TRAVEL NOTES ON PATONG BEACH
Patong Beach, then and now.
We have been to Patong Beach in Phuket three times but each trip was spaced many years apart. Our last trip was in 2001, before the Boxing Day tsunami so when we visited in 2015 we found many changes had taken place.
Phuket was once a very affordable place to stay, eat and shop but now prices have sky-rocketed and we found many items in fixed price stores cost as much (or more) than in Australia.
Even the tuk-tuk taxis are now well over-priced and it costs $8 Au (one way) to get anywhere in the Patong Beach area. Apparently prices outside this tourist hot-spot are up to ten times less.
As our previous trips had been all about discovering Phuket and trips to James Bond Island, Phi Phi Island, temples etc. this trip was all about enjoyment and relaxation. We wanted to stay in a nice hotel close to the beach and just enjoy the tropical climate.
Patong Beach - Phuket
Even what we would consider to be the 'cheap' end of the restaurant area can cost upwards of $20 Au per head. One example was a meal at an Indian restaurant that consisted of just 1 thosai, 1 naan bread and a dish of non-meat curry. The cost was just over $20 Au and the same meal in Malaysia would cost perhaps $6-7 Au.
When we tried the underground food hall at the Jungceylon shopping centre, we found cheap food but of very questionable quality.
Cheap food but low quality.
The meal above was dreadful. The Chinese roast pork was completely dried out and not very tasty, the pork sausage was also dry. Although at $6 Au it was cheaper than most other places, it sat so uncomfortably on the stomach, that when we returned to our hotel, the whole lot came up.
Eventually we discovered that it was much better to go to the more up-market restaurants as not only were the servings plentiful, the quality was much better and the prices weren't that much more than restaurants that looked as though they should be cheaper.
One we can recommend is the Fuji Japanese restaurant at
the Jungceylon shopping complex. We had an excellent meal there that in
truth was enough for three people and we paid just $40 Au for a meal that
back in Australia would have probably cost $80-100 Au.
A restaurant we can't recommend is actually run by an Aussie. It is called Sweet Restaurant and it didn't live up to our expectations. The food is a more westernised version of Thai food, the servings were small and the prices were higher than we would expect. We get better cheaper food at Chinese restaurants in Perth.
If you are looking for fresh local fruit then STAY AWAY
from the Big C supermarket. The fruit is ridiculously expensive and the
quality is poor. Just across the road (on the eastern side) is the BanZaan
Market. This is where the locals go to get fresh produce and prices are
about half what the Big C was charging.
BanZaan Market for fresh produce.
Shopping in Patong Beach is a waste of time. If you want to buy something then make the effort and go to Phuket town which is about a 25 minute drive away.
The stuff for sale in Patong Beach is touristy knock-offs and junk at highly inflated prices.
The big new shopping centre, Jungceylon, is worth a look and tends to be the drop-off point for most hotel shuttle services anyway. It is especially pleasant at night with the fountains lit up and coloured lights strung all over the place.
Jungceylon Shopping Centre
If you insist on shopping at Patong Beach then take whatever price you are given, divide it by four and start bargaining from there. If you end up paying one third of the original quoted price then you haven't been too badly ripped off.
The 'fixed price' shops are mostly far too expensive to bother with.
As you walk the streets of Patong you will be constantly harassed by hawkers trying to sell you everything from tailored clothes to strip-shows. There is nothing you can do to avoid this, so just smile politely and move on. Some of the hawkers are starting to become very rude which is not a good look for the area. They are not, I hasten to point out, the local Thai people, but appear to be blow-ins from other countries. We found the Thai people to be absolutely charming, helpful and friendly.
Cheap knock-offs at high prices
The Seedy Side of Life.
At night Patong Beach comes alive with traders, stalls, booming music and night bars where the local call-girls and lady-boys ply their trade.
The centre of this activity is Bang-la Road and a walk through as a once-off novelty is fine but it isn't a place I would happily go for an evening out.
