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Phuket, One Year After The Tsunami

by Rien Ultee in Travel and weekendtrips , 28 februari 2006

Dit artikel is ook in het Nederlands beschikbaar


I went on a trip to Phuket to see and experience for myself what the situation is like one year after the Tsunami, but first I spent a couple of days in Bangkok. This city, with its temples and beautiful people, is of course a big city with lots of cars and motorcycles, eight-track highways and lots of pollution. A lot of people walk around with face masks against the exhaust fumes.

My first response to this bustling city with all its traffic was: Hey, where can I safely cross the street? That, however, is not a problem because they have these great bridges for pedestrians.

Bangkok’s Silom Area

The gay area “Silom” is spread out over several streets; quite close together, but still best navigated with a “tuk tuk,” because it’s hot and why get all sweaty saving a couple of bath?
The boys in the streets of Bangkok have the same horny cocky look as the rent boys in the bars. As are some other cities in Thailand, Bangkok is an oasis for the spoilt tourist - gay or straight, that really doesn’t matter. There’s something for everyone. But you can also visit live hardcore sex shows here, unlike anywhere else in the country. For the real Sodom and Gomorrah you have to come to Bangkok.

As I did my rounds of gay bars and nightclubs I stumbled upon a bar called “Telephone Pub,” the owner of which, Lee Harris, is sort of the Manfred Langer of Bangkok. Many activities in the city, whether it is safe sex campaigns or parties, are supported or initiated by him. So his bar is not only frequented by lots of Thai boys (some of them hustling), but there are also lots of “farang” (foreigners).
Most bar owners are foreigners by the way, who run the business with their Thai lovers. So they have very high service standards and their personnel have to work hard. Amsterdam could certainly improve in that department!




In the streets, like Amsterdam’s Reguliersdwars completely lined with gay bars, restaurants, nightclubs and outside tables, the boys try to hustle you to lure you inside. In that fierce competition the boys are direct and businesslike, but always with the Thai smile that makes any tourist/customer vulnerable and weak.
During the day you can visit the sights or go shopping in one of the many department stores bulging with fake brands. Also the real Lacoste’s and many other labels are available for very little money. But I didn’t come to fill my bags with summer clothes. I’d rather safe room for souvenirs and such.

If you’re considering making a stopover in Bangkok before you fly on to another destination, there’s an address you can contact for a reasonably priced hotel near the gay scene “Silom Area” and that’s Jimmy! His room/office is in the Pinnacle hotel (jimmyfirst@hotmail.com). A double room goes for about 940 Baht (20 euros) per night, breakfast included. This gay hotel is known from China to the other side of the globe and everyone books with Jimmy, simply because it’s cheaper.

Nation V

My visit to Phuket had two reasons. The first one was the big Gay Festival, The Fridae Nation V Party. The second of course Phuket itself.
The large party was held in a resort outside Phuket’s Pantong City and it would have surprised any spoilt gay traveler. The luxury and comfort were unequaled. The party with many DJS at night had 2000 to 2500 visitors, mainly Singaporeans and other neighbors. Of course there were also several Americans and some stray elderly Dutchies who’ve been living in Thailand for years already. The Chinese boys were hard to make contact with so I felt a little left out at times.



The various parties, like in the swimming pool and a standard House party, were all busy and showed lots of different types: from kitsch to butch. Ordinary Thai boys would never be able to pay for the taxi from Phuket, let alone the high admission price. This created a sort of decadence, with only visitors that could afford this expensive party.

After The Tsunami

Phuket and its surroundings, especially the famous Pantong Beach, have been battered by the tsunami. But in Phuket Gay Pantong, where the boys invite you for a massage, or at the go-go-bar - where boys dance bored on stage - or at the bars or the sauna, everywhere you’re welcomed with a smile.

The well-established places such as the “Tangmo Club”, efficiently run by the male/female owner, seem to have largely recovered.
The guys in the clubs are of varying ages and sizes. In the “Tangmo Club” you’ll find slender boys with the looks of youngsters. There are also other clubs where the guys are bigger and look older. It’s important to remember that you can leave things up to the boys themselves. You just pass your order on (a little ticket). Everything has its price of course. In the “Tangmo Club” having a boy sit next to you costs you 200 baht, plus the cost of his beverage.

