Our friend who came to meet us in Phuket preferred to stay near the beach so we ended up in a place we’d have never chosen otherwise: Patong beach, the epitome of mass tourism.
PATONG ON A BUDGET
We found a slightly rundown, 3-star hotel with a swimming pool and AC rooms for a ridiculously low price of 250 baht. The hotel was further away from the crazily busy roads leading to the beach, tucked away in a local neighbourhood. This meant we could easily find cheap eateries and water machines around. My best experience on Patong was a really good Thai massage (I know what I’m talking about as I’m a Thai massage therapist myself) for just 200 baht.
Our friend had very bad luck with the weather: it was raining heavily the whole three days she was there. We went to the beach just once but it was enough to put me off. For me, Patong beach was ugly, dirty and full of people. Numerous jet-skis made enjoying the water simply impossible. There were also plenty of touts bothering us as soon as we sat on the sand. Basically, Patong beach was everything I hate.
UNIMPRESSIVE FOOD SCENE
Even the food scene was a disappointment. Sayak and Hitomi actually enjoyed the seafood at the night market but I couldn’t find much to eat there. Sadly, in terms of vegetarian food, Patong didn’t have much to offer.
All the restaurants were selling the same bland and overpriced dishes. Finally, we found a local street stall hidden in a small alley where we had a tasty coconut soup for a decent price. As for breakfast, we relied on a local market where we could buy some lovely local sweets such as sticky rice with coconut.
THE DISTURBING BANGLA ROAD
As I was already there, I couldn’t possibly miss the experience of walking through the infamous Bangla Road by night. Bangla road is a short street leading to the beach, packed full of bars and erotic shows. In the high season, you can barely squeeze through it after dark but even when we were there, it was still pretty busy.
Walking through loud and rowdy Bangla road was an experience not to be forgotten, however disturbing it was. Our senses were attacked with bright neon lights and loud music blaring from each and single bar, mingling into a cacophony. Skimpily dressed Thai girls and ladyboys in long evening dresses were everywhere. Every two seconds we were stopped by touts offering a ping pong show, a kind of sex show where a woman uses her vaginal muscles to do various tricks. It was all very shocking and overwhelming but definitely worth seeing.
FLYING OUT FROM PHUKET
We found a very cheap late night flight connection from Phuket to Bangkok. In fact, 500 baht flight ticket was cheaper than if we wanted to make this route by land. We took a minivan from Patong Beach to the airport for 220 baht (20 being a commission to the agent) and drove through the entire island to get to the airport. As we arrived at the airport quite early, we had to search for a place to have a meal. To our surprise, there was a large canteen serving dishes for just 40-60 baht inside the airport. I ordered a noodle soup which was not only cheap and big but truly delicious. Without exaggeration, it was the best airport meal I ever had.
How to get there?
There are REALLY cheap flight connections with Thai budget airlines from Bangkok. It’s one of rare cases when flying would cost you less than getting there by bus. Keep in mind though that travelling from the airport to Phuket Town or any of the nearby beaches would be expensive.
In the dry season, you can also reach Phuket by a passenger ferry from any of tourist destinations on the Andaman coast (Krabi, Railay, Ao Nang, Ko Lanta, Ko Phi-Phi, Ko Yao) and even Ko Lipe far in the south as well as Langkawi in Malaysia (though the last two mean a long and expensive journey).
Krabi Town, Phang Nga Town, Khao Lak, Khao Sok have direct, cheap bus connections to Phuket Town. You can also get there by bus from Surat Thani which would be a longer journey.
Prices [in Thai baht as of June 2018]
500 THB flight from Phuket to Bangkok (Don Muang airport)
220 THB bus from Khao Sok to Phuket Town
200/220 THB minivan from Patong beach to the airport
80 THB meal with a drink at the walking street
40-50 THB meal in a cheap vegetarian eatery in Phuket Town
40 THB meal at a roadside stall in Patong
40 THB songthaew Phuket Town- Karon Beach
30 THB songhthaew Phuket Town- Chalong (for Big Buddha)
20 THB 4 kg of laundry at the laundromat in Phuket Town (no drying, your own detergent)
15 THB songthaew from Phuket Town bus station to the town centre