Last week, when the editors at George Magazine asked me to write an article on Phuket, I said, "No, go ahead, pitch the assignment." They said Phuket. I said, "No really, I have 36 hours to kill this weekend, I'll go anywhere you want me to go." They said Phuket. I said, "Phuk you!" stormed out of their offices and went to Starbucks for a latte with one muddaphukingly itchy trigger finger. If my barista cluckingly corrected my use of the word large, I was going to introduce the dude to Mr. Luger and Mrs. Hollowtip.
Then I got the text message, "phuket, you phuktard." Phuket? I spent most of 1982 in Phuket wearing nothing but a tie die tank top and a huge Thai-stick-smoking grin. I still get Christmas cards from a sweet, Laotian pool boy named Sammy that I only faintly remember.
A weekend in Phuket! 36 phun philled phours! I left JFK on Friday at 10:15 in the morning on Cathay Pacific Airlines. I arrived in Hong Kong 16 hours later, waited an hour and a half and then boarded another plane for Bangkok -- just a three hour flight, I can do that in my sleep and I did. A short one hour and fifteen minute wait for my one hour and fifteen minute hop to Phuket. Halfway around the world in only 23 hours and 20 minutes! This is a fantasy so the planes were always on time.
My agenda was ambitious so it was time to get started. Except it was 8:35 PM on Saturday night and I had to leave in 10 minutes so I could be back at work Monday morning. Phuck it! "Scotty beam me to Phuket and ready the transporter for a return on Sunday at 5 PM."
5 PM Friday
Head straight to the beach at Kamala for some well deserved relaxation. Rent a metal detector at Sammy's Seaside Shack (23 bahts) and see if you can find any remains of the tourists swept off this exact beach by the tsunami back in 2004. Nervously scan the horizon for rogue waves and the deadly undertoads.
If you want to feel good about yourself, head up to Mount Nagakerd to gaze at the Phrapdavehuttcunninghamingpetermongkeefehfrancisomarottal-akenmuffyagatuppermankhiri Buddha -- his friends just call him Big. Enlightment ain't gonna happen so in order to reach some semblance of contentment, find the 147 foot Buddha's carved to scale penis and realize that, even if you're white, you still have three inches on the Big Guy.
Forgo the clean, well-lit, touristy restaurants that are in actual buildings and head over to the abandoned lot near Robinson's Department Store. Find the stall, upside down crate or dung heap with the shortest line (because you still have ladyboys to fondle) and order the fried fish balls (44 bahts). Artfully arranged on a pile of bright green, fish pubic hair, these delightful mouthfuls are the perfect compliment to some locally brewed beer (6 bahts if purchased from the guy with the rusty 55-gal drum).
Thailand's national sport, beating the living crap out of each other, is now available back home nightly on six different cable channels under slightly different names so, unless Jean Claude Van Damme is fighting Mr. T as the main attraction, skip it and go to sleep. Phuket basically shuts down at night anyway, you won't be missing anything.
9 AM Saturday
There's more to Phuket than hostess bars, go go clubs and ladyboy liasons, (You went to bed early? That was a joke, dude.), how does brunch in the jungle sound? The most unique way to get there is by orang taxi (247 baht). Africa has the almost human-like chimpanzee but only Thailand has gibbons and orangutans. The gibbons are native, the orangs are shipped in from the Malay peninsula to work in the burgeoning "green" tourism trade. You can't ride on the back of an endangered species back home, even at the Bronx Zoo, it's worth the extra baht.
Enjoy the floor show at the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project provided by the giddyingly, gregarious gibbons, over a bowl of steaming elephant trunk stew (45 baht).
Elephant does not taste like chicken. Served in ornately carved ivory bowls, elephant is reminiscent of the worst venison you've ever been forced to eat by your crazy hunter uncle, you know, the one that would get really pissed if he caught you spitting Bambi into your napkin. Chewy and dry, stringy like nylon, not cotton, elephant is like gnawing on a steel-belted radial only not as tasty. But it is illegal to eat in 137 of the 146 countries in the UN, so enjoy.
Today is all about preparing for tonight. Elephant trunk? The Chinese swear it's great for ED although I'm not sure how they got that idea. You'll need to be loose because it's going to be strenuous. Time for a special Thai massage. Called the Satay Special (2397 baht) and available only at the Lemongrass Grill on University Place, it's a tantalizing mix of curry, honey and sand.
Phuket is famous for all you can eat dinner buffets and some of them are located in actual buildings. The best bang for your buck is at Dennys on Route 47.
The pad thai is excellent.
There are two things the Thais do better than anybody on the planet, 1. grow rice and 2. dress their boys up like girls. The Japanese have a proverb that roughly translated goes, "Not really gay if ladyboy not bigger than you." We're not talking height people and despite your apparent victory over Big Buddha, you need work. The elephant trunk soup is a good start but before you go partying stop by the cart of Madame Miraclegrow for a double shot of yadong, pronounced "yeah! dong!" (4500 baht). It's not called yadong for nothing, and while it may contain larger than trace amounts of mercury, lead, arsenic and cyanide, this stuff is like putting a Pinocchio nose on Karl Rove. You're going to need a snake charmer for Mr. Happy (a decent snake charmer 14 baht).
Pick out a cute ladyboy and have some fun (66700 baht). How do you know if the woman you meet is packing? Well, if she hits on you, she's a working girl. If she hits on you and is a knockout supermodel that looks like that smoking hot token Asian on the Disney Channel? She's a man.
11 AM Sunday
Sweat out the cheap alcohol, bottomless guilt and suicidal tendencies on a beautiful beach where Leonardo Dicaprio made a movie nobody saw and James Bond frollicked with his own katoeys. Get some rest, you have 26 hours of travel ahead of you and a pile of work waiting when you get back to New York on Wednesday morning.
Other Wasted Weekends