Allegedly the ‘Red Light District’ where legends are made. Maybe that was the case before everyone found out about this little gem – now it feels more like a giant dive bar and swap meet. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of raunchy spots, but if your Red Light district has a Starbucks and a Subway it’s pretty tame to me. Seriously, people were walking around with their 5 yr old children and tour buses letting old folks off at the club. What kinda red light district is this? Could you imagine family time in Amsterdam’s Red Light district a few feet from the “Window Women” and a dude rolling a Blunt the size of our arm? That is sooo not gangsta Gangstalicious!!
Anyway, I can sum up Patong Beach in two words – swap meet. Yes folks, come right down – anything you need – we got. Everything you don’t want – we got that too. “Say Brotha – how bout a custom suit for you?” Right, it’s hotter than Mercury out here and I was just thinking all I need right now is a new suit. Nice. “Yo bro, I Got watches”, “Massage, really cheap for you”, “Hey, we got the best seafood in town”, “Baby, what you need” – REPEAT.
Maybe the area is thought of as a red light district because of the lax enforcement of prostitution laws. While prostitution isn’t legal, it’s hardly enforced – I watched a prostitute approach a guy on the street not 2ft away from a cop. To that end, getting a prostitute can be a scary proposition simply because you can’t be sure of what you are getting.
Introducing the “Lady Boy” – or transvestite as more commonly known. It is said that Thailand has some of the prettiest men around – fooling hundreds of drunk and completely sober men. I decided to play a little game of “Pick the Ladyboy” to see if I could tell a Thai tranny from a natural woman. Here are a few techniques (cue elevator music) :
- If the chick next to you is near your height (6ft) – then ‘She’ is probably a ‘He’. I mean seriously – this is Asia remember? Women over 5’ 4” are not that common. The next easiest is some men just have masculine features no amount of makeup is gonna help – like square jaw lines, plumbers hands, etc.
- Adams Apple – while certainly a dead giveaway, there are ways to cover it up and it’s hard to see anyway since it’s under the chin. In addition, most all women have ‘some’ curves in their hips – even if they have a flat backside. Straight up and down screams I’m a man.
- Only the Lady Boys seemed to have fake boobs – whether they are bra fillers or outright surgery. I didn’t see a single natural woman in Thailand with fake boobs – if you see outsized breasts, then she is probably a he.
If you feel you’ve got the he/she thing figured out, then you have a few options if paid companionship is your thing. One is to go to a Buddy Club, visit a “Men Only” massage parlor or just barter with the hundreds of street walkers.
Quest for the Bizarre
With the inability to visit any night market while in Bangkok due to the demonstrations, the plan was to hit as many street food areas in Phuket as I could. The first stop was Patong Beach – which in addition to the few forms of debauchery I listed above, had a number of international restaurants, including Italian, Irish Pubs, Australian and of course Thai. In fact, there was very little by the way of a street market – at least during the weekdays of my visit. There was however a number of mobile vendors offering some local cuisine – like chicken Satay, local fruit, etc. The mobile contraptions are a testament to ingenuity and necessity; how one can go about converting a moped into a rolling kitchen – complete with grill, cleaning/prep area and display cabinet is just amazing.
For whatever reason, the most popular road side item being sold was crepes. Yes, crepes – banana, mango – you name it – crepes or ‘pancakes’ as they called them were all the rage. Go figure. So while I wasn’t able to get into a genuine ‘street market’ – I was able to eat at an a few authentic Thai restaurants (you know it’s authentic because the place is filled with locals). Excellent Pad Thai followed by another foot massage. Awesome.
The scenario above essentially repeated itself in my quests into Karon Beach and Phuket Town. Search for hours in vain to find a street market, settle for a local authentic Thai restaurant and get much a needed foot massage. At least I’m consistent.
One bright spot during my attempt for the bizarre in Phuket Town was I ran across a local vendor selling a pickup truck full of Durian. It was time to see just how good or as awful actually is (there was a line to get to the truck). Short version, tastes like Plum-Custard – pretty good actually, I think. I say ‘I think’ because my nasal passages were still clogged from my earlier scuba diving adventure – so I wasn’t able to fully smell the fruit (the smell of a food impacts the way our brain interprets the way it tastes – which is why food tastes like nothing when you have a cold). Since I couldn’t actually smell the alleged rottenness of the fruit and could only taste it with my tongue, I can’t be sure how good it was or wasn’t. Perhaps if I try it again with a working nose it might not be such a pleasant experience. Guess the jury is still out on this one.
I had an excellent time in Phuket, Thailand even though I wasn’t able to find any grasshoppers, crickets, scorpions, etc. as seen on Bizarre Foods. A victim of uncontrollable circumstances I guess, the protesting in Bangkok and the Low Season/Weekday visit in Phuket made this plan a complete failure. Still, scuba diving some of the best walls in the world, sea kayaking into hidden caves and wandering around on Phuket’s many beaches almost made up for this loss. As for the nightlife, Patong wasn’t as risqué as I expected but the nightlife was okay and spending an hour or so playing a game of “Pick the Lady Boy” is a decent enough way to waste time. If you have the time, definitely visit Bangkok, Chang Mai and Phuket during your visit to Thailand – you won’t be disappointed.