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Phuket Thailand – Love it and hate it

When I was a kid, maybe 8 or 9 years old, one of the jokes that made its way around my circle of friends was the classic capital of Thailand joke. It went something like this:

You ask your friend “What is the capital of Thailand?” If they don’t know they give you a look or shrug their shoulders. You then shout “Bangkok!” and punch (not full blown punch mind you) in their family jewels. Boom.

However, if your friend had already been a victim of this joke or knew his world capitals he could answer your question correctly and land a jab in your mid third. So it was not without risk to be going around and asking people what the capital of Thailand was.

No real point here. I vaguely remember there was some incorporation of Phuket into the joke as well but I can’t recall exactly. Anyone know what I am talking about??

Phuket

We spent 6 nights on Phuket courtesy of Hilton. I signed up for their credit card back in August, spent the $2k within a few weeks and was rewarded with almost 90,000 Hilton points which I used to book 6 nights for free at the Double Tree on Surin Beach in the northwest of Phuket. Sweet deal in my book. It was about as far as we could reasonably stretch the points that Hilton gave me. There are several other Hilton properties on Phuket but none could be touched for less than 35,000 points per night. Is 6 nights too long on Phuket? In my opinion, yes – but others have spent weeks on this island and loved it. Not so much for us.

The beaches around Phuket are incredible so I completely understand what draws people here. I mean really, really nice and fun beaches all along the west coast of the island.

We walked from Surin beach to Patong Beach (absolutely terrible idea) and along the way we had photo opportunities like this one looking over Kalamala Beach several times. Even on a cloudy and not-so-great weather day in Phuket this looks amazing.

Why were we walking to Patong Beach? Well, for one we had read that we must witness the complete and utter mess that this town is and, according to my calculations, we were only 2 miles or so from our hotel. Plus the taxi situation on Phuket is really overpriced. 5 minute drives in a tuk tuk cost $10USD on this island so we decided to take the free route and walk. It turns out that I was slightly mistaken on the distance from our hotel to the beach. We didn’t know it at the time, but thanks in part to Phuket’s awful road conditions (winding, up/downhills & poorly paved roads) Thailand’s roads rank as the 3rd most dangerous in the world – behind only some island you never heard of and the Dominican Republic. Oh, and sidewalks or pedestrian walkways are non-existent. Oh, and I took us the long route. Oh and we had on crappy sandals. Oh and while the sun wasn’t out it was still really hot.

Somehow Lindsay stills loves me after this debacle. I dragged her around the dirty, dangerous and hot streets of Phuket (I am not kidding either) for 3.5hrs – more than 8 miles of uphill and downhill. We cut our walk a little short of Patong at the first decent looking hotel/resort to give our feet a break and get some water. We were in terrible shape. Maybe that had something to do with our view of Patong…but maybe not either.

Patong is terrible

What a complete turd of a city. I’m sorry if you are reading this and you’re proud to live in Patong, but this place is ranked up there with Bogotá as my least favorite on our travels thus far. It’s a perfect example of what was probably a beautiful beach that exploded in tourism and now is gross, dirty and smelly – in a very literal sense. It’s a collection of dirt cheap hotel rooms, restaurants lining the street with their employees out there hounding you down to visit them, massage parlors that have to put signs on their front doors that say “no sex”, a ton of traffic congestion and plenty of lame souvenir shops selling t-shirts and other junk. Take this lineup of businesses – gross restaurant, dirty hostel, dumb souvenir store, crusty massage parlor and cars sitting in idle and multiply by 10,000 and you have Patong.

We took a taxi from the resort near Patong to the center. Walked through the town and right back out to catch a taxi back to Surin beach. I guess you have to see Patong. Sort of like a traffic accident that you can’t stop staring at. It’s quite sad what they (whoever “they” is) have done to the city. I wish that I took pictures of this place to show you, but I wasn’t thinking straight on the account of the 2 mile walk that turned into 8 miles and the inhaling of cars exhaust the entire way.

The best part of Patong is probably this sign we took a picture of as we were leaving.

Surin Beach

Most of our days were spent in and around Surin Beach. This was for no other reason than the free Double Tree stay. Turned out to be a positive. The beach was fantastic. The area is much, much more quiet than most of the surrounding areas so there wasn’t the variety of places to eat and things to but we still had a great time. We stumbled across a restaurant off the beaten path on the first night by accident. The lady was really sweet and took the time to explain that they had just moved from a beach location because the government shut them down for being too close to the water or something. She went on to tell us that they aren’t too busy anymore (made sense based on the location) and she also mentioned that in their previous spot you would have needed to make a reservation 4 months in advance. I thought that sounded like BS until we had their food. Unbelievable. Our favorite food so far. We ate dinner there 3 times – and every meal was less than $20.

We really spent most of the days on the beach relaxing. Having a cocktail. Getting a massage. Eating food. Go into the water for some boogie boarding. Repeat. Not a terrible way to spend a few days, but we were itching to get on the move a bit. At the end of our stay we took a day trip to Coral Island – just 15km off the southeast coast of Phuket. It was nice. Good not great. Completely packed. Tons of boat traffic. Not nearly as relaxing and enjoyable as the pictures showed but we were glad we went. It got us off our butts.

Surfs up bro! We bought a couple of boogie boards on the second day and turned out to be a great investment. Used them just about every day. I was just walking back to the hotel to drop my boards off after riding some serious pipes back to shore when Lindsay snapped this pic.

The Double Tree was pretty darn nice for not paying a dime. We hung out by the pool a little bit. The prices of the food and drink were really jacked up. Simply stepping outside of the hotel grounds would save us a bunch of money.

 

Not only are the prices cheaper outside of the hotel…but there is also this: Surin Beach. The water was as good as it looks in this picture. I understand how people are lured to Phuket each year. Just about every beach is like this – including Patong.

 

Every night Lindsay and I would take a walk down to the beach (5 minutes from our room) and grab a seat to take in the sunset. The sunsets were consistently gorgeous. This was one of my favorites because the sailboat had pulled into the bay for the night.

After the sunset we’d walk to a nearby restaurant and enjoy dinner with a bottle of wine. Not a bad way to end the day in my book.

 

2 thoughts on “Phuket Thailand – Love it and hate it

    1. Jeff Post author

      My hair is getting long. Longer than I ever remember it, but I don’t think I can stretch it into a ponytail just yet. Soon though..:)

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