Phuket. An island paradise, or is it?

1 03 2012

I’m not quite sure what my expectations were of Phuket.  Well, no actually, that’s not true.  I expected the pristine beaches, swaying coconut trees and sparkling azure waters that I had seen in the travel brochures since as long as I can remember.  Where bamboo and coconut husk huts line the shoreline and you can step out onto your own piece of tranquility.  And of course, who could forget the tropical paradise depicted in the film The Beach.  I believe that this actually exists somewhere in Phuket, but I certainly can’t afford to go there.  And it certainly isn’t at Patong Beach in Phuket.

In the back of our tuk tuk heading to Patong Beach, Phuket, Thailand.

Why so many people pour into Patong for their holidays is completely beyond me.  Run down buildings line the streets, litter lingers everywhere, the roads are terrible and pockets of nostril crippling stench waft on the breeze and assault you when you least expect it.  Oh and don’t forget the rats that scurry under the broken concrete pavers, or the family of eight rats who live under the bridge next to the shitty brown pollution filled stream that runs through the village.  However, I may be being completely unfair here.   After all, a massive tsunami did wash through only eight years ago, and the bamboo scaffolding on the local building sites would indicate that progress is rather slow in Phuket.

The footpaths in Patong are practically non-existent so it’s you against the traffic:  the scooters which they hire out to drunk white guys visiting the island for their stag’s night; the tuk tuks (and no thank you for the one thousandth time I do not want a damn tuk tuk); and the knobheads who try to force their huge brand new 4WD vehicles down streets the width of popsicle sticks.  Walking is hazardous to say the least, and then there’s that whole ‘no-one-stops-at-crossings’ thing to contend with.

Patong just isn’t my cup of tea, and based on my observations I think you have to be a particular type of person to choose Patong as your number one holiday destination:

Type 1:   In an open front bar, a fat white bloke in his sixties sits slavering and ogling a young Thai girl standing between his legs, while she in turn dances in front of him, gyrating and rubbing her hips against his pelvis.  This was a common sight in most bars we passed; old white blokes, suffering some sort of mid-life crisis, who were passing their days with three or four Thai girls hanging off them like pretty Christmas baubles.  I guess in Patong they got more bang for their buck, so to speak.

Type 2:  Beefy Russians seemed to be everywhere we looked, walking the streets topless with their pecs and calf muscles permanently flexed and looking like they had just strutted off the Conan the Barbarian film set.  Have you ever tried walking like that?  With your calf muscles flexed?  It gives one an unusual and constipated sort of a gait.  Well at least that’s how Roger looked when, not wanting to be outdone, he tensed up every muscle in his body, blew his chest out and Schwarzenegger-strutted towards the beach.  He slipped into a full body cramp just twenty metres down the road!

Type 3:  And finally, as we got closer to the beach, from amongst these sleazers and posers there appeared the most badly sunburned tourists I have ever seen in my life!  Hundreds of them, one after the other, minced past us carefully, chests blistered red hot, shoulders burning, arms burning, faces on fire.  It was extraordinary!  Red lobster-like westerners with seemingly no comprehension of skin cancer or slip, slop, slap.  God it was horrific.

We had to give in and take at least one tuk-tuk ride before leaving Thailand.

Type 4:  Add to this mix the hundreds of hawkers who would do anything and everything to get your money.  “Hello hello.  Tuk Tuk?  Giddaya!  Tuk tuk, tuk tuk?  Hello Roma!  Where you going – you need tuk tuk?  Hey mate.  Giddaya Australia.  Tuk tuk? Tuk tuk?”  Oh God, make it STOP!  One thing that did catch us out now and again was when we strolled down a random alleyway – past six suit sellers, four DVD sellers, five watch sellers, seven silk scarf sellers, four t-shirt sellers, three massage parlours and a partridge in a pear tree – only to be confronted by a dead end, which meant we had to bloody well walk back past them all again to get out!

The only street seller I bought from because she actually picked that I was a Kiwi - not an Aussie, and not from Rome!

Type 5:  And then there were the “suit guys.”  These were immaculately dressed young men in beautifully tailored suits who stood in front of you, arms spread the width of the pavement and tried to get you into their store to buy three suits which would be ready for collection in just 24 hours.  “You wanna suit mate?  You wanna suit?” they called to Roger.  From underneath his Tui hat and behind his dark sunglasses he chuckled, “Do I look like I would wear a suit MATE?”  Grinning from ear to ear and undeterred, the suit seller continued his pitch, “Ahh, you English.  Lovely jubbly!” he mimicked in his best Del Boy accent.  Roger simply shook his head and walked away.

After dark in Patong Beach

And finally, Type 6:  The weirdoes.  As night fell and the neon lights erupted from every corner, the face of Patong came to life.  Tuk tuk’s turned into glorified chariots as boom boxes thumped out the latest rave music, flashing lights surrounded the cab and neons glowed brightly from underneath.  And that was when the freaks really came out to play!  Very tall (a little too tall if you get my drift *wiggles eyebrows*) Thai hookers lined the streets, eyeing Roger up appreciatively as he brushed past them.  A large Japanese sumo-wrestler-looking bloke happily strolled the streets, his face painted white and made up like a geisha.  At one point a man with wide scary eyes loomed out of the darkness, a chameleon clinging to his forearm, and thrust the small lizard’s scaly face up under our noses.  You can imagine my reaction…and the stream of swearwords that followed!

A VW Cocktail bar on the side of the street. At night time the roof pops open and the neons lights up.

While the beach itself is nice, it is chock-a-block full to the brim with tourists and types 1 through 6 – which doesn’t make it the relaxing idyllic paradise I imagined.  For any Brits reading this, Roger would say Patong Beach is “like San Antonio (Ibizia) on speed.”  It’s cheap, it’s cheesy and it’s sleazy.  I really can’t understand why the hell anyone would chose to come here for a holiday.  But if that’s what spins one’s wheels then so be it.



2 responses

2 03 2012
Stephanie Angus

I went to Koh Samui about 10 years ago which I loved – dont know if its still as good cause it used to be less touristy than Phuket. When they found out I was a Kiwi I used to get Kia Ora all the time 🙂

8 03 2012

Oooo yeah, we wanted to try Koh Samui but chose to stick to the west coast instead.

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