Plenty of (male) tourists come to Phuket just for this kind of 'entertainment' but it certainly wasn't what we were looking for.
There are hazards of another kind to watch for during the day and one of the most annoying are the 'scratchy ticket' operators.
They will approach you with a free scratch-and-win ticket and of course every ticket is a winner of some kind. All you have to do is attend a (minimum) 90 minute presentation about joining a vacation club. You will then be driven to a seedy looking hotel where a bunch of con-artists will do their best to relieve you of several thousand dollars.
If you get sucked in and part with your money then you are a fool. These operations use high pressure sales techniques and push people to 'sign up today' to get all the 'benefits'.
These people are scammers. STAY AWAY FROM THEM!
The sleazy side of Patong Beach
The 'Off Season'.
We arrived in Phuket during the rainy season but that isn't necessarily a negative.
Although there are fairly frequent rain-storms, the bonus is that the temperatures are lower and the climate is reasonably comfortable.
We may have only been there a week but there were a few sunny days mixed with cloudy ones and only one really bad rain-storm that had everyone running for cover.
Another bonus is that hotels are not as full and less people in the pool, quicker service in the restaurants and easy late-checkouts are all big plusses in my book.
Getting there and back.
We travelled from Perth to Phuket via Bangkok which meant changing planes.
If at all possible I suggest you get a direct flight as going to Bangkok adds 3-4 hours to the trip. Bangkok is a long way north of Phuket and there is at least an hour's flight each way. Added to that is a wait in Bangkok airport of 1:30 to 2:00 hours.
Bangkok airport is HUGE and we had to walk about a kilometre between gates. This may not be much of a hassle for most people but we both had the flu and my back was being particularly painful and there was no way to get to the boarding gate but to walk.
If you are thinking about buying duty-free goods in Bangkok then you need at least 1 hour between purchase and the start of boarding time. We didn't have a full hour available so were not able to purchase any alcohol at Bangkok.
The flight from Perth to Bangkok was 6:25 via Thai Airlines. The aircraft was modern and very comfortable. Food and service on the flight were both good. The flight from Bangkok to Phuket was somewhat less comfortable as we transferred from an international flight to a domestic one.
The aircraft on the domestic run looked very old and moth eaten. The seats were smaller and looked dirty. The whole plane looked like it needed a paint job and it rattled like an old car. We were very glad to get off that flight in Phuket.
Thai Airlines - the nice aircraft.
The saving grace - The Amari Hotel
During this recent trip to Phuket we were not exactly in the pink of health having both contracted the flu just before leaving Australia. What we wanted was a peaceful place to relax, recover and enjoy our trip as much as possible.
We found all this and more at the Amari Hotel. The hotel is located at the southern end of Patong Bay and has its own stretch of quiet beach where you are free from the noise of traffic and the hassle of hawkers.
We were so impressed we even wrote a review of the hotel to post on Trip Advisor and it is worth repeating it in full here.
Amari Hotel - Patong Beach - Phuket
The review : We have died and gone to heaven.
Building 7 - Amari Hotel - Patong Beach - Phuket
Amari Hotel - Deluxe room
Amari Hotel - Deluxe room
For those that travel without a computer, there are free terminals in the
Amari Hotel - Family Pool
Amari Hotel - Breakfast buffet
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The Amari really was the one thing that turned what would have been a mediocre trip, into something special.
Amari Hotel - The jetty bar.
An old friend.
Our previous two stays in Patong Beach had been at the Patong Merlin Hotel. It is certainly one of the older hotels now but we had to go back an have a wander through the pools area and reflect on what it must have been like on December 28th 2004 when the waves struck.
The grounds of the hotel had changed a little but it was still more or less the same lovely place that we remembered.
Just up the road is a sad reminder of 2004, with a memorial plaque outside the original Ocean Plaza, a small underground supermarket that was never re-opened after the tsunami.
Phuket Photo Gallery
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