"I ugly, no?" She said, standing in front of the mirror.
"I poompooi, no?"
Poomp pooi, or pumpui, means fat. The etymology is an ad for a food product featuring a very fat-faced fish.
"No," I said. "You are neither fat nor ugly."
Still, she primped and posed some more with variations to her uniform, before leaving. All the while, she sang a very weird Thai pop song which goes something like, "nyoonyenyek-nyek keniiii." over and over and over again.
"What song is that?" I asked.
"Oh, it's from a singer, Fat Ass."
"Big Ass. Thai singer. Very good."
"Okay. What is it about?"
"It's about falling in love is bad. In song, there is big, big party. And falling in love is bad."
Big party. And falling in love is bad. Well, at least it's not about thongs.
Finding nothing better to do, and without any of the Superman movies on the almost-40 movie channels, I went out as well, 10 minutes later, into the cool Phuket air.
This time around, Cheepork - the Earl of Cunt and myself, Count Clitoris, spent more than two hours walking around - fresh off the airplane - trying to find suitable accomodations. It's a throwback to the first time we were here and were looking up and down for a hotel or guesthouse that would suit our needs.
Our usual haunt, Sand Inn, has upped the price by more than 60% because of the peak season. Even though 2009 is one of the worst peak seasons in Phuket history.
Peak season is between December to January. February till March and October to November are the high season periods. The rest of the year is low season. In the low seasons, Sand Inn charges from RM70-RM100 per night. Now, it's around RM160.
Prices have indeed increased all around Phuket, since two years ago. Thai massage is up by 10 ringgit, making it RM30 per hour. And now, if you go two hours, you no longer get a 10 ringgit discount. It used to be that one hour is RM20, two hours is RM30.
Same goes with a lot of things. Too many to list here. Some things, though, remain the same. Rock Hard A Go Go more or less charges the same price as they did when I first came to Phuket around five years ago. And Roxy doesn't skimp out when you ask for a Scotch.
But times are hard. Air Asia cancelled one of its three flights to Phuket - ours - and put together the morning and the afternoon flights together. According to one of our informants - a resident who is usually online - one street was hit so bad that they only had five customers, one night. A whole street. Five customers.
You can point the finger at a lot of factors. The global economic slowdown. The stronger Thai baht against the US greenback, the Euro and the Aussie Dollar. The move by previous Thai PMs to turn Phuket into a family destination and not so much a Sin City.
Anyway, after two hours of searching, under the hot Phuket sun, I asked Cheepork, "So what are we looking for?"
"I can't remember."
"You can't remember?"
"I listed the names of the hotels down, but forgot to bring it. But I'm sure if I see the name of the road, I will remember the name of the hotel."
Problem was, there were no road signs. Hidden behind multiple layers of sellers and hawkers, trading anything from sandals to sarongs.
"Oh, great, so we're just going to walk around for hours, with our bags, inches from massage parlours, looking for hotels whose names you can't remember, on streets with no signage?"
I felt my asshole taking over myself.
"It's okay," said Cheepork. "Let's go to a cybercafe and let me look them up again."
We did, and I must say that the hotel Cheepork got for us was a revelation.
It has a jacuzzi in each room, and each floor only has two rooms, making it the biggest room I have ever paid for myself. The biggest room I was ever in Thailand was The Metropolitan in Bangkok, where the bathroom was as big as my living room back in Malaysia. I didn't pay for it, though. Somebody else did. That was, however, a lifetime ago.
Anyway, we met the owner of the hotel, a guy called Tony from Scarborough. Nice bloke.
The hotel is at an area of Phuket which I have never been in. I did not even realize its existence. It's like finding a Phuket secret or something. I'll write about it later. It is about 10 minutes (walk) from Soi Bangla, which is far by my standards. Sand Inn, in comparison, is a mere 10 second dash through traffic.
But a clean, spacious room with a jacuzzi at RM100 a night during peak season - plus almost 40 channels - and both fans and air-conditioning is nothing to complain about. And I do feel guilty for being such an ass to Cheepork earlier.
No worries. I'll send him a massage tomorrow.
So, I went out into the cool Phuket air. I saw a roadside stall and, saying fuck you to my regimented food intake, went and ordered a plate of fried rice. I was loocking forward to having those chopped chillies in fish sauce again. And I love the way Thais prepare their rice.
An American couple joined me, as we tourists are wont to do in these parts. 30ish. Good-looking. They wear Old Navy, which usually alerts me of douchebags and assholes, but they seemed nice.
"So what's your take on Phuket?" asked the guy. Can't remember their names already.
"Well, it is as it is. What about you?"
"I think it's very quaint," said the woman.
"Quaint? Strange choice of word."
"Well, yes. With their little decorated Tuk Tuks and names and Thai kickboxing promotions. I find it cute."
Cute. Cute. And I remember K, with her daughter growing up in these parts, her American husband having taken custody of their boys. Aoh (whom I call Psycho Gundam) with her insecurities and erratic energy of a broken-hearted and broken woman. The absent Anne, whom Cheepork still loves and pines for. Tuk 1 who developed wiry muscles capable of bending steel because she had to carry water every day of her life. Tuk 2 who was beaten up by her gay husband, and whose children were taken away from her.
Cute? To them, this is life, and this is their world.
"But I don't get it," lamented some of my foreign acquaintances. "There are less people coming. Less business. They should lower prices, not raise them."
"Well, it's their country," I said, having had too much to drink and needing to go to the toilets again. "They can do whatever the fuck they want. If you don't like it, then you can git out!"
Fortunately, I remembered to put in as much humour and parody of a Republican as I can. And they laughed with me. Or at me, for being a dirty Asian monkey who has learned how to speak. I do not care.
The night is cool. There is that Phuket energy in the air.
I am going to take a motorcycle taxi (RM4 instead of RM2) and go visit my friend Sandy who manages Sand Inn at Soi Bangla.
For the first time in months, I am calm and content. The hurricane that is my emotions is gone. The blizzard that is my mind is still. Surrounded by the facade, the lies and the heartbreaking honesty (when you take the time to sit down and listen, and not make it all about yourself all the time ) I am safe. I am humbled.
I am home.