Penang

Phuket town

                     
  Several of my co-workers are mid to late 20s single women from the Philippines. They hang together 24/7. They come in to work early, leave late together. One of the bunch recently got together with a guy friend. It's interesting to see the group dynamic change. The other two women are still giggly school girls and the third is more subdued and obviously torn between giggly school girl and the relationship. I wish I knew Tagalog because there is something really funny they're talking about.

Phuket is an island, a province and a town. It's similar to Kansas being a city and a state. Phuket is also a world class tourist mecca for beaches and proximity to diving. There are lots of tourists from Russia, China and Europe. There are lots of expats from Europe and the US. Thailand has had a significant English learning program in their schools for decades. They hire native English speakers especially from the US and Canada, but also from Great Britain, Australia and South Africa. So in Phuket you have the great mix of tourists and expats. Most of the teachers are young people. A lot of the expats are old and retirement age. There are quite a few guys who are lonely and marry a Thai woman.

There's an area of Phuket town called Saphan Hin that we frequented for several reasons. We originally were looking for a public pool. They have an amazing huge public pool in Saphan Hin. We drove thru the area searching for the pool and found they have a public gym as well. There's also a skateboard park, a fish market, a buddhist temple and a canal where traditional fishing boats are moored. The pool is Olympic sized - at least 50 meters square. It's 20 baht to enter as of August, 2019. The facility is a little rough but not at all crowded most of the time. The only time I saw more than 12 people there was when there was a scuba class.

Unless you've lived overseas it's hard to comprehend the immersion in another culture. Asian culture, even the language alone, is a profound challenge. Being immersed in living with people who you cannot understand, where every street sign is alien, where you have a limited pool of people who could be your friends is a boundless challenge.  

Saphan Hin area

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  At the pool, like most local businesses in Thailand, you leave your shoes outside the door. At the pool there are a lot of people inside, so you'll see a lot of shoes. This picture captures a cat strolling by the shoe area.
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  One of the schools I taught in was in downtown Phuket. There were about 2000 students on the large campus of middle and high school age. About 10% were in the full time English program. The campus was huge and occupied with 3 and 4 story buildings on about a 5 acre site. There was a large wall all the way around it. In front at the entrance was a large parking lot where we met for morning activities each day. There were about 20 buildings on campus. The schools name is Satree.  
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  We went out in Phuket town last night. Phuket town is a small town on the island of Phuket just off the mainland of southern Thailand. There are a lot of expats and tourists especially in high season which starts soon. The tourism industry here is thriving. The former king had institutionalized jazz as a lingua franca here. There's jazz in grocery stores and everywhere. Last night we went to Music Matter which is a small jazz venue in town about 5 miles from our house.At least half my story today is about traveling there and back. The other half is the drama of jazz in a small community. About half the jazz community are expats. The other half are mostly local musicians. There are a lot of Filipino musicians. The owner of the club we went to has a girlfriend who sings. She has a nice voice but like a lot of singers singing in English she doesn't quite get the phrasing or meaning. It's a little off. We arrived for this special concert about an hour late. Overflow seating is in the alley which makes up most of the seating of the venue. The front of the club faces the alley and one whole wall is open to the alley. A lot of people recognized Karen when we arrived even though she had not been there for about a year. The club owners girlfriend sang a bunch of songs while she took selfies on stage. It is an interesting Thai tradition. It didn't happen unless you get it recorded in a selfie. Karen ended up singing 5 or 6 songs. She sounded good. It was fun.

The town was overrun by the vegetarian/9 emperors festival celebration. Streets were shut down. Fireworks were constantly exploding everywhere. It was not safe to be out on the motorbike. There were bottle rockets, strings of firecrackers and m80s - just chaos. There was so much noise that it was hard to hear. So many streets were shut down and so many vendors were in the streets that we got lost. We had to do a dangerous roundabout twice thru deafening, dangerous fireworks because we lost our way. The one roundabout was almost completely shut down from fireworks. The smoke sat heavy in the air and stagnated. Crowds of young people were shoulder to shoulder on the sidewalks throughout the city. Others were racing through the streets employing loud mufflers on their motorbikes. Yes, that was fun tooOn the way home after midnight rains were intermittent with lots of fireworks. The dark clouds were lit up constantly with either fireworks or lightening. We decided we were hungry as we rode thru the dark streets. Most places had long since closed. We spotted a well lit place and stopped for some food. Turns out this restaurant is owned by Hindus. On the walls were the elephant god Ganesha. I ordered my Thai fried rice and Karen had the same. We closed it down at 1am.Then we went home and watched "Queen of Katwe". Fantastic movie from a variety of perspectives - the photography was excellent, the story and acting and directing were top notch. Check it out if you haven't seen it. It's set in the slums of Uganda. 

Music Matters jazz club

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Rang Hill area of Phuket

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There are many viewing platforms in Phuket. With many very prominent hills overlooking beautiful tropical vistas it's easy to see why. My favorite viewpoints are Rang Hill, Panwa and the Big Buddha. At the top of the hill near the viewpoint there is a park with monkeys and a variety of local exotic trees. This is the most developed viewpoint I know of in Phuket. I believe they had a restaurant there.

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Phuket tourist area at night, Sunday Walking Street

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