Sharky’s seaside restaurant, Jomtien Beach, Bay of Thailand. “I’m gonna miss you” – black American ballad on a digital loop, followed by another song, yet more melancholy. The mostly outdoor décor is totally Thai: Author imagines the empty gravelly parking lot filled with American cars: Weathered colorless wooden tables, benches, plank floor. A silver Dodge Stratus, a copper Ford Mustang, a black GMC XL. From Ballard Designs he introduces American furnishings: A false wood-shingled roof above the bar. Welcome to your new home. A cream Ford Explorer, a metallic olive Mercury Grand Marquis LS, a burgundy Ford F150. Let’s redecorate. High overhead, a corrugated metal roof. Black Ford Escape, grey Chevrolet pickup, purple Plymouth Sundance. Palms flourish within the restaurant’s interior, which is open to the elements.
A rouge GMC Sonoma, a carmine Pontiac Sunfire, a white Ford Thunderbird. A 35-year-old foreign male strolls past on the beach, a black stick in either hand. Louis Duchess Brisée. The waves, wind-swept from the Northwest, succeed one another relentlessly. A white Dodge Grand Caravan, a green GMC Yukon, a cerulean Chevrolet Silverado. This elegant two-piece chaise, knows as “Broken Duchess,” first became popular in Europe during the 18th century. A bronze Ford Windstar, a mahogany Dodge Dakota, a gunmetal Ford Explorer. In pink polo shirt an Aussie takes seat at table with his beautiful, tall Thai girlfriend. Our version is designed in the Louis XVI style with gracefully scalloped, fluted arms. A white Pontiac Grand Am, a silver Infiniti G35, a black Cadillac North Star. In tapered fluted legs crowned with carved florettes.
Author’s coffee arrives, on the saucer: packets of brown sugar and white creamer. Both are padded on front and back. A black Chevrolet Monte Carlo, a smoky blue Ford Taurus, a black Chevrolet Cobalt LT. And hand upholstered with self-piped edges. The waitress returns with a Heinekens for the Aussie and a lemonade for his girlfriend. Add as many as you need: A white Chevrolet Malibu, an off-white Chevrolet Blazer, a silver Buick Le Sabre. Polyfill cushions are finished with zippered closures. A maroon Ford Contour, a cream Chevrolet Caprice, a light bronze Ford Aerostar. The Tuscan Bookcase Collection. A metallic beige Chevrolet Suburban. (Lumbar pillow not included.) A black Ford Focus. Crafted of pine veneers, our Bookcase offers the look of a custom built-in at a fraction of the cost. An aquamarine Plymouth Voyager.
Use arm chair and ottoman together for full length lounging or separately for extra seating. A poster on its own stanchion advertises “Cruiser Berry,” followed by bottles of cranberry, raspberry, blueberry drinks (“Uniquely Yours”). The loop of all-time favorites continues: more black crooners. French blue damask wallpaper, seashells on stands, a Stella mirror. The white guy lectures the Thai girl, who listens patiently. Home Office Ensemble Puts Your Office Where It Belongs. The pump starts up on an antiquated metal freezer. Drawer desk with hutch; drawer desk; drawer desk with hutch and bead-board back. Two earthenware urns stand at the porch’s entrance, positioned against tree-trunk pillars. Drawer desk and hutch with cork back; file console; printer/fax/cpu cabinet. A Thai girl arrives in a light black jacket, her black-visored motorbike helmet still on.
Bamboo pushpins; stacking trays (“A good way to keep your most active files and paperwork close at hand”); Lancaster Lamps (“The unique swan neck design holds the Lamp arm and allows you to adjust the angle to the perfect position”). A dark silver Chevrolet Lumina. Desk organizer; golden bee stapler; California dreaming print. A black Jeep 4 x 4. Two fishing dories, one blue-, one red-hulled, putter past, half way between the shore and the horizon. A grey Chevrolet Corsica. Bobbing up over the incoming waves. Our Stafford computer cabinet means getting away from the office is as simple as closing the front door. “Casablanca” ramps up the sentiment on the ballad loop, as the wind plays its own symphony through overlapping palm fronds. Crafted entirely of birch and birch veneers, this multi-tasking Cabinet uses every square inch of space.
