Minimalist wooden Asian decor,
The smell of the Japanese Robata grill,
The hiss and glow of the flames,
All welcome us at Masu restaurant, in the center of Auckland, New Zealand.
We are having our last meal in NZ before our flight to Thailand.
The friendly waiter and waitress who must have served hundreds of people since the last time we’ve been there, still remembered us.
They shook our hands and shyly asked if we remembered them also.
Of course we do…. We always remember people who are kind to us.
But to be honest, I was a bit stunned….
Masu restaurant, despite being an expensive new Japanese restaurant, is fully booked every night….. And yet they remembered us the minute we came in.
The food is excellent and the place is buzzing with NZ celebrities.
I would hardly recognize any of the celebs, maybe only a handful, but from the stares and whispers of nearby diners, I figured that some of the people were well known in media or politics in NZ.
We flew business class to Thailand.
Veg noodles and a salad,
Kapiti ice cream
A private iPad loaded with movies
A stop at Singapore airport and….
We landed in Phuket Thailand.
USA passport holders no longer need to apply for Visa-On-arrival.
We did not know that and we filled out the forms.
Our hotel sent a Sedan-Limo to pick us up.
It is a boutique luxury apartments hotel.
Our apartments is large, spacious, modern and Ohhh… So So comfortable.
The air on the patio of our apartment felt hot and humid…. I was too tired to brave the busy streets of Patong beach.
Phuket will have to wait until tomorrow.
I said goodbye to my nicely made hairdo and jump into the rainforest shower.
With all the humidity, beach and scattered rain, I figured it was useless to try to make my hair look nice on vacation…. From now on my style will have to be called “Wild and frizzy….”
The next day was cloudy with a bit of a drizzle.
We had breakfast at the open air restaurant in our hotel.
Comfortable seating, the pleasant sound of a waterfall, water lilies in the pond, we enjoyed a good breakfast of a large fresh salad and tropical fruit sprinkled with a delicious mix that I brought with us from NZ.
It contained honey roasted oats, raisins and fresh macadamia nuts that we got as a gift from our gardener in NZ.
Patong beach is a very BUSY place.
Hundreds of beach beds and umbrellas for rent line the beach.
Locals with fake brands of sunglasses draped across their arms, offer them for sale, knocking on the lenses, saying that the lenses were made of glass and not from cheap plastic.
The place is literarily buzzing with Australians on scooters, touting, pestering tourists to go to open houses at the many mediocre condominium resorts, trying to sell their boxy apartments as the ultimate vacation homes or as ‘good’ investments… Trying to pass them of as “Living the Beach-life-Dream.”
We do not buy the Spiel and of course we do not buy any of those apartments, nor do we buy into this form of paradise-dreams.
It is as if I am seeing Phuket through a double vision.
On one hand I am very happy to be here,
Very happy to see and to taste the place,
To feel the warm humid human air, the smell of the ocean, suntan, alcohol I no longer drink, grass I do not smoke, food I cannot conceive of eating,
All mix together into my senses and I feel restful and in love….
Something inside me loves everything I see….. Maybe because I apply my inner vision and my love for all Life and to all mankind,…..
On the other hand….
I see the other side too….
The streets of Patong are overcrowded with people, smoky scooters, cars and buses filled with tourists.
Sun Burnt pleasure -seeking Germans and huge belly-sprouting Scandinavians, drink copious amount of beer by the beach and in all of the zillions of bars around Patong, catering to all budgets.
Heavily tattooed buff-chested Australians with army-buzz-haircuts, hold hands with blond Aussie girls wearing teeny-tiny miniskirts and decorated with the obligatory leg tattoos, stroll the streets in between their drinking sessions.
Bikini clad Russian men with absolutely no shame, dine in restaurants very far from the beach, completely unaware nor conscious of their nakedness, their hairy bellies overflowing.
They eat huge quantities of meat as if their stomachs were empty gasoline barrels, not a gentle SMALL human digestive system, which is actually the size of a human fist.
Women who are large and shapeless walk the streets in tent flowery dresses.
I imagine they like to take their beach vacations in places where nobody knows them and therefore, for the first time in years, they need not be self-aware of their shape.
They look both sad and relieved at the same time.
I see the greed and the restful,
The touts and the gentleness
The dreamers on vacation
And those who came here to escape harsher realities at home.
There is everything for everyone here on the streets of Patong and all around Phuket.
There is money for the locals selling food, alcohol, massages, taxi and Tuk Tuk rides.
Fresh fruit, juices, hats and beachwear,
Food stalls selling herbed fish or steamed garlicky morning glory in clear plastic bags closed with a rubber band.
There are Indians making custom made suits and offering tailor services,
Poor fishermen selling shells,
and van owners offering tours around the island.
It seems like expats from all over the world came and settled here in Phuket (by the way it is pronounced Puket).
There are Israeli restaurants that offer Israeli food and travel services, along with free phone calls to Israel.
There are Arabs from Egypt, Lebanon and Dubai.
Coming from a culture that forbids any contact between single men and women, those lonely single men operate yummy Arab restaurants by day, and enjoy getting massaged and soothed by pretty Thai girls by evenings.
There are Korean and Japanese tourists, and of course the globally entrepreneurial Chinese.
There are expats from all European countries and from all over Australasia.
My hairdresser back in NZ told me she flew to Phuket along with her husband to get all their dental work at very cheap prices.
There are dental clinics everywhere, along with medical clinics and clinics offering plastic surgery.
Medical tourism is getting big around the world.
What kind of tourists are we?
What are we looking for?
To soak some salty water and ride some waves?
To see and take in the different vibes around the world?
It all feels so transitory yet so precious…. As if everything IS exactly as it should be….
I feel as if I am observing and taking in the entirety of the human comedy.