Saturday, July 17
Phuket Town, Thailand
When I was getting ready to go out today, a couple of backpackers moved into the same room I was in. One of them looked really familiar. I had a hunch I had seen him at some point on my trip already, and when I asked him if he had been to the Inn Crowd hostel in Singapore, sure enough, he confirmed it. They're from Holland and have so far visited Bali, Java, Singapore and Malaysia just like me. Apparently, they are on a Tropical Punch Tour of their own.
It's not really that surprising to see the same backpackers in different cities or even countries, as there is a common route through Southeast Asia known as the Banana Pancake Trail. Speaking of the Tropical Punch Tour, when I looked at the calendar, I realized it's time for you to pin a medal on my shirt and throw some confetti over me, because, as of today, the tour has reached the halfway point. Yay! That leaves seven whole weeks of amazing sights and sounds to come.
Since there were no buses around when I walked outside, I hopped on a songthaew bound for Patong. These contraptions are a source of entertainment all in themselves, with the myriad characters who hop on and off. Songthaew are really flatbed trucks that have been converted into funky buses with a colorful paint job on the outside and three benches running parralel down the whole length of the bed that force a sideways-jostling endurance test upon even the most stout travellers. When all three benches get full, which is most of the time, it gets kind if crazy when the driver careens around corners or slams on the brakes. It looks and feels like a big truck full of human cattle heading straight to the slaughterhouse.
I walked around Patong and tried to find a bicycle to rent so I could pedal up four miles North to scenic Laem Singh beach, but the only thing on offer was motorycles. Given the desperation for money in this town, itâ€™s really strange that no one rents bicycles. What a missed opportunity! Some go-go girls in mini-skirts and high heels tried to lure me into a massage parlor. One of them even grabbed my arm and literally tried to pull me in, but I shook her off. Back in Phuket Town, I ordered another plate of stir-fry for dinner, and since it was kind of small, I gorged on a follow-up meal of garlic bread and French fries a bit later. Then I walked around and shot photos of some of the 19th century Sino-Portuguese shophouses that have been restored. Phuket Town is quite quaint, scenic and very walkableâ€“despite the really narrow sidewalks. Itâ€™s a welcome dose of real Thailand on an island chock-full of touristy spots.