The Australian guy and his Thai girlfriend, having finished their drinks, arise and depart. The expansive desk opens to reveal a generous area for your computer monitor and office accessories. A white GMC Jimmy. For Saturday Night Guests. Another white guy arrives with his Thai girlfriend, along with two male friends of the guy. And Sunday Papers. They take seats at the nondescript weathered wooden benches below. Our vintage vogue collection is the perfect marriage of slip-covered style and relaxed comfort. Now the waitress attends them. And when you consider that our most expensive sofa and slipcover combo is just $1399 (and has a bed hidden inside), you’ll realize that this is a collection worth collecting. A white Ford Aspire. The two extra males, it turns out, also have Thai girlfriends, who now appear and take their places at the table.
Classic British Tailoring Meets All American Comfort. A new CD commences – schmaltzy American bluegrass renditions of yet more popular classics. A white Ford Escape. One guy gets up from the table with his girlfriend to take a romantic stroll on the beach. Classic hand sewn British tailoring is combined with the finest full grain leather to create a seating collection of remarkable comfort and style. A Bordeaux-colored Pontiac G6. The second girlfriend, in yellow sundress, pours beers for the two remaining European guys. Cheval Head, Benedetta Console, La Gare Clock. Now the three girlfriends and three guys reassemble at the table. Sink-in comfort the whole family will love. Author’s waitress bounces up steps to porch, smiling at author. A greige Pontiac Grand Prix. Brindle Twig Table (“inspired by an art nouveau antique we found in Paris”).
D. Louis Philippe Cabinet. The sun is declining over the Bay of Thailand, as ever more romantic songs fill the air. (“At more than 7 feet in height, it commands attention.”) The wind picks up, causing the palm leaves to rub against one another. A blue-grey Chrysler Touring Edition. From this distance the guys appear to be Italian. Versatile, affordable and totally original. One, dark glasses perched atop his forehead is smoking and eating at the same time. The Sawhorse Office. The girls are laughing at something that one of them has said in Thai. A dark green Dodge Caravan. Dusk begins to settle over the surface of the sea, which reads as grey-aquamarine. Sawhorse Media Credenza. The guys are conversing in their European language, presumably Italian. An emerald Ford Tempo. No one has ever succeeded in duplicating its versatility.
Lighting Solutions for Today’s Lifestyles. Hard Effect Bar. Lighting Sets the Stage. British pop video, acoustic guitar. Art-Inspired Standing Lamps. Its interior almost totally obscure. Kentfield Floor Lamp, Wicker Tapered Floor Lamp, Montclair Floor Lamp. Glass shelves supporting liquor bottles, all backlit by small green, red and yellow bulbs. “Tell your people, ‘It’s called rock ‘n’ roll.’” Elroy Table Lamp, Punctuation Table Lamp (“Striking design combines black leather with dark antique nickel finish and an oval white shade”), Watson Table Lamp (“Required: 3-way 100W bulb, not included”).
The rock ‘n’ roll festival. Lighting Direct and Indirect. Is taking place at Buckingham Palace. A white shaded red bulbous table lamp against a vase of red flowers pictured on a wall, a white bowl on the table next to the lamp. The Queen Herself is introduced, asked if she remembers the 1960s. Where Dark and Light ignite the Imagination. She smiles. Fruitwood Mini Pendant (“Adjustable, with three 12-inch extension rods, it requires one 60W bulb, not included.”). An old foreigner in a white shirt takes seat next to a dark Thai beauty. Simply Sleek and Striking. From Isaan. Minuet Table Lamp.
“And now a segue from the Prince of Pop to the Prince of Darkness.” Tables for lamps, bedside tables, bedside table lamps. In the video lights are lighting up the sky, explosive bursts behind the Prince of Darkness. A Wave to the Future: The Ripple Collection artfully interprets tranquil waves of sparkling water with amber glass. On the wall: an air conditioner control. Ripple Floor Lamp, Nine-Light Chandelier, Ripple Buffet Lamp. Its “Off” and “On” in tiny red and green light bulbs. Mix, Match and Create Your Own Lighting: Complete Pendant Sets . . . Or Create Your Own Pendant Sets.
