I am back from Phuket a.k.a. Whore Island.
No, that's not fair. Phuket is such a complicated place. It reminded me, of so many ways, of a geographical representation of One Eyed Jacks, the club in the Twin Peaks television series, the shady underground whorehouse on the borders of an idyllic, unassuming town. Of course, One Eyed Jacks is a singular representation of something sinful, and Phuket as a whole is not that. Patong Beach, maybe, but the surroundings:
Karon Beach is beautiful. The hills from Kata to Rawai are breathtaking to drive. On my motorcycle, pedal to the metal, so to speak but only going 30 kms up a certain hill, I felt the way that I believe an astronaut must feel when floating in space, the way it is represented in the Right Stuff (movie): and in fact I kept playing Claire de Lune over in my head as I ascended, through the trees and the bushes, no other vehicles in sight (most tourists seem content to live in the ribald, irredeemable sexual stewpot that is Patong (Charles: "God tried to smite this place for its sins with a tsunami, but they built it back and made it even more disgusting"). And then on your right near the top of the hill, the trees clear away and you can see Nai Harn Beach and Lake below, water impossibly blue, sand impossibly white, sky impossible clear, impossibly pleasant sun. You have to stop and take a picture, even though it won't capture what it is that is so capture-worthy about the moment: not the view, but the feeling of awe, and the disappointment that this feeling is not possible to have at all times, that the sensation in your body, the squeezing of your heart, is fleeting.
At night Phuket is different. I am sure that some of the girls enjoy being prostitutes. There are certain girls that must enjoy nothing more than drinking and smoking and flirting and dancing and beckoning and kissing and living comfortably like that. There are others--many more others, I would gamble--that are not so happy. Do you ever see them late at night? Alone, tired, hanging head? Rejected? For how many nights in a row now? For how many hours of every day? For how long will it last--both the feeling of rejection, and the lifestyle?
These are all general impressions of Phuket, one of the most fascinating and confused (not confusing) cities I have ever been to. I am sad now thinking that I had to leave it. But I don't know what I am more sad to leave behind--the beautiful views, the lifestyle, or the incipient sadness, the swelling melancholy that begins to mix with the beach air late at night.