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Culture Shock- My First 48 hours in Patong

Updated: Oct 17, 2022

I arrived in Phuket on November 12th, 2021, in the pouring rain. Getting through the airport was slick and easy, and there were hardly any lines through immigration and customs. Then came the very odd Covid test at the exit with health care workers in glass boxes who swabbed my nose through gloves built into the boxes. I thought I had arranged transport to my hotel, but there was no one there for me so I sat in a waiting area with my bags, sweating bullets from the humidity. You weren't allowed to leave the airport without pre-arranged transport to an SHA-approved accommodation. The Thai workers at the airport were so kind and helped me figure out how to get a taxi to my hotel.

When I booked my trip, I wasn't sure where I should stay for the required 7 days at an SHA-approved hotel through the Sandbox Program (see my post about entry requirements for Thailand for more details on this). I had heard of Patong, so I randomly chose it as my first glimpse into Thailand. In hindsight, it was probably the WORST place to experience Thailand, but more on that later. I stayed at the Andamantra Resort and splurged 40 US dollars a night on the honeymoon suite for a week.

My room was on the 3rd floor of the 8th building up on a steep hill. The views of the ocean were amazing, but it was far away from the pools and beaches. The room had AC, a 4-post canopied king-size bed, and a large patio with an outdoor bathtub. The walk down to the lobby is through a maze of gardens, pools, and sitting areas and reminded me of a big tree house. I wasn't allowed to leave the resort until I got a negative COVID result email from the test I had taken at the airport, so I ordered room service and waited. About 4 hours later, I got the email and walked down to 7-11 and then went back to my room to sleep for 12 hours.

The next morning, I walked down to breakfast and surveyed the scene. There were lots of couples and families, mostly Asian, European, and Russian. I started feeling lonely and awkward and again questioning why I left my life to travel alone to the other side of the world. I decided to venture down to the massage shop beside the 7-11 that I had avoided the night before and got a foot and back and shoulder massage. My thoughts drifted to the loss of my 2 fur babies 2 months before my trip, and this idea of how too much connectedness to others has led to a disconnect with myself.

After my massage, I bought a Thai sim card and spent an hour trying to figure out how it worked. I was feeling off and thought maybe some beach therapy would help. I walked down to a little restaurant on the beach and listened to the waves crash, feeling even more insignificant and lonely. I started getting overwhelmed and confused. I had no plan really, for the day or my life. All I knew was that my heart was telling me I had to come to Thailand.

I decided to explore the town and trotted down a side street of Patong and then the main street parallel to the beach. I did not expect what I found. Lots of destroyed infrastructure, abandoned buildings, and Thai massage places. There were a plethora of powerlines overhead buzzing. I couldn't believe the shit show of wires somehow all crocheted into massive balls over my head. Then I remembered the tsunami of 2004 and how tragic and impactful that was for all of the world. I thought of all the people just going about their day or on vacation here before their world got rocked. And that supermodel whose clothes got stripped off as she clung to a palm tree for 18 hours. I just kept walking and walking.

I came to Bang-La Road which I had heard about before and thought maybe it would be the Shangra-La or Rodeo Drive of Patong. I couldn't have been more wrong! It made the Red-Light District of Amsterdam and the Old Vegas Strip look like Disneyland. It was full of shady-looking bars, clubs, and massage parlors and tons of old, fat, white dudes looking for their prey. There were several clubs with very young Thai girls all dressed alike in short, slutty dresses looking for their jackpot. This was at 4:30 pm. And not a single person looked or talked to me. I started questioning my sanity. Had I died on the airplane and was a ghost walking around? I realized being invisible in this hell hole may be a blessing.

I headed back to the beach and stopped at a little bar called Bud's and ordered a beer. There was a fat, grumpy, mixed hound dog named Jojo who just didn't give AF. I felt more connection with that animal than any other human I had met so far in Thailand. I sat with Jojo and watched countless old, white fat men flaunt their junk as they walked down the beach in banana hammocks. I decided Patong is where old, gross white dudes from around the world come to die because they can live like kings with a mediocre amount of money and be treated like Gods by young Thai women. I thought of the orange guy who we had to deal with in the US for 4 years with his grab them by the P word bullshit. This was not the Thailand I left my life back in Boise for. I was jet lagged and felt completely justified in my feminist anger.

Then a young lady from England appeared and sat down beside me. She was smitten with fat Jojo because he reminded her of her pup back home. We started talking and I learned her name was Claire, and she had just turned 30 the day before. Her dad lives in Patong and is married to a Thai woman, and she has a half-Thai brother. She told me she was visiting Thailand for an undecided amount of time but just had to escape her life in England for a bit. She said she wasn't sure of her plan, and everyone keeps telling her she needs a plan, and she feels lost and confused because of this. She had just gone through a bad breakup and sold everything she owned to come to visit her dad in Thailand.

As I watched the sunset and got to know Claire, I realized there are no accidents in life. Claire became my first female friend in Thailand, and I ended up meeting her dad, stepmom, brother, and their family pup. We are all connected, even when we feel lost in the web of old, misogynist white dudes. And when we connect to ourselves, we connect to others. I got a henna lotus tattoo from a young Thai lady on the beach that I paid way too much for but I liked it and hoped that maybe it would spare her from sucking some old dude's gross wanker that night. I took a tuk-tuk back to my hotel at dusk feeling hope in my heart for the first time since arriving in Thailand.

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