Author Archives: Gary Old Patong

Old Patong: Mid 80’s, We buy some land!

Our house in Baan Sai Nam Yen

By the mid 80’s we’d moved away from the ever noisy party at Patong Beach to our little “waterfall house” in Baan Sai Nam Yen.

We had the first house just past the waterfall towards the Wat.

Our little place wasn’t much, a small kitchen, which we rarely used, a small livingroom, a nice bedroom with walk-in closet and the ONLY hot water electric shower in the village!

In additon, we had TWO water supplies, one, the local city water[which could and DID dry up during the hot months before the monsoon hit each year]and plastic tubing that the previous owner[Khun Char, the new F&B manager at the Patong Beach Hotel]put in!

Many was the time when we’d come home and fine the our dear maid, ETT, washing clothes in our front yard, our water never ran out, and others in the village were always welcome to use it as needed.

The house was put in Dang Valentines name, he gave us a so called “deed of use” which supposedly we could use it forever!

It was very nice living in the village, the neighbors were all kind to us, they watched out for us and our stuff even when we were gone.

We never had trouble in the village,cept for the occassional flooding of mud coming down from the steep mountain just across the street and filling our little place with mud and debrie several times per monsoon.

We tried to convince Khun Char[who owned the place behind ours]that if we just put a small cement drain about two feet deep across the front of our place and his driveway to the small creek that the waterfall emptied into and then to the rice paddy, neither of our places would ever get flooded or mudded out again. Even when we got the help of Dang Valentine and the Kamnan, it still couldn’t convince Khun Char that it was best for us all.

Naturally when the monsoon hit next week, it filled both of our places full of mud, but Khun Chars place was lower than ours, so his land/new house became a meter deep pond, while we simply put sand bags up against our front door and not much mud or water came thru this time.

Shots of our land in Karon Noi

With this impasse, however, we decided that it might be best to get that land we’d been looking at down just south of Patong Beach, south of Relax Bay, to Karon Noi, actually on the hill just behind the rice paddy on the extreme northern end of Karon Beach.

Our old friend Mr Sighn, Dang Valentines uncle owned the land, he sold it to a close friend of ours, Andy Anderson & his dear Thai wife Nan, who along with their daughter Nui would sell us a small plot, maybe a rai at most on a graded off area of the hill where we would put a small house!

All the papers and Baht were exchanged, we would have a common well with Andy and another owner who had already built a big house there, just higher up the hill than ours.

The other owner was a chopper pilot Gene and his wife Dara, they always owned a large Chinese junk type ship that they eventually took siteseers on short day trips usually not far, maybe from Patong Beach to Naiharn Beach at most.

Our land on Karon Noi. Simply ideal!

We liked the idea of moving a little farther away from busy and noisy Patong Beach, the construction was going strong and was almost none-stop, the few roads in Patong was always torn up with new water and sewer lines and it was usually a mess, often the torn up area in front of “certain” businesses[bars]would be quickly finished “if” the proper amount of gratuity were given, if not, there could be a huge 2 meter pit right in front of the foolish business that didn’t “understand” the way of getting things done quickly.

In the meantime, Andy had put up a little bar on the beach, just across the rice paddy/pasture from our land on a sand spit. We’d take the Spirit Of Patong down there several times per week, getting to know the locals, Mr Sighn had moved there after he’d sold Valentine Bungalow to Mr Bruce & Mr Bill and we met a few expats there also, it was a quieter area, but a few businesses from Soi Bangla had moved to the area also, our pal Khun Jek, from President Restaurant and the ever lovely Nina, who had a small dress shop in the area too!

Everyone land was in Andys Thai wife Nans& Nuis name, so it seem secure.

Andy had worked for years in Saudi, had many connections and Nan was muslim and she had even more connections! Andy was retired and Nan was hoping for a small “gift shop/bar”, Andy really got around, had many friends and his little shack on the sand spit an northern end of Karon Beach was sure busy for just a beer joint!

We wondered what it would be like to live next to a “giftshop/bar”, so we bought the land, but held off on putting anything up, until we saw where Andy & Nan werre headed with this deal.

The people above us in the big house were never a bother, the guy was often out of country working, the lady ran the junk with a small crew of “friends” and life seemed fairly easy in Karon in those days.

More pictures of our land can be seen on page two…

Old Patong: mid 80’s change is in the air

The mid 80’s saw Patong Beach drastically change, what was once a sleepy, dirt road village by the sea started to grow like a weed!

