Author Archives: Gary Old Patong

Jet breaks Apart Landing In Phuket

For all those injured and killed, a heartfelt cry, Rest In Peace.

Old Patong: The Beach Shacks

Margaret said she was going down the

beach to Sams new shop, the Half Way Cafe.

Sam lived there with Kangaroo Larry in their small thatched roof paradise exactly half way along Patong Beach.

In those early days, there were still small shacks up and down the beach, starting on the north side near the little Muslim village of Kalim,all the way to the south side where Sea View Bungalow ended where the back rice paddy slowly flowed into Patong Bay.

These thatched huts/shacks were ALL “squatters shacks” since they were actually on the Kings land, the entire beach! First one went up, I think it was Peeunes little shop just south and across the beachfront dirt road from Mr Signhs Valentine Bungalows!

Peeune was/is the happiest cook on the beach, you never saw her in a bad mood, always smiling as she cooked with one hand while simultaneously cleaning with the other hand! Peeune made the best noddles on the island!

Just north of Peeunes was Chi-Ans hootch. He was the first Patong beachboy we met through Margaret.

Chi-An offered bbq’d fish/crab/beer and that’s where we met Guitar Noi!

Chi-An had a very old Army jeep, which barely ran, but did with the help of large rocks under the wheels when it’d often stall trying[not always successfully]to conquer the steep hill road to Phuket town.

Next to Chi-Ans place was a new bamboo clad place run by two wild Frenchmen. These tanned and g-stringed lads made french fries and sold them to the tourist by day, by night they serenaded all with
happy French songs played on a guitar.

Next to Frenchys joint was a yet newer and better built bamboo facade run by Lek and Toy. Lek laminated his failed do-nut franchise in Washington DC, wisely returning to the shores of Patong Beach to run his and wife Toys restaurant. Toy cooked very well, her tempura delights were unknown to the area and were a
big hit at the time.

Just south of Peeunes found us that day at Half Way Cafe. Sam, a former wild child of Patong Beach nightlife had recently suffered a bad stroke, but she was recovering rapidly,thanks to a strong instinct and a stubborn nature in general. She had hooked up with Kangaroo Larry, both were mid 20’s and had a zest for life that few, even
in the liveliness of Old Patong knew!

Sam’s curried crabs were legendary and are still the standard that Patong Patty judges ALL Thai food!

One crab,one hour! Some nights Patty would down 3 or 4, we’d be there til midnight, most of us singing folk songs, some Thai, some farang,while Patty finished every morsel!

The Half Way Cafe became more and more popular, but like many new businesses, the owners/workers had different ideas about how things should work, Sam never lost an argument and Kangaroo Larry moved south
to Kata where as rumor has it, Sam sicked Phukets finest on him, he was soon deported and Sam stumbled back into the nightlife.

The beach shacks lasted several seasons, finally the govt sent out a big bull dozer one morning and all the shacks were gone by the afternoon. A few of the “real” local restaurants were allotted space on the new road just being built starting at the beach road where the old Disco thatched place was and going east all the way to the rice paddy!

Lek/Toy had a new shop directly across the street next to David Polmans Thai Garden. Peeune moved to the rice paddy road between the beach and little Baan Nam Sai Yen,where the Lions Hospital now sits! All the rest of the squatters moved on to different parts of the Kingdom or back home…where ever home is, they went. In Old Patong, reality was often comical, but in the end, the party never really ended, people just came and went!

In Old Patong, things never really change, people just came and went and often…returned to paradise.

Old Patong:Tourist/Traveler/ExPat

Living in Old Patong, the visitors to the island were mosty northern Europeans in the early 80’s. As word got out of the wonderful beaches, inexpensive lodgings, great seafood of southern Thailand, the travel industry , even Lonely Planet didn’t know of Phuket.

Friends and relatives that hadn’t been to South East Asia, particularly Thailand would often tell me that I was in great danger and that it was foolish to take my wife to a “WAR ZONE”!

Nothing could have been further from the truth! The Land Of Smiles was NOT Laos, Cambodia, Burma or Viet Nam!!! We’d giggle when these know-it-alls would ramble on about what they knew of “them foreigners”…:-)

Sadly, the same kind of talk is STILL going on these days, you think with the rapid flow of information on-line, this stupidly would dry up, but as they say “bad news travels fast”.

A few ex military westerners had heard of the sunny isles while on R&R in Bangkok or Pattaya during the 70’s, but most of those seekers of girls n booze never got past a weeklong drunk in Krung Thep.

Sweden was represented at Scandia Bungalows, the first real ExPat lodging on Patong Beach.

