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

Patong Beach - Phuket



Previously we found the food in Phuket to be excellent. It was cheap, plentiful and very good quality. This time we were quite disappointed.


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.


Poor quality food

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

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

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

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 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

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

Amari Hotel - Patong Beach - Phuket


The review : We have died and gone to heaven.

Although I would hardly class myself as a globe trotting adventurer, I have been to my fair share of overseas destinations over the years but this hotel outshines everything I have experienced so far.

Nestled in a quiet corner at the far end of Patong Beach, the Amari Hotel is simply stunning. The complex has been built along a hillside and has an absolute beach front location.


Amari Hotel - Patong Beach

Building 7 - Amari Hotel - Patong Beach - Phuket

Almost all rooms seem to have an ocean view but building 7, where we were located, really couldn't be any closer.

We arrived late in the evening after a long 11 hour journey from Perth including a 2 hour delay at Bangkok. Check-in was fast and efficient and by the time we arrived at our room, our luggage was already waiting for us. We were personally guided to our room and given a quick overview of the hotel and the facilities.

The room was everything we could have wished for. Even though we were pretty worn out and ready for sleep, it was too tempting to sit on the balcony and watch the twinkling lights of Patong across the water, so we ordered a meal and settled down to enjoy the view.


Amari Hotel - Deluxe room

Amari Hotel - Deluxe room

The bed was wonderful to sleep in. Many hotels I have recently been to in Asia have rock hard beds that I just cannot sleep on. This one was perfect for my less-than perfect back and the pillows were just right as well. There is even a 'Pillow Menu' so that you can choose the exact pillow type for your comfort.

The room comes complete with mini-bar, snacks, large screen TV, robes and slippers, and the lighting can be altered to suit your mood.

The shower was good, nice strong flow of water and hot water that arrives quickly.

The air-conditioning unit is excellent and easily adjustable.

The wifi signal is good and internet use is free. So many hotels we have been to advertise free internet but you can't get signal in your room ? where you need it most. The Amari actually provides free, fast internet right in your own room.


Deluxe room - deluxe view

Amari Hotel - Deluxe room


For those that travel without a computer, there are free terminals in the Voyager Lounge.

Free DVDs can be borrowed from reception for those times when you just want to sit back and relax for a while in the comfort of your room.

The room is nice and large and everything was clean and tidy. There is nothing we could find fault with.

As the hotel is built along the side of a hill, there is a little walking to do between the lobby and the building we are in but it isn't too strenuous and there is a lift to get you from the lower level up to the top.


Some walking to do

Amari Hotel

There are two pools, one for families and one for adults only - what a joy! As people who aren't that fond of children, it is a real bonus to be able to relax and enjoy a pool without all the usual shouting and screaming that kids can sometimes engage in.


Family pool

Amari Hotel - Family Pool

All the staff we met were friendly and very keen to help.

Breakfast was included in our package and it was a lovely buffet with just about everything our hearts could desire. There are simply too many dishes to even attempt to list them here.


Breakfast buffet

Amari Hotel - Breakfast buffet

To say we are impressed with the Amari would be a huge understatement, we simply think we have found our own corner of paradise in Phuket.


-- O --


The Amari really was the one thing that turned what would have been a mediocre trip, into something special.


Amari jetty bar

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.


Merlin Patong

Merlin Patong




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