Little Relax Bay only a few kicks southeast of Patong Bay was gobbled up and made into the new Le Meridian Resort, an ideal spot, but the old bungalows were quickly torn down and the new resort was HUGE! Just one of many new mega-resorts that would cut into the once pristine beaches of Phuket Island.

Next, Club Med built their rectangle shaped units on the wide beach at Kata. They managed to upset most of the locals and even tourist when they “decided” that the dirt road that ran between their units and the beach was now…theirs.

They quickly tore the road up, making it practically unusable by even motorbikes, often watering it into a rich slurry of mud, local trucks, buses and others made a big fuss when this happened, as usual, it took about 2 yrs for things to die down and the road flooding stopped.

Funny, Club Med, then referred to by most of the locals as “Club Dead” told their visitors that it “might not be safe to venture past the official Club Med compound” and that food and health beyond their gates could be a problem!

About this time, a giant ship started visiting Patong Bay, it even had a hilocopter on it! At the time, private choppers were not allowed in the Kingdom, but the owner of this mega-ship evidently was a famous billionaire who would soon develope the once pristine coconut groves just to the north in Kamala bay.

Just south of the airport, which now had direct flights from Japan,etc was a new, bigger resorts built on the steep hills by the sea there, Armin Puri? or something like that.

These new mega-resorts quickly had the trickle down theory working great on all the beaches on Phuket island.

Where before you could always get a little bungalow on the beach for about 50baht, short term rate or 25-40baht long term rate, with the mega-resorts charging up to 10,000 baht per day, ALL the smaller bungalow places suddenly started charging 2-3 times what they charged just the season before…:-(

Progress had come to Old Patong, the front beach dirt road was paved, bar road[Soi Bangla]was paved.

All these new paved roads did was incite those on motorbikes or cars or trucks or ANY bus to travel as fast as the machine was capable of! Before, when the tourist or locals would go out of control on a bike, occassionally hitting one of those “moving” coconut trees, a water buffalo or dog, usually just minor road rash was absorbed by the unlucky riders, after the road was paved and speeds SKY ROCKETED, death and danger greeted those on the road, whether on a bike, truck[we already know the driver ran away after the various wrecks]or the most unfortunate pedestrian who just wanted to walk across the street to the beach, this could and DID lead to death in Old Patong!

As business greatly increased during the mid 80’s, motorcycles of ALL sizes and shapes could be rented by anyone who had the baht! Many were the days where we drove slowly by a bike wreck, where the owner was shaking down the renter for new parts, often at exorbinate prices, this happened daily!

Soi Bangla[bar road]actually painted little marks on each side of the road where motorbikes could park. This became comical at times, when for some reason or the other, one side of the street or other was illeagal to park! You never really know what was going on in those days, but if you saw ALL the bikes parked on one side, you parked there. Stiff fines were giving to offenders of the newly installed parking codes, which seem to change at will.

Occassionally, Patongs finest would check to see if the tourists had “drivers licenses”, we bought some little piece of paper that was called “International Drivers Licnese” for around 100baht and just left on The Spirt Of Patong, funny, we were NEVER asked to show it!

Once in a blue moon, HELMET wearing was inforced, but the 10years we road the roads of Phuket, we never wore one! Having a unit with 3 wheels kept us out of the usual, stop and the bike falls over thingee!

Just north of Soi Bangla[bar road]they put in a little strip of booze shacks. I believe you could lease one for 500baht per month, these little ghetto blastered huts were identical, all had very LOUD stereos, all playing DIFFERENT music, they became very popular with those staying around all the new bungalows on that part of the beach.

We knew various owners/workers at most of the shacks, some were just funny expats that “thought” they were buying their Singha at discount, but atleast it was delivered! Many of these proprietors lived on little mats under the bar after the place closed each night, course, some of the places NEVER closed. It usually was an extremely noisy area.

The good thing about these new little “bar sois” were that all the cool, good tasting noddle carts would congregate there! It was rare that I wouldn’t order some of that tastey dry-as-leather plamook! I loved the stuff, a few of our local pals would eat it, but mostly I was the on Farang that was seen eating this “fish jerky”!

Almost everything was available from the noodle carts, delicious thin buffalo bbq’d to perfection[sorta burnt], yummy shave iced treats, wonderful fruit drinks of all kinds[YES, even durian]and even bratworst! Patong Beach was becoming truely international by the mid 80’s, word had leaked out to the rest of the world and THRONGS of visitors were there ALL year around.