If you want to take the boy to your room you’ll have to cough op more of course. But the boy will get all of that, so you could see that 1000 baht that you’ll spend in total as some sort of tip. Sometimes they don’t mind spending the night with you and leave after breakfast, or you can rent him for the whole week. For those who have experience with rent boys in Thailand, this will be no news but I assume that there are quite a few people who are not so familiar with this phenomenon yet.



Phuket is not all that well known with Dutch tourists. Maybe because you have to take a domestic flight from Bangkok while you can just take a taxi to Pattaya.
Phuket is working very hard to overcome the damage of the disaster of December 2004. They do their best to get the tourists back; roads are being repaired and everywhere you see activities to clean up the city.

Beach and Hospital

One of the most famous businesses on Pantong Beach was the club “One Seven”. It was damaged severely but has bounced back completely since September. The enthusiasm, the hospitality and the service are sublime and “One Seven” is right on the beach so you don’t have to leave your room to watch the sunset. The complex is just outside the nightlife area but the tuk-tuk or taxi will take you there in minutes and at night you can enjoy the peace and quiet.
So, in short, Phuket is definitely worth a visit. The beach is very clean, renting a sunbathing chair costs you 100 baht (two euros), and they clean it regularly for you.

At the beach you’ll find people selling food, like fruit or roasted chicken, but also all kinds of souvenirs. They clean the beach all day and in the evening a special team arrives to polish it up. I really noticed how clean Phuket is, you will not find one beer can in the street. Everything is kept really neat.
You’ll find guesthouses in any price range. Most well known are Connect Guesthouse, Blue Dolphin and Aquarius Guesthouse. The latter has a sauna, a gym and a terrific open restaurant called “Aqua”.



Phuket has a private hospital, the Bangkok Phuket Hospital. A tourist can have anything done during his holiday, surrounded by more luxury than I have ever seen in any hospital. It makes the lounges of the most expensive hotels look like shacks. A facelift, a sex change, or any regular treatment is available here while you feel like you’re staying in a 12 star hotel. Waiting lists do not exist, so it’s your turn in no time and the results follow if not directly, then usually within 48 hours. Hordes of Swedes come here for a treatment during their holiday and save money. Your reporter had a couple of suggestions concerning his own looks, but unfortunately, any effort would be in vain.

Nong Kai and Ao Nang

Thailand works very hard to promote the other areas of the country, aside from the well-known places. And indeed, on my way from Bangkok I came upon a brand new gay hotel just north of the city: the Panatwee Hotel in Non Khai.
The king of Thailand decorated the discoverer of Non Khai as first Lord of Non Khai. A new place for the gay tourist to visit and the local boys initially don’t seem to be as commercial as in other cities, so they are more hospitable and open. The Friendship Bridge across the Mekong River, built in 1991, takes you from Non Khai to Laos and it’s only a short drive to the capital Vientiane (Vietnam). A cultural and religious mix populates the surroundings of Non Khai.



No commercialization like in other cities like Pattaya and Phuket, and that can be a relief. So this is an unspoiled piece of Thailand, away from the crowds. (www.hotel.pantwee.com).
Passed Phuket, further to the south is the province Krabi; also hit hard by the tsunami, and also working hard to recover. Krabi is probably not so well known by gay tourists but I think it’s definitely worth a visit. In Ao Nang I had the choice of two gay bars, both located at the back of some sort of indoor market with various straight bars.

It was great to watch the Lady boys play pool. They take it seriously. The atmosphere is quite relaxed and simple, which was quite nice after commercial Phuket. There are altars hewn out of rocks near Ao Nang and a lot of worshiping Buddhist monks from the Tiger Cave Temple. To witness a footmark of Buddha you have to take a long hike but the views underway are fantastic. And, you will also find yourself in the company of monkeys.

My experiences and the variety of impressions were overwhelming during this three and a half week trip to Thailand, of which I stayed a little over two weeks in Phuket. I hope to visit this beautiful country again at the end of January, when they celebrate Gay Pride.



 







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