Mother Nature has a twisted sense of humour. We as humans always tend to feel the need to end the year with a bang. No one expected the bang to be that big. On December 26, 2005, short of New Year's, nature had its bang. With a force of energy equivalent to 23,000 atomic bombs, the tsunami, caused by an earthquake in the Indian Ocean, hit the shores of South-East Asia, resulting in 190,000 people dead and millions homeless in some of the poorest areas of the world. Though hit by the tsunami, Phuket, (Thailand) was unfairly targeted as being the worst hit. The main areas were Srilanka and the coast of Sumatra.
Being in South-East Asia near the anniversary of the tsunami, I had to visit to see what state the island of Phuket was in. Having been there two years before, my memories were fresh of the beaches that I once sunbathed on. I was happily surprised to find not only the original haunts that I stayed in, but new ones that have been born as a result of the restoration process. 20% of Karon Beach was affected by the canals and 100% of Patong Beach (mostly businesses). In case you've never been there, Patong is a very popular stretch of beach.
Touring the island, I learned that 300 people had died due to flooding, much lower then I had expected. Unfortunately, there was loss of life, but you could never tell by the faces and energy of the locals. I'm sure if it were in North America, the topic would never have left the headlines.
It was surprising to find a surge of energy; almost like there was opportunity for change. New hotels, resorts, bars, and restaurants have sprung next to old ones, thankfully to the help of the government and their programs. Banks have put into affect a program to help old and new businesses. The interest by the locals is clearly seen to the point that I had to be taken to the regions that were still affected. Only 20% of Karon Beach and 100% of Patong Beach (mostly businesses) were affected. By walking through the affected areas, you could get a slight feel that there was a natural disaster recently, but the Thai government's mission of cleaning up and restoring has been so effective that only through conversations with locals could I see any evidence at times. Hearing them describe their experiences was troubling to say the least. Horrible stories of twenty foot waves quietly sweeping away huge chunks of beach with barely any notice can make your skin crawl. A storekeeper showed me the reach of the wave against the walls of his store. If it were not for the slight incline that his store rested on, the wave for sure would have reached over his roof.
Seeing the devastation, I wondered how these storekeepers and residents could return. When I asked them to sum it up, on the average, their response was: "Life is too short to live in fear. No matter where you are stationed there is possibility of danger, chaos, and disaster in the world.” Hearing these words, I would have to agree. It makes complete sense. No one is safe, whether you're in Quebec witnessing the ice storm, in Southeastern U.S in a hurricane, or in New York City so close to a terrorist attack. There's no use in hiding in fear, just prepare for the worst and enjoy whatever and wherever you can. Fortunately for these locals their efforts of rebuilding are not lost. I've heard people say that they would never go to certain countries in fear of not being able to receive adequate help. Well don't forget how adequate the treatment was in New Orleans, plus Thailand has great medical facilities. Why else would so many old women come here for upgrades.
Tourists are returning to the beauty of Phuket to enjoy what has been restored. Why not? If by any chance something were to happen, don't worry. Most likely there's another tragedy back at home. Wouldn't you prefer to be in the lap of luxury when it happens?
IT TAKES A NATION OF MILLIONS
By chance, while doing research in Phuket, I was lucky enough to attend what was a very different event.
Now you've heard of the White party, the Bal en Blanc and of course the Black and Blue. Historically big circuit events were held in North America. Europe got a wind of it and started various events on a sleazier scale. Well, believe it or not, Asia has its own sample to entice any circuit lover.
Nation was started by Fridae.com in 2001 on the island of Singapore with an attendance of only 1500 people. Their site's motto is "Empowering Gay Asia." Considering the politics of South East Asia, this is a humungous feat. As you all know, gay people love a good party. The next year was extremely successful, and in 2004, attendance reached 8000. Such growth is even faster than Black and Blue.
But as we all know, whenever something gets good, the "good" hearted conservatives have to ruin it. Of course, with everyone’s best interests in mind. My sources tell me that the party was stopped because it "supposedly" spread HIV. Funny, I always thought carelessness and irresponsible actions did that, not a party.
Anyway, everyone thought the party was over, but yet again, considering our people, the party must go on! Thankfully, it's not all of Asia that's repressed. Phuket, Thailand was eager to receive this international event. The smartest decision they ever made, considering the devastation of the tsunami. I guess the local government figured out that no one gossips or spreads rumors better then a queen.
I was lucky enough to be in Thailand when this event took place. Unfortunately, I was 15 minutes away from the action since all the hotels were booked solid for months. It's so surprising how people love to point and criticize. So many people assumed that the event would be a failure. Not sure if it was due to rivalry, or jealousy, but whatever the reason, they were wrong.
From my experienced eyes of throwing events, a cool 3000 people showed up. Did I say cool? Let me rephrase that. A hot group of sweaty bodies gyrated way past the witching hour. I have to admit, I have never seen so many perfect specimens in my life...not an inch of fat, which unfortunately left me feeling a bit out of place. I have an inch to spare.
Set at the beautiful Crowne Plaza on Karon Beach, I was only able to attend the main party as I suffered from air-conditioning fever. But from what I attended, I could tell it was a success. I usually hate circuit music, I but was pleasantly surprised at the diversity of musical styles. Sure, they had Manny Lehman and David Knapp, but who hasn't. My mom even knows who they are. But have you heard of Kate Monroe? Yes, that pretty fun-loving girl has swept my heart. Not exactly my taste of music, but a refreshing change to what we in North America always hear. She definitely had the crowd cheering, and thus poor Manny had to tough act to follow. He never caught up, in my opinion. So, if you're a music aficionado, don't forget Kate Monroe, also known as the "first lady of house."
There is one more thing that sets this party off as different from all the rest: their concern for people’s health. They actually had an agreement with Patong Hospital to provide free 100% anonymous HIV tests. These services were provided in a suite in the Crowne Plaza and results are offered in 20 minutes. Chinese and Japanese translators were on demand as well as 24 hour accident/emergency services. Yes, they meant business, and not just free condoms...though they did have some.
It's not fair to some of my readers that I didn't get a chance to visit most of the events, but I swear, my fever was pretty grim. I can manage to say that everyone seemed to enjoy the main event and though I never attended the three days of lesbian events, I'm pretty sure by the professionalism the coordinators and the various promoters displayed, that it went off without a hitch.
The event is definitely worth planning for. If not for the parties, then make sure to visit Phuket during the festival. You might come alone, but I guarantee you will leave with a friend or at least some "vivid' memories.