The video has shifted to Elton John. Evoking the Timeless Mystery of the Moroccan Bazaar. Seated at a black grand piano. Room Changing Additions. Its surface bathed in reflective light. Chandeliers, simple, complex, yet more complex: Victorian Elegance Meets 21st Century Style. Author’s Coke bottle. Multi-bulbed chandeliers. Beaded with light. Letting Romance Light the Way: A 12-light Chandelier (“Crystal teardrops illuminate from graciously curved arms for an impression of opulence”). Light too on the plastic straw that he has removed from the bottle and placed across an ashtray.
Live Laugh Love. Author takes seat atop five-step staircase – still bare concrete – of neo-Italian villa in The Silk Road development. Cheetah Bath Accessories. At whose entrance rises a full-sized bronze of Christopher Columbus. Our signature cheetah looks especially fashionable accented with a fresh strip of Ballard green. We are east of Sukhumvit Road, off Chayapreuk, in Jomtien. Each piece has been hand crafted of metal and hand painted, using a meticulous 18-step French tole process. Behind one’s back a rotating saw. Tissue cover, toilet brush holder, wastebasket, soap dispenser, tumbler. Interrupted in pitch and decibel level each time that its operator makes a cut.
Petite Wire Dress Form. Over the wall before the stair. A fun way to display jewelry or your favorite scarves. Is the final courtyard. This dainty wire boudoir accent has a riveted waist. At the end of the cul de sac, lined with smaller luxury houses under construction. Metal display stand is crowned with a brass finial and adjusts in height with a ring screw. A black pickup truck. Ribbon not included. A red-, brown- and yellow-striped blanket thrown over its windshield against the sun. (Some assembly required.) Between two adjacent houses a foreman converses with two laborers. Words to Remember Garland; Spring Perfection I Print; Lavage Bath Collection; J. Leopard Dobby Towels.
The women on the site are all overdressed: Embroidered Bee Panels. Camo wide-brimmed hat over neck-and-face scarf. Pair with one of our heavier panels or hang alone for just enough coverage to soften the light. Overshirt and underblouse. Machine embroidered with Napoleonic bees and hand finished in 100% cotton organdy. Above long slack pants. So they hold their shape after machine washing. Thai men. Rosette Plaque. Laboring behind the pickup. Finely cast with the look of a 19th century tin ceiling tile. Are slowly changing a pile of irregular stone. Hand finished urethane. A mound of sand. Specify Distressed Cream. Buckets of cement. Verdigris. Into a long wall. Or Zinc.
One worker has stopped to rest. Louis Daybed. Placing his foot on the top of the black truck’s rear wheel. Designed in the light, elegant style of Louis XVI, our Louis Beds boast the hallmarks of finely crafted antiques. His white, long-sleeved shirt, satiny in texture, has a long green stripe that runs the length of its arms. Beautifully hand carved of hardwood with delicately turned legs and classic details. His head is wrapped twice about in a red scarf. Woven cane arms and back are surrounded in layered molding finished with ball finials. His pants are paint-stained. Designed to hold a twin-size mattress (not included). And ripped in several places. For Daybed Mattress Covers see page 75.
Down the steps of the house behind the emerging wall comes a female worker in purple shirt. Vintage Paisley Bedding & Shower Curtain. An empty bucket swinging in her hand. Our bedding will make you fall in love with paisley all over again. At a sawhorse the white-shirted worker is joined by a black-shirted worker. Quilt and Shams are hand quilted in a rich chocolate and red paisley pattern and reverse to coordinating chocolate ground with tiny floral medallions. Three men in conical peasant hats (the cones truncated) engage in a desultory activity, just short of work. Paisley Bedskirt is finished with tailored side and corner pleats. As other workers lounge about, or disperse.
