Posted by: James Shannon | May 13, 2011

Into The Belly Of The Beast: James Courageously Drops Into Patong Beach … And Lives To Tell The Tale :P

Having my mind blown by Railay’s raw physical beauty and relative uncrowdedness, it was time to experience the most visited island/place in Thailand; the island of Phuket.

I heard it was a place you either love or hate, so I was anxious to see what this area was all about. Three hours by government bus later, I stepped off into Phuket Town, the administrative centre of the island, located inland from all the main beaches.

I had a ten minute walk ahead of me to reach the hostel first however (which was extended to twenty, seeing how I initially walked in the wrong direction from the bus station).  The above photo is from a traffic circle near the centre of Phuket Town, a vibrant mix of old and modern Thailand … think Art Deco & traditional Thai architecture alongside huge shopping centres and condo towers.  One of my favourite breakfast places is located in the upper right part of the roundabout (Centre Grill I believe, run by a very hospitable English expat)!

The location of the famous On-On Hotel, the stand-in for a seedy hotel on Khao San Road in the movie “The Beach” starring Leonardo DiCaprio.  My travel mates booked here a day ahead of me (I booked at a different hostel).  It was a typical 150 baht hotel … bare bones, but comfortable enough (so say my travel mates)

A dragon sculpture at a Chinese Buddhist temple in Phuket Town.  In addition to Buddhists, there is a mosque in town as well, as the majority of Muslims in Thailand live in the southern regions of the country.

Turtles await their ultimate fate as dinner near the Chinese market, just steps from the Phuket Backpackers Hostel, where I was staying.  Walked in there, and the ranges of smells is just staggering, from the fragrant to the downright putrid.  Meat juices/blood flow to drains in the floor, and so forth … very visceral experience!

Once I took some time to get settled and see a bit of Phuket Town, I leapt aboard a songthaew bound for the notorious Patong Beach, the most developed tourist spot in the entire country…

Rows of beach chairs stretch on down the length of crowded Patong Beach, on the south central west coast of Phuket.  Here, they ensure that they squeeze you for every dollar you got.  It was 80 baht ($2.67) just to sit in a chair, and the prices in the restaurants were startlingly similar to prices back in the West (in some places they WERE the SAME as back home!)

In spite of the annoyances though, Patong really was a beautiful place, just a bit too hectic, overrun, and pricey for my tastes.

Heading back to the main street to catch a songthaew bus back to Phuket Town, I ducked into the Junglceylon Megamall to avoid the incessant suit and massage touts (it seems you get solicited every 15 feet in Patong Beach) … when you’re drowning in tourist cash, why not build an impressive temple to the consumerism gods while you’re at it? 😛

Overall, while it seems I was overly negative concerning Patong, it is my honest belief that constant and repetitive solicitations, and overcharging guests in your country (relative to prices everywhere else) is bad for business in the long run, despite the short-term gains.  While Patong (and MUCH of Phuket) is a spectacularly beautiful place, when the former negatives become obnoxiously obvious to even the most seasoned traveler, it is imperative to tell the truth so that the proper authorities know what is on the mind of the foreign visitors that they serve.

Next time: The lesser traveled side of Phuket … Rawai Beach, you’re the next contestant of the Pursuit of Excitement!

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Responses

  1. You, sadly arrived a decade or two too late…life goes on, everything changes, but..at least you’re a traveler and not a tourist…have fun in your travels and keep on at it…eventually you’ll find that special spot where you won’t travel beyond…it’s out there..find it…

    btw, thanks for your travel blog, mine is listed below, the latest entry first, but..please go backwards, to the beginning and read what Old Patong was all about…

    Your’s in travel, all the best…
    Gary”Superman”…:-)

    • Thanks for the lengthy comment, much appreciated! I’m headed back to Thailand in about 2 weeks, so the search will begin anew soon 🙂

      I’ll give your blog a look-through tonight!


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