Well it had to come. No blog on Phuket can avoid having at least one entry on Patong so I guess I had better get it over with.
Patong beach is located about a third of the way up from the tip of Phuket island on the West (right) hand side – around 45 minutes from the airport. It is the centre of huge tourist area incorporating everything a many people want when on holiday. The beach itself is nothing special but it is an easy walk from a lot of accommodation, which if you don’t have your own transport is a big bonus.
Away from the beach the streets are wall to wall shops, bars and restaurants. On offer is everything from the usual “borrowed designs” of sunglasses, shoes, watches and clothes to vendors selling day tours and street vendors offering whatever the latest cheap tourist grabber is. Billabong has a strong presence here, which may come as a surprise to their marketing and supply people!
Two other big offerings here are massage parlours and beauty salons. There seem to be a massage shop every few meters with the staff in uniform sitting outside to attract business. You have the option of picking the girl you would like to given you the massage. Many of these are genuine massage places but “extras” can often be negotiated with the girl. Kaun calls these places “massage but not really”, which I think sums it up pretty well.
Beauty salons often have tanks of water outside full of those little fish that eat the dried skin from your feet. I have yet to try this and must say am not rushing into the experience.
Transport is never a problem with heaps of tuk tuks and taxis parked along the streets. Tuk tuks range from the basic ones as in my photo above to those decked out with lots of chrome with multi-coloured sound systems that must require significant assistance from the engine to operate.
As a broad generalisation most things are more expensive than in the quieter areas of Phuket, but that’s to be expected.
The main girly bar party road in Patong is called Bangla Road. It runs East/West from the main beach road to the street immediately parallel to it. Open to traffic during the day Bangla becomes a pedestrian area only from 7.00 pm.
It too has a mix of retail shops but the majority of business is based around the enormous number of bars in the area. Running off Bangla Road itself are Soi’s, or small streets, which are lined with bars so there is far more to the street than your first impression. There must be a hundred or more bars in this one part of Patong.
The photo above is taken early in the evening outside Tiger Bar (who would have guessed!). For my male readers you can see one of the many go-go dancers on offer towards the centre of the picture. Drinks at these places that provide live entertainment, in this case a rotation of girls dancing with mixed enthusiasm, cost about double “normal”. A small bottle of beer will set you back TBH 160, which is around A$5.70. Still the viewing is more interesting than say at the Kingston pub! We went to a simple bar and got the same thing for TBH 50.
If you go to one of these large places as a single male you will be quickly joined by some of the hostesses who will encourage you to drink more and buy them drinks (called lady drinks – often higher priced and watered down, the cost of which will be added to your drinks tab).
If you would like to extend your time with a girl you like and she is willing (this is usually a two way transaction in Thailand) you will pay a barfine, an amount to the establishment to “release the girl” for a period of time or for the night, and then negotiate a fee with the girl directly. Prostitution is illegal in Thailand and has been under the original Act since 1960 (updated 1996). I guess that with customers dealing directly with the girls rather than through the bar this gets round the unlikely event of any legal issues. Go-Go girls, the dancers, tend to be better looking and can demand a higher price.
If you are thinking that I am very well informed on this subject for a casual observer I would like to state for the record that (most) of my experience has been gained from Thai forums. I am always trying to broaden my mind and I hope you appreciate the effort I am putting into this research.
My favourite photo taken in Bangla Road is this one:
The old lady was selling necklaces of flowers and I am pleased to report doing pretty good business. She probably owns Tiger bar!
For me the main attraction of Patong is that it has a decent shopping centre called Jungceylon:
If you walk to the Eastern (the inland) end of Bangla Road and cross the street you will see this centre immediately on your right.
There are actually two parts to the mall. The photo above shows the front but if you walk through to the other side you will exit into a large open square:
The building straight ahead is another shopping mall.
This square is a good place to people watch and there always seems to be something happening on the main stage. A bartender cocktail competition (I think) was happening the last time I was there but they do live music too.
A scheduled light, water and sound show happens at night-time:
Once inside many of the smaller specialist shops are located in stall type arrangements, as you’d find in Westfield cluttering up the walkways, increasing income and reducing traffic flow. Around the edges are the larger shops most at a very high standard of presentation with higher prices to support the outfitting:
It has been rainy here the last couple of days so what do you do when the weather is a bit iffy – you go to the cinema. If you do feel the urge while in Patong there’s a big complex on the third floor.
We went to the 5.00 pm session of Odd Thomas and got premium seating for TBH 160 (A$5.60). Modern and comfortable cinema. It was only us plus one other so we weren’t too cramped.
I have to say that as an experience Patong is great but it is just not my thing for any extended period. The thought of spending a whole holiday surrounded by this is not for me. However ,as with anything, each to their own and as long as you’re having the holiday you want who am I to judge? Enjoy.