Run by “Papa Jorgen” he’d married a local beauty a few years before and his 12 little rooms were let out by the day, month, short term or longterm, depending on the needs of the lodgers, even short time…:-)

At the time, the monsoon season was a desparate and empty block of months where there were few tourist, some Nickerman type bus loads at the big Patong Beach Hotel, but these were true tourist, ala “4 countries in 4 days” types that weren’t around long enough to do much more than go to the beach a day or two, most didn’t even venture away from the hotel pool.

Papas Scandia was often full of happy, frolicking Swedes, a Singha in hand, running up and down the almost empty beaches. These band of northern gypsies were always easy going, never started any trouble and could be relied on to behave themselves their entire stay, often for months at a time. These folks spent freely and the locals adored them.

The other bungalows along southern Patong Beach were mostly filled with Brits/Aussies, some Yanks.

Towards the center of the beach, along Patong Beach Bungalows were mostly teutonic crowd,they never stayed for over a week, but they drank the beach dry and were not immune to trouble. “Some” didn’t treat the girls all that well, trying to welch out on payments,etc, but the local lasses proved more than able to fend for themselves, many had boyfriends made up of Patongs finest.

The travelers/backpackers tended to be the least offensive of the new group of sun seekers. They mostly found the 20-50baht rooms to their liking, they didn’t ask for much and they certainly could make a deutch mark/english pound stretch for weeks at a time this way. Many would make little fires on the beach to cook fish they’d bought from local fisherman. Tents could be seen along the southern end of the beach.

The ExPats were more of the permanent party of various parts of Old Patong,living in the small Muslim village of Kalim on north Patong bay, to Baan Nam Sai Yen to the extreme east of Patong beach, behind the rice paddy,where the herds of water buffalo roamed by night and by afernoon, the heat of the mostly rubber tree planted mountain jungle forced them onto the wide, long beaches of Patong, where the packs of wild/domesticated hounds plagued them up and down the beach and finally back into the paddy behind the newly increasing bundle of misshapen bungalows along the beach.

Many of the ExPats bought motorcycles, a few pickup trucks, maybe a VW dunebuggy or beetle at most. The rents were even less in the villages and these areas were full of kind locals that kept an eye on the newcomers, but on the whole, village life was sedate compared to the non stop never close beach life.

As the early years rolled by, word of the wonders of Ao Patong got out and the tourist/travelers/ExPats increased to the point where there was no “off season”[monsoon]anymore. ALL the bungalows/hotel rooms were often booked, atleast during the high season/NewYears time full throttle with backpackers going from bungalow to bungalow looking for those 20-50baht rooms and soon finding that what rooms were available were now about 150-300 baht per day.

But, there were still other beaches on Phuket Island! Kata, Kata Noi, NaiHarn, Karon and Karon Noi all were thrivingly building non stop, many of the old hands moved south from Patong Beach where rents and attitudes tended to be even more casual!

Old Patong: Rock N Roll Bars


The coolest bar on Soi Bangla, Hard Rock!

Early on in Old Patong, one thing that seemed to knit the locals with the travelers, tourists and ExPats together was the language of music, more to point, Rock N Roll!

Guitar Noi was the first rocker/musician we met or heard, he played local boy Dannys electric guitar unplugged or his steel stringed acoustic guitar in Chi-An’s beach shack across the beachfront path from Mr Singhs Valentine Bungalows.

Chi-An would BBQ fish, serve Green Spots/Singhas sometimes Mehkong as we’d sing along with Guitar Noi all night long.

The early years saw a few music oriented clubs appear along the new road, Soi Bangla[Bar Road].

The first and biggest was Gonzo Bar, it was a very large, open on all sides, palapa[palm frond]roofed joint. Gonzo was run by a goofy Scandanavian, his 100 watt stereo could be heard for 100 meters in all directions, he placed several large “Papasan” chair[looking like large saucers/bean bag design,which could hold several customers in the same chair, comfy for sure]scattered under the large palm roof, the service was excellent, the grog icy and cold and music, mostly “disco” at the time, but also English rock and it was LOUD! They also sold some cool looking modern designed clothes! Trendy for sure.


The first Bar Soi in Old Patong after Gonzo was torn down to make this…. loud, each place had different music, crazy for sure

The only other bar was on the beach, directly across the path from Lada’s corner bar, it went by the name “Disco”, it was circular, fairly large, open on all sides but about a 1/3 the size of Gonzo and was mostly frequented by Northern Europeans, a few locals and was known to gouge customers at every chance, playing only Disco, we went in once, got overcharged for 4 beers when we only had two,etc, we never went back again.

A few years later, the Banana Disco opened over the previous “VDO Shop” where we rented VCR/BetaMax movies. The place was a true disco with black lights and strobes and was a busy place. Enclosed, dark, LOUD!

