Since our 2nd visit to Ao Patong was much longer[6months], we met alot of folks that would end up being friends!
The casual nature of beach living tends to break down communication barriers quicker than you can say “ein beer danke”.
This trip was no different, we got to know all those that worked for Mr Singh, the room cleaner Sao, the laundry lady Nong, the right hand man Noi. Valentine bungalows was small then, only 6 rooms to let & the small shop infront of Mr Singhs room, fronting the main dirt road before the beach.
The larger, original cafe that sat next door to the south was gone! It was replaced with a much smaller unit, a tad cleaner, more modern run by Mr Singhs sister & her son Dang.
Samai had lost his job as waiter when the older place was torn down, he now worked the tourists and was a part time windsurfer instructor.
We had heard rumors of a “mafia” influence along the beach,but being little more than newbies, we knew little more.
The government was “rumored” to be ready to knock down ALL the beach side restaurants/cafes/shops and squatters that had moved in within the last 6 months.
The day finally game, a big bulldozer easily plowed the many thatch huts down, leaving a MUCH cleaner, nicer looking beach! Some of the previous hut folks had moved down the beach, just past the big tree where the Police box was, just south of the creek that ran from the paddy to the bay and set up shops on what we now called Bar Road[Soi Bangla]. There were not many shops then, maybe 10 scattered from the beach road to the rice paddy.
Lada managed to get the corner shop at beach/Bangla, she’d recently married a gullible Yank[it didn’t last long, but long enough for her to have her own bar for the next decade!]. Next was the first Katoy bar, the Micheler Bar, a few Germans ran this place, the locals/Police finally made them drop their front curtains during “performances”, but it became a BIG hit on Bar Road with the tranvestite/gays and was constantly filled with mostly “northern europeans”…
Next was the little Valentine Market, Mr Singhs sister sold out her little cafe and started the ONLY store in Patong Beach, Dang was constantly busy since he “agreed” to “share” ownership of many “falong” bars/shops on side, in that, Dang OWNED these places, but “agreed” to let those who had paid for them have their businesses there,etc. Dang ended up controlling much of Bar Road in the early days, atleast the portion that was no Thai/local owned & operated!
Jims Wine Bar was next, Jim was a jovial Brit, had a batch of tales & stories and kept a clean shop, it was always full of Brits/Yanks, mostly watching the circus just across the way at the GONZO Bar, this place was BIG, a huge thatched roof, room enough beneigth to hold ALL the other shops on Bar Road! Gonzo was run by a wild Scandanavian guy, but was soon “run off” by the …”mafia”…Gonzo was a wild place in the early days, they had a 100watt stereo going 24/7 and those that worked there tended to dress in the then popular “punk” style, complete with multicolored hair,etc.
A small travel agent shop, beauty salon and of course, TUMS restaurant were about the only things on the north side of Bar Road.
TUMS was run by a really great guy, one Mr Tum, former head chef from Bangkok, Mr Tum was a nice guy, cooked great Thai fare, as well as most International foods. His place was popular with locals/tourists/expats and was often busy. He made a GREAT Pepper Steak!
Last but not least, was the most famous eating place on Patong…#4: a small seafood place where you could get a “kilo of prawns or a giant Phuket lobster, seafood was extremely inexpensive at the time, the locals thought little of the lobster, bugs from the sea and the price was actually cheaper than shrimp!!
#4 was always busy, the smart owner had let his guest use a magic marker on the walls, ALL the walls were eventually covered with delightful thanks and #4 became the legendary place for seafood in Patong!
too be continued…