Author Archives: Gary Old Patong

Old Patong: Bar Road: Soi Bangla, The Early Years

For what is now Patong Beachs most famous road, Soi Bangla, well, it used to be little more than a dirt path from the beach, near Patong Beach Bungalows eastward towards the rice paddy/bayou behind, before the wee village of Baan Nam Sai Yen nestled in the low hills before the eastern mountain.

In the early 80’s, after the Govt had “displaced”[torn down the many beach shacks along the beach-side of Patong]and “relocated”[only those with enough Baht to BUY the new lands AND build along Soi Bangla]some of the local businesses to the new road…Soi Bangla!

Lada had the strategic corner of the beach road and the new road, south corner, a little photo developing shop had the north corner, the old round Disco was the ONLY business left on the beachside, apart from Patong Beach Bungalows.

On the southside of the street were:

Next to Lada Bar was the German-run “Michler Bar”, the very first Katoy Show/Bar in all of Phuket Island!

The place did great nightly business, with their various “Reviews/Shows” made up of female impersonators, the show got so popular, the resident locals started complaining about the “show” and Michler management quickly pulled down their big rain tarps once the show started there after!

Next to Michler Bar was Gottlands Bar, a sorta Dutch place that seemed always busy with Northern Europeans.

The Original No. 1 was here! EVERYONE knew about No. 1, they only sold seafood, all fresh and they’d let the patrons scribble on the walls with markers! The place was friendly, the food was always fresh and good!

A little art shop was next to No. 1, can’t even remember the artist name, but he would paint the tourist either from poses or snapshots, we bought a cool painting of an old man with a “papasan hat”, smoking a long pipe, he did it on a banana leaf and then shelacked it! He always seemed busy.

A small tailor shop was here. He made mostly “safari jackets” in those days, but was an expert tailor, many of the expat who dropped off his old favorite pair of levis and the tailor custom made new jeans that fit like the old ones!!!

Next to Valentines was the goofy and extremely friendly Kangaroo Bar, this place was run by two fun loving Aussies that NEVER slept! These guys would be going strong, selling beer and such to their compatriots until ALL supplies were exhausted! The Kangaroo Bar was always a fun place full of pranks and good times!

The little Valentine Market, Mr Singhs sister, her husband and their son Dang ran the market after working at Mr Singh’s Valentine Bungalows, where they ran a small cafe for about a year before Mr Singh sold off to Canadian Bruce and Mr Bill.

Jims Wine Bar was between the Valentine Market and Kangaroo Bar. Jim was a salty Brit who peddled wine, an oddity in Patong in those days when the only wine was local stuff, available in very small bottles, either red or white, I tried them both, ONCE, fortunately, Jim had better wine, mostly imported from Singapore or BKK, but nothing really special, it was just nice having a change from Mehkong and Singha in those days.

Jim always appeared low key, he resided just up the road at the newly built Baan Sukothai Bungalows. There were always Brits hanging out at Jims place, he later sold the place and his bungalow and even a pickup truck to a nice Brit couple, CASH before the sale, only for them to find out that Jim had skipped the country with their Baht long before they arrived later during the tourist season! Jim had evidently been on the lam from Old Blightey, the rumor went, after having taken the fall for some bad boys there and done some time.

These things continued to happen, with bars/businesses being sold to the unsuspecting more often that you’d believe!!

Next to Jims place was Ninas Boutique, Nina was a local Gal that made good, she owned several buildings and some land around Kata also, Nina was a good designer and had local seamtresses make about anything feminine needed.

Past Ninas was where a new side Soi would later be,we never knew the name of it, just called it the “Bakery Soi”, cause there was a bakery on it, as well as a few small boutiques, more shops and Bogarts Bar!

Bogarts Bar was the FIRST airconditioned bar in Patong Beach[not counting the big Patong Beach Hotel].

Bogart was a wiley Aussie and he installed an ear deafing stereo system and was the first bar to offer “shooters”, not sure what these drinks were, maybe a mixture of grapefruit juice, mehkong, vodka and they’d be served by leaning your head back and a nice waitress would quickly pour the entire drink in your mouth, it was like liquid fire, all but the hearty drinkers could take no more than 2-3 before the floors and walls started spinning.

Past Baan Sukothai Bungalows was..nothing! Just the end of the dirt road, going into a small path that led straight into the rice paddy and towards the mountain.

