Good times. Verdict: Worth the trip for £50 each, just.
We maintained contact with the four of them and agreed to charter a boat to go ‘big game fishing’. The following day we specifically said to Mr Singh, the travel rep selling us the tour ‘we want big fish’, no tuna, just sharks. By the end of the day’s fishing though we would have been over the moon if we had caught a tuna, the biggest fish caught throughout the day was about 5 inches and it was me that caught it having never caught a fish in my life! I’ve never taken any big interest in fishing, maybe I’ll take it up professionally after my five-inch catch. Lucian and Mick, both seasoned fisherman were not impressed and we arranged to go and see Mr Singh that evening to have it out with him. Lucian explained to me that part of the reason we weren’t catching big fish was because of the inadequate equipment, the hooks were too small and the rods were not strong enough. There were only three rods to go round the five of us anyway and there was a Russian girl on our boat despite the fact we had chartered it. Two hours, twelve take away cocktails and five beers whilst discussing the problems with Mr Singh and his boss Snr Singh outside their travel booth we clawed half our money back. To celebrate our victory against the Indian-Thais we used the money in a whip to go out and get slaughtered, again. It ended with Mick snogging a Ronald McDonald statue, £25 spent on grub in there and Lucian unable to talk, another great night was had by all. I must leave those cigars alone though…
We stayed a few more days as it was the Queens birthday and a lot of the transport had stopped. We’d got pretty comfortable in Patong but you gotta’ move on sometime. Patong was a laugh but not somewhere I’d return too. Surprisingly, there are loads of families holidaying there, despite the sleazy sex industry and desperate old men. Koh Phi Phi is next.