Saturday, January 22, 2011

January 1, 2011 - Phuket, Thailand

Would you believe the best ever New Year’s? I apologize in advance that I don't have any good pictures!
From serene Nai Harn Bay, where we spent Christmas, we moved a few miles up Phuket’s west coast to Patong, the island’s hub of tourism, for New Year’s Eve. The bay was full of noisy jetskis, loud tour boats, dozens of yachts. Ashore, in one of the tackiest tourist towns we have ever seen, were hordes of sunbathers, tourists, hawkers, masseuses, and shoppers. As night fell the excitement grew. The neon lights came on. Street vendors starting selling pancakes, kebabs, fried noodles, roasted corn.
On the beach you could buy fireworks (the really good ones!)and lanterns. At the base of the lantern was a wood disk that you lit. When the fire was hot, you let go of the lantern and up, up, up, up it flew, just like a hot air balloon. The sky was filled with hundreds of them for hours and hours and hours. All night long, people set off fireworks along the big beach, punctuating the starry backdrop of the lanterns. This was a privatized display – no corporate sponsors, no government regulation. The noise and excitement reached a crescendo at midnight, as we watched from a trio of catamarans rafted together in the harbor. According to some of the Aussies on board, it was better than Sydney Harbor New Year’s.
And that wasn’t even the main entertainment. Earlier, sitting at a bar on Bangla Road, we watched the giddy crowds shoot aerosol cans full of streamers at each other. The crowd included: katooeys (cross dressed former men or men in various stages of transformation to the female sex , distinguishable as such only by their over the top glamour), old farang (white) men pushing baby strollers to meet up with the working mothers of their children, pole dancers, go-go girls, Thai ladies leading their farang boyfriends around by the night or week. Even more eye-popping was the ping pong show, where an almost undressed middle aged woman did, well, very impressive tricks with ping pong balls, darts, and a variety of other things. A sex circus, one might call it.

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