In the “old days” you could count on the monsoon season to be fairly quiet and prices were always decreased during this “off season”, well by the mid 80’s all that changed, bungalows were booked years ahead of time, it was funny to see some Euro-back packer wander from bungalow to bungalow looking for those 50baht rooms, that were now 250baht per day!

Many of the “cheap charlies” would end up at the other beaches, north and south of Patong where rates could be considerably[and still are]less expensive!

Sometimes Patong Patty and I would even go down to slow, laid back Karon beach for a few days when things were really busy in Patong!

Old Patong: Big Dave Becomes Crazy Dave

The early 80’s saw Big Dave run Thai Garden Restaurant&Bar into the hottest party place on the beach.

He had shunned the operations of other nearby establishments and ran a “family” type place that we still full of fun!

That ended the day his chief cook & bottle washer Dao[the real force behind the good service & wonderful foods of all types]ran off with a RigRat…:-(

A RigRat is what those in know refer to an oil worker, usually these fellas gained their wages in extreme conditions of work, not much less dangerous that a miner.

The boys of the oil fields learned early on that Thailand had everything they wanted and on Old Patong, they had it with sunshine to help relax their minds as much as their bodies.

These fellas rolled into Don Muang, taxi’d straight to Soi Cowboy, Patpong Rd or Nana drank non-stop for several days, then flew down to sunny Phuket.

Big Dave would welcome them with honest to goodness Southern BBQ[atleast south-Thailand style, mostly water buffalo kabobs and BIG steaks], BIG Gringo breakfasts, and the best Thai food on the beach!

The fun never ended in those days and the drinking often took its toll, Patong Patty & I decided years before that the partying would end for us no later than MIDNIGHT, cause with all the new and old faces rolling into Thai Garden in those days, you could literally eat n drink til you passed out!

Even in the early days, we’d leave around midnight and walk the few steps next door to Mr Singhs wonderful Valentine Bungalows, briefly to Paradise Bungalow and after we acquired the Spirit Of Patong, we’d motor ever so slowly the 3 klicks down the beach, across the rice paddy and by the waterfall to our little house in Baan Sai Nam Yen to a QUIET nights repast, lulled ever to dreamland by the pack of neighborhood hounds taring at each other til we drifted into dreamland.

Upon returning one morning to Thai Garden, we noticed that Big Dave was scowling, setting at “his” table near the bar, hiding behind the paper.

As usual, I sat across from him, the only person he’d let at his table that early in the morning, and I knew while he was reading I never said a word, just put my order in for the usual papaya, banana platter with a HOT cup of Milo, while Big Dave festered behind his Bangkok Post.

He finally put the paper down, his eye was swollen and red, I just figured it was another all nighter where he hadn’t gone to sleep yet, there had been too many of those in the last few years and the Mekong Whiskey had turned to knock-off Vodka or Gin in the last year was starting to take it’s toll!

Patong Patty rarely sat with us, instead having her usual morning bowl of “Noodles du jour” with the girls nearby.

I cracked a few jokes,but Big Dave didn’t take the bait and come back with his usual way of taking anything said and “elaborating” upon it.

Meanwhile, Patong Patty was quietly chatting with Dao across the room, evidently Dao had lost interest in Big Dave and run off with a RigRat last night, checking in NEXT DOOR at Paradise!

This wasn’t good, not at all! Things remained sullen and dark, we had our breakie and went down the beach for some bodysurfing, returning around 2pm for lunch to find Big Dave and Dao’s new twinkle quietly, but fiercly playing chess at the front table on the streetside.

I sat at a nearby table and watched them play chess, Big Dave often told us of his experience during one of his many stays at Folsom, where he had honed his chess skills into near championship form.

Big Dave kept flicking open and closing his big Buck lockback blade as the “opponent” gazed at the chess pieces, trying his best to avoid the snake eyes of Crazy Dave.

Dave kept saying little things during the game like “someones gonna get cut” or ” some fool doesn’t know when to leave”,etc.

I leaned over and said “what cha got there pardner, trying to reach for the knife, only to have Dave quickly jerk it away”, I knew better than to try twice.

Dave got up and went to the back room for something, I “coached” the opponent and told him “ya know pal, Dao IS Daves wife”!

