New To The Kingdom[1979]:Ao Patong

Old Patong was about the sweetest place a couple of lucky honeymooners could be in 1979.

We arrived early June, the monsoon working strong, we’d sit in a little open air restaurant, watching the sky turn black, the winds pick up from the southeast, over the southern cape of Patong Bay.

The shopkeeper would usually only drop the blue plastic tarp shielding us from the onslaught after a few minutes of heavy downpour.

We’d sip hot Milo as the rain beat a steady, deffening alegro on the tin roof. You’d never realize the Blue Andaman was just across the street, 30meters to the ocean.

The big waves washed in, some 2-3meters high, I’d hobbled out to sea, get in the water up to my hips and then through my forearm crutches as far onto shore as I could, quickly swimming out under the big breakers, occassionally catching a few and riding them all the way back into the shower.

The powdery white sands of Patong, a few kilos anyway, inside my swim trucks, but back out to sea, catch another wave, and another and another, dodging the huge logs and various things floating in the water, but it was nice, the water temp would always cool down a few degrees during the heavy rains or big waves, maybe as cool as 90F…

Catching one last wave, hopefully a BIG one, I’d bodysurf back to shore, crawl the few meters towards my crutches, hopefully find them[sometimes I didn’t throw them far enough and had to search for a bit, but was lucky that time and learned to throw them as far as I could from the sea, maybe 20meters], get back up on my feet, wander back into the warm water, try to remove a kilo of sand from my swim trunks,etc, it was always the same, but once you body surfed Patong during the monsoon, you were spoiled, the rest of the year the bay was smooth as glass, and never a cool spot to be found!

The heavy rains would often just blow thru quickly, sometimes it rained for a few hrs, usually it was past us in 15minutes, but you never knew during monsoon.

Usually there were no others in the water with me, a few times some of the Kangaroo tourists we’d met that week, staying at Valentine Bungalow too.

These were wild boys, all in their 20’s, all addicted to Singha and good times. All worked hard in the mines of Western Aussie where they finally saved enough to stay here for months at a time.

Usually the water buffalo[Carabao]would walk out in the late afternoons heat, a heard mingling up and down the beach, escaping the heat and misquitos from the little rice paddy just a few clicks east of the bay.

Old Patong was still the same side it is today, but then there were barely 5 bungalow compounds and the big Patong Beach Hotel up the road about mid bay.

Patong Beach bungalow was first one the beach, the place by the little stagnant misquito filled creek, next Patong Beach Hotel, several stories, hmmmmm, was it two or three, anyway, only bus tour folks stayed there, it was a lofty 500Baht a day, and no serious traveller or backpacker would ever stay at a place that had ….air conditioning! A few crazy Dutch would usually be found at the nearby Seven Seas bungalow, then Valentines, Bayshore, next to what is now Holiday Inn, then last but not least…SeaView!

SeaView was at the extreme southern end of Patong Bay, it was rumored that the “bandits” had actually come out of the “jungle” beyond there and robbed the tourists and stoled the TV set!

Behind the beach was a small rice paddy that went the entire rear section of the bay, brackish water, and you could even catch BIG King Prawns there if you knew how!

We occassionally took the local bus to Phuket town to buy supplies, there was NO store anywhere around Patong, but the big open market in Phuket town had anything needed. The bus ride was about sip baht, I think. Patty found a nice noodle stall near the bowling alley where the curry was top rank and would often bring some back, along with 50baht worth of orchids, enough to fill both her arms!

The second day there we met “Chi-an”, he was a tall, lanky Thai, had an old jeep from the Viet Nam days, with “UArmy Remember” painted on it, we became quick friends, Chi-an had a little hootch just infront of Valentine bungalow, he sold us fresh BBQ’d fish, played frisbee with the water buffalos and we spent considerable time there consuming Mekhong whiskey, our new favorite drink, liberally mixed with Spite or Coke, sometimes even GreenSpot.

Chi-an jeep was a real pile,it wouldn’t make it over the steep Patong hills to Phuket town without those inside getting out and putting big rocks under the tires to keep it from rolling back down to the bottom of the road[it did happen occassionally]. Chi-an would “pop” the clutch and the old rusted jeep would lurch up the hill another meter, sometimes this took several tries before the occupants could climb back in, usually as the Jeep rolled over the crest of the hill and was ready to slide down the other side.

Chi-an fortunately knew how to drive OK, he never scared us like the TukTuk/Samlor/Bus drivers, but it was a tad unnerving just the same.

Most of the roads in Phuket in 79 were unpaved, cept the big road across the bridge, the airport or near town.

Once we were lucky and he took us around to Kata Noi, a real gem! Like a very small Patong, horseshoe shaped bay, a few small huts on the hillside, that was it, it was idealic!!!

to be continued…

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