Oh Wow! Things Work!
Two weeks in Phuket can work wonders for you. Especially when it’s raining, on and off, which it is at this time of the year, the reverse (almost exactly) of Bali’s seasons: Phuket is seven degrees 53 minutes North, Bali eight degrees 39 minutes South.
It is wondrous to shelter, street-side, from a sudden monsoon downpour and watch the efficiently engineered and properly cambered road surface deal with the flood of water; and the drains, unclogged by careless refuse, dispose of the resulting rush of runoff. Among other things the Thais comprehend – and moreover seem to care about – is that water flows downhill. It makes you believe, all over again, that if Bali could only put its mind to it, the same felicity would be within our reach.
And it fully refreshes the soul to be somewhere thoroughly tropical and to find that the electricity grid delivers a constant 230V – within the international standard plus or minus 6 percent tolerance – and that in consequence one’s rechargeable electric razor actually fully recharges and, moreover, closely shaves the morning bristles.
There are other things about arriving in Phuket that might amaze (we’ll get to some of those that amuse). These include the airport, which has a car parking, taxi, bus, drop off and pick up system that works. And an arrivals system that does too. Seventeen minutes from stand-up-and-rush-the-plane-exit to kerbside car pick-up was a treat.
And in case the director-general of official excuses should chance to read this, or more likely have it read out to him, since he’d surely have an official excuse for not bothering to directly inform himself about anything much at all, this was not because the airport wasn’t busy.
Thai script, drawing its origins from (among others) ancient Aramaic and about as intelligible and dating from 1283 when King Ramkhamhaeng the Great formalised it, and the way of writing for some 65 million people, means that the Roman alphabet that the main European and other languages (such as Bahasa Indonesia) use is functionally beyond most Thais.
This leads to understandable confusion, most obvious to the casual passer-by from street-side signage. One little spot we passed often on the first part of our Phuket holiday (in Kata where we stayed at the delightful – and delightfully named – Lae Lay Suites) had a sign outside that proclaimed “No Panking.” A little further on, past a few more interestingly disreputable bars containing small collectives of bored, chattering girls of an evidently willing nature but unknown character, to say nothing of provenance, another sign said “No Paeking.”
Hanky-panky is impolitic and peeking impolite; besides, we were not driving and had no need of parking. We managed thereby to avoid total confusion.
There’s the Rub
Massage, as in Bali, is the ubiquitous offering made to passing tourists. Some of it is legit. A Thai massage, for example – the Thai style of massage, we mean, which we also sampled later in plush comfort at the Twin Palms resort at Surin – is a great way to discover that you actually can, if gently encouraged by your masseuse, just about get your right big toe into your left ear. This feat – no, we’re not just crassly attempting a poor pun – is much the better for being performed with clothes on and without the sometimes dubious benefits of sticky oil.
Others are, or may be, not quite as legit. Phuket’s tourist areas, after all, like Bali’s, are places of sexual resort for male tourists whose brains are defective or damaged, or anatomically misplaced. But even if legit, sometimes the names of massage establishments raise an eyebrow. There was one we spotted, into which the Diary dared not enter, that proclaimed itself to be the Tum Rub Massage.
Not So Petit Dejeuner
It is a Sunday at the exclusive beach club. Guests – regrettably some appear to be rather poor jests – are at play. Or maybe they are at lunch, since it must be at least an hour since they vacated their breakfast table. It’s an eclectic crowd, as befits exclusivity, beaches and clubs, in Phuket as much as in any island playground. Many of its members are French, adding zest and joie de vivre to proceedings and some amusement – not necessarily of the cruel variety – to the day of the watching diarist.
Overheard on this particular day, they seemed to be saying “donc” to each other with implausible frequency. In its conjunctive form, it means “therefore,” and we surmised that they were explaining things to each other, or possibly explaining themselves. One party in particular prompted us to think that France, having just elected a socialist president who offered a series of spectacularly speculative promissory notes, had now convinced itself it is fully insulated from both the global and Euro crises.
Since we had not been introduced and such a social opportunity was unlikely to eventuate, we gave them names: Floppette, Flippette, Crevette and Asperge. As far as we could tell Flippette was with Crevette and Floppette with Asperge. It was interesting that Floppette and Flippette displayed complete disinterest – such sangfroid! – while Crevette and Asperge disported themselves in the hefty little monsoon waves of the Andaman Sea equipped with body boards and fins.
Lest it be felt we are being unnecessarily unkind in singling out persons of the French persuasion, we note that at the same time some jests from Oz were on the beach. Tosser and Wozza were accompanied by their squeezes, Screecher and Mona, or so it seemed. It takes all sorts.
It’s Not Kuta
Or Patong, Phuket’s equivalent; and thank goodness for that. Surin is a quiet little spot – very quiet in the low season – and the better for that beneficence. There’s a surprising variety of good little restaurants (if you like real pizza, you’re certainly in the right place) including some nice locally run beach eateries that, unlike those at Jimbaran, for example, allow you some light to eat by and forbear to incinerate the fish.
We found one particular little place off the beach, a short stroll up a gentle hill from the Twin Palms resort. It’s called CC’s and is accessed by some stairs at a building next to a pharmacy. It’s locally owned – by a surfer-biker-philanthropist-entrepreneur from nearby Kamala – and run by another nice Thai surf fan, known as Jay. There’s a very well stocked bar and the massaman curry was the best we’d had in a long while.
Just in Time
Fortunately we were back in Bali well ahead of the next Ganesha art opening. We always try to get along to these little soirees since gallery manager Luh Resiki is such a dear and John O’Sullivan’s Four Seasons operation generally presents some decent wine.
And on June 7 it will be more of a pleasure than ever, since the artist whose works are going on show is Dutch-born Marijke Lambregtse, who has achieved the impossible dream: she lives half the year in Bali and half in Queensland, Australia. There but for a Lotto win go I, as a superannuated cockatoo might say, if lightly pressed.
Lambregtse began her artistic career in Holland as a dancer, choreographer and teacher and then moved to Australia in 1987, where she lectured in ballet in Melbourne and Brisbane. In the mid-1990s she studied art, painting and design, and her talent won her prizes, exhibitions and commissions.
Her Ganesha exhibition, from June 7-July 30, shows a collection of canvasses representing the broad theme of Lost and Found, from which the exhibition takes its title. These explore two themes: awareness and protection of the environment, and the crucial role woman can play in
bringing positive change by active participation.
bringing positive change by active participation.
Get Along There
Lloyd Perry’s Chillout Lounge at Ubud is making its mark. A recent “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” night raised Rp2.2 million for a very worthwhile charity, the Sacred Childhoods Foundation. Another fund-raising night took place on May 25 and they will be run monthly.
Chillout now also features a live music and art night every Saturday from 7pm. Perry tells us a great Jam band plays and any musicians present are welcome to join in. Twelve took part in one recent event, several of them from Ubud. And if you’re feeling musical but can’t play (the Diary studied piano and the clarinet several eons ago, to no lasting effect; shame it wasn’t the sax, we’d surely have remembered that) then you could try painting to music instead. Watercolours and canvas are available for anyone who wants to have a go.
Marian Carroll, chief spruiker at The Ayana Resort at Jimbaran – home of the famed sunset spot the Rock Bar – is now sporting a longer title. She is now Director of Public Relations & Marketing Communications (Resort & Residences). We do hope that comes with enhanced rummaging rights at the cookie jar.
The resort has just completed a large-scale refurbishment.
Hector's Diary appears in the Bali Advertiser's fortnightly print edition, out every second Wednesday. Hector is on Twitter (@scratchings) and Facebook (Hector McSquawky).