I have often been asked the reason/place/meaning behind my tattoos. I have 2 of them, both massively intricate ones. One covers my shoulder and goes down my back, while the other is a bad ass sailor tattoo running down my left fore arm. Mothers with young children in India (although there are exceptions), usually do not sport tattoos and even if they do, they are small, cute, girly ones with deep meanings and not boldly visible. My tattoos cannot be concealed, unless I wrap myself in a sack and I have never really told the truth behind their coming into existence.
They both happened (actually one expanded) in Thailand and as most people would expect, not in Pattaya. Thailand nights and drinking games with the Irish do not go hand in hand and that’s 1 lesson which took 2 tattoos and endless beers for me to learn. I was visiting Phuket and enjoying a tranquil peaceful time, when one night I bumped into Alice, my old Irish friend. She was a hoot and we had a lovely evening eating, shopping, gawking at exotic lady boys and gossiping. As women, we hated the lady boys and this stemmed from jealousy. In spite of not being complete and biologically real women, most of them were drop dead gorgeous, had hourglass figures to die for and made us feel as attractive as teapots. Somehow it never seemed fair to us, but their glittering, outrageously skimpy costumes never failed to stun us and we always ended up staring at them open mouthed.
That night Bangla Road was packed and I was exhausted. I had been riding around Phuket, all the way to Phromthep Cape for sunset viewing (although my sunset did not happen there). Located in the southern part of the country, Phuket is Thailand’s largest island (connected to the mainland by suspension bridges) and is surrounded by the sparkling Andaman Sea. An old trading hub of Portuguese, French, Dutch and English traders, its wealth came from tin and rubber. It also fell on one of the major maritime trading routes between India and China, and was originally called Jung Ceylon. Today, tourism is its major industry and although the devastating 2004 Tsunami had wrecked havoc, this sprightly gem of an island bounced back valiantly.
Phuket is a lovely hilly island covered with lush tropical jungles, powdery soft beaches, twisting creeks, mangrove forests and rubber, palm oil and pineapple plantations. Quaint fishing villages, shrimp farms and lots of flowering trees and banana groves dot the pretty island landscape. Apart from a few tourism raped beaches, most of Phuket is thankfully still unvisited by foreigners and 2 national parks thrive here. Khao Phra Thaeo National Park lies in the northern part of the island and protects the delicate rainforests of Phuket. It also has 2 very pretty waterfalls, Tonsai and Bang Pae. Not very much touted, it’s entrance was not easy to find and neither were the supposed to be easily available guides inside the park. After that disappointing visit, just to cheer myself up, I traipsed on wards to the Sirinath National Park, only to miss its entrance and visiting hours too. It is also in north Phuket, and has huge expanse of saltwater swamps and mangrove forests. Its entrance is near the very popular Phang Nga bridge, but somehow I could not locate it.
Sirinath is an old national park and covers both land and sea. Home to many species of flora and fauna, it also has stunning coral reefs around 700-1000 meters offshore. It would have lovely to walk around this park only if I could have found it. Disappointed, I chose instead to beach bum along its long protected stretch of silvery white coastline. Hat Nai Thon, Hat Nai Yang, Hat Mai Khao and Hat Sai Kaeo are its 4 beaches, which due to their national park status are spectacularly undeveloped, empty and peaceful. The drive was pretty awesome too, with no garish hotels crowding the fluffy blue skies, and only rows of casurina perfuming the air mildly fragrant.
TRAVEL TIP – Nature lovers holidaying in Phuket must give both Sirinath and Khao Phra Thaeo National parks a visit. Apart from the dense forests and arduous waterfall hikes, there is also a Gibbon Rehabilitation Center inside the Khao Phra Thaeo park. Injured, wounded and abused rescued gibbons are taken care of at this center and it makes a great outing for those traveling with children. Sirinath also has a 800 meters wooden walkway nature trail and a trip there can be coupled with spending the rest of the day at its beaches. There are strong undercurrents at some of Phuket’s beaches and swimming is not advisable unless marked safe. Both are paid attractions and can be done through organized group tours as well.
A few over expensive bamboo shacks served delicious Thai food on the beach, and a few diners sat scattered around. Apart from them I had the waves, sand and sky to myself. A handful of wayward tourists loitered too and I blissed out on the soft sands till sun down. Being September the beach was open for visitors, however between November and February Sirinath beaches (Hai Mai Khao and Hat Nai Yang) are reportedly cordoned off for the sea turtles who come to lay eggs there. After so much of sun, disappointment and long motorcycle ride, by the time Alice happened I was bone tired. She pegged me on as usual and we got into a major drinking game. The loser would be the one to pass out/ collapse/die or throw up first and would have to get inked.
We left the bustling Bangla Road behind, walked up to our favourite mobile bar and began our infamous booze war. We loved that bar and its cheap beer, 70 years old English owner, Peter and his young Thai wife. Peter also joined us and sometime past midnight, all of us got roaring drunk to even decide who won. Alice and I piled on Peter’s car, and left Sukhon, Peter’s wife to mind the bar.
Duster (Peter’s Dutch tattoo artist friend) happened somewhere in Phuket town and unbelievably Alice and I, unable to remember who won, both got inked. Thankfully Duster was a tattoo master who had won many professional championships, and strictly ensured safeguarding his client’s health. We both ended up getting inked, waking up at Peter’s house the next morning and spending the consecutive 2 days nursing hangover, painful tattooed body parts and incessant thoughts of strangling each other. The tattoos thankfully turned out alright, and my sailor one was graciously not too obscene. Still now every time Alice and I connect, the only talks we have are about our crazy Phuket tattoo adventure. It never fails to give us a few laughs.
RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE