Phuket Downtown 2

In Phuket downtown, in the low season of June, I have to remind myself that this is a tiger economy. The great wealth of Bangkok does not show here, but there is not dire poverty either. Phuket looks a very traditional Thai town, and the major sightseeing options are Buddhist temples, Sino-Portuguese homes of olden Chinese merchants, a vegetable market and an aquarium. English is poorly spoken. People fold hands seriously and with meaning: long greetings are fully intoned and so sound sincere. They are mild mannered; even the pesky taxi drivers who hound you do not press beyond a point. Yellow flags fly everywhere in respect for the king and his kind face is on prominent display in reception areas of offices, hotel buildings, restaurants, and on arches over streets, roundabouts, everywhere.

The national sport appears to be Traditional Thai Massage. Everywhere that is the sign that strikes you and in town, some hotels have massage signs bigger than their name boards.

In the suburbs, realtors are in charge, their large hoardings sell properties on a scale that made me fear for the future of this beautiful island.

On Ranong Street I took delicious lunch at a vegetarian restaurant. They warned me off some dishes crying, too hot! There are several vegetarian restaurants on that street, close to a temple for a vegetarian deity. The deity and his attendants are aggressively postured, their faces fierce. That was a surprise but I later figured that the purpose might be to assert that vegetarians are not necessarily tame. Next door is another temple where you draw a numbered stick from a cylinder, then pick slips off a side shelf from pigeon holes bearing the matching number. The slips tell your fortune in Thai and Chinese; later that evening the bartender in my hotel read mine. I happily learnt my future is secure.