A long weekend in Phuket, Thailand (May 3-6)
Trip Start Dec 30, 2007
92Trip End Dec 17, 2008
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Phuket was one of the islands I'd heard the most about before coming to Thailand. The photos I'd seen of it made it seem like a resort island town that was tranquil, tropical and luxurious. Granted I was staying at a budget hotel, but it was actually quiet a nice; and regardless the five-star resort folks had to walk on the same hawker-infested streets as me
If you've been to New Orleans and walked down Bourbon Street at 2 am then you've seen the same thing you'd see here on the streets at Patong Bay Beach. A bunch of drunken un-attractive 20-50 year old guys, stumbling over all their trash and beer bottles, in and out of the never-ending expanse of bars. Not so pretty. This place makes Vegas look like the Four-Seasons of 'places to go to get smashed'. There is also an in-your-face display of Thailand's sex-trade underbelly here. The girls-for-hire in Thailand aren't relegated to out-of-the-way corners as I'm used to in all the cities I've lived in; they are everywhere, all the time, along all the streets, everywhere. I'm not sure what else to say on this island. I hope this ucky experience was just confined to Patong Bay, where I unfortunately chose to stay, and the other beaches on Phuket are very different. Let's hope.
I can't review Phuket, and especially Patong Bay Beach, without mentioning that it was one of the towns that was devastated by the Tsunami in Dec '04. There were hawkers on the street that had booths set up to sell photos and videos of the disaster. It didn't have an air of donation or charity about it, they felt to me like they were just profiting off things that tourists would buy
Now, uck, enough of that. Quite the opposite of experience of the main island was my day trip out into the Phuket Sea to see the famous islands that you've all seen the pictures of and what you think of when you think of southern Thailand. There are 42 cliff-sided islands in the Phuket Sea. Forty-two of them, hmmmm.... The day was fantastic, the crew of the tour boat was so great, the islands just as fantastic to see as I had imagined them to be. We stopped at a half a dozen of them, the most famous of which is now called 'James Bond Island'. I'm not sure which, but one of the Bond films was here. Maybe you can recognize it from the photos?
I'm glad that I came here in the monsoon/rainy/off season. I mentioned once to the boat captain that there were so many tourists here I couldn't believe it. He reminded me that this was the off season and this was nothing compared to how many are here during the peak season. I guess this is why this was the island that I'd heard the most about before coming to Thailand, everyone else has heard about it to.
Here is a little more on Phuket, if you are interested. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phuket