Author Archives: Gary Old Patong

Old Patong: Dutch Jeff, Dao and Crazy Dave

Dutch Jeff was never at a loss for words! He had a rather loud, almost obnoxious voice, until you actually listened to what he was saying!!

Many newcomers took him to be a German, but the big Dutchman was anything but!

Jeff has been around alot since WWII where he had helped the Allied Underground in Europe as a little more than a kid from Amsterdam, his journeys and jobs had taken him all over the world, but Baan Nam Sai Yen would be his final abode.

When we arrived on Patong Beach in 79, Jeff was already there, had been living in the “Green” house in the middle of the coconut grove, situated where Paradise Complex lay today.

He and his lil wife, Dao could be seen surf fishing, that is, Dao threw a net while Jeff had another Singha, most any day. Once in a while they’d “borrow” a long tail and venture out into the bay, never really getting far off shore, coming back with more fish in one trip than they’d caught off the beach in a month!

Then, Jeff would haul palm fronds into a big pile, torch them and Dao would BBQ the catch, selling it quickly to locals and tourist alike.

At least once a week, you’d see the big fire smoking away on the beach and see a small crowd mingling, drinking beers and eating good BBQ pla.

Jeff and Dao got by, they didn’t need much or have much, but life on Old Patong was easy then. A BIG liter bottle of Singha was about 20baht and most folks would make their own fun.

No jet skis, ski boats, trinket sellers, etc were around, just another lazy day on the beach. The few bungalows were small, 6-8 room compounds, a good room with cold water shower and two lousy beds could be had for 20baht, maybe 30baht for tourist, travellers never paid over 20baht, Dutch Jeff rented the “Green” house for 300 baht per month!

Jeff and Dao met Crazy Dave in 79, by 1980, Thai Garden was up and running, Jeff & Dave being co-general mgrs, while Dao did all the work!

Jeff took off for a visa run to Butterworth, Malaysia, Jeff would take the Baht bus from one small town to another, it was cheap and Jeff knew how to stretch a Satang!! By the time he returned, Dao had run off with Dave on a short tour of Songkla, NikonSiTammarat, Ko Samui,etc.

Jeff took things in stride, he been forced to play the cards he was dealt and he played them close to his chest! There were few words between Dave, Dao and Jeff after that, but Jeff hung around, acting co-general mgr for several more seasons, meanwhile, Dao’s relatives started showing up to “help” around Thai Garden for the next 7 yrs!

Jeff finally moved into the wee village behind Patong Beach, Baan Sai Nam Yen, he built a small house there, married another local gal and soon had several small ones crawling around.

At the time I felt sorry for Jeff, but years later he said it was the best thing that could have happened to him, now Crazy Dave was stuck with Dao and her relatives, Jeff chuckled.

After a few seasons, it was obvious that Dao’s kin just wouldn’t go away, that is unless the proper amount of bakshees were kindly granted, then they’d be gone with wind! Scurrying back to Krabi or Korat or parts unknown, that is, until the dry season around April each year, you’d see them coming back to the goldmine on Patong Beach.

Dao’s father was a rubber cutter, a truly nice fella, he was sadly afflicted by snake bites and each season when he’d show up, it would be with stumps instead of feet! The snakes deadly venom had robbed this hard working man of his toes, but he’d just wrap his stumps in cardboard or mats and carry on, never a sad word from Khun Nok, he was a real man!

Dao’s mother considered the lawn chair on the north side of the restaurant to be her private palace, where she instructed various family members how and what to do daily! She was clearly in charge and had little problem getting things accomplished.

Dao’s little bro Coo-et, always practicing his school lesson, though as far as I can remember, none of Dao’s brothers or sisters ever went to school while living at Patong.

Every 90 days, Crazy Dave made a Visa run, but Dao was still there when he returned. She knew how her rice was buttered, but often Dave would find about half of his kitchen tools…”I let my friend use”, would be gone and sometimes not even a pan was around to make a Thai omelette! This was never a happy time, we knew the geckos would hit the ceiling fan when Crazy Dave returned from each Visa run, it NEVER changed, he’d leave for several days and mak mak panha would ensue, ALL the beer and food would quickly run out, no one but David seemed to know you had to go to Phuket open market and order supplies, etc.