Standard Sham is chocolate medallion on both sides and trimmed in paisley piping. This early February day is cool. Euro Sham is vintage paisley with chocolate medallion reverse. There is not a lot of sweat to be seen on anyone’s brow or back. Both have no closures. Of the nine workers assembled in front of this house. Pillow is vintage paisley with gathered chocolate medallion flange. Only one. Shower Curtain. In red shirt and red-white-and-blue, billed tam. Has a vintage paisley panel. Is doing anything but observe. With a box pleat, a chocolate medallion valence and twelve button holes for hanging. A measurement is being taken. (Entire collection machine washable.)
Momentarily man in white shirt reaches into crowded bed of black pickup to touch a spool of wire. Delano Valence. Quickly he retracts his hand. This regal bed crown is solid basswood with carved rope detail and metal rails for hanging fabric. Now twelve motionless workers stand to observe the yellow measuring tape as the foreman extends it across a partition. Valence is deep enough to hide hardware and secures to the wall with keyhole hangers. By slow stages author advances past workers and on up the street: Rich antique gold finish. From stair to garage, from garage past a second house, skirting a yellow-shirted, brown cowboy-hatted worker sitting on a Honda Wave.
Beyond the third house (the one originally mentioned), up and over its nearly completed wall, a scene of creative activity unfolds. Beautiful Even With Your Eyes Closed. At the end of a narrow vista a woman. J. Camden Headboards. (The same one, in camo hat.) Customize It! In a long tub mixes cement with a hoe. Create an inviting look. As a man daubs freshly applied stucco off the wall of the house. With our exclusive padded headboards. Above, on a narrow one-plank scaffolding. Untufted pieces are available with or without Nailhead trim. A young man prepares to complete the sill to a window. Headboard attaches to wall. As a girl, leaning on the sill, peers out at him.
Both styles come upholstered in Off-White Twill. Opposite, on the other side of the street, ten blue-and-white bags of cement have been piled before the entranceway to another house under construction. Purchase your own fabric through our Custom Shop. A lovely girl in olive corduroy long-billed cap. Or provide your own fabric. Converses amicably with a young plasterer. (Service explained on page 47.) As she does so, in a simulacrum of labor, she picks little stones from the concrete that he is smoothing out. We featured Francesca, Moroccan Stripe and Antibes as Custom examples.
Author strolls upward toward the end of the street, past a large blue plastic cistern not yet implanted. Now Paris Feels Like Home. Down a narrow passageway, between two houses, sit four women on piles of sand. Our Paris Leather Seating offers the kind of extraordinary comfort and styling you can only find in one other place – Paris. They smile back at author over the necks of their white, green, grey, red-and-white-checkered scarves. Like the Parisian salon originals, our Paris Leather Chairs and Sofa are specially designed so that the seat height and depth comfortably fit both women and men.
MM: We are in the dining room of Jomtien Beach Paradise Condominium, talking to its distinguished manager, a man of international experience. Can you please tell me your name?
KW: My name is Konpat Wongpensri.
MM: Mr. Konpat, in a moment we will talk a little more about your own life, but let us begin, if we may, by talking about the life of Pattaya and Jomtien. “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome back to Saint-Tropez!” In front of you on the table, from The New York Times, is an article that speaks of a new, very fashionable resort town on the Turkish coast of the Aegean called Turkbuku. Cued up by D.J. on an elevated white dais, a sound clip exploded through the warm July night, sending up cheers from the open-air dance floor of the oceanfront nightclub. Since in your capacity you are familiar with the fashionable people who come to Pattaya and Jomtien, I had hoped that this morning we might talk about the next fashionable place to come. As the stars glimmered overhead and illuminated white yachts drifted in the distance, waiters in white shirts bearing the words “Saint-Tropez” threaded among the Philippe Starck chairs and dancing VIPs, extending cocktails into outstretched arms adorned with designer watches and impeccable tans. Do you think that Pattaya and Jomtien are fashionable places?