He said, “well she don’t think so” and we only held each other last night anyway.

I replied, “you been warned, watch yourself”, he glanced over at me, trying to pretend their was no anxiety or fear, but his eyes gave him away as Crazy Dave returned to the game.

I chatted a little with Dave, not much, we had a wok full of fresh cashews, right from the big tree behind the place and a bowl of noodles. We left soon.

The fool in town left later that day, back to the oil fields of the Middle East and to no drinking or carosing for another 90days or so.

Things around Thai Garden cooled to a slow burn, Crazy Dave drunk most of the time and the restaurant went more or less to nothing, Dave quit ordering food stocks or going to Phuket town to replinish what was needed and the place practically shut down. Getting a hot cup of Milo or a Green Spot was about all that could be ordered the rest of the month!

A month later Dao had Patong Patty write a letter to her new amour, stating clearly that they would soon have a third member to their cozy gathering, but the guy never wrote back or came back to Patong Beach.

Dao lost face, Crazy Dave lost face, Thai Garden became a ghost town full of dread and loathing, many of the expats and locals quit coming by, Paradise got wise and started their own restaurant about that time with “investments” from new partners and business drifted slowly away, but not far, to next door.

One morning towards the end of that month, we rolled in around noon for our usual breakfast or what we could get there to see that Dao had shaved her head, bought an outfit for Nuns and proclaimed she’d be gone to the Wat from now on, we gave her a big party and she left early the next morning.

She rolled by in a few days later, the stubble growing back on her recently shaved scalp, her addiction to Patong Beach was stronger that she thought.

Naturally by this time, Crazy Dave had another woman, infact, many, their were now hostesses at Thai Garden, like Paradise, 7 Seas, etc,etc, things had practically changed overnight.

Dao left in a huff in a rented Tuk Tuk which she always took when they fought,returning to her parents place somewhere in Krabi.

Strangely, the very next day, Phukets finest made a “spot” inspection of Thai Garden and found some “objectionables” in a fishing tackle box which Crazy Dave appealed was “some expats” that left it there between visits>

The police laughed as they hauled Crazy Dave off to Baan Ling, curiously that afternoon Dao returned with the owner to the land which held Crazy Daves lease,trying[in vain]to get Thai Gardens put into her name!

Daos new German boyfriend was only trying to help, but the rest of us looked on and wondered how this fiasco would turn out.

Much like Sommerset Maughns “The Narrow Corner”, it didn’t end happily.

Crazy Dave got out of Baan Ling a few days later, got a lawyer and Dao and her German amigo suddenly had to return to Germany where Dao got married!

After that, Crazy Dave became keemao mak mak and stayed that way for the next decade!

Thai Garden, once the happy go lucky spot became just another bar full of the usual things that bars have. A bigger stereo was immeadiately necessary.

Patong Patty and I could see what happened, we didn’t like it, but we still would saunter by daily, but never stayed past reading the Bangkok Post.

If a big group of expats or RigRats with alot to spend rolled into town, suddenly Thai Gardens was a real restaurant & bar again, the nightly videos running and the bbq’s and food excellent, but as soon as the customers left for their homes or work, the place resumed its dreadful stinge.

Patong Beach was growing though, so with the help of the Spirit Of Patong, Patty & I found plenty of other places to dine and water at, and plenty of new friends were made…:-)

After this time, Big Dave was referred to by all on Phuket that knew him as…Crazy Dave.

Maggie & Michele Of Patong

Here are a few pix of Michele Of Patong, she’s posing at Kata
Noi, notice there is NO developement there[1979]. Crazy Dave and his
bunch make up the rest of the pix, you can see 7 Seas bungalows
barely in the background. This pix is rare, Crazy Dave rarely smiled
in pix, we caught him having fun!

One of the first expats we met in Old Patong was Maggie McKerron. She’d been living in a wee shack located behind the ThomDee Bungalows where the rice paddy made into a small stream and exited towards Patong Bay.

You could always see Maggie walking up and down the beach, often with her group of dogs, Maggie was a nature lover and all things living. Maggie was kind to all she met, greeting others with her big smile.

Maggie was a Brit, actually born in India, her father worked in a bank in the northern hills there as the British Raj was slowly declining.

Her family moved to Bangkok sometime in the 60s? her father working at another bank, she and her sister finished education there and Maggie moved off to Old Patong, along with Michele, they were few female expat/farangs on the beach then.

