PHUKET: Getting Around Playful Patong
This was my first stop in Thailand and I was so stoked! Red and I landed at Phuket International Airport roughly 8.30PM from Kuala Lumpur. We’re already thinking about the crystal clear beaches of Patong and ready to to get our tan on!
Phuket is globally famous for beautiful beaches so expect a massive influx of beach-bound holiday passengers. The immigration took at least half an hour before we got our passports stamped and officially let in the country. Eventually we got our backpacks and headed for the exit. Don’t worry if you haven’t got a clue how to get to your hotel as the airport is swarming with private and public transportation. We got a shared taxi van to our hostel in Patong, which cost us 180 Baht (5USD) per person.
Business as usual, the driver made a pit stop at their main office where they made us get out of the van and directed us inside whilst a travel agent offered us all the tours possible known to mankind. We kept declining her offers so she must’ve got the hint that we’re not interested one bit. After all the business proposition shebang, we finally made our way to Patong.
45 minutes later we arrived in our hostel, Kool Backpacker which is located banging right in the center of Bangla Road. By sunset, hundreds and eventually thousands of tourists flock to this street for a night of debauchery that’s why the authorities shut the whole 400 meter road to vehicles. I swear Bangla Road is the lovechild of Red Light District in Amsterdam and Ayia Napa in Cyprus (whichever European summer getaway you prefer). I really didn’t like it because I’m over this kind of scene, you know, getting old and that. Lol.
IN AND AROUND PATONG
Being surrounded by beautiful beaches in Sydney, I expected the same and more from Thailand due to the fact it’s a tropical country and boy, I was disenchanted. I was looking forward to Patong beach welcoming me with clear pristine water and fine white sand. To my sheer dissatisfaction, the beach itself was nothing out of the ordinary; the water looked dirty so that hindered me from swimming in the sea; instead I just had a long tanning session. The pictures of Patong beach I saw online had no resemblance with what was staring at me in the face. Red and I waited for the sunset and this compensated for Patong beach’s poor performance.
Be prepared to be badgered by vendors of all sorts – from fruits, ice cream, drinks, food, selfie sticks, clothes, accessories, water sports and everything else in between! If you’re trying to relax then I suggest putting your headphones and sunnies on so these vendors won’t bother you. During the morning is the best time to go to the beach if you want to relax because it’s not as hot and crowded compared to the afternoon. Some people also do private yoga classes by the beach which is pretty cool to watch whilst chilling under a coconut tree. Speaking of coconut trees, make sure you buy an ice-cold fresh coconut water because it’s the most refreshing drink in the world!
Money changers are everywhere so make sure you take a solid walk around before you commit to changing your currency. Red and I rammed through the whole strip of Bangla Road for money changers and found the best rate was a small stall located right at the left end corner of Bangla Road and Thawewong Road facing the beach. Tip: I highly suggest you download the XE Currency application because it will give you a rough estimation of how much you should get. Always keep in mind that it just serves as a guide; currency fluctuates every single day. This app is a must amongst travellers so moneychangers won’t scam you, or at least try not to.
You can’t miss motorbike rentals because they are in every corner of Patong; the reasonable rental fee should be around 250-300 Baht (7-8.50USD) excluding petrol, for the whole day. We found out that the cheaper ones are usually the farthest from the beach. Be sure to take photos of every part of the motorbike as some rentals would charge for the “damage” you did not incur.
Red and I tried to rent a motorbike but the only deposit they want was a passport and boy, no way in hell we’re handing over our passports to a complete stranger! We tried to be ‘smart’ by giving his expired passport but as expected, they checked it and we got busted. No motorbike for us so we’re stuck in Patong. I won’t even bother googling the ratio between cars and motorbikes in Phuket because I’m sure it will be a landslide win for motorbikes. Even kids (I’m exaggerating a little bit but you know what I mean) are driving these things! It’s the law that you (and passenger) are required to wear a helmet whilst driving motorbikes – failure to do so will result to being fined on the spot.
We asked a tuktuk driver how much it is to either Karon or Kata (beaches after Patong) and the driver wanted to charge us 400 Baht (11USD) or something ridiculous like that. I don’t understand why tuktuks cost a lot when they don’t even have aircon. Never agree to the first price they tell you because they’re testing if you’re gullible enough to pay that amount.
We wanted to find out information regarding local public transportation but it was quite challenging to communicate with the locals because of the language barrier. We saw the Thawewong Road Police Station and decided to enquire assuming they can speak English and would be able to give us directions; but to our shock, the station was closed! What kind of a police station leaves it closed and unattended middle of the day?
My bag’s zipper broke so I was desperate to buy a new one because I don’t want to travel to Phuket with a bag wide open with my valuables inside (i.e. laptop and documents). Red suggested to just wait until we get to Bangkok because it’s way cheaper there compared to Phuket where almost all the goods were twice the price from Bangkok. I was slightly hesitant but I always trust Red’s judgment when it comes to these things because he’s been in and around Asia more than me. Tip: Always haggle because locals tend to bump up the prices for tourists especially when they sense you have zero bargaining skills like me.
There are a lot of travel agencies scattered all over Patong that sell tours, transportation tickets, airport transfer and everything else in between. Like the money changers, always try to find the shop that offers the best deal even if you have to walk around for at least 30mins. By doing this, you will be able to save money as well as discover shortcuts or cute hidden bars and restaurants. We found a shop that offers the same 3 islands tour like the others but with an extra stop for 2900 Baht (80USD) each. Upon hearing the price, our eyes almost popped out in disbelief so we started walking away but the shop attendant shouted us back asking how much we’re willing to pay. Red dove straight in and said a ridiculously cheap amount that was automatically declined. And so the bartering commenced! At the end, they shook hands with 1150 Baht (32USD) and we happily walked away saving 48USD! I swear I wouldn’t know what to do without him and his Doctoral Degree in Haggling.
Food and Restaurants
Everyone knows that I’m a massive foodie so I was keen to try legit Thai food. Bangla road didn’t disappoint because there were cheap food stalls everywhere! On our first night, Red and I found this food cart on the main street that sells fried chicken (price depending on chosen chicken part) and sticky rice. I asked if they have cutlery and the guy said that they don’t really need it – you unwrap the sticky rice and just bite into it instead of using cutlery. When we got back in our hostel, we tried his technique and it worked. Tip: If you found something you like on the street, make sure you buy it straight away because these vendors don’t stay in a single place the whole night; they tend to move around where there’s a crowd of if they finished their stock.
We found a hidden gem in this alleyway for 60 Baht (1.60USD) for 2 meat/veg dishes and rice. There were at least 20 dishes to choose from and it was yummy! Tip: If you’re a wuss when it comes to spicy food, don’t believe the locals when they say it’s not spicy or it’s only a little spicy because their level of spice tolerance is not the same as the norm.
If you prefer a meal from a middle-high end restaurant, you have to shell out minimum of 150 Baht (4USD).
It was so convenient that Jungceylon Mall was just 5 minutes away from our hostel. The mall houses several shops, spa, restaurants, food court and a massive Big C supermarket. It’s also a good chill out spot if the sun gets too hot or for just people watching. In some occasions, you will see performers busting out their moves. Jungceylon Mall has great atmosphere because it comprises a good mix of people and culture.
Patong is truly a playground, not for just tourists but as well as for locals. Whether you’re a party animal, beach bum, adventure junkie, royal foodie, culture seeker, you will always find something that floats your boat.