We could see the toll it was taking on David, but, he was too sure of himself and a typical “owner/operator” refused to hire good help, when he felt he was getting “free” labor from Dao’s inexhaustible supply of relatives! Sometimes you get what you pay for…:-)

Meanwhile, back in the village, Jeff and his new wife Panom were busy baking cookies and cakes for the hotels, bungalows and tourist. Dutch Jeff could always turn a Satang into a Baht and lived on such a low budget, that even when he didn’t make a Satang, they still ate good!

One thing about Old Patong, no one went hungry! You’d rarely see anyone begging and those few that wandered along the beach were often given all they could eat and a job!

Jeff would still roll into Thai Garden daily, usually in the morning after the paper boy had dumped off a supply of Bangkok Post, Jeff never bought a paper, a beer or anything at Thai Garden, there were always plenty of travellers, tourists and expats supplying any & all, the party really never ended there, at least for a decade or so.

Jeff, having read the paper, discussed the Night Owl “Trink” column in depth, finished the jumble, crossword and read the “Born Loser” comics, he’d be off on his little 70cc Honda, dwarfing the little bike with his big frame, but he kept that bike going like knew for as long as I knew him, and almost like a local, he could easily carry his wife and two kids, maybe a maid, a big fish, basket[S]of veggies,etc while putting along the dirt beach track back to his house.

One thing Jeff would always look for in Thai Garden were paper back books! Many of the visitors just left their once read, nearly new looking books on a table, Jeff only took the books that were flawless and new looking! His small house had one entire wall covered from floor to ceiling with these volumes! From the Classics to stories about Hitlers Gold, Jeff had them all, of course Crazy Dave knew what was going on, but he never mentioned it or begruded Jeff as Jeff would often leave with a hand full of books[naturally Dave had already read most of them anyway].

Things went along this way for most of the decade of the 80’s, life was good on Old Patong, where every day was indeed, a holiday and every meal a banquet, every night, friday night and every Saturday a fiesta!

Old Patong, where the beer flowed like a river, the bbq aroma would fill the air for 100 meters and you never, ever saw a sign that said “NO SHIRT OR SHOES, NO SERVICE”!!! Bikinis and singlets were the outfit of the day, course at night, the wiser visitors knew that long fisherman’s pants would at least keep those biting mosquitos at bay!

Old Patong: The U-Boat[early 80’s]

Along the north central end of Patong beach was where the former German U-Boat Captain Hans started building his U-Boat!

We’d drive by for months, watching the cement cylinder take shape, the local talk was how the machine was being built, it’s various technology and if it would sink to the bottom of Patong Bay as quickly as rock?

Captain Hans seem to have great pride in the ships craftmanship, he was there on hand to supervise every laddle of fresh,wet,hand mixed cement creating an ever fatter supository looking craft!

By night, Captain Hans ran the U-Boat bar on Soi Bangla[Bar Rd]and always had a group of northern Europeans gathered round his table for tales of WWII and how “shares” of his new [hopefully] floating machine would make them all rich when he would charge tourist a grand amount of Baht to tour the beautiful undersea coral reefs of Patong Bay and beyond!

It seemed like the work on the U-Boat lasted not more than 6 months, by monsoon, the locals were “salvaging” the iron ree-bar by hitting the flakey concrete orb senselessly with large hammers…:-(

I wish there were a picture of what was to make Patong beach and Captain Hans famous, but sadly, none were taken! Maybe there are some old timers out there in internet land that have a picture or two of the fabled U-Boat or atleast the U-Boat Bar, which lived on for several seasons after the demise and complete destruction of the U-Boat.

While the contruction was going on, many gawkers, tourist, travellers, expats and locals spent many hours sipping a cool brewski and wondering where it would all end.

Like most pipe dreams, it went up in smoke… but, maybe that’s how it started!

Old Patong: Songkran

Our first Songkran in Phuket started early!

We got in The Spirit Of Patong, riding slowly thru the sweet village of Baan Nam Sai Yen on the way to the beach.