Crossing the street and heading back towards the west was:

On the Northside of the road was a small beauty shop where they offered a strange massage, now quit thinking THAT WAY, it was a massage where they covered you with…TALCUM POWDER!

Just east of where the beauty shop was, a slick city boy from California named Brian started a shop/bar, Brian always had some scheme involving investing and “part owner” etc, I hear that Big Bill is around that area now, Big Bill used to run a small restaurant next at Paradise, he could cook a flip flop and you’d think it was GREAT! As for Brian, word quickly got around that you’d best keep any financial dealing with him to a minimum.

Next to the beauty shop was the original Patong Beach version of the Hard Rock Cafe!!! The sold Hard Rock singlets and tee shirts, and everyone had one then. This was a goofy little shop, they had a very very LOUD stereo and even had this strange looking COVERED WAGON infront of the place. When the music got too loud, we’d amble out and sit in the wagon and have more beer! Run by Mac & Deja, the Hard Rock was a cool place! We became good friends with them and they even showed us how to prepare various Thai delicacys from time to time.

Copying the quick success of the Hard Rock Cafe, right next door sprang up the Purple Haze Rock Club! The first time I entered the place,[ started and run by the guy that ran the bank money changer next to Patong Beach Bungalows], I enquired “Mee Rock N Roll”, the owner beamed a big smile and welcomed us all in, we would often go their and stay to the wee hrs of the morning, many of the local musicians would stop by after their shifts and the local hotels and waterspots and we’d jam and sing into oblivion! Guitar Noi was a regular, so was the expert singer/guitar “Saey”, Saey could sing “Sultans Of Swing” and play and sound just like Mark Knoffler! The Purple Haze was a good joint indeed!

Next to Hard Rock was a little restaurant run by a superb chef that had formally worked at some of the BIG hotels in BKK, Mr Tum of Tums Restaurant, he made the BEST pepper steak in the world and could cook up that fancy French chow without a bother! We became regulars there!

Next to Tums was the wildly insane GONZO! Gonzo was not like any other place, it was a BIG thatched roof open style place, run by a crazy Scandanavian, he offered plenty of loud rock n roll, dancing, some bar snacks, noodlecart stuff mostly and he designed some cool looking jean jackets. He was soon run out of town by the “mafia”, but who knows, they later put a bar soi there which is now called…SOI ERIC!

Next to Gonzo was OddJobs bar, run by the old ex police sgt, he resembled OddJob of the 007 fame, his bar was always good for a little gambling,etc, when he passed away, they closed down the soi and gambled and partied for about 4 days straight! OddJob was a good guy and when he was around, there was never any trouble.

Next to OddJobs Bar was the Swiss Chalet, good food, mostly German. A few boutiques/gift shops to the corner at the original Patong Photo Shop.

Soi Bangla, what a play, evidently it STILL IS! We used to go there mostly around midnight, the crazies seem to haunt the place then, we’d tried all the shops, bars, restaurants and miss the good fun.

Old Patong: Guitar Noi[1979]

We met Guitar Noi late one night at Chiannes beach shack.

Noi was slender, very tall, kinda Marleyesque with his extremely long hair and fu man chu stache and beard. Always a big grin on his face and a gentle nature.

Noi rolled in about 11PM, we were just watching a little dog chase crabs on the beach and generally lazing from a huge bbq fish meal that Chinanne had expertly fixed for us earlier in the evening.

Noi brought his guitar along and I quickly asked him to play “Stairway To Heaven”, well, he DID! Never missed a note in fact, none of us there could believe how talented Noi is!

He played one song after another, we tried to sing along, aided by a case of Singhas we yelled out the lyrics of every song Noi played and Noi even taught us a few local Thai songs along the way. Daybreak suddenly jumped up from behind the big mountain to the east and we all groggily stumbled back to our homes and bungalows.

The next day Patong Patty and I were talking about the night before, when we met Guitar Noi, Margaret and Chianne invited us to go along with them to the big Patong Beach Hotel and see Noi’s show there that evening.

During the day I sat with the guy that would later become “Paradise Bill” and we watched the first windsurfing contest on Patong Beach! The wind surfers kept circling around and around we just figured it was the course they had to follow, but sadly found out that a German tourist, in fact a Doctor who had the blues when his girlfriend left him and he drink too much and took a mess of pills, resulting in him swimming too far off the beach and drowning. It was bad news for sure.

The good news was Noi WON the first ever Patong Windsurfing Championship! Noi was quite the athlete and easily out distanced ALL the competition without any trouble!

