The best way to see Thailand – Excerpt (3)

THAILAND DIARIES – VOLUME 2 – DRIVING THAILAND

Driving Thailand is the second Volume of my Thailand Diaries and is now complete. But before I publish it as my second FREE e-book I have decided to post a selection of excerpts which I hope will encourage you to download and enjoy the whole book.

SOUTH WESTERN ISLANDS – KOH PHUKET (Part 2)

Inviting but sometimes dangerous Andaman sea
Inviting but sometimes dangerous Andaman sea

Dangerous waters during monsoon

The Andaman Sea on the Western shores of Thailand claim many lives every year in the monsoon season between June and October. Phuket has its fair share of tragedies and the lifeguards do they best they can to warn tourists, Thais and ‘Farangs’ alike, of the dangers of the sea and deter them from entering the water at certain times and places on the beaches. There are big notice boards, in several languages, on most beaches explaining the dangers of ‘rip’ tides and what to do if you get caught and dragged out to sea. It seems that a great many are oblivious to the power of the sea. They seem to treat it with all the frivolity you would treat a nice warm bath with a plug-hole which you can disengage if the water has the temerity to rise above your ‘three piece suite’.

Patong Beach

English: Patong, Phuket Province, Thailand
English: Patong, Phuket Province, Thailand (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Patong is the Benidorm of the East. Do I need to say much more? A very crowded holiday destination driven by a frantic nightlife, Patong primarily caters for the young reveller and not the discerning tourist. It has nothing to offer the culture vulture except maybe a highly efficient gasoline station with very long queues 24/7.

Phuket Town

Phuket (city)
Phuket (city) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Phuket Town holds no attraction for me but that is not to say that others won’t enjoy it. The only time I may go is to visit immigration, which incidentally is by far the most civilised I have ever encountered anywhere in the world. Here you will not be treated like a non-person, which in itself is a revelation. It might sound ridiculous to say but they do seem to go out of their way to make it a pleasant experience. There are actually ex-pats working as voluntary helpers who will assist you to make sure your application is correct before you present it to an officer.

Sea Gypsies

The Sea Gypsies are the oldest inhabitants of Phuket but they have no legal rights to their land on the island of Koh Sireh where they have lived for hundreds of years. At the time of writing the government had plans to close their village on Koh Sireh to expand Phuket’s fishing port and re-house the Gypsies in modern apartment buildings and teach them to produce handicrafts. They already produce and sell their shell handicrafts, fish and other goods in a small village adjoining Rawai pier. Fishing is done using simple tools, spears and masks, and storing is not necessary as the Andaman Sea yields an abundance of fish and seafood all year round.

Buy my fish fresh from the sea
Buy my fish fresh from the sea

These indigenous people make a living from fishing and fishery-related work and tourists visit their villages to experience authentic Phuket culture. The origin of the Sea Gypsies is not known as their ancestry is nomadic without permanent habitats and without writing tools. They may be descendants of the Malaysian colonies that evaded the Muslim invasion of Burma or descendants of the Vedas of Indian origin. Unfortunately because their culture has no land based roots it now faces extinction.

Bargaining with the Sea - Gypsies is fun
Bargaining with the Sea – Gypsies is fun

Koh Sireh and Rawai beach offer tourists a glimpse into an old and archaic culture. The real nomads still roam the sea but the residents of the two villages have found a compromise between their nomadic heritage and a modern world. The Sea Gypsies are insular; they still are an authentic source of knowledge to historians and laymen and living proof of long gone cultures for the scientists and interested visitors. Their peaceful, inviting and colourful way of life enriches us. Police free, minimal crime, school out in the open at the water’s edge and everyone is welcome in their home. Smiling though shy, whether you come to buy their wares or just take a stroll and a look around, these gentle people are still there but for how long. (Source: Wikipedia. Photos: Jamoroki-art)

This is better than school
This is better than school

Before we leave Phuket

What you have just read in the last two excerpts may lead you to think that I am a cynical old so and so and that I have no desire to return to Phuket. Nothing could be further from the truth but I am sure you would not thank me if I sugared the pill. You can immerse yourself in all the treacly stuff to be found in most travel brochures but it won’t help you too much when you find things aren’t quite as you believed they were.

