I’ll admit, when I booked our time in Thailand for this RTW trip – I did it a little blindly. I don’t know a whole lot about Thailand – having never really travelled here properly before (I did do a few family holidays here when I was little though) and Pad has never been either so we just kind of booked and chose the places which seemed to crop up.
One of these places was Patong in Phuket.
Now, I’m well aware that to experience a country you have to see the good and the bad – but Patong has really been a shock to the system for us, and our friends who we’re here with. Especially after arriving here from Koh Samui – and the quietist little boutique beach resort ever. I’ll do my best to describe it here – but even then – I doubt you’ll have a proper picture of what this place is really like.
First of all – I’m not saying don’t visit. It just depends on what you’re after in a holiday. Maybe if this is your cup of tea, you’d come here and have an incredible time – but honestly, it’s not my cup of tea and I doubt many friends of mine would enjoy it here either. The one saving grace for us though has been our beautiful hotel – which seems a world away from the hustle and bustle of the nightlife and shops.
So. Let’s try and get this place onto paper.
The shopping in Patong is everywhere. Every single street is lined with little shops selling (more or less) the same kind of thing. You’ll find fake-designer purses and bags, beach clothes, souvenirs, shoes and those other touristy kind of shops. Now, I’m all up for shopping, and we did have a wonder round the many retail outlets here on our first day and spot some awesome finds and bargains. But – it’s very hard to enjoy the shopping when you have shop owners peering over your shoulders, pressuring you to buy, shouting at you from the street, offering you products and just generally getting all up in your face. Add onto that the blazing heat and un-airconditioned shops – and suddenly the shopping becomes a bit of a chore – rather than an enjoyable way to spend the afternoon.
The nightlife is probably what Patong is most famous for – and the four us did try our best to give it a go last night. But we all admitted this morning – it just wasn’t our kind of thing. There are a few main streets where the bars are all situated – and one of them is probably the most notorious. It’s very busy – very bustling and you can’t move two metres without some guy thrusting a poster of naked women infront of your nose, asking “You want to see Ping Pong show?”. If you’ve seen The Hangover 2 you know what that is, and why that’s kind of gross. If you’ve not seen The Hangover and are wondering why I’m so offended at Ping Pong, just do a quick Google (Not safe for work, by the way)… you’ll soon understand. Sure, at first it’s kind of funny and you laugh it off. But when these guys start following you down the street and you’ve already been asked upwards of twenty times – it kind of starts to grate on your nerves.
In fact, that kind of sums up Patong. It’s kind of OK at first, it’s a bit of a novelty. Then you loose your patience with it.
But that’s not the worst bit. Once you’ve hurdled your way through the Ping Pong guys, you have to get past the children selling flowers. They kind of come up to you (no more than 12 years old) and poke you, or pretend to punch you playfully, and then throw a ring of flowers over your neck hoping you’l buy them. Now, I love kids – but these children made me really uncomfortable. One of the little girls clutched onto my wrist really hard and wouldn’t let go – meaning I couldn’t walk down the street and couldn’t get past her. I’ll be honest here – she was hurting me and if it had been an adult man doing that I would’ve kicked him or shoved him as it would’ve been classed as physical abuse.
Another time, a little boy came up to me and threw some over my neck again. I kindly said no, but he wouldn’t take the flowers back – which meant he was trying to force me to give him the cash. By this point we were all pretty fed up, and just wanted to get into a bar (two other friends at this point were also being harassed by another child right behind us). So I took the flowers off my neck and placed them infront of his feet, smiled and said I was OK, and sorry I didn’t want to buy them. I didn’t really have any other choice, seen as he was refusing to take them back from me. The boy then kind of charged at me aggressively – as if he was about to punch me or shove me. He didn’t (thank goodness) but it was a bit un-nerving all the same. Just not nice. I know that they were children, so you can of course be much more forgiving and try and be more understanding – but when they are physically hurting you, or intimidating you it doesn’t make the situation any better. It just makes it a whole lot worse, because you feel a bit helpless.
Aside from the people on the street trying to sell us stuff, the bar staff in the bars were actually quite friendly and accommodating Which you really appreciate after being shoved and bombarded with all sorts out in the main road. And, once you’re safe inside a bar away from the sellers, we had a great time and the atmosphere was fun and lively. Still, prices in Patong are expensive compared to all other places we’ve been in Asia, so you don’t get that perk. Buckets will cost minimum of 300 BHT, and a cocktail is probably going to cost you 250 BHT on the main street (maybe more).
We haven’t spent much time on the beach, but we ventured onto there briefly this afternoon to see what it was like. As far as beaches go – it’s nice, clean and big – with a lovely coloured ocean. But it’s kind of rammed full with sun loungers and sellers trying to get you to have a massage or a taxi ride, or use their jet-ski, etc. That’s fine I guess – and people need to make a living – but on the beach you just want to relax, and I guess you can’t really do that if people keep trying to sell you stuff, and you keep having to turn them down. But on the bright side there are lots of sun beds to choose from, lots of space, and lots of activities to do if you did fancy it.
Actually, in the evening though – the beach is a bit nicer. The sun-loungers get packed up leaving much more space to walk around, and you get less people trying to sell you stuff. One guy did come up and sell us the Thai lanterns… but I didn’t mind that so much as it was on my bucket list anyway. So that was kind of nice, definitely a must-do if you do decide to visit Patong.
I don’t know. It’s probably my least favourite place we’ve been, and that’s hard to admit – because I like to try and be positive about places in general. I don’t like feeling harassed, and I know Pad and my friends we’ve with don’t like that either. It’s hard to enjoy somewhere when you’re always being shouted at on the street, or being sold something, or being called over.
But I also know that this place is so popular for a reason. Clearly there is a target audience and clearly there are people who love it here and keep coming back. For me – I’ve loved our hotel and relaxing in the beautiful weather, but I could’ve done that in another Thai town too. I feel like, if you’re looking for a beautiful Thailand experience – you’re not going to find it here. You’ll find it in one of the many other destinations Thailand has to offer. As other bloggers have also said on various sites I’ve come across.
My enjoyment (and I have enjoyed it) has only been because I’ve been with great friends and because of the lovely hotel – not because of Patong itself. The place itself has kind of worn me out. It’s too much hard work.
Would I come again? No.