The weather was rainy and overcast again today, so I decided to have a look round a bit more. Went out with my camera to the beach which is close by. Things got strange immediately.
Firstly, I couldn't see properly; my vision had gone all blurry. Having lived so long in France, I'm as prone to hypochondria as everyone else. It took a second or two to realise that I wasn't having some sort of seizure. Just having left the air conditioned confines of the hotel, my glasses had steamed up. However much I polished them, they just steamed up again. Had to wait until they got up to ambient temperature before I could see properly.
Looked around the beach and decided to take a few shots. Unfortunately, my camera had the same problem. Retreated with half a dozen blurry images.
So, what to do? Holiday resorts are never at their best in inclement weather. I wandered down the main strip where I saw several tourists with baseball caps that said: 'Dope.' Prediliction or autobiography, we can only guess, although there was a guy sitting on a chair at the side of the road who enquired whether I might be interested in cocaine or marijuana every time I passed. He didn't seem to say this to many people. Do I really look like some super annuated dope-head?
The sequence of shops goes roughly: Tattoo parlor and body piercing, tee shirt shop, Thai Massage, holiday tat boutique, Seven Eleven (there are millions of them), tours of the island, currency exchange, nail bar and gaudy paintings. It then repeats ad infinitum.
It was either a tattoo or a massage.
At this point I noticed a street seller with the aforementioned funny looking fish on a barbecue. Had one of those as a quick midday snack and went in search of the perfect massage.
In the West, we have a very dubious view of Thai massage parlours, or any other massage joint, for that matter. Here, they look like a mixture between very upmarket hairdressing salons and health spas, which, I suppose, is essentially what they are.
The first one just across the road was full up, as was the second. At this point, I came across some Francophones, who were asking themselves the same question: 'where's the rub?' They suggested a place further along which looked good, so I followed them.
It turned out to be a very posh looking place, which of course was also nearly twice as expensive as the others. I booked for a back, shoulder and head massage. I was led to a comfortable and rather dark cubicle, with a pristine pillow and mattress sort of thing.
What I was expecting was a relaxing and soothing 40 minutes.Thai massage isn't like that, at least it wasn't here. I was pulled, kneaded and poked for the duration. Most of it was quite painful, especially when the masseuse forced her elbows under my shoulder blades. This caused every nerve ending in my body to scream in protest.
It has to be said though, that when it finally came to an end, I felt great. When I left, I did something which I've never really done in my life. I walked really, really slowly. It took me 15 minutes to get back to the hotel, when it would normally have taken 5. The Thais have a word for this phenomenon, hold on a sec, it'll come to me: 'relaxed' was what I was, and still am. Had a shower and went out like a light, only for about 45 minutes, and awoke feeling refreshed and revitalised.
More fish this evening, though not at the same bargain basement price. A large barbecued white snapper in chilli and honey sauce with a salad and of course, a beer. Had so much fish that for some inexplicable reason I keep thinking of Dougal in 'Father Ted.' Imagine an Irish accent: 'Oh yes Ted, I love fish. If I have any more, I'll probably turn into a big old fish meself.
To digest my meal, decided to explore the part of town on the other side of a quite sizeable river. This was completely different. There was an enormous bar, really huge, called the Reggae. Outside was a thirty foot high Les Paul guitar sitting on marijuana leaves. The whole thing lit up. It looked like something out of a theme park for old hippies. I'd found the nightlife area.
It also transpired that I'd stumbled across the red light district. Around this huge, modern club were loads of rather dingy bars full of young women. 'Herro, you wanna come in? Where you from?' I was nearly physically dragged in a couple of times. One bar was called the 'Boom Boom.' Basil Brush was sitting there enjoying a beer, surrounded by girls. There's stardom for you.
It was still quite early in the evening, so business was slack. I chatted to a few of the girls and beat a retreat back across the river. I ordered a beer and noticed that the guy had a stock of some exotic looking fruit, so I ordered one. It's called Dragon Fruit and frankly, didn't have a great deal of taste. Looked good though.
By this time it was about 10, so I decided to have one last beer. While I was sitting on a café terrace, some Swiss people I'd run into a couple of days before came walking past. We got chatting and they invited me back to their bungalow for a drink. Arriving at their place, my first question was: 'what on Earth is that noise?' It was the local frogs doing their thing. We get a lot of loud frog noise where I live, but here, it sounded like a herd of cows leaning over your shoulder; 'moo' being the Thai word for 'ribbit.'
I was going to suggest that they shouted 'Campbell's Soup,' but thought that that was too much of an obscure reference from my youth.
I've been fascinated by the diversity of French accents here. The Swiss couple were no problem at all, apart from the fact that they both spoke at the same time. Earlier, as I was wandering along, I heard some people speaking a language that had the music of French, but was completely unfathomable. I stopped and listened for a while and gradually tuned in to the conversation. They were Americans from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Geordie is a cinch by comparison.
Off to Malaysia tomorrow. Up at 5.30 for a thirteen and a half hour boat and coach trip, so doubt if I'll be posting until Friday. Hope to get some pictures though.