Spending four and a half days on the beaches and islands of southern Thailand was an amazing break in the middle of my travels. Since Phuket is such a tourist destination, there were few hostels around, particularly since it’s the off season. The only two that were running were in Patong, one of the most popular beaches notorious for its night life. I stayed at Sea Blue, a really nice place only ten minutes from the beach on foot, and I actually paid less than anywhere else so far — surprising, considering everything on the Island tended to be more expensive because it’s so touristy.
En route to the beach was a great collection of street vendors selling any food you could want: seafood or plain pad thai, thai iced tea, steamed buns stuffed with pork, all kinds of bubble tea, crab and other wonton type things, seafood and other spicy salads,
rotees/filled pancakes…the list goes on, and it was all cheap compared to any kind of restaurant in the area. It was so easy to grab food and carry it to the beach during the day or back to my hostel at night to eat while watching some House or Grey’s Anatomy (definitely the best cable programming so far! :).
Like the rest of Thailand, most people there were very nice, though it was definitely a creepy old guy’s paradise. As I said, Patong is (in)famous for its nightlife and entertainment. Bangla road, the main drag (no pun intended), is crawling with prostitutes who linger outside the go-go girl bars where old drunk men stand and gawk at the sights. This area is also known for its Lady Boys — men dressed as women — who are probably just as numerous as the real ladies on the street. Every one you talk to warns to be careful of the Lady Boys, and more than a few of them are speaking from personal experience; many men have taken them back to their hotels and were greeted with quite the surprise, I’m told. To be fair, it can be downright impossible to tell Lady Boys from real ladies. Remember how even on the beach it was hard for me to tell them apart? Putting them in tiny dresses, stilettos, and heavy makeup wasn’t any easier. It did make for some fantastic people watching, though.
I only spent one night on Bangla Road at the bars. Walking around alone was just obnoxious in this city after 7pm. Most people were drunk by mid afternoon, which meant that anywhere I went later in the day I was hassled continuously. Not in a bad, didn’t-feel-safe kind of way, just in an annoying, stop-wasting-my-time sort of way. I was hit on by middle-aged men from Russia, Qatar, Dubai, Australia…I was counting at one point, but trying to keep track was impossible. Patong is just a constant party, so nearly everyone is drunk all the time, including all the middle aged guys that couldn’t take a hint.
So, I only really went out one night, when I had someone to go with. The night before the British guy in my dorm left the island, we headed to Bangla road to check out some of the bars and the notorious cocktail buckets. We actually had a really great time; it’s ridiculous how much just walking next to a guy can ward off the creepers. First we tried the local beer, which was decent — a bit sweet, but way better than the local beer I had in Laos that I couldn’t even finish (turns out a 50 cent beer is a 50 cent beer, no matter what continent you’re on). While we were there, some guy rang the bells that gives free shots to everyone at the bar, so we got a shot of some weak rum something. Next we tried a bucket of “Phuket Paradise,” which was really good but not nearly as strong as everyone proclaimed. The final stop was to try Thai whiskey, which was pretty good. However, the best part of that bar was not the drinks so much as the crazy Aussie couple we shared the table with.
These Aussies were in their late forties and had been drinking since early afternoon, so they were loooong gone. They were both super chatty, and the woman in particular wanted to know everything about both of us. Once she figured out that I was from America, not Britain (this took almost 45 minutes), she just couldn’t stop gushing about the American Navy boys she met here a year ago and how “they were buying [her] drinks and dancing and being so nice even though they knew she was married!” She was quite the party animal, so I’m sure they were having a blast, too. Actually, she reminded me a lot of certain relatives of mine… 🙂
All told, I had a great time in Patong/Phuket. The beach was actually very nice during the day; most people spent their days sleeping off hangovers, so the beach was nearly empty most of the time and very quiet and relaxing apart from the motor sports. Parasailing was very popular, and it was fun (and a little nerve wreaking) to watch because some Thai guy always stood on the shoulders of the parasailor, not strapped in to anything, just hanging there between the sail lines. The white sand beaches and crystal blue waters around the islands made for a beautiful and relaxing few days before heading off to the last few countries and more adventures.