KW: I think Pattaya and Jomtien are ordinary places, not fashionable places. Working the other side of the room, a roving photographer captured mugging corporate tycoons and fashion models. Late afternoon, Soi Post Office scene, one way traffic of motorbikes (Honda Dream, Yamaha Nuovo, Suzuki Best), pedestrians on their way to work.
MM: Tell me, then, what kind of a place is Pattaya? Across the soi: What do you mean by “ordinary”? “Max Italy Restaurant,” its upper floors, a hotel, stuccoed in chartreuse. Viewed from the translucent orange stools at the long bar, it seemed as if another classic Saint-Tropez session of all-night partying and celebrity glad-handing was kicking off with characteristic zeal and excess. “Bulaporn, Physical Massage,” its orange sign showing two feet, their soles covered with visual references to the corresponding inner organs.
KW: I think that Pattaya is a normal place, like any other seaside resort that has visitors come and that offers entertainment. Pinocchio Guest House, view past it of De Star Bar.
MM: So in your view Pattaya is not at all like Saint-Tropez, for example. Its digitized “Open” sign. There was just one hitch: Having just come on. Saint-Tropez was more than 1,600 kilometers or 1,000 miles away. Depicting in neon a bright yellow Dutch beer stein. This was the tiny village of Turkbuku on the north side of the Bodrum Peninsula in southwestern Turkey. White foam emerging in white neon and then disappearing.
KW: No, Pattaya is just for the Thai people, who come to swim in the sea and have the seafood dinner. For the upper-crust Turkish crowd at the club, Bianca, the difference was academic. A woman in blue-and-white kitchen cap, blue apron, plaid shirt, has parked her mobile restaurant one door down along the sidewalk. Sitting inside a jewelry boutique doubling as an office, the club’s owner, Emre Ergani, stroked his handlebar mustache and boldly declared that the champagne-drenched, celebrity-draped French Riviera hot spot was a kindred spirit of Turkbuku, a fishing town whose traditional draws have included red mullet and sea bream. Having no customers as yet, however, she has paused to freshen her makeup in the side mirror of her attached motorbike.
MM: But when we visit Pattaya, is it not the case that we see many foreigners vacationing as well, in the hotels, on the streets, in the bars and shopping malls? “Saint-Tropez is a place for people of A+ quality, and so is Turkbuku,” he said, explaining that the town had rocketed from picturesque beachfront backwater to second-home haven and party playground for Turkish celebrities.” The woman with the mobile restaurant for Lao food takes up a broom and sweeps the detritus out of the street before the bar where author sits.
KW: Yes, there are many foreigners, who come to Pattaya and think that they can have all entertainment, the Russians and the Germans, the Norway people and the Chinese. As a glass case holding $7,000 champagne flutes sparkled behind him, he added that international stars were getting wind of Turkbuku too. They come not to live, just short time.
MM: But doesn’t that make Pattaya different from other places, where people live all the time. Pattaya has so many of what we call “transients,” these people from around the world. “People I know from Saint-Tropez are buying houses here,” Ergani said. “Turkbuku is taking over Saint-Tropez.” At this hour the pedestrians are mostly Thais, locals on their way to work in restaurants and bars and other establishments. To change the subject slightly, what about Jomtien? What is the difference between this much smaller town several kilometers south of Pattaya, and the larger, more international city?
KW: Jomtien is different, since most places here are for residents. On the face of it, this seems an outrageous claim for a hamlet hidden on the Aegean, the body of water that Homer called “the wine-dark sea.” The normal family comes. Unlike the storied Côte d’Azur resort, Turkbuku isn’t a fixture of gossip pages. And stays here. Matisse never painted in Turkbuku, Pink Floyd hasn’t named a song for it, Sean Combs hasn’t rapped about it, and Pamela Anderson and Kid Rock chose the real Saint-Tropez for their wedding last month.
