Saturday, January 12: This morning, we have a buffet breakfast outdoors under a pavilion at Club Andaman Beach Resort. A Thai woman plays some soothing music, adding ambiance to our lush surroundings. We attend a lecture in the morning and then we are free to do whatever we want for the day.
I opt to spend my day at Patong Beach, the most famous beach resort in Phuket. I had envisioned the resorts of Phuket would extend directly to Patong Beach, but Club Andaman does not. There is a busy and tacky business street, with crowds of people wandering about, dividing the beach and the resort. Massage parlors abound. I go to the beach for the afternoon and am surprised to have to pay 100 baht for a beach chair. A young man sweeps the sand from the chair with a straw broom and he drops by periodically to repeat the sweep. He offers to open my umbrella for me. Men and women walk up and down the beach offering sarongs, teak elephants and other souvenirs for sale. You can order fruit drinks from young men that come around or from a shack bar up on the beach.
Many of the women are topless; I know this is quite European and acceptable in all parts of the world, but I have never experienced topless beaches before. I am surprised at some of the fat or older women who are topless and should not have been! No one seems to look twice at these women! There are plenty of big-bellied men wearing Speedos – mostly Australians. All kinds of activities are going on in the water: parasailing, jet-skiing, and boating. It is much like beaches I’ve visited in the Caribbean and elsewhere.
After I lounge around for a long time at the beach, I seek out a massage parlor in town, as I’ve heard they’re incredibly cheap.
Every other shop is a Thai massage parlor, with petite uniformed Thai girls sitting out front beckoning customers. I stop at one that looks clean and comfortable, and the girl leads me to a room full of mattresses on a wood floor. She pulls a curtain around the mattress and tells me to get completely naked. Then she squats and slathers me with oil. I am amazed at how limber she is, maneuvering into all kinds of positions to give me the massage. It’s a little risqué by American standards: the being totally naked, the way the masseuse squats and clambers about rather than standing, the proximity she comes to touching my private parts. It’s a full hour, full-body massage and costs only 300 baht, a mere $9 U.S.! I love it, though I feel a little uncomfortable with some of the familiarity. American massages are much more prudish, possibly because of fears of lawsuits for inappropriate touching.
I am feeling depressed so far on this study abroad program; our group just doesn’t have the cohesion and chemistry that our group on the Mexico Study abroad program had. I feel disconnected from everybody. This is one of the first times I’ve realized I don’t take well to group vacations.
In the evening, a few of us eat at the Cairo Restaurant. I’m drawn there because I’m missing Egypt so much and feeling like nothing will ever compare. I feel lost.
This evening, I write a letter to R, someone I have been seeing since the end of May, 2007. Here’s what I write: