Planet   Backpacker
  "From flying monkey gods and amorous donkeys to tales of a bus caravan speeding through a terrorist-infested desert, Downes puts you right there with him."-- Ben Gohs, Charlevoix Courier
  "From flying monkey gods and amorous donkeys to tales of a bus caravan speeding through a terrorist-infested desert, Downes puts you right there with him."-- Ben Gohs, Charlevoix Courier

Travel tales of Phi-Phi, Krabi & Phuket

Thailand, Krabi, Phuket, Phi-Phi, Andaman Sea, Planet Backpacker, backpacking
On the beach in Krabi
The Teeny Bikini
Phi-Phi, Thailand


   Jeannette looks adorable in her new teeny-weeny string bikini, which cost $7 at a street stall -- about what you’d pay for lunch back home.
   “I would never dare to wear this back home,” she confides of the little wisp of cloth, held together with more imagination than string, “but it’s okay to wear it here where I don’t know anyone.”
   Such a garment (or lack of one) is perfect for the paradise of Koh Phi-Phi Don (“Big Phi-Phi Island”), which is reached via a 30-mile boat trip across the Andaman Sea.  The island is shaped like the head of a Viking battle axe, with our guest house room located at one end of a broad sweep of beach on the town side.  
    A nice bonus is the addition of about 10 young drunken Germans who move into the two rooms next to us and keep everyone up past 4 a.m.  True, they could take their party down to the beach, which is the logical place for it, but would much rather sit outside our door, smashing beer bottles and braying teen witticisms half the night.  We bang around as much as possible that morning to wake them up.

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   But here are scenes of tropical splendor fit for a Hollywood movie: in fact, The Beach, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, was shot just a coconut-toss away on Phi-Phi’s little sister island. It’s about a group of backpackers who go looking for a secret island paradise in Thailand and find that their neighbors are a cutthroat gang of pot farmers.
   What does paradise look like?  Long-tail dragon boats roar across the bay, powered by 10-foot-long propeller shafts attached to V-8 auto engines.  Rock towers leap from the sea. The aquamarine shoals are lined with palm trees, frangipani and hibiscus flowers.  The lanes through town are filled with Westerners walking around half-naked or strapped with backpacks.  The cafès brim with prawns, lobsters and fish still wriggling on ice.  At night, fire dancers whirl batons and bolos filled with kerosene on the beach while the bar blasts Limp Bizkit, LL Cool J and Bob Marley’s remixed reggae at a thumping volume that pounds through your heart. Would you like some “merrywanna” to go with your beer?  The friendly barman can supply.
    But it’s too hot to do much of anything but melt. A tough day here is dining by the waves over shrimp pad thai and pineapple shakes and trying to decide whether to get a massage or hang by the pool... Or should you go for a chocolate banana crepe instead? Hmm...
Thailand, lady boys, Phuket, backpacking, Planet Backpacker,Patong Beach
The lady boy freak scene in Patong Beach, island of Phuket.
The Lady Boys of Phuket

  There are plenty of male prostitutes walking the streets of Phuket, Thailand, this being a gay mecca.  A major attraction is the “lady boys” -- transsexuals and transvestites who are dead ringers for their sexy sisters, with long, sleek hair, full breasts, girlie outfits and thongs.  Some are dressed in  tu-tus, ball gowns and wedding gowns, advertising for a local bar.
   On a street full of nightclubs, a flock of five lady boys dance to the sounds of “Ice Baby, Ice” for a huge crowd gathered outside Dclub Crocodile.  Some idiot tourist hands his baby to them to shake up and down on the platform. Classic.  But then, you see all kinds of European and Australian families with children and infants walking through this red light zone late at night. Many of the kids look exhausted.
   But there’s always some quality that gives the she-males away: they walk a bit too suggestively or show a bit too much ass or have mannish faces... Jeannette and I have fun guessing who’s a lady boy -- ultimately you can tell if they have an Adam’s apple.  These “ka-thoey” (as the Thais call them) cover their necks with scarves or heavy jewelry so as not to give away their secret, and some even have their Adam’s apples surgically removed.  Since this protrusion is basically a man’s larger larynx, I’m not sure how they manage to remove it and retain the ability to talk.
   I can only wonder how many drunken sex tourists have woken up after a night with one of these ‘ladies’ with an unpleasant ‘crying game’ experience to savor. And possibly a sore ass.

   Read more tales of adventure in 'Planet Backpacker: The Good Life Bumming Around the World' by Robert Downes, available on Amazon Kindle and Apple iBooks, $7.99.
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