Death of thousands. This is where it all happened. Enormous bout of overwhelm takes the better of me as I stand down the warning poll at Patong beach where Bangla road starts. It is a merry evening, the pubs are pouring heady cocktails, the poll dancers has started with acrobats and nightlife with uncomfortable sultry siren looms large here. You cannot miss the point there are tourists everywhere of all races. Amid all the grandeur I feel panic stricken for the vivid memory of the morning of 2004 flashes in my mind.
Baba usually starts the morning with a cup of tea and newspaper. The headlines that day bore horrid warning. The earthquake of Indian Ocean has wrecked east coast heavily, causing many death tolls. My sister was in Chennai, with her kids, the younger one was few weeks old. It was a haywire of network connectivity. We struggled for days to reach her over the phone for once, to talk to her and know that her family has been safe. We had survived the Tsunami of 2004, but many Indians did not.
We had booked our stay with an Airbnb. It was near to Bangla road, the main market area, beside a massage parlour that flashes “no sex” at the entrance. Yes, of course, we are in Phuket and near Bangla Street.
Our host was a cute lady running a stall downstairs, also arranging for island tours. She smiles and convinced me of the terrible time. “It was water everywhere. Even in this shop. It was very tall. 5 meter or more may be” She points to the wall with her finger.
And yet, Phuket survived and rose like a phoenix.
Our four night long Phuket halt as all about shady pubs and shadier stay. So much so, the people involved in fornication activity to the house next sometimes played that much needed entertainment for those power cut nights! Yet, I liked it. Of course, The pristine beaches of Phi Phi or cruising Phang Nga bay has her own charm, often elevating the soul and making travel worth what it is! But Phuket scores a sigh, a lament and makes me question “what have we done to the place?” It lingers behind as the burned skin that comes off after a prolonged day at the beach and leaves a scar.
It rained incessant all the days we were there. We woke up to rain, we cruised Andaman in rain, I was almost drowning near Phi Phi while it rained, we came back to when it rained. Rained it more when we went out for dinner! The street side cafes here cook up lip smacking seafood. The lobsters sits expectantly in the aquarium to be cooked and gobbled down. If you look diligently, you will come across few Indian joints. Shah Rukh Khan romances with Kajol relentlessly while we busy ourselves to chew rubbery Cheese Naans.
It is one thing to travel with tour agencies, it is another thing to prepare own itinerary, be convinced of the choices and stick to them. We marveled at the emerald water and beautiful beaches only to find ourselves gaping at each other as night descends. How long you can walk on Bangla road?
My bad, I did not introduce you with Bangla road yet! It is a stretch of road dotted with bars, meant to be way fared, and surpassed the lot of “transsexuals, prostitutes, and occasionally transsexual prostitutes”. Often a white guy will try to catch up with you over a smoke, suggest a visit to a go go bar that features the best of dancing girls. Now we are Pattaya survivors. We have been there, done it all. We walked past the plenty of bars, chaotic music, men-women making merry, frequently burst out in laughter, shopkeeper looking at Indians with disdain, for we are the bargaining lot and so much more. Few minutes on the road, i felt tiring. Tempting flesh with carnal desire and free flowing alcohol does make a heady cocktail. But the consumer behaviour changes as the mind wants it.
However for a discerning traveller’s eye, Patong beach has plenty to offer. I saw a British couple celebrating there fiftieth anniversary together. To have known a love as such and lived through it! In the sleeping alleys in the dark, the relics of Thai society is present in abundance.
Of course, you can sun lounge at the beautiful Karon beach during day. You can visit the Big Buddha as well. WE all do the signature touristy things in Phuket. I left for Krabi post that. Given a chance to visit Thailand again, I will look forward to get familiar with Krabi intimately. The island tours are arranged from Krabi as well. However, I will always adore the memory of the Nok Air alighting on Phuket air strip, emerging from the ocean, or the driver who asked me, “Are you Cambodian? Phillipino?” An obvious ode to my north-eastern ancestry!