Patong is an absolutely crazy town in Phuket, Thailand where we had to transfer through from Bangkok to get a boat to Phi Phi island, our final destination. Patong is on the beach and people seem to swim and relax during the day, but the main point appears to be the nightlife. I am not sure what I came here expecting but nothing prepared me for the all out sensory onslaught that awaits after dark. In all my life I don’t think I have ever seen so many people concentrated in such a small area drinking and partying. There was a main strip with all of these open air bars and clubs down the side streets (known as "Sois"). This main drag was packed with droves of people wandering aimlessly absorbing the sights and sounds and basking in their vice of choice. Incredibly, on multiple occasions I saw entire families with their young children wandering through these areas. I say incredibly because many of these bars and clubs existence seemed to be predicated solely upon prostitution as each of them ostensibly consisted of a bartender and a pack of four or five girls just hanging around (although one couldn’t really be sure of the gender a lot of the time). Eventually some middle aged guy would stroll up and after a few drinks he and a girl would leave.
Visually, the Sois were a photographer’s dream, this was one place I really regretted not having a truly pro rig to take the whole thing in. I lugged around my Nikon D80 the whole time snapping endless shots while trying not gape in awe of the insanity all around me. Unfortunately the D80 only goes ISO1600 so it was sometimes difficult to get sharp shots in the lower lighting conditions, but most of the time there was enough ambient light to get away with ISO1000-1200 and avoid the higher noise associated with the 1600 setting. Many times I had to underexpose and then use dynamic lighting to pull the information out of the low end. I used to have VR (vibration reduction) on my 8800, I missed having that around as many of the shots came up really soft.
After dark debauchery aside, the daytime was a decidedly mellow affair, lot’s of strolling around in sandals and swimming. I forgot my circular polarizing filter so a lot of the daylight shots came up pretty washed out, after the second day I sort of gave up on daytime shooting and proceeded to eat constantly. I can’t stress enough how good the food was; virtually everywhere we ate was a new high in culinary achievement. Even the little run down shack restaurants with outdoor kitchens were great (many times they were even better than the more established eateries). If you ever find yourself in Patong the first place I would recommend to eat is a spot right around the middle of the beachfront strip called "Chez Bernard". Get the whole fried fish with Thai chili and the squid fried noodles; you can’t lose. Unless, of course, you’re allergic to fish, squid, or Thai Chili sauce, in which case you could lose, in a big way…Because at least one of those things seem to make their way into pretty much every dish.
The Thai people in general were really mellow and friendly but I know I didn’t get any true sense of Thai culture. We rented motorcycles to ride up the coast one day and found a small town with an outdoor market. There were only Thai people there and it was way out in the country so I think that’s as close as we got to seeing a day in the life of Thai culture but we were still very far from immersion on any level. We spent the last few days on Koh Phi Phi Don island and diving the Nok islands, got some decent pictures there. Phi Phi is a another world altogether, but I’ll save that for another post…this one is already excruciatingly long I am sure. Hope everyone is well, I’ll see a lot of you soon in Stockholm.
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