MM: So you are saying that Jomtien is more family-oriented and perhaps that Pattaya is more for single people? You won’t find the getaways of Brigitte Bardot or Joan Collins hidden in the olive and lemon groves around the bay’s green-brown hills. A bargirl on her way to work, having just parked her motorcycle, sports a tee shirt reading “Super Girl,” another, a shirt reading “All the Flowers Seem Like Me.” There is no Turkbuku brand of tanning lotion or alcoholic drink. What do you think are the major features of Pattaya, its principal tourist attractions, say? But that could be changing fast.
KW: One of the major features of the Pattaya town is that it will be crowded. Ask Ergani to enumerate the bold-face names that have visited his club in recent years and he produces a list that sounds much more redolent of the south of France than the southern Aegean: It will be like sin city. Ivana Trump, Paris Hilton, Michael Douglas, Prince Charles.
MM: Sin city? The Japanese fashion mogul Kenzo Takada, he will tell you, “practically lives here.” Now when you say “sin city,” what kind of “sin” takes place in Pattaya?
KW: All the criminals, the mafia.
MM: Pickpocket city, we might say, the city of bribery and corruption.
KW: Yes. Nor are these the only luminaries to drop into Turkbuku’s increasingly glittery environs, which nestle a spread of music-blasting beach clubs, boutiques and moored mega-yachts. And they have girls. Author up and out from Kittens Bar to stroll down the soi toward Beach Road and the Bay of Thailand.
MM: You mean they have girls there too, in Pattaya? Past Gothia Bar (its yellow letters on a blue ground), past Laungthorn Goldsmith (yellow gold necklaces on red velour bosoms in its window), past Happy Dream Massage. You know, I was sitting beside the beach in Pattaya yesterday evening and I saw the huge new sign that has been constructed over the crescent of the bay, which reads “Pattaya City.” Thai Fokus: Deutsch-Sprachiges Magazin (a travel agency): “Bangkok,” “Pattaya,” “Chiang Mai,” “Hua Hin.” Perhaps that sign should be changed to read, “Pattaya, Sin City.” Next door: “Hashers! This is the Pattaya Jungle / Welcome to our Rumble in the Jungle.”
KW: [Laughter.] In the never-ending search for new sun-soaked havens beyond the well-trammeled Mediterranean shores global stars of the boardroom and box office have begun to stake out this nook of the Turkish coast.
MM: Now there is another interesting sign, in Jomtien, as you turn from Jomtien Beach Road into Tepphraya and technically enter the outskirts of Pattaya. The Pattaya Post Office, closed for business, after which this soi is known colloquially, as Soi Post Office.
KW: What does this sign say? Some, like the billionaire Jeffrey Steiner, chief executive of Fairchild Corporation and a fixture of the Saint-Tropez scene, have bought palatial spreads in the hills. Author has paused to take a seat in one of several red plastic chairs on the sidewalk, at Three Ladies Bar and Restaurant. Others, like Tom Hanks, are known to have cruised in during sailing trips in the Mediterranean.
MM: It says, “Pattaya: the Extreme City.” The day is cooling down, the evening under way. In a sense, this attractively rugged region of the Turkish coast – the peninsula is a landscape of hills, mesas, craggy coves and windswept beaches – has been producing or seducing celebrities since antiquity. Author asks if he may take out his notebook to write and is granted permission. Explain to me this term “extreme.”
KW: [Embarrassed laughter.] It means that many people, even Thai people, when they come to Pattaya, want to get money, like the pickpockets and criminals.
MM: Instead of these embarrassing subjects, let us talk about the international aspect of Pattaya and how it attracts famous people as well as pickpockets. Herodotus, the so-called Father of History, was from Halicarnassus, the ancient capital of the region and now the town of Bodrum. Snoop Dogg on the bar’s video is singing “I wanna love you.” Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, is thought to have been born on the nearby Greek island of Kos. Foreigners in their Japanese SUVs have begun to cruise the soi seeking a place to park. For Antony and Cleopatra, the peninsula was a stop on a voyage to Rome.
KW: Yes, you are right, there are many famous visitors to Pattaya these days. For Brutus and Cassius, it was a place to plot the murder of Caesar – and to hide out afterward. This is heavily Scandinavian territory: two doors down flies the Danish flag in front of Copenhagen Restaurant. When Alexander the Great tried to seize Halicarnassus, he found it so well defended that he was forced to ask for the only truce of his campaign. Beyond a sign reading “Last Order,s [sic] Bar Beer [sic]” flies the flag of Norway.
