When my partner suggested a trip with his family to celebrate his brother’s 50th birthday in Thailand over Christmas, I jumped at the idea. Literally. Real spicy Thai food compared to European, wide-church flavors delivered in depressed Deliveroo boxes! Indulging in durian (aka the stinkiest fruit there is, so much so it’s illegal to carry it on public transport in parts of Asia)! A body massage that’s not soft but delivered with a charming smile and back tension! Sure we had to schlep the three month old sprog with us, but the chance to go to Asia for the first time since before the pandemic was the main draw. Of course, I didn’t benefit from my other half’s epic bout of gastroenteritis, the emergency hospital visit and the lost luggage that would derail the trip. But it’s only the disastrously disastrous start of the holiday here.
How to put this delicately? It was possibly the ‘brightest’ experience of Asia I’ve ever had, and I say that with tongue firmly in cheek because I just have to put out a complete denial, lest my partner’s family fire me , I have nothing but love and respect for them. . We found ourselves ensconced in a picturesque villa in Koh Phangan, which was clearly in the middle of a post-Covid tourism boom that I hadn’t fully factored in when I was dreaming of a local trip back to Asia .
There was Zen Beach, where many blonde women sported green dreadlocks without a cultural care. There were bands of yoga practitioners, who also traded tantric sex therapy on the side. When we went to a night market, instead of the legit street food trucks and local Thai carnage I was looking forward to, there were feather necklaces and soapy cereal bars made by middle-aged women from Los Angeles that they had obviously come to. this island to find themselves and never left. Two The White Lotus which takes the piss out of very privileged, very bright tourists in a luxury resort, then this was the alt-hippy version, where trustafarians enjoy Mai Tai in a macramé hammock actually describe themselves as ‘digital rings’ without a shred of irony. To be fair, Koh Phangan was gearing up for its famous Full Moon Party, so every spot we entered felt like a global village of hippie clichés and fire poi throwing.
If ‘The White Lotus’ takes the piss out of very privileged, very bright tourists in a luxury resort, this was the alt-hippy version
Then there was the food situation. Regular readers will have recognized the importance of food in my life. In Asia, it is even more urgent to count every meal. In a food program that is out of our control, unfortunately I didn’t find many solutions for real spicy Thai. When we ended up at a pasta place, the realization that I had a 12 hour flight to eat spag bol. As I was typing this to my group of WhatsApp friends who were incidentally enjoying jaunts to Bangkok and Tokyo FOR-REAL, I was suitably tempted. ‘Girl! Are you eating pasta? Go wash your mouth out and do better!’
When it came to eating limp pizza at a boujie beach bar on New Year’s Eve and the sight of £48 toro sashimi listed at a ‘Peruvian-Japanese’ hotel ‘concept’ restaurant, I was quite embarrassed. Put it down to a lifetime of bouncing around Asia with frugal parents who have a raison d’etre going to South East Asia to see how many meals they can get for under £1 each. I wanted to give up and go find a shack with sharp strips, no English menu and sit and sip juicy prawn heads. Alas, the tour came to an abrupt end on the first day of 2023. Rest assured, I will be back and there will be no poi tine or pasta.