Michele was an exPeaceCorps volunteer, she could speak fluent Thai, German, French, as well as Gringoese. She is from New York.

Maggie was a free spirit and mostly kept to herself, she and Michele set up small businesses from time to time, we met them at their little book/sarong shop they owned/worked at just across the street from where is now Soi Bangla.

Michele would go off to India or Indonesia and bring back garments/saris,etc and they’d sell them to the tourist, mostly from the big Patong Beach Hotel, almost all tourist to Old Patong in those days were courtesy of Niccorman Tours, I believe it was a big German group letting those in Northern Europe take a much needed break from their severe winters in a land of sunshine and GREAT food!

Maggie and Michele got by, barely, but they were always figuring out how to get by better!

Michele ran off with Eric The Red, a wily boat captain from Scotland, we wouldn’t see her back to Old Patong for many years.

A picture of myself with Maggie of Patong

Maggie then teamed up with Margaret to sell books and garmets, they soon had plans for Bali where they could get inexpensive stuff to bring back, Margaret was followed there by her Austrian admirer, where they tookoff and left Maggie to fetch for her own!

Such was the way things happened then, and probably now, the life of an expat always seemed to be a sketch of how to make a few Baht,etc.

Maggie was soon back in Old Patong, she’d recently heard of a wonderful place where she was hoping to acquire some land, a place called Krabi.

We talked Dang Valentine into driving us all to Krabi the following week. We stopped at the big Phangna Hotel where the many boats would leave for “James Bond Island”,etc had a quick lunch there, then piled back into Dangs little VW Squareback and next was a small waterfall park just north of Krabi a few hrs.

Finally arriving at Krabi, we stayed the Krabi Beach Resort, then little more than a handful of rather nice individual bungalows along the beach.

The next morning we met “Khun Larry”, this guy had a small tourshop in Krabi town, claimed to have “connections” with the Lord Mayor and could help us in negociations to purchase some rais down the beach that were forsale.

Maggie having been to Krabi before, knew where the land was, we set out for it in a rented longtail boat, stopping by a cave that seemed to have “fertility” symbols made out of the stalagtite/stalagmites, then onto the land and then to the small uninhabited island just off the shore for a quick swim.

Krabi town was a fair size river city, but the beach area to the west of it was really small scale, we only saw Krabi Beach Resort bungalows, there was nothing else there then.

If you haven’t been to Krabi, well…GO SOON! It has the beauty of Phangna with the beaches of Phuket! Many little islands are just off the coast of Krabi Province and I understand there is even a hydrofoil now from Phuket, as well as a ferry to various islands in the area, like PeePee, etc.

We returned to Krabi several times over the next few months, talked a few other expats from Thai Garden Restaurant and Paradise Bar into going also. Although we never bought any land there, Mr Bruce of Paradise Bar did!

Our last trip to Krabi, we got stranded in front of Khun Larrys Tourshop…he sold us some bus tickets back to Phuket, but as we patiently waited outside his shop, ALL the buses went by, NOT one stopping, we finally got a ride back to town from a guy who was going that way, we gave him 500baht, but warned him that if he didn’t drive slow, we wouldn’t pay him[I had read and seen just too many “the driver ran away stories” to put up with this guy broadsliding around hairpin turns at 130kph!].

We lived thru the drive, a car made for 4 people, ofcourse Thai style had about 9+assorted LARGE boxes,etc. We paid him at the Pearl Hotel, immeadiately checking in for a decent shower and a good nights sleep before returning to Old Patong the next morning.

Last I heard, Michele was a big time importer and Guru devotee, Maggie is teaching english somewhere in Northern Thailand[maybe Chiang Mai?].

Old Patong Early 80’s: Eden Encountered

These photos show all but the extreme northern end of the cape of Patong Bay. This is how things looked in 79…notice, there are very few building that show up thru the coconut groves along the beach. Click here for a bigger picture.

Old Patong in the early 80’s was little more than a sleeply coconut grove on the most perfect horseshoe shaped bay on earth!

The paved road then ended just west of little Kathu town, the big hills climbing and falling towards the blue Anadaman Sea.

The only electricity were the few generators at the even few bungalow compounds and the big Patong Beach Hotel, the only place on Patong Beach with airconditioning, hot water and screens on the windows to block the mozzies.

The rumor had it then that there was a law which no structure could be built higher than a Coconut tree!