MM: These famous visitors come from the world over, so in a basic sense Pattaya is international. But the area’s most famous feature has long been the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus. Even Jomtien is becoming international, as you yourself know from your restaurant business here in Paradise Affiliated Resort. Constructed in the fourth century BC, as the burial chamber of a local ruler, it became one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. But for that matter, you yourself are also “international,” for you have seen the world, have studied in India and spent a dozen years, you have told me, in the USA.
KW: Yes, I am not typical of most Thais. The Bodrum Peninsula passed much of the 20th century as a disconnected scattering of fishing settlements and sponge-diving villages. I have spent a lot of time during my lifetime outside of Thailand. “When I first came here, 30 years ago, I had a small Italian car, a Fiat,” said Sinan Ozer, owner of the local Aegean Yacht Services. “It was the only car in Bodrum.”
MM: Perhaps this is why you are so good at your job, as a manager in a restaurant where the clientele every day comes from Russia and Germany, from England, France and all over the world. “Now,” he added: “Everybody wants to come here. It’s like Ibiza, or Antibes in France.” Along the soi more neon signs are coming on and the passing motorcycles and recreational vehicles all have their headlamps lighted.
KW: Yes, in my childhood I had a chance to study in India, in Simla. On a July afternoon along Turkbuku’s buzzing seaside boardwalk, the village’s rustic past and glamorous present rubbed sun-tanned shoulders. At the time my father was a naval attaché to the Indian Navy. As house and R&B music pulsate from open-air bars, moneyed couples in Chanel Double-C sunglasses and young women in gold bikinis poke into boutiques, pausing occasionally to eat boiled mussels at makeshift sidewalk stands. And so I learned something of India. Fishermen hustle past with plastic bags of freshly caught sea bass.
MM: Do you think that you were influenced by Indian culture, by Indian philosophy?
KW: No, I was too young then, only ten years old. Where white-haired men rattled backgammon dice and sipped milky-hued raki, the lightning-strong anise-favored national drink. Because after I came back from studying in English, I studied in Thai, and then I had a chance to go to many countries. “Hello, Welcome!” says one of the girls at Pattaya Jungle, among several who have taken their stations outside the bar on the sidewalk. There is no sand on this part of the coast, only elaborate wood-plank beach clubs.
MM: What other countries have you been to, besides India and The United States? A song is blasting out from the bar’s interior. Each is outfitted with ranks of plush white mattresses, fluttering white canopy beds, gauzy Arabesque tents and amply stocked bars. “I just want to say I love you.” Like a seaside sorority row each club draws its own distinct crowd.
KW: Australia, Canada.
MM: Have you been to Europe?
KW: Yes, to France, to England, to Italy, to Hungary.
MM: But never to Turkey. At Seen, a laid-back scattering of middle-aged doctors, lawyers and other professionals lounged under sun hats. Why do you suppose that people want to go to Turkey for their vacations? At People, the assemblage is as encompassing as the name. College-age women, unshaven Turkish hipsters, patrician older men and vacationing families lay side by side. (“Putting on the glitz / Turkish seaside resort lures the well-to-do, even if it’s not Saint-Tropez,” Seth Sherwood, writing in the “International Life” section of the paper.)
KW: I have never been there, but from this newspaper article that you have shown me, perhaps it is the place, the culture that attracts them. But nothing compares to the Bacchanal at Mio Beach and the adjacent Na Na beach club, the epicenters of Turkbuku’s gilded youthquake. We have moved, as the evening itself moves along, to another soi, where Thais are dancing in the street to Thai popular music. As a D.J. spun deafening Turkish house and dance music at Mio, a young crowd in long board shorts and bikinis gyrated to the Middle Eastern polyrhythms, swirling in a blur of tattoos and navel rings. Two boom boxes blast the songs, as a guy with spiked hair provides the lyrics and girls gyrate along the sidewalk, even a white woman of 45 joining the merriment.
