|A view from the hotel|
We arrived in Phuket at 1.00 am after the inevitable flight delay. Next morning we teamed up with our friends from Aussie- actually they are Scousers but I won't hold that against them. The first thing you notice is the heat. Thick, steamy, heat. Every effort outside an air conditioned cocoon elicits a deluge from the pores. Within minutes, I was a lathered mess. Of course, being an Englishman abroad I'd packed a suit and sensible shoes. These items are never destined to be removed from the case and I spend my time in light/tight shorts, sandals, a Tee shirt and a bow tie (not really).
Walking the streets of Phuket is a deranged assault on the senses. Every third shop is a massage parlour. Impossibly attractive young girls coo to you from the sidelines. And there be tailors. Indian tailors are everywhere. "Come inside Sir and I make you a wonderful suit for little monies." Taxi and Tuk-Tuk drivers are constantly asking if you would like a ride. Some find the continuous pestering annoying. Most, like myself, quickly adapt and see it as part of the local noise. At every other step I utter: "No thank-you" with a smile. The Thai people are genuinely warm and friendly and I really don't mind the hawkers. After all, they are only trying to make a living in a highly competitive environment and I can't condemn anyone for that. Remember, if they don't sell, they don't eat. There is no safety net here.
On the second day, our respective wives went to the mall to shop. Mrs FS is a professional shopper of the highest order and is content to spend all day in the retail environment. It has got to the stage where I absolutely refuse to go shopping with her. She views shopping as recreation, whilst I consider the experience as a chore. And so, with my mate in tow, I decided to have a walk around the town.
The first thing to be noticed is that the 'massage ladies' become more strident and insistent. Without our wives, we are obviously viewed as 'easy fruit'. "Sexy boy come and have massage, after, I go with you". There is no doubt, I'm a fine looking specimen, for my age. But to think I'm a sexy man in the eyes of a young woman, is a stretch, way too far. We eventually squatted down at one of the many open-air bars. Our hosts were a couple of delightful young Thai women. As we were the only customers they sat opposite and engaged us in near perfect English. Would we like something to eat? Would we like a sexy lady? After they realised that we were genuinely just there for a cold beer they relaxed somewhat and became less predatory. We chatted and laughed with the girls and played a couple of bar games. An old Western man passed by, he was about 65, grey-haired and heavily paunched (is this a real word?). He had his arm around a stunning looking Thai girl who could have been no older than 21. As they passed, one of our genial hosts shouted to the girl, in English: "Wow, look, sexy man". We all laughed. But as the couple passed, the young Thai girl glanced back toward us. Her expression said it all: a mixture of frank despair and resignation. Sad, poignant and wretched in equal measure. I stopped laughing and exchanged a meaningful glance with my hostess- she was no longer laughing. Eventually, we decided it was time for a swim and left the girls to woo their next customer. "You come back later", they shouted as we left. "Of course", I said. It seems everyone becomes a liar in Phuket, eventually.