Saturday, December 02, 2006

Today we rented motorbikes and went for a ride around the island. We stopped by the yacht club where we saw some incredible boats. We ate lunch at an authentic Thai restaurant (almost impossible to find on Phuket) and we continued on a loop that would eventually take us back to Kamala Beach. (where we are currently staying)

Phuket has more similarities with Florida than it does to the rest of Thailand. Huge billboards with English advertisements line the roads. Strip malls are the building of choice when it comes to commercial development, and tourists generally come here on some sort of a packaged trip. Most of the people appear to be of retirement age, and those who aren't are either diving or they missed the memo about islands in the Gulf of Thailand being much better. The restaurants are very westernized and they lack any resemblance to the Thai restaurants in other parts of Thailand. The food is served western style and they don't even bother to put spicy fish sauce on the table.

There is no question that Phuket has some beautiful scenery. You have to share it with every banana hammock on the planet, but if you are looking for a resort vacation Phuket is a decent destination.

Phuket does have some of the best diving in the world. The nearby Similan Islands are widely considered to be among the worlds top 10 dive sites. Diving is probably the only reason one should ever come here.

Today I bumped up our airline tickets so we can get out of here sooner. We have three days of diving planned this week and we are flying to Bangkok on Friday, December 8th. I have to admit, I can't wait to get back to Thailand

I have heard that Patong Beach is a hole. Today we drove by it on our trip around the island. I stopped and took the photograph below. (if you witnessed "hell on earth" you'd probably take a picture too) I did you all a favor and I decided not to take any photos of the street... it's a real eyesore. (see if you can spot any banana hammocks)


Anonymous said...

I don't generally like writing negative posts, but feel like I have to answer some of your criticisms.

First, you say that it is almost impossible to find an authentic thai restaurant on the island. Quite clearly and obvious to most - that is not true. Even within the more touristy places in Phuket there are authentic eateries to be found, maybe you did not look hard enough or were just unlucky. In fact my girlfriend's fave restaurant is bang in the middle of the Patong nightlife district.

If the food you were being served was westernised then by definition you were not in an authentic restaurant.

Another comment I disagree with is that most visitors are not of retirements age, and most do not come on package deals. A lot of people come here independently taking advantage of it's proximity to Singapore/Bangkok/Malaysia to include it in their more wide ranging travels.

Phuket is a beautiful island that requires some effort to visit it's 20+ beaches, sample the local food and meet the people. unfortunately alot of people only get to see the more touristy areas of the island and assume that is all there is. a pity for them.

John Harrington said...

thegecko, thanks for the comment.. I have to say I haven't spent any time in Patong except when I drove through yesterday and that was enough for me. I try to avoid the sex-tourist destinations.

There is no question that Phuket is extremely different from the rest of Thailand. In most parts of Thailand authentic Thai food lines the streets at all hours of the day. Food markets are available around the clock and western food is scarce. In Phuket, many of the menus don't even have the Thai language on them! I agree that there are some places you can find local food... it takes some work, but you can find them.

Just talk to the locals about Phuket (I'm not talking about the prostitutes). Almost all of the restaurants have westernized their Thai food... any restaurant that does not have fish sauce on the table is not an authentic Thai restaurant. In fact, if there aren't any Thai people eating there.. it's not an authentic Thai restaurant.

Eric said...

Ummm, I think "hell on earth" could be a little worse than a beach. Have you ever been to Browning in the middle of February?
I can't believe the Geico gecko wrote to you!
Speaking of authentic Thai food, I had Mustard Seed yesterday.

John Harrington said...

Ok ok... "Hell on Earth" was a bit extreme. But after you've seen this part of the world Patong can seem that way.

Can you say "Exploitation"? It is the sex tourist capital of Southern Thailand. And a beach full of middle aged sex tourists is not a pretty sight.

The nice thing is that all of those losers go to the same places.. Patong, Pattaya, etc. Which makes it pretty easy to avoid them.

Anonymous said...

First off, don't believe everything you read - try to experience a destination before you publicly declare what it is like. A bit harsh? maybe but you said yourself that you literally drove through it. The fact that thousands upon thousands of western and asian families holiday in Patong every year would suggest differently.

As far as the restaurants go, I don't want to go on about it, but there is authentic local food absolutely EVERYWHERE!! Yes there are western restaurants and westernised Thai restaurants - which comes with the tourist island destination territory in my opinion - but there are markets in every town (including Patong) where you can get in the queue for your Khanom Jeen or Phad Thai Goong Sod with the locals.

John Harrington said...

I don't agree with you when you say, "The fact that thousands upon thousands of western and asian families holiday in Patong every year would suggest differently."

That simply suggests it is a major tourist destination full of tourist facilities and westernized food. It also suggests that it is an easy place to go.

I think it is unfortunate that families take their children on vacation to a place with such outward displays of exploitation. What does it teach children when they vacation to such a place?

I have since found a few markets with some authentic Thai food, and even some restaurants. However, they are not everywhere. Many of the "authentic" restaurants still charge inflated prices to farang. They have English menus and they make the food rather bland unless you instruct them to make it spicy.

Would you honestly disagree with my statement that Phuket is extremely different from the rest of Thailand? Would you disagree that Patong is one of the top destinations for sex tourism in Thailand or even SE Asia?

TheGecko said...

That simply suggests it is a major tourist destination full of tourist facilities and westernized food. It also suggests that it is an easy place to go.

Yes it is all of those things, and more. But it is still a part of Thailand nevertheless.

Not quite sure what being easy to get to has to do with it. Bangkok is pretty easy to get to from anywhere on the planet, or is Bangkok not authentic now?

As far as public exploitation goes, where did you see that? Which public acts of exploitation were there for all kids to see? Are we talking about girls in bars drinking with men, possibly guys walking down the street with a girl-in-arm? Yes we know ultimately what that signifies but 'public exploitation'? I don't think so.

I am glad to hear you have managed to find some more authentic restaurants. The farang pricing is more a Thailand thing rather than Phuket. It happens in a lot of places, but yes more in high tourist areas. After we are all millionaires in their minds!

Finally, I'm not denying that Phuket is different from the rest of Thailand, that is natural I feel because of it's geography and demographics and it's status as a massive tourist centre. Again, it is still a part of Thailand. But it is not the hell hole that some people make out and I am fed up with reading blogs from people (not you) that slate the place as if it really is a hole. My earlier point is that the fact that thousands of families return surely must point to it being a reasonable holiday destination, whether that means an authentic Thai holiday or not.

Obviously Patong has it's place on the sex tourist map, no-one can deny that, but so have Bangkok/Samui/Pattaya and Chiang Mai too. They are the top 5 destinations including Phuket in Thailand, so what does that say for the Thailand as a holiday destination?