Old Patong: Valentine Bungalow

After our initial bus ride from Bangkok during the monsoon season of 1979, the tuk tuk drivers at the Phuket bus station surrounded us, showing us many pictures of tropical beach shacks/bungalows.

Some had real palm frond roofs, though most were tin with concrete block walls.

After we’d seen several from Patong Beach Bungalows to Valentine[we decided the air conditioned Patong Beach Hotel @ 500baht/day was much too refined/expensive for our needs]Bungalows. Almost half way between the northern beach Muslim village of Kalim and the southern end of Patong Bay where the barb wire surrounded compound of SeaView Bungalow was set, just north of where the rice paddy creek flowed into Ao Patong.

The proprietor of Valentine Bungalow showed us a room, there were only 1/2 dozen or so then. Our room was second from the end/north side, Room 2. There were a few more rooms near the small front Valentine Store, actually little more than a walled kiosk, selling tank tops, a few sarongs, Kodak film, sunscreen, cigarettes, that was about it.

Our room had two low slung/folding beach chairs on the small covered veranda. Mr Singh told us the electric would be switched on, which ran the wobbly fan over the two beds at sundown. The room had a farang hognam and a shower head coming out of the side of the wall next to the small sink.

Short term rate was 60baht/day and long term[our first visit was about 30days]40baht, we took the long term rate, paid in advance, Mr Singh happily took our money and we went next door to the open air restaurant just south of the bungalows next to a vacant field[now Holiday Inn], just across the sand path was Patong Beach!

We looked at the menu, Patty took the Pad Thai noodles, I ordered a Green Spot and a “hambaker”…

The food came, naturally the noodles were delicious, the ham baker, well, it was my first “buffalo burger” chopped thick, it had little or no fat to keep the thing together, more of a “sloppy joe” type with chopped carrots added, over cooked[yes, not burnt black, but charcoal seared], evidently they thought that a slice of red beet was appropriate…I ate it up quickly and washed it down with the Green Spot.

There were only a few people in the place, a 50ish farang lady and two locals were at the table next to us.

Patty asked for Prik Nam Pla[she’d tried this the first time the day before in the ever seedy hotel we stayed in Bangkok and was won over with the great taste]and the lady at the table next to us started speaking english, the first and only person we’d met in Thailand that was obvious “Yank” english!

She was Margaret, a Californian recently on the run through Persia[during the Shahs overthrow]and more recently a convert to Patong Beach. She quickly introduced us to the other two locals at the table, Thai men, Samai, part time waiter/tour guide/beachboy, Chi-An, full time beachboy and proprietor of the little bbq fish shack across the road.

We soon finished lunch at Valentine Restaurant and went back to our room, the afternoon heat at 1pm was still hot for us newbies, so we got into bikinis and took our first swim in the Blue Andaman Sea.

The water was about as warm as the 90F air temperature, we waded around, found a cooler eddy running just 10′ from shoreline and played there for several hours, until the we noticed the skies quickly turning a cloudy black, the waves suddenly getting much bigger, we bodysurf’d a few and road one in all the way to shore and got back up to the Valentine Restaurant slightly before the winds really got fierce and the afternoon monsoon could be seen leaping over the low hills that formed the southwest side of the perfect horseshoe bay known as Ao Patong.

Samai was quickly rolling down the blue tarps that fronted the restaurant as we sat down on the picnic benches inside with Margaret and Chi-An, the deluge hit extremely strong, our first monsoon, thunder/lightning/wind and heavy rains blotted out the skies in all directions and you couldn’t see even across the road to the beach.

Chi-An told us that the monsoons started late April and could last until almost September, it rained every day that first month we were there, but between running for shelter and when it wasn’t raining, we always had fun.

It was never cold for us, but Chi-An often wore a nylon jacket, we left our bikinis on for the remainder of the month, only putting on street clothes the one time we went into Phuket town to the cinema.

We spent the days body surfing, the nights singing and playing guitar at Chi-Ans beach shack. Life was REALLY good! We’d be exhausted by the time we stumbled back to our bungalow, our eyes lulled to a hypnotic sleep by the ever wobbling ceiling fan and watching gheckos on the ceiling scurry towards the misquitos, we’d drift off into a dream.

Awaking, our first steps from the bungalow was always the same, an astounding view, coconut plantation by the sea, simply stunning! Each day we just couldn’t believe our good fortune to be in this sunny paradise!

Our first month went by so quick! We met about 100 locals/expats/tourist during that time and the place was so ideal, I quit ordering the hambakers and tried more and more local Thai dishes and most everyone we met were fun loving and friendly, only a few sour apple drunks at most, we were never the same again.

We had only gotten a tourist entry visa upon arriving from Hong Kong, so a month later, it was time to return to Bangkok and the next leg of our honeymoon journey…Kathmandu, but…that’s another story…

In Old Patong, when it was monsoon and it wasn’t raining, you wished it was!

We soon found out that every place we ventured afterwards was measured by “Old Patong Standards”! well, none measured up…we were spoiled by paradise.

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