PHUKET: Padded lounges were occupied well before noon, masseuses had their hands full, and vendors were having a field day keeping up with demand for cold drinks as the island’s peak tourist season got underway this week. Sun worshipers turned out in droves on west coast beaches, soaking in the rays and being pampered. “It’s wonderful,” commented first time visitor Karen Walter. “The beaches are great, especially Kata.” As a masseuse-cum-hairdresser was putting the finishing touches to Walter’s new braided coiffure under an umbrella near the Club Med resort, the 25-year-old Amsterdam tourist noted that while Phuket met her expectations of an island paradise, Patong’s highly visible commercial sex industry turned her off. “I was shocked, to tell you the truth. I really didn’t expect it,” she said, adding that Kata had more of a “family feel to it.” Parisian Daniel Bogusz, who was on a group tour with his wife, said Phuket’s weather was just what the doctor ordered to escape winter back home. Bogusz admitted, though, that he wasn’t prepared for the crowds. “It’s a nice island, but it’s too busy.” As she was kneading away on a topless woman near the Phuket Cabana Hotel on Patong Beach, Surin native Kanchana Yutin said business was brisk. “So many people came today for a massage,” she smiled while applying pressure to her client’s lower back. “I love farang.”
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