MM: Turkbuku seems to be a kind of international enclave, however, and the international glitterati come on their yachts and mostly stay in this one town, where they go to the bars and lie out beside swimming pools and party all night. “Normally,” said Eren Talu, as he sipped a Scotch and gestured toward the half-filled bay from the hillside terrace of his futuristic Ev Turkbuku hotel, “you can’t see the sea because there are so many yachts and they are so big.” The Bacchanalian level of the Thai dancing exceeds anything western. Visitors seeking a refuge somewhat removed from the party scene hole up at the Ada Hotel. At your restaurant here have you too seen such famous people?
KW: No, at this restaurant we do not have such famous people, though occasionally I have seen Superman or Spiderman drop in for breakfast! Tastefully outfitted with Ottoman and European antiques, the hotel is the only one in Turkey to be part of the prestigious Relais & Châteaux marketing group, its castle-like compound a longtime favorite of Turkish elites.
MM: Let me ask you one last question. But no one in Turkbuku is doing more to teleport the village into the 21st century than Talu. What do you think is the future of Pattaya-Jomtien?
KW: Pattaya town will continue to be a city of crime, but Jomtien will be a good neighbor. His Ev Turkbuku, which he also designed, is an angular, white, totally sci-fi compound of Zen-smooth pools (eight of them) and plasma-screen TVs (even in the bathrooms).
MM: I think instead that Pattaya will become ever more middle class, with shopping malls and even a Go-Go Bar Museum for tourists. Hovering on a hillside, the EV is a Turkish take on Stanley Kubrick, a sort of “2001: An Accommodations Odyssey,” where you half expect the voice of HAL 9000 to offer you a gin and tonic. Hankering after the Wild West.
Internet café. Exceeding customer expectations. Chayapreuk Road. Has always been the unwavering goal. “Foreigner’s Breakfast,” 8:30 am. Of Home Decorators Collection. A real cup of coffee, brown sugar and milk. Year after year our commitment to this goal. Two fried eggs with two strips of bacon. Is the reason that we continue to serve more customers. Two slices of tomato and one raw onion ring on a crisp lettuce leaf. And expand our selection of the home furnishings. Two pieces of toast with butter and strawberry jelly. You love. Three pinwheel slices of carrot. At the prices you deserve. On a blue plate.
The German owner is explaining to a Germanic customer how to navigate the Internet. Now, as we enter our sixteenth year. Since the conversation is in English, we may assume that the customer is Scandinavian. We will be serving close to one million customers in 2007. The music at this charming café is western, the rest of the staff Thai. The reason for this success is simple: “Morning,” the universal greeting. We keep the quality of our merchandise high. Meets with “Morning,” the universal response. The prices low, so volume purchasing and factory-direct relationships give us the buying power that we need.
We pass these exceptional savings along to you. The Internet patron, in yellow shirt, flowery bathing trunks and bare feet. Check out the great values on a wide variety of items at our web site: Manipulates his mouse. HomeDecorators.com. A half finished glass of orange juice also at his fingertips. You’ll discover why millions of loyal customers trust our Home Decorators Collections. The Roma Collection. As their number-one resource. The Leather Club Collection. For their home decorating requirements. The Hand-painted Masterpiece Collection. The selection of CD offerings has changed from western to Thai.
Decorative Fountains. The rest of the staff is also either Thai (the German’s wife) or half Thai and half German (their eight-year-old daughter). Artful Expressions. On closer inspection the furniture here is all Thai. Hand-painted Porcelain. High above the serving counter a monk looks down upon the scene from a reddish sepia photo. The Ventura Collection, The Hamadan Collection, The Montaigne Collection. Framed between two boxes for whiskey bottles, one “Chivas Regal,” the other, “Johnny Walker Black.”
Through the back window. The Antoinette Collection. In the garden behind the restaurant and house. The Metropolitan Collection. A banana plant has recently produced two translucent leaves. The Silk Road Collection. Which catch the morning light.