On my way to Phi Phi island on my previous trip to Thailand, I spent a few days hanging out in Patong Beach in Phuket. Not something I chose personally, but since I was at the mercy of two males who thought they knew better, I didn’t really get to offer my opinion. I didn’t really enjoy Patong that much, but it does give me a new place to write about.
Patong Beach is a tourist location in Phuket, and the main attraction of Patong is Bangla Road. If you’ve not heard of Bangla Road, it is to Phuket what Khao San Road is to Bangkok. An array or bars, nightclubs, market stalls and touts, all trying to sell to the large crowds of tourists milling around throughout the day and night. It’s where you go to drink and party and have a good time, day or night. At night, the lights are blinding and Western pop music pumps through the speakers and vibrates in your lungs as you try to choose between the numerous bars on offer.
You’ll find nearly all the bars have girls “dancing” (read: hopping from one foot to the other) on poles, and it’s hard to find a place where girls aren’t performing. Don’t worry though, they very rarely get naked on the podiums or poles, and they’re not the kind of provocative dancers you normally see in Western strip clubs unless you actually go inside the closed off “go go bars”.
Also in Bangala Road, you’ll find a lot of touts selling you the usual assortment – cigarettes, cigars, lighters – and also some things I haven’t seen before – roses, flashing headgear, and photos with strange animals. I had large iguanas thrust at me several times (cue screaming) and was also accosted by a group of Thai people each holding a baby slow loris. One of the boys I was travelling with has the photos and I haven’t asked for them yet, but they’re very cute animals and I ended up somehow with them all over my body. 50% cute, 50% what-if-they-bite-or-poop-on-me.
If drinking and dancing aren’t really your thing, then I wouldn’t recommend venturing too far out at night, as that’s really all that’s on offer once the sun goes down. There’s a smattering of markets, but nothing like you’d see in Bangkok or Chiang Mai, and most of them resemble stores rather than market stalls. During the day is your best chance of getting to have a look around, but as Patong Beach is a tourist party town, there doesn’t seem to be that much to do. I saw a lot of people rent scooters and this is a lot easier in Patong than somewhere like Bangkok, because there is a lot less traffic on the beach, making it easier to get around without getting trapped in a 30-deep motorbike pack.
If you are going to rent a scooter, make sure you have your passport, as they don’t seem to rent to you without it. It’s also a good idea to get travel insurance if you don’t already, because if you do have a little crash, you want to know you’re taken care of. I wouldn’t recommend going out and renting a scooter unless you have knowledge of how to work one, or have someone with you that’s willing to give you a little tutorial before you head out on the roads. Make sure you wear a helmet and never drive drunk if you go out at night. Just walk or catch a taxi!
I didn’t get a chance to explore much of Patong in the day, because I got there at 7pm when I spent one night before Phi Phi and when I came back, it was pouring rain and my dreams of renting a scooter were dashed. ): I personally wouldn’t recommend staying more than one or two nights while in transit to islands or other parts of the country. Patong doesn’t offer the greatest selection of culture and entertainment, but it is good place to head to if you want a few nights of partying. Just remember that most bars close between 1 and 2 am and after that the whole city dies until morning.
Note: There is a rampant sex trade going on in Patong and I will touch more on this later. Please keep smart and refrain from perpetuating this industry. Also, the slow loris’ you see on the street are often stolen from their parents and it’s a good idea not to perpetuate this trade by having photos taken with them on the street.