The time finally came, we walked up to the hotel, located about mid beach and sauntered inside.

Guitar Noi was behind the organ, playing elevator music, but when he saw us, he immediately got on the microphone and said “now we gonna shake em up some” and began playing Neil Youngs “Southern Man”, I walked up next to him and we began singing and with Nois excellent musicianship and singing, we brought the house down!

From then on, every time Noi saw me and he was behind the organ at work, he’d start playing Southern Man and we’d sing together and maybe several other folk songs at the time.

After work, we went thru the bushes behind the big Patong Beach hotel to the little place that Noi resided with his dear wife Lek and their darling wee daughter Oraphin.

Lek made us all welcome, we sat on bamboo mats for several hours and sang more songs and party’d on.

We were overjoyed at meeting Noi and his family and would be friends for evermore!

Old Patong: Our first Chinese New Year:1980

The aroma from the wok drew us into Thai Garden.

Dao had been cooking a big load of freshly picked cashews with chili, we munched on them while drinking a Greenspot and chatting with Crazy Dave and Dutch Jeff.

Jeff, the big, loud talking Dutchman knew the price of everything on the island. He was a true Dutchman and knew where the least expensive food or drinks were and often just sat around Thai Garden waiting for another expat or traveller to get one of those week long feast going, Dave would fire up BBQ or dig a pit on the northside of the place and do it “Hawaiian style” if needed.

Jeffs new son, could barely waddle, usually crawling under foot or under tables as we solved the worlds worries for hours on end,,,

“Jep-noi” as we called Little Jeff was a riot, he’d regularly “water the floor” as Crazy Dave would grimace and yell for Dao to get things cleaned up…again.

Dao, a big grin on her kisser would quickly do what was needed and just as quick, run back into the kitchen, her real domaine and stay there til she finally quit cooking near 10pm or so. Her little sister Toi was always helping Dao and they would have various relatives of Dao’s coming and going thru-out the year.

One of her brothers, Mee, showed up on the BahtBus early one morning, fresh from Krabi, he moved in and slept in the kitchen most of the time, that is most of the time that he wasn’t at the Disco! Mee loved the Disco, not the new Banana Disco, but the old round big thatched-hut styled place on the beach, just across from Lada Bar.

Every evening he’d come up to me and say “Gary, you, me go Disco”, but I’d just smile and always answer “No Mee, You go Disco” and slip him 10-20baht and he’d be off and not return til near daybreak.

One of the visits there, Mee received a conk on the side of his face with a beer bottle, this set the young man off on a tizzy, he had a grenade buried out under the big barge that the monsoon had washed up on the beach last month and Mee was totally ready to blow up the Disco and its surly inhabitants right NOW!

Dutch Jeff and Crazy Dave grinned as Mee went on and on about the Disco, etc, I sat nearby listening, then Crazy Dave mentioned to Mee about “why would you want to hurt those that were innocent and just bystanders that were just having fun at the Disco dancing”?

We got a few Thai Garden lemonades[Mekhong, Sprite, Meenow]in Mee and he mellowed out some and took his grenade back to the hiding place under the barge and all was well or another case of Mai Pen Rai.

The sun was slowly coming up over the big mountain behind the rice paddy, none of us was even ready to call it a day or night that is, we just kept on keeping on.

The early BahtBus came slowly down the dirt beach road, picking up a few going to Phuket town and dropping off Crazy Daves order, baskets full of fresh produce, seafood, etc for that days feasting. Like most restaurants or cafes on Patong Beach, they’d have extensive menus, but it was always “can get for tommorrow” on most of the items.

Crazy Dave only used fresh goods, and he never ran low on the real necessities: Mekhong whiskey, Singha beer, Greenspots, etc,etc,etc., besides, the ever near “motor-cycle markets” or various food/noodle carts were never more than a shout away!

As long as the party was going, Dutch Jeff wasn’t leaving anyway and he always had great stories about his days in the WWII Underground where he helped the Allied war efforts considerably, enough to be granted US citizenship shortly after the war. Jeff was quite a guy!

About 10AM we were startled to see a multi-legged DRAGON entering the Thai Garden front yard/motorcycle parking area! This was my first introduction to Chinese New Year! Complete with many firecrackers going off, we watched the Dragon dancing up and down the beach road for most of the day, going from business to business, gathering good will and donations for the local school, we all happily contributed.

