Our deployed correspondent, AT1 Charles Berleman, checks in from the latest liberty port:
Okay to start with I am currently in Malaysia, but last week I had a chance to visit the island of Phuket (pronounced Foo-Ket) in the Indian Ocean side of Thailand. An interesting place historically. It is one of the few mainland Asian countries to have ever not been colonized by any of the western nations. It also was one of the few nations to be “allied” with the Japan during world war 2, though to be completely fair they did put up a very organized resistance only to realize that sometimes yielding like a reed to the wind is better then being bowled over like a giant oak tree. So they become “allied” with Japan and allowed the Japanese army march over land from French Indo-China territories to attack the British lands. While that was happening though the Thai’s had a very active resistance movement. Since they the Thailand nation has been very close allies to the US in the South China Sea region. They are ruled by a constitutional monarchy and are very much a Buddhist country.
That was it for the history lesson of Thailand. There is more I am sure and things I have glossed over, but need to keep this short. First off Phuket, is an interesting place. We were visiting there at the height of their winter, which compared to your winter of 32 inches of snow, the temps were in the high 80s. (mmph – tell me about it… – SJS) There was just as much if not more so humidity. The primary selling point of this place is the beaches. They make the beaches of Florida, Va Beach, and probably Hawaii feel and look like sandboxes. This is one of the islands that was decimated by the 2004 tsunami. Though as I traveled around, you couldn’t see the scars. Though you could run across a few memorials here and there. There are a large number of resorts. Everything from the upscale multi-dollar a night sort of resort on down to one that just a step above a flop house.
Things to do here vary. Everything from shop for that genuine Koach bag to the Ed Hardly clothing line. If you don’t want to do that then there are snorkeling and scuba diving to be down. If not that then getting on an elephant ride at one end of the island and riding over to what a traditional Thai village. If that still does rock your boat then how about just chilling on the beach with an ice cold beer in your hands working on your tan. The final thing to do is experience the local night life.
The local night life is interesting to put it mildly. I think even Skippy-San would balk at some of the things that you can do or watch here. After the sun goes down all sorts of sex for sell comes out. The party town is called Patong. There is one bar street that also doubles as the red light district of the island. There are various bars down this street. You sit down and am immediately joined by a bar girl, buy a few drinks maybe play a few games. One of the popular games to play is a nail driving game into a log. Your given a nail and a rock hammer or a chipping hammer and try to drive the nail into the log before your opponent. Another game they had was a variations of the classic Five Aces games. You know the one, roll five aces (or ones) and you buy your party a round of cheer. Most of these games lead to more and more drinking. In turn a few of these bar girls turn into your best friend of the night (at least for a price). On the other side of that you can go into some go-go bars and see the origin of the term “ping-pong show”. This place makes Vegas or even New Orleans during the height of Mardi Grasis look like a day in Mayberry.
After we left Thailand, we were out for a few days flying here and there. It is starting to become monsoon season out here. So during flight ops you can see some of the rain clouds out there just dumping rain. The best day though was about two days ago, we had “twister” clouds as one of the guys I worked with described them. Basically it was warm, humid, and all the clouds were puffy at the top, but strictly flat on the bottom near the ground. Perfect clouds to produce tornados. So we were constantly moving the flight schedule all around. Flights scrubbed for weather, setting of t-storm condition 1. then an hour later re-manning of the event, from there we run around like chickens trying to get planes ready to go. Only to head into another storm, and scrub everything again. After about eight hours, the planners just threw their hands up and only got those that needed traps to get currency up and right back down via the bolter pattern.
So after a few days of getting flights in we have now pulled into Malaysia. I will write more about this place when I get a chance. I also have a deep thought that maybe Skippy-san could wax about, since he is probably more of a SME about the region then me. That is this: Seeing all of this and the way it was all compacted the way it was. Made me think about all the various stories I had heard of Olongopo from my family and some of the other CPO’s when I first came in that had visited the PI in its height. I seriously wonder if this is all places like the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, etc that are third world Asian countries know how to make a buck. Is by having the women pimp themselves out while the men either sling beers or counterfeit clothing. I contrast a lot of I have seen with just Singapore, Japan, and even to an extent some of the under developed places in Europe that I have been too. Is it a failing on the west’s part because we didn’t do enough to bring a country like Thailand up or is it the countries own internal faults that prevent them from becoming a decent competitor to the Singapore, Japan, Taiwan’s of the world by having a good enough economy? Just a deep thought that crossed my mind.
Article Series - Postcards from Deployment
- Postcards from Deployment
- Postcards From Deployment: HOA
- Postcards from Deployment: Doin’ the Ditch
- Postcards from Deployment: “The Song That Never Ends”
- Postcards from Deployment: The Day After the Day Before
- Postcards from Deployment: Deployment Stress
- Postcards from Deployment: Of Midpoints and Ground Hog Day(s)
- “Now Hear This — Mail Call, Mail Call…”
- Postcards from Deployment: Now Liberty Call – Asia (Eat Your Heart Out Skippy-san!)
- Postcards from Deployment: Of Wogs and Shellbacks…
- Postcards From Deployment: Now Liberty Call — Hong Kong
- Postcards From Deployment — Oh Those Cruise Mustaches!
- Postcards from Deployment: Homeward Bound
- Postcards From Deployment: Almost Home