Do you think I want to miss this?
Do you think I want to miss this?

I care so much and don’t wish to see a beautiful island being irreparably damaged. I continue to live in hope that Phuket will survive and that I will enjoy many more holidays there. So don’t worry; I’ll be back again soon and hope to see you on the beach.

In next week’s Excerpt 4 we leave Phuket and begin our 800 kilometre road journey north to Bangkok

The best way to see Thailand (Excerpt 4)

THAILAND DIARIES – VOLUME 1 – 15 WEEKS

[1] ‘Farang’ is the Thai word used to describe a Caucasian.

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8 thoughts on “The best way to see Thailand – Excerpt (3)”

  1. Though I haven’t actually been to where the native people live in Russia, I could see the actions in Thailand are similar to what has happened here. The government will house them, but more than likely they won’t use them. The sea will forever be their home. Here the native peoples come and stay in the apartments that they have been given. They drink for several weeks while they are selling their wares and furs and then leave. They then return to the wilds to which they are accustomed too. Think I’m going to enjoy your blog immensely.

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    1. The more we learn the more we realise we don’t know. I’ve learned so much about Thailand in 5 years but I know I’m only scratching the surface. I know diddley squat about Russia except that we get cold Siberian air in Dec and Jan here in Chiang Mai. I’m sure I’ll learn plenty from you. regards James

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      1. I’ve always thought of Thailand as warm, so Russia affects the weather in Thailand? Who would have known. I’ve been surprised about the immense beauty of Russia. It’s so vast with so much incredible history. I never am lacking for something to write about. My problem is I’m reading and researching about so many different areas, I have a tendency jumping around. But then Russians are the same way, guess I fit in real well here. I’ve noticed that expats seem to flock to countries that fit their personalities would you agree?

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        1. Saying Thailand is warm is quite an understatement. Try bloody hot and you will be a bit nearer. But the North and Notheast are directly below Siberia and Mongolia so it gets much cooler in the months of Dec and Jan. It’s never really cold as I would know it coming from England and only at night anyway. In fact I seldom need a jacket or sweater. I agree about never lacking in subject matter. I am only lacking in time! I have to admit I hadn’t thought about why expats go where they go. But I would imagine it would be difficult to stay somewhere where you don’t fit in. I do think that many expats attempt the impossible. That is try and change their environment instead of themselves which is of course impossible.

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  2. You’ve summed up Pattaya to a nicety. Every country has it’s low-life area, and Pattaya just happens to fall into that category. I visited there about five years ago, and was disappointed in only one thing, and unfortunately it was the ‘types’ of farang who choose to make this their ultimate heaven. Sure, it has created a market for those who wish to be entertained in this style, but I guess there are too many other places in The Kingdom to enjoy. The majority of Pattaya dwellers never see the real side to Thailand, which maybe a blessing in disguise….as we don’t have to run into them, nor do the nation’s Thais have to be humiliated by them. It’s good that you touched on the area, as it shows everyone that you have included all areas and regions, irrespective of acceptance or negativity. Cheers, Dennis.

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    1. It’s good to know your eyes are as wide open as mine! Not another one-eyed farang. Sometimes one has an instinctive feel about a place which takes but a moment; although I knew a fair bit about Pattaya before I visited. I have found from experience how easy it is to get a false impression. Many people come to Cape Town and think they are in Heaven when Hell is only just round the corner. I hope when my 3 Volumes of Thailand Diaries are all published readers will get a balanced view of the Country, can accept the good with the bad and enjoy the experience. Of course I accept that it will only be my view they are dipping into! Keep well and keep visiting. James.

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