Morning, with might and main heat, we wander along the street of the town of Sritanu. Scooters and motorcycles rush past – the main form of transport in Pangan. Suddenly, such a pleasant citizen rises from a cafe table on the street, smiling at me: “Excuse me, are you Alexei?” It’s him, I say. “And I am your old reader! But besides, we are neighbors!”
In short, it turned out: he lives literally two kilometers from me, in the southwest. We are neighbors, we are Muscovites, but we met on the other side of the world. The limits of the Moscow Ring Road have expanded unusually.
There are so many Russians on Koh Phangan that if it weren’t for palm trees and the heat in December, sometimes one would think: you’re walking somewhere along Pyatnitskaya. Only everyone is in T-shirts, flip-flops and ragged shorts, everyone walks around here at random, even quite rich people.
The Russians living here call Koh Phangan “our village”. Those who do not need show-offs and luxury hotels come here, who want yoga, peace and cheap good food. Tired citizens.
Many people come here to spend the winter with their whole families, if the children do not need to go to school. One such family lived near us. Mom, dad, two little sons. Mom, of course, with children. My dad is in real estate. How, I ask, does business proceed without you? “And I fixed everything there, calmly went. Well, there is a zoom, finally.
Eh, I just envied him. I myself would winter on Phangan, as a normal Muscovite should, I would run away for a long time from traffic jams, snowdrifts and heavy boots. I would only miss Pyaterochka, where sprat in tomato and Volna cheese. However, very close to us was a local. There I did not find Volna cheese, but I took coffee in the early morning. And cheap fish – from mackerel to barracuda – is here on every corner. Not to mention other shrimp.
Although ours have already established a business here – they make kvass. Soon there will obviously be Volna cheese. Where the Russian came – there begins kvass, black bread, melted cheese. And the local vodka is very good.
Of course, spoiled Muscovites here sometimes want something familiar, and not Thai service with its wild charm, when the chef, waiter and bartender are all rolled into one. And so that without a blockage of hot spices. And to good wine.
For them, the Salt restaurant was opened last summer. Our restaurateur Andrei Listkin, who has been living here for seven years, I think, opened it. Four years ago, Listkin had already opened a sushi restaurant here, and things went well. More than half of the new Salt’s customers are Russians, Listkin himself says. The evening we were there, only Russians were around. Yury Kostorev became the chef – restaurant people know him for sure, he has long been a gastrostar, originally from White Rabbit. In the spring, with his wife and two cats, he decided to leave to live in Koh Phangan.
“I met the guys on the pier on May 9,” Listkin says. “A couple of days later, Yura and I took pictures for documents, we became partners.” It is not difficult to start a Russian business in Thailand. You just have to figure out which one.
Yes, I would run away, but the difficult fate of a journalist often requires personal meetings and attendance at all sorts of events. Although, I think, maybe enough journalism already, write all sorts of books, do something else here? Or nothing, just live, eat, love. For example, the legendary Igor Grigoriev, the creator of the OM magazine, settled here a long time ago. But not by the sea, but in the depths of the island. Because normal Panganchans do not settle by the sea.
I lived there for a month, and it was my longest stay outside of Russia. And my regime on Koh Phangan almost did not differ from Moscow. I also got up at six, but it was already light (when it’s light at six in December, that’s very nice, comrades). Only instead of jogging through our snowy park, in the morning I dived into the very warm Gulf of Thailand, where I scared away sleepy harmless jellyfish. And then he returned home, sat down on the veranda with a MacBook – and work, work, work. Sometimes funny birds with geckos distracted us. Some chirp loudly, others rush along the wall. And distracting thoughts – where I will dine. Yes, you can do it yourself, there is a kitchen in the house, a market nearby. But something is lazy. There are so many cafes with good-natured fast Thais that it’s better to walk. And seven hundred rubles to eat coconut soup, then red snapper with rice and spicy dressing, wash it all down with a strong smoothie.
But I still felt like a tourist, not a resident. The same Igor Grigoriev prepares everything himself and does it brilliantly. Sometimes he arranges dinners for good Russian acquaintances. I was also called. Imagine Moscow cuisine from the old days, where there is a lot of vodka, where everyone smokes, they talk about politics, books and music. But all this is on the terrace, among the coconut trees. And no sprat in a tomato, which he himself brought.
Of course, this year the housing problem has become much more complicated there. Now many are fleeing not only from the climate, but also from the reports of the general, what is there, Konashenkov. Until recently, it was easy to rent a cool house here for the price of one apartment near the Prazhskaya metro station. And now – let’s go! And Phangan is not rubber. In addition, almost two-thirds of it is the jungle that the Thais cherish. And for some reason they don’t have dachas behind a five-meter fence.
All the Russians with whom I spoke there are very nice and intelligent people. At the same time, outwardly one cannot distinguish a Russian from a Frenchman or an American, only by speech. They sit and discuss. Some are an enlightenment course, others are some kind of startup. Well, just like in some kind of “House 12”, only all half-naked.
My wife and I were suddenly approached in a cafe by a handsome uncle in cool pants and a purple turban (French, I thought). He just heard Russian. I apologized. He said that he wanted to invite me to a short lecture about Mozart – there is a hall right next to it (no, it’s still Russian).
It was even funnier. We went to the mountains, to the famous waterfalls. Well, they climbed up, took pictures, everything was as it should be. Went down. We go back to the cafe. I wanted to smoke, but the lighter got wet and fell into a mountain stream. Here I see: the guy is smoking at the table. Excuse me, I say, will you give me a lighter? (Can you give me a lighter?) He graciously holds out. The lighter says “Pyaterochka”. “Ha,” I say, “are you from Russia?” “Well, yes,” he smiles. – And I can give you a lighter. There will be a Thai souvenir.”
Turned out to be a designer from Moscow. Also here until spring. And he also rented a house in the depths of the island. I have nothing to do, I stuck with conversations. Suddenly he looked at his watch: “Sorry, my work day starts in 10 minutes.” Got on the bike, drove off.
Oh yes, about bikes and scooters. More specifically, about girls. They are all half-naked, legs firmly apart, all in tattoos on tanned bodies, curls fluttering in the wind. I was very excited by the girls on bikes, I even forgot about Volna cheese with them.
And again the same garbage. All over the world, I immediately distinguished Russian girls from everyone else. Very simple: cosmetics, in the hands of Gucci and a look – either tense or dissatisfied with everything around. Even in the Maldives, I immediately identified ours, although there they are without a Gucci bag. By this look. But here it is impossible. If only by the tattoo “Vasily” on the left wrist.
… With the beginning of December, Christmas trees began to be installed here. Of course, artificial. And suddenly I thought: maybe, after all, to settle here, to establish a business? Bring live Christmas trees here from Russia? There are plenty of Russians, and Europeans and Americans will be happy. Even dress up as Santa Claus himself. In shorts, but with a beard. Great business idea. Powerful startup.
One problem: what’s the rest of the year to do? And second: where to go on vacation? To Moscow?