The little children were already lining the roads, complete with powder and blessing water.

It started off with minute amounts of powder, followed by a very light sprinkling of water.

The intesity of the day seemed to elavate by the time we arrived the few kilometers to the beach…with tourists, barflies and locals dumping full buckets of water at us as we whizzed by.

Dodging a super squirt gun here or a full pail of water there, we made it to Thai Garden, totally soaked to the bone!

A little forethought however had saved our “stuff that shouldn’t get wet” by way of a plastic bag!

Crazy Dave let out his big bellowing laugh when he saw the two drowned rats emerging from the scooter. He helped us tip the sidecar over and about 40 gallons of H20 flowed freely from it, the red Toyota bucket seat was squeeshy, but we knew the hot Patong sun would soon dry it out.

Being somewhat prepared for the day, wearing bikinis under singlets, we just went across the street and jumped in the warm blue Andaman, caught a few waves and were dry by the time we got back to Thai Garden for a bowl of noodles and a Green Spot.

The festivities worked their way up and down the beach road that day, with Paradise Bruce renting a big truck and filling it full of his staff & patrons, along with many 55gallon drums of water attached to high pressure nozzles! Everyone didn’t seem think this was a good or even Godly idea, but they went off drenching any and all, we watched them go, feeling that things were beginning to change, not for the better…:-(

We hung around Thai Garden the rest of the day, only venturing back to the Waterfall house just before sunset when most of the water drenchers were subdued by a long days celebration.

The commericialization of the locals was surely taking over. Little Patong was growing like a weed. The Asian way of copying anything was in full affect by now, holidays/festivals were getting that advertising touch, there were always “deals” on stuff during these times. It was only the beginning.

Old Patong: The Start Of Eco-Tourism

One afternoon we went into Phuket town and hung out at the bowling alley for several hours.

They served the best curry in town and Patong Patty was addicted to this one little shop located inside the bowling alley. While we tried to bowl, she wisely ate curry!

Janie, a would be reporter/journalist[ie:freelance writer hoping to make a few baht on local stories],local cabaret singer/entertainer, her husband Pong, Texas Larry and his darlin’ Anong, Patong Patty and myself had already bowled a few games when in walked the Governor Of Phuket, he had arrived in his “official” ride, a rather large “Kennedy” Lincoln and was for some reason in the bowling alley dedicating something to somebody.

Not to miss a chance at a story, Janie immeadiately put her bowling ball in Pongs lap, and ran, with her little snapshot Instamatic camera clicking away at the dignitaries and asking rapid fire questions of the Governor at the same time!

“Why did the people burn down the Tantalum Plant” and “When will the Government stop letting the mines pollute the islands pristine beaches,etc” Janie screeched, the Governor, like a true politician deftly side-stepped the annoying questions and continued on his way, returning to the big white Lincoln and disappearing into the masses of vehicles near the big open air market.

Janie returned to the lanes, a huge grin on her kisser, “these photos will get me a storyline with the Bangkok Post”!

We were all slightly taken aback, cept ofcourse Pong, he’d been married to Janie several years and knew she could and would do the most inopportune things imaginable. Like the time they were having a “discussion”, that is, Pong was on top of their pickup truck as Janie wildly drove and swerved, trying to dump the hapless Pong into the klong or a “moving” coconut tree, all the while yelling at Pong to “get back into the truck”, Pong was wise for such a young man and hung onto the windshild wipers to keep from getting bounced from this wild bull-like ride!

Janies moods could subside into sugar without taking a breathe, just as fast as they could mount into small earthquakes that would rattle those around her to take cover!

Anyway, we never saw the article that Janie was gonna make the big Baht in the Bangkok Post, but later that week they had a huge ralley in Phuket town, Janie of course was there to do her journalistic magic, but somehow the crowd destroyed her small motorbike and grabbed her little Instamatic camera and flung it onto the side of a building, Janie and Pong were most fortunate in escaping into a nearby cafe as the 90cc Honda burnt brightly!

