PHUKET: I didnít know what the Thai Watsadu superstore in Thalang sold when I pulled into the parking lot over the weekend, but I wasnít there to shop in any case. I went just to enjoy the parking lot, which I had admired from the road. Itís completely covered, offering protection rain or shine, and very well laid out.
That I could be lured by a parking lot says something about the state of parking in Phuket.
One of the first things I had to do as a new driver on the island was get over my reticence to park unconventionally. My Thai friends guided me.
Of yellow and white striped curbs, one smilingly said, ďThat means parking is up to you!Ē
Another, spying a metal barrier reserving a space in front of a shop in Phuket Town, ordered me to jump out and move it so we could take the spot. ďItís fine!Ē she shouted.
When a security guard told a third friend that we had parked in a no-parking zone, she responded that weíd just be a minute, when in fact we were on our way to lunch.
Over time, Iíve developed my own solutions to the parking challenges here. Everyone knows that the HomeWorks lot is an alternative to the claustrophobic underbelly of Central Festival, but how many have thought of parking behind Big C and walking over?
At the airport, I go to the row nearest the street, find one of the ever-friendly security guards stationed there, and ask where to park. Theyíre invariably helpful and once one jumped on a motorbike to lead me to a spot. A double-parking spot, of course. Taxis and tour vans occupy the preponderance of the actual spots.
Even where spaces are relatively easy to find, hidden obstacles may await. I scraped a friendís new car as I was parallel parking in Phuket Town. I didnít see the power pole protruding into the street.
Parking lots tend to be unsightly and environmentally unhealthy, but in Phuket they have a strange allure.
I didnít buy anything at Thai Watsadu that day, but I went inside, and next time I need a 100-gallon water tank, a Jacuzzi or just cleaning supplies, I may very well swing by, secure in the knowledge that Iíll find a cool spot to park my car.