This was the first of many Chinese New Years that Patong Patty and me were fortunate enough to be part of. Later in the day we’d be at Ett, our kind maids house enjoying her family and friends and the karioke of village life.

Old Patong:Crazy Dave

Crazy Dave is one of the most unique individuals I’ve ever met!

We first saw him on our 2nd trip to Old Patong.

He’d built a little restaurant right next to Mr Singhs wonderful Valentine Bungalows!

We were surprised to see new buildings going up in 1980, there were still plenty of shacks on the beach, both sides, and the beautiful coconut groves of Patong were being clear-cut little by little.

7 Seas was up and running with additional bungalows to add to their shady bar, Scandia improved their little piece of paradise slightly by adding an “eating room” infront of the bungalows where they offered Nordic foods as well as good Thai offerings.

Dave was fresh from Iran, a rigrat that became a refugee as the Shahs rule came to a violent end.

He told us many tales of oil jobs around the globe and just happened on Phuket island as a lark after meeting a fellow rigrat in Bangkok on a flight back to the States.

One thing about Phuket, especially Patong, once you saw it in those days, it etched DEEP into your mind, into your soul. A dream-like south pacific looking perfect horseshoe bay with wide & sandy beaches lined with coconut groves surrounded by steep hill/mountains on 3 sides, a santuary from the madness of the world, a delight for the senses!

Dave had gone into biz with Dutch Jeff, the big expat/underground freedom fighter/hero of WWII, from Holland.

Jeff went off to renew his visa, you HAD to leave the country in those days, every 90 days, most went the cheap charlie bahtbus to Butterworth in Malaysia and quickly came back, Jeff stayed a week and by the time he returned, his wife Dao was off with Dave to Songkla, NakonSiTammarat and HatJai!

Jeff knew the score, Dao always had a wandering eye, she’d run off with an SAS pilot years before, so it was nothing knew, Dutch Jeff soon had a new lady and a little daughter soon to be!

Dao named their dog after Jeffs new child, such was the way things work in the crazy world of the green eyed monster.

Dutch Jeff and Dave still ran Thai Gardens, but you knew it was really Dao that did all the work anyway with both guys acting the part of general mgrs.

Crazy Dave had some innovative ideas: he was the first person on Phuket island, let alone Patong beach to have a vcr/tv running betamax movies! That little gadget FILLED his place nightly with expats, little Thai children would always set timidly on the outside of the place, peering in at the movies, Big Dave would saunter over to them, he could be menacing looking, but he really had a good nature, once you got to know him, and glare at the little children, freezing them in their tracts, only to offer them ALL free Greenspots and Colas, letting them continue setting on the outside and watching the movies as long as they wanted too!

Naturally the various noodle carts and satay vendors would park out front, I was addicted to the plamook cart, that dried squid-like jerkey was SO GOOD with a nice cool Singha[the beer ONLY came in LARGE bottles in those days]! Dave never ran the carts off, he knew there was plenty to share and he became a quick favorite with locals as well as tourists, travelers, and expats!

Once in a while, Guitar Noi would come down after he finished his shift at the big Patong Beach Hotel,where he played organ for the mostly Nicorman type tour-bus groups that filled the place and played some hot guitar and he’d teach us the words for a few Thai songs as well as Western rock n roll, which he EXCELLED at!

Guitar Noi IS the best guitars/piano/organ player I EVER met! Still is! He was a tall Thai man, long hair like Bob Marley and the singing appeal of Dylan! Everyone loved Guitar Noi and we became close friends!

The early years saw Crazy Dave’s Thai Garden Restaurant filled morning, noon and night. Dave stayed busy going back and forth to town, ordering from the big open market there, a marvel in itself! You could hear Daves Honda 125cc twin with its “007” exhaust pipes a mile away!

Dave once said about the new market that was going up in nearby Baan Nam Sai Yen, just behind the rice paddy east of the bay ” a western market opens up at 8AM and closes at 5pm, an Asian market opens up at 6Am and NEVER closes”!

It was true, Dave would run off to the nearby new market and knock on the door all hrs, day & night and the nice guy running it, Mr Boonrawd, would open it up immediately and serve as needed!

Although most think the Banana Disco was the first disco on Patong, it wasn’t, there was a large round thatched hut on the beach across from Ladas Bar, but below the Banana Disco was the first movie rental place on the island! Dave would go down there daily and come back with mostly adventure and comedy flicks for his guests!