The crowd was entirely pro-tourism and anti-mining plant, it was an ugly time on the island, but soon passed from memory as the bigger and bigger hotels replaced the tin & mineral mining on Phuket, it was difficult to tell which had done the most harm.

Old Patong:Thai Boxing[1979]

California Jim’s voice rang out loudy from the big speaker attached to the pickup truck, Jim was hawking “Thai Boxing In Phuket”, selling tickets and getting farangs/tourists/locals/expats to buy a ticket for the nights big main event!

Local goodguy and Thai Lightweight Champion Owan Pedit was fighting and defending the Thai Championship in Phuket town vs an up and coming challenger from Ko Samui.

We had met “Wan”, his dear wife Pui and their little child Lek while he was working for Mr Bruce at Paradise Bar/Bungalows.

Wan was even tempered, always sporting a big smile, Mr Bruce had put up a small gym in the back of the bar where patrons would often workout.

Watching the Champ workout was a pleasure to see how a real Thai boxer, let alone, a Champion worked so dilligently, the sweat running off his heavily muscled torso as he beat and kicked at the huge bag hanging in the middle of Mr Bruces “ring”…

Betting was heavy in favor of the Champ, with little regard to the challenger, after all, he wasn’t from Bangkok or even Phuket, but Ko Samui!

Samai had negociated with the local BahtBus to take a full load into town and see the extravaganza, after hanging out all day at Thai Garden or Paradise, we had figured out how the match should go.

Arriving around 7PM, we were early, the fights didn’t start til 8PM and the main event wasn’t til 10PM, we loitered in the stands.

Samai had gotten us really great front row seats, we felt like VIP’s. I noticed that one section off the ring was enclosed with barbed wire. I inquired and Samai told us that was the bookie area and they had to fence it off cause there could be “pan-ha” depending on who won or lost bets or fights!

We were all excited, our first Thai boxing match and with a local friend too boot, it was a double pleasure!

The little stadium quickly filled up, the announcements for the fights, the preliminary fights began.

Watching the boxers do some type of ritual, all dressed in their totally cool Thai boxing shorts and wearing some type of head band[?], the first round was set:

Being used to watching conventional boxing since childhood, I was amazed that the boxers could grab, knee, kick and elbow any and all areas of the opponents body.

During the 3rd fight, things got a little out of hand in the stadium, as many of the “fans”[losing bettors]tried to climb over the fense and get at the bookies, but Phukets finest quickly entered the ring, firing off an M16[upward into the sky]and things quickly settled down!

Samai gave a short explanation as the fight progressed, telling us who to bet on, we either took his advice or didn’t, we knew nothing about any of the fighters, outside of the Champion, but by the end of the evening, Samai had lost more than he’d won, I got lucky and picked 4 of 6, including the main event, our Pal Wan successfully defended his Title with a swift kick to the opponents jaw, in the second round, the helpless challenger dropped like a rock!

We waited around til Wan was dressed and ready to leave, we carried him on our shoulders to the bus and the Mekhong was flowing like water on the way back to Patong Beach, where we partied into the wee hours, naturally Wan couldn’t buy a drink!

This was the last time Wan defended the title in Phuket, he later dropped the title while defending it in Surat Thani. Wan never fought professionally again, but continued to work for Mr Bruce at Paradise.

Sitting at Paradise bar late one night, there was a big foreigner who wanted to “fight” as he sat surly at the bar, Mr Bruce motioned for Wan to take the guy into the gym and show him a few moves, we all went into the gym and watched as Wan spun around a lightning back leg kick, almost knocking the bag from the chain that it hung from! The big guys eyes suddenly became WIDE open as he watched the seemingly small man work over the bag like a tornado, elbows, fists, knees, and feet flying up and down the helpless bag, the big Farang wisely went back into the bar and settled down.

Over the years, Wan and his family became close and cherished friends of ours. Wan could always be counted on to do his best at what ever he did, you don’t become Worlds Champion by taking things half-way!

Here are a few pix, two of the Title fight and one of Wan and his family at Paradise.

Over the years we’d watch many Muay Thai fights as well as convention matches, usually at Crazy Daves Thai Garden, sometimes at Paradise, but always with our buddy Wan side by side!