EPISODE FOUR – RECONNAISSANCE
Fruit, all sorts of resorts and beach life
I was having a real fruit experience and discovered several tropical fruits I’d never had before. I was still trying to find out the names of some of them so I gave those my own names until I did.
‘Mangosteen’ or Mang-koot is slightly larger than a golf ball with a thick purple outer skin. If you break it open you find the most delicious white juicy sweet tangy flesh. It’s fragrant and aromatic and wonderfully refreshing. It reminds me of a white Terry’s chocolate orange with its segments but is much smaller.
Then there’s ‘Rambutan’ which looks a bit like a sea urchin. Red with soft spikes. Inside it resembles a litchi, similar in taste but not so juicy. And of course the best Litchis I have ever tasted; to die for.
‘Durian’. About the size of a large melon resembles a prehistoric reptile with similar skin to a crocodile. Hotel guests are banned from taking it to their rooms because it smells like ‘nothing on earth’. Come to think of it, tastes like it too! Its flesh when opened is like orange pith but much thicker. I am none too impressed with this one.
Everything comes with a price, so they say, and the price here is learning to live with mozzies and ants. Patience and skill are required to survive without itching all day and night. I’ve nearly mastered it but still get a nip or two every day. Thais don’t have too much of a problem and some Thais believe that mozzies like ‘Farangs’ because their blood tastes sweet. I just think Thais have become immune.
Let me tell you about the resorts and beaches in order from north to south directly adjacent to my base in Kata. Patong is large, burgeoning and over commercialized. Famous for its night life it attracts lobster coloured, second rate, well-oiled, tattooed tourists in search of licentious revelry. Sorry to be snobbish but apart from a brilliant Japanese restaurant, where the chefs wear masks, even though they aren’t bank robbers, I can’t find anything to recommend the garishness and inflated prices charged for such plebeian pleasure. Maybe I’m a boring old fart but at least I’m honest. Oh! I forgot about the beach, if you can find it under all the bodies. Need I say more?
Karon beach is the longest and can only be described as a rather boring straight bay with little shade. A very lively, fun place it’s not too big but has lots of shops, bars, restaurants etc. Fun for everyone and not sleazy but still commercialised. Not my bag but not unpleasant.
Kata is a medium sized and very beautiful sandy crescent bay lined with palms and a backdrop of forested hills. It’s more laid back than Karon. Maybe a bit more rural and not so commercialised but unfortunately it is going that way fast. There’s plenty going on and it’s not over the top yet but I fear it won’t be long.
Kata Noi is about half the size of Kata and is really classy compared to the others. The bay and beach are beautiful set to a backdrop of scenic forested hills, quality apartments built into the hillside with one way in and one way out. This is a pretty cool place to live actually if you can afford it and don’t mind the tourists who pack it for two months December and January.
Nai Harn is a small, pretty rural bay. There isn’t much there, which is part of its charm. Open air restaurants serving good local food on the beach at reasonable prices. Charming country lanes through the woods, passing roadside cafes and some very attractive modern residences amongst shacks on stilts gives this place a naturalness that’s hard to beat. At the end of a track there is a beautifully appointed hotel called Ban Krating set in the forest; a real getaway with a private beach far from the rest of the world. Maybe a good place to write a book!
Another day closes in rapidly. Time for some steamed white snapper with ginger and spring onions, washed down with a glass or three of Thai wine. Not brilliant but light and almost alcoholic.
Swimming in the rain
‘Big rain’ they call it and it certainly was last night and most of the morning. Gene Kelly enjoyed singing in the rain and I quite enjoy swimming in the rain. It’s warm and you get wet either way. The roofs have no gutters; they wouldn’t catch this rain anyway, so you can imagine the noise as gallons of rain water hits the deck. There was a lot of water lying on the ground for some time but by lunch time the sun was half out and the ground had drained well.
I got a lot of work done this morning and then took a break for a swim and walk. After a small salad plate I was back at my desk slaving away over a hot laptop!
Every other shop in this part of the world is either an Indian tailor, they all come from Nepal actually, or a massage shop. The last thing you want to be thinking about in this climate is a suit but that won’t stop a very persistent Ram Jam Bam Moodley chasing you down the street desperate to get you into his shop for a fitting. Once you’ve overcome that hurdle, if you can, you may have to negotiate a group of girls trying to entice you into their shop for a haircut or massage with cries of ‘Hello handsome man, where you go?’ Having five haircuts and six massages a day doesn’t leave much time for anything else but try explaining that to someone who’s desperate for business in low season.
In all seriousness though a good Thai massage is extremely beneficial and in fact it is a big part of the Thai way of life, keeping body and mind healthy. Although the expertise in Phuket is generally not as good as in Bangkok or Chiang Mai, at about 250 baht for an hour’s therapy it is good value. It is considered polite to leave a tip and the amount is up to you. The majority of massage ladies come from the north-east (Isaan) and work hard for their money in high season hoping to make enough to see them through the low season, May to October.
After I finish today I think I’ll relax at a favourite roadside restaurant and watch the tourists wandering around. That’s always good for a laugh.