Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Not So Pretty in Patong

We have now been to Phuket and Patong beach--a tourist mecca for Who-the-Hell-knows-why--three times. To get to Patong from the airport on Phuket, you have to take a taxi for almost an hour with the final hurdle of a mountain that is the bane of many a bus driver. One of our bus drivers was driving up this mountain so slowly that I thought he might shift into 1/2 gear. If we'd been driving any more slowly, we'd have rolled back down the mountain. Everyone on the bus was leaning forward.

Patong is a party. If you're 22, Australian and drunk you'll love Patong. Otherwise, you'll find Patong off-putting, crowded and smelly. On our first morning there, Augusten the Bat Ophthalmologist's Assistant and I went on an early morning beach jaunt because I thought I might be able to get a sunrise photo. Of course Patong Beach faces the west, and I am famous for being orientationally challenged. I did, however, get these lovely photos of the beach. Lovely.

The town was devastated by the tsunami a decade ago, but it has rebuilt. There are now tsunami warning signs telling you where and how far to run if you hear the alarm. "You" will probably be 22, Australian and drunk off your Vegemite, so you should acquaint yourself with the evacuation routes when you're sober, which is never. Oh, maybe I'm being a bit hard on Patong (and 22-year-old Aussies). Wait, no I'm not. Patong stinks, and 22-year-old Aussies are too pretty for their own good.

Chances are, you'll choose a restaurant right next to a sewer vent, or you'll spend a few hours at the hospital getting antibiotics for your food poisoning (The hospital is lovely by the way. The nurse who changed my bandage was especially helpful and skilled at dressing wounds.), or you'll injure your foot and spend the next few days limping around hoping botoxed Russian trophy wives don't squash your poor toe with their stilettos.

Ah yes, the wound. The toe. Maybe that's why I'm giving Patong the blogorial finger. I've written about it in another post, but I'll tell you about it again in case you missed it. If you're squeamish, close your left eye now.

My toe hours after the incident, still bleeding
Why do partners fight on holiday? This was the topic of conversation the morning after my toe debacle. In the taxi on the way to the ferry, Augusten the Bat Ophthalmologist's Assistant and I decided that couples who fight on holiday are also couples who fight all the time at home. Their neighbors sponsor their holiday to get a break from their yelling and banging at 2:00 a.m. You see, I got up at 4:00 a.m. to "ask" the guy upstairs to stop banging on his hotel door. In his own words this was "a family matter."

"But I can hear you, and I'm not in your family," I didn't reply. Instead, I tripped on the step in front of my hotel door and ripped the toenail half off my right big toe. THIS is why Patong has lost some of its panache. I'm sure Patong was beautiful 30 years ago, but now it's a tourist trap populated with hundreds of shops selling the same t-shirts and thousands of young girls (and boys) crying, "Massage? Massage?"

"Yes, I would love a massage," I would say. "Do you know how to deal with an injured shoulder? Can you promise me I won't come away more injured than I am now?"

Blank stare. "Massage? Massage?"

The main Party drag in Patong
The upshot is, if you really need massage therapy, you shouldn't put yourself in the hands of a person who sits on the side of the road all day, crying "Massage? Massage?" The last time I was in Patong, I stayed in a very nice hotel away from the busy part of the beach and had a professional massage. She bent me like a pretzel, which was good. At that time I didn't have any problems with my shoulders. This time, I just showed the people my toe and they left me alone.

Have I had enough of Patong? Yep. Walking a mile back to my hotel from the hospital after having my toe cleaned and dressed for the fourth time, I decided I was done with the filthy streets. Done with the taxi mafia. Done with vendors grabbing me and trying to pull me into their shops. Done with crowds. Well, I've always been done with crowds. Done with sand, done with beaches. Done with beaches covered with rubbish. Done with buff 22-year-old Aussies who make me feel old and pot-bellied. Done. And I'm sure these feelings are only because of my need to blame Patong for my injured toe. I'm sure I'll feel differently once the bleeding has stopped and I have a new toenail. A pretty new toenail.

I must be off,


Christopher Allen is the author of the absurdist satire Conversations with S. Teri O'Type. Buy it HERE now while the price is still low.