Slightly east of Gonzo opened a new trendy music bar called “HardRock” bar, Patong. Either enclosed,shop-house style long rectangle shape or the outside “wagon”…

This place was run by Mac and his partner Deja. Local boys from Bangkok, they had the “official” HardRock tee shirts for sale and the music there was often Led Zepelin, Rolling Stones, Dire Straights,etc, decent Rock N Roll. The shop was rather small, dark inside, but they had this funny looking “Conestoga Wagon”[covered wagon like in the old Wild Western Movies]out front. It held about 8 customers and Mac or Deja would run drinks out to us as the music screamed on above the din of normal conversation.

Nearby, across the street was the new “Bogart Bar”, “Bogart” was a wily Aussie, his wife a local stunning “Tina Turner” look alike, brought many to his place, the very FIRST air conditioned bar[outside of the big Patong Beach Hotel where Guitar Noi played organ for the mostly Nikorman Bus tourists that stayed there]. Bogart had the newest stereo system and it was certainly the LOUDEST place on the beach, totally enclosed, the place was dark inside, but had flashing lights and Bogart had the first “shooters”[a concoction of pineapple juice/vodka/mehkong/salt/gin]that you crane your neck backwards and a beautiful waitress would pour about 1/4 liter of this secret liquid quickly down your throat all the while “Sweet Home Alabama” was bursting through the speakers at 250 watts!


Mr Valentine, owner of Valentine Market with his granddaughter sitting in the Spirit of Patong. Kangaroo Bar in the background.

A newer happy place was/is the Kangaroo Bar, it was right next to the Signhs Valentine Store. This place was a necessary stop for ALL Aussie tourists, locals and others that wanted to have a non stop fun time! Like the rest of the bars on Soi Bangla, it never really closed until the bartender, usually Aussie Andrew crawled under the bar and went to sleep as the sun leaped up from behind the rubber tree’d mountains east of the rice paddy.

Next door to Hard Rock Patong was “Purple Haze”, sometimes we go there if Hard Rock Patong was too busy or after midnight when Guitar Noi and Say and a few of the other local musicians would wander in after playing their gigs at various hotels along the beach road.

Purple Haze was started and run by the guy that owned the Credit Card Money Shop on the beach road. When we first walked in, we asked slighly, “Mee Rock N Roll”?, he grinned and said “Mak Mak Rock N Roll”!!, it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship!

Guitar Noi and Say could play anything they or we’d ever heard and did!!

We’d be rocking into the dawn, only going home when the last note of the electric guitar left the fretboard.

Old Patong, where music was the cosmic dye and friends met.

Old Patong: My First Massage

We’d been on Patong Beach for maybe a week in 1979 when this little lady approached us as we sat over comfortably under the shade of a rented umbrella about half way between Patong Beach Bungalows and Sea View Bungalows.

It had been a typical monsoon day, hot, getting hotter, everyone wishing it would finally rain! It hadn’t rained since last night, all last night that is, but we could feel the humidity clinging to us as another sip of GreenSpot did the trick.

The lady had a bamboo mat rolled up under one arm and a large bag in the other hand.

You want Thai massage, only 100Baht? She went on to tell that she had been trained as a young girl at Wat Po and she even showed us a…”license” so I went for it.

My muscles and skeleton needed some work, she quickly laid the mat out, I laid on it, she rubbed some slick goo over me from toes to nose and then she started twisting and bending and DEEPLY pinching me as she had me pinned to the mat, her feet walking up and down my back while at the same time she had both arms twisted and bend backwards as far as they’d go, maybe a little farther.

I pretended the “massage” was fun and soothing as Patong Patty read her paperback and sipped on that cool GreenSpot while the massage lady did yet more damage to my spine. I’d smile[crying inside]as she’d look over and say “how is it hon”, I lied and said “it’s like heaven”, bitting my tongue inside my mouth so as not to appear like a weeney.

I lost track of time about the time she had me pretzels in some type of professional wrestling submission hold, my eyes rolling into the back of my noggin, I finally caught my breathe as she had finally worked down to my toes, cracking each one in more places than I knew those little piggies could go!

By the glazed over look of my eyes, she and Patong Patty either figured I had a blissful delight of a massage or I was ready for a nap.

My body had not ached so much since I’d been on a Stryker frame in the military hospital, where they’d turn it ever hour or so.

We paid the massage lady her blood money with a small tip showing my appreciation for such a professional massage.

I just laid in the sand til the sun went down, exhausted but miserable, passing out.

Everyone I mentioned the massage too informed me that “Ms Massage” was the best on the beach, highly trained at Wat Po, yada,yada, yada.

I have completed marathons and not been so sore!

I got a massage daily for the next month, by the end of that time, our entry visa about ready to expire, we finally left Old Patong and flew back to Bangkok, feeling more refreshed and stronger than I had felt in years!

The massages worked wonders, my muscles were loose, yet strong from daily body surfing and things were pretty good.

The massage lady fixed me right!