The big generator he had behind his cafe was difficult to modulate, but somehow, it powered his BetaMax, TV and large freezers[which he got for a BIG discount after Lada broke ALL the glass doors in one of her fits of rage vs her new hubby…:-)….!

Old Patong, where the fun and the drama just seemed to go on and on and on…

Old Patong:Our first trip from Patong Beach

Superman, Erik The Red and Michelle of Patong at Lenas hut Kata Noi.
Note the little hut/bungalows on the side of the steep hill behind us,
they were the ONLY accomadations in Kata Noi at the time!

Acquiring the Spirit Of Patong really opened new territories for us!

It was rare that I ever got on the Baht bus, Patong Patty would go into Phuket town every few weeks, mostly to shop for arms full of orchids at the big open market there.

After getting the scooter with sidecar, we ventured over the big hills that separated Ao Patong from the rest of the Phuket Island. In those days, there was only one road in, a few “dirt-bike only” trails went north to Ao Kamala or south to Karon Beach, but our little scooter was just a Honda Lead, with a sidecar made from the droptank of an old F86/F100 jet and it wasn’t really made to carry the extra weight of the sidecar & a passenger, but it was just right for us.

It was just powerful enough to barely make it over the steep hills between Patong Beach & Kathu, sometimes with Patong Patty jumping out as the centrifrugical clutch on the Lead started to whine, she’d often simply ease her legs over the side, standing up and giving the scooter a wee shove that was just enough to help it power up enough rpm’s to gain the crest of the hill, where I would wait for Patty to jump back in and hold on tight as we’d race down each hill.

The scooter being so gutless was actually a blessing, we rarely got up enough speed to get into trouble, only occasionally jamming on the brakes to avoid any and all of the following;

pedestrians having to immediately cross in front of a moving vehicle
water buffalo[s]
snakes[not ONE day went by that we didn’t see something slithering across ALL roads we were on]

and of course, ALL larger vehicles, which was everyone on the road!

especially other motorcycles…

We had been in a few rented jeep-like vehicles, to Naiharn beach and Kata and even little ideal Kata Noi, but this was our first trip with just the two of us and we were so excited!

Locals, especially children would giggle, smile and clap their hands when they got the first glimpse of the Spirit Of Patong. Funny how something as simple as a scooter with a sidecar, in a land where many contraptions were bolted onto motorcycles was so pleasant for all that saw it!

The scooter had no “gears”, but an automatic clutch, so we had to be careful going down those steep hills too!!

I rode the breaks slowly descending the steeper hills or dirt paths, sometimes Patong Patty would get out and grab ahold of the back of the scooter, acting as a human brake! We never crashed, but sometimes slide down a dirt path that a bike with a clutch would have just eased on by.

Anyway, we made it over the big hills, turned south just before Phuket town[it was still a bit scary for me to drive on the left side of the road, but I would just pull off if too many big trucks or buses were coming at us], towards Chalong Junction, where the road would go to Kata Beach or south to the gypsy village of Rawai and then west to beautiful Naiharn Beach.

At the junction, we stopped by the big Wat Chalong, although there was a Wat in Patong, we never seemed to go there, but seeing the golden spires of Wat Chalong, it seemed to pull us in automatically.

Being dressed for the beach, we naturally didn’t go into any buildings,etc, but met a young man there riding an arm powered tricycle! This hand cycle really appealed to me, we quickly swapped bikes, he riding our scooter all over the Wat grounds, while I tried to get his trike moving by arm power.

At the time, I was extremely strong, my arms and shoulders full of muscle from years of pushing wheelchair racing and basketball and walking with forearm crutches, but this young guy we met, maybe in his early 20’s had twice my strength, easily moving his hand powered trike with ease, something that I managed to barely get it moving!

After getting back on our bikes, we bid him ad eau, wai’ing and we headed towards Kata Beach.

There was another steep hill just before Kata, but it wasn’t like the big hills sheltering Patong Beach, the scooter made it up without a worry and we were able to look down at Kata Yai and see all the way north to Karon Beach too!

There was only a small village in Kata in those days, a few bungalows near the south end of the bay, we had lunch there, then went over the steep little dirt track just to the south to the ever scenic Kata Noi.

We had a greenspot at Lenas little shake, the only place on the entire bay then and headed back up the dirt path and home to Old Patong.

The day had been full of excitement and fun for both of us! We washed off the bugs from both the trike and ourselves and were quite sunburned and tired. We learned to wear hats AND sunblock after this trip!