New To The Kingdom[1979]: Old Patong:week 2

Our first week, we’d met some of the travellers staying at Valentine bungalows.

The 3 crazy and wild Kangaroos, silent Bill[later to be a major player along Patong Beach], and Margaret.

We met Margaret a the little open air cafe next to Mr Singhs bungalows. We were eating our usual morning[was it really 11am]breakfast of papaya, banana, pineapple platter along with a hot cup of Milo.

The mid 40’s lady sat next to our table, silently reading, chain smoking and smiling.

We caught her eye and starting idlely chatting.

She was from Muir Beach, Ca, a school teacher and had been on the road for about 5 months since her husband had run off with his secretary.

Margarets swimsuit was the old style one piece, totally faded to a washed out blue from its once vibrant darker color. There was sadness hidden in her constant glowing smile.

She was living in the front bungalow, with Chi-an, he was across the street in his little hootch, already throwing a few coconut palm fronds into the fire, getting the wok going, we went over and joined him.

Chi-an was tall, maybe 6’1″, his english was perfect, he’d gone to Chulakorn University[?] worked at some of the GI camps around Kon Kin years earlier, was in his late 20’s.

We’d usually sit at his hut all day long, he had a wok, plenty of mekhong, some singha, a bong, etc, enough stories to fill a book!

In those days, you could eat about all you wanted at any of the 5 huts scattered along Patong Beach for about 20 baht, including greenspot! We never wanted 2nds, all meals were huge.

I couldn’t drink over one of the large liter bottles of Singha without nodding off, it was just too much for me, but could nurse Mekhong & spite endlessly.

The sun was dipping into the deep blue Andaman, we were still there, it was difficult to get up out of those low-slung beach chairs, especially if you’d been inbibing since morning!

Along came Noi with his guitar! Noi was a cross between a Thai Bob Marley & Boy Dylan, gentle, kind, funny, and the best guitar player south of Soi Cowboy!

We’d sit around all night, singing folk songs, American oldies but goodies, Noi knew them all, from years of entertaining at the US Military R&R camps in northern Thailand during the recent Viet Nam conflict.

Noi was a rocker, a folkies, a jazz master, a bluesman and he did them all with style and grace!!!

Naturally I asked Noi if he knew “Stairway To Heaven”, it was THE mantra of travellers and backpackers then. He picked out every note of the song as we tried to sing along.

A little later, we could hear the one loud muffler of the ONLY police man on Patong Beach, as he slowly drove by on his 90cc Honda bike, we put down the bong, and Noi taught us the first of many Thai folk songs. A little ditty that we sang each time the policeman drove by. Something about Lets go to the sea, lets go to the beach, but in Thai, it wasn’t long, but we learned it well that month.

About 3am, Noi took a break from the guitar and told us about his bad motorcycle accident the year before, when the “coconut” tree had “jumped” infront of his motorcycle late one night…he smiled as he told us to look at how well his face had healed[about 1/2 of Nois head was a tad lopsided but we all readily agreed that they had put him back together well.

We learned about moving coconut trees and NOT sleeping or setting under coconut trees that night, a VERY valuable lesson!!!

The party finlly broke up 4am, none of us could lift a glass or barely walk, we stumbled off across the street to our cozy bungalow, with dreams of wild, menacing coconut trees, mellow folks song, and a sound of the blue Anadamn crashing onto shore…

to be continued….

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