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If Wednesday was sort of a bust, I more than made up for it Thursday. It was such a long day that I doubt if I'll be able to remember all of the highlights - but I'll try my best.

I got up and showered very early and beat everybody else, including Lek and Silvio, to breakfast. I had my usual cup of coffee, some juice, a fried egg, ham and bacon, plus toast with orange marmalade. I caught a tuk-tuk and was in Patong by eight a.m. My original plan was to catch a bus from there to Phuket Town but once again I got caught up in the community's addictive qualities and stayed there most of the day (and returned later in the evening as well).

After exiting my tuk-tuk, I made a quick circuit up Bangla Road, left on Rat-U-Thit Road, and back to the waterfront on Soi Sawadirak. It was still too early for any of the businesses to be open yet but I got to see workers cleaning up from the night before and numerous bar girls walking home from their overnight dates.

After arriving at the beach, I spent a few minutes sitting in the shade before walking over to the beach volleyball courts. I stayed there long enough to watch two rounds of qualifiers between Thailand and Sweden then Australia verses the Netherlands. I took some photos (my digital camera takes great action shots with the telephoto lens) and shot some video as well.

After transferring another 1GB memory card to 2 CD's, I had a cheeseburger with french fries at the Baan Laimai Beach Resort followed by a double-scoop of mangosteen sherbert at Baskin-Robbins. I then did some street shopping, buying a tsunami photo book, finally finding one of those cool Thailand Harley Davidson shirts, and a few other odds and ends.

By this time, it was late afternoon so I took a tuk-tuk back to the hotel. I figured I'd take a nap before returning later to check out the bar scene. There was also to be a fireworks show at eight.

When I returned a bit before eight, there was nobody near where the fireworks show was to be so I thought I'd gotten the date wrong. I walked up Bangla Road and was in it's upper reaches when the fireworks began going off, sounding like an artillery barrage echoing off of the buildings. The fireworks were barely visible above the rooftops.

At night, Bangla Road is blocked off to vehicular traffic. Numerous open-air bars line both sides, broken up with the occasional soi. These are basically dead-end alleyways lined with more bars and go-go clubs. The most famous of these are probably Soi Eric and Soi Seadragon. As you stroll down Bangla Road, it's best to stay towards the middle to avoid the bar girls trying to entice you into their bars (unless, of course, you want to be enticed). The sois are generally very narrow so it's more difficult to avoid the girls' charms. They are often armed with a drink menu so you can check the prices before sitting on a stool but I don't really think there's much of a price difference among most of them (exceptions would be the huge multi-level clubs like Crocodile or Tiger). As the night wears on, the girls become bolder - they'll grab your hand, stroke your arm, tell you they love you, etc just to get you to drink at their bar. Of course, what they really want is for y!
ou to buy them lady drinks (they could care less what you are drinking so long as you tip the bar) and to eventually pay the bar fine (typically around 500 baht - $12.15) which releases them from working the rest of the night. After that, you are free to do what you please with them; most bar girls are very happy to act as a tour guide and will show you around. It can be nice to have an attractive companion to talk to if you find one that can understand your language.

Of course, many men look at the bar girls initially as a source for cheap sex but it goes much deeper than that. The writer Pico Iver wrote about Bangkok bar girls in his "Video Night In Kathmandu", observing that "the girls did not simply make their bodies available to all while they looked at their watches and counted their money; they chose to offer their admirers their time, their thoughts, even their lives.". Many of the couples fall in love with the man continuing to send the bar girl gifts long after he has returned to the "real world". And a significant portion of these relationships do end in marriage. I can definitely see where it would be easy to fall for one of these lovely young women who hang on your every word and that physical pleasures would be secondary to the entire equasion. But I'm more of a bottom-line kind of person and I think it would be expensive to try and develop that sort of relationship considering the position I'm at in my life. Perhaps if!
I actually lived in Thailand, I'd consider pursuing a bar girl or other Thai woman...

Anyway, I didn't spend more than three hours on Bangla Road. I bought some t-shirts at Rock Hard A Go-Go simply because their logo is a direct rip-off from that of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers (one of the coolest band logos around, I think).

I also spent some time at Playskool, one of the few enclosed bars on Soi Seadragon which was filled with bored-looking girls in schoolgirl costumes (in case you're wondering, there are no longer topless or nude bars in Thailand). The lone standout was a girl named Nui who was all smiles and sat with me for a while. The most exciting thing that happened was when the Thai national football (soccer) team came in the bar and all the girls went wild, having the team members autograph their shirts.

I was back at the hotel by 11:30 and fell asleep soon after.

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