Phuket Phenomena – A Day at the Beach

Patong Beach FrontThe tour guide in Singapore made a comment that Singapore has four seasons: hot and hotter, and wet and wetter. Well, I guess I must have landed up in the Wetter Season because when it rained it really did rain. I was quite fortunate that I remembered to take my umbrella the night before because at one point the rain began to full on pelt down – and amazingly my umbrella managed to survive (though I guess it has something to do with rain in Phuket not being accompanied by gale force winds). I have experienced tropical rain previously – in Hong Kong. The thing with rainstorms over here is that they are unlike rain in say Melbourne, which tends to drizzle constantly. In fact I have reached a point where I simply don’t even bother to take out an umbrella because you really don’t get wet (and even if you do you dry off pretty quickly once you step inside). This is not the case in Thailand (or at least in Phuket). It either rains, or it doesn’t, and when it does it generally doesn’t last all at long. I remember looking out the window of the plane as I was coming into Phuket and saw these thick clouds drifting over Phang Na Bay. The clouds weren’t large, but what they were doing was dumping huge amounts of water onto the area beneath. Mind you, I ended up dispensing with the umbrella here as well (namely because by the time I managed to get my umbrella out, and open, the rain had stopped).

Breakfast

It might seem a little odd that I am writing about breakfast, but the thing is that when I first went overseas I discovered that people don’t necessarily have breakfast the way we do back home. I tend to only have toast, and maybe a banana (unless of course I go out, then I tend to have a lot more) where as my brother will have a bowl of serial. I sort of have this set idea of what consists of breakfast – bacon and eggs, maybe pancakes, some juice, and possibly a cup of coffee or tea. However, when I went to Hong Kong and grabbed some breakfast at the hotel I suddenly discovered that the offerings consisted of noodles and spring rolls. To me that’s not breakfast – that’s lunch and dinnner. Anyway, such was the case when I went downstairs to the restaurant to grab some breakfast (and to my surprise it was complimentary, which is always a good thing, though sometimes I simply like to go out and grab something). Okay, they had the standard fare for us Anglos, but they also had a decent traditional offering as well. Needless to say, my mind is still set on what constitutes breakfast, and I guess I am a bit to stubborn to break out of that mould.

Black Canyon Americano
It doesn’t look that appetising

I’m not sure why I did this but for some reason I decided to dispense with drinking tea and to start drinking coffee while I was over here. Maybe it has something to do with the belief that Melbourne makes the best coffee in the world, so I wanted to see what bad coffee tastes like – it tastes just the same as good coffee as far as I’m concerned. Anyway, there happened to be a coffee shop next door, a brand that I had never see before, so I decided to step inside and grab a coffee. What was the coffee like? Well, it tasted like good coffee, but then as far as I’m concerned good coffee and bad coffee taste pretty much the same, so whether it was good coffee or bad coffee I guess I’m never going to know. At first I thought maybe this place was an independent coffee shop, but when I saw another store on my travels around Phuket Island, I realised that this was just another Starbucks, but under a different name (and a little less gaudy than Starbucks – while they are cheap, especially when it comes to tea, it just doesn’t feel like a traditional coffee shop), though it seems that it is fairly limited to South-east Asia, in particular Thailand.

Black Canyon Coffee
I don’t think you’ll find these in America

A Morning Stroll

Well, despite the fact that Patong looks pretty dead in the morning, I decided that it was time to go for a wander around the immediate area to see what it looked like when all the night owls had retreated to their caves to recharge themselves for the next night on the town. I had already located the beach so that was the logical destination, however there were a couple of problems:

  1. there was nowhere I could put my belongings if I wanted to go for a swim;
  2. it actually wasn’t really good swimming weather anyway.

The thing with me is that I really only go swimming when the weather is ridiculously hot, which wasn’t the case here. A part of me wanted to go to Thailand to escape the bitterly cold Melbourne winter only to discover that while it wasn’t cold, it really wasn’t all that hot either – least not hot enough to justify throwing on my bathers and jumping into the water. Anyway, it has just finished raining which is also a pretty good indicator that I wasn’t going to be up for a swim.

beach walkBeach Walk

Further along the beach I came across some statues of some seahorses, which I thought was quite quaint, so I took a photo of them:

Patong Seahorses
It does add a bit of character

You do see a number of these things along the beach, though they are mostly dolphins, and seahorses (as can be seen).

Well, the beach wasn’t all that great, particularly since it was deserted, so I walked back over the road and decided to check out some of the shops. Since I have a thing for T-shirts, I decided that I should get at least one while I was here, as well as a pair of thongs (otherwise known as flip-flops). Not wanting to ruin another pair of Nikes I had decided that it would be a good idea to avoid wearing them, particularly since it was clear that there was going to be a lot more rain. In fact it turned out to be quite a wise purchase since when I went for a ride on the speedboats they didn’t want you wearing any footwear.

The thing about shopping in Thailand is that the price that they quote is not necessarily the price that they will accept – you can always talk them down. In fact negotiating (or should I say haggling) is an artform over here, one that I picked up working eight years in personal injury. When I have made my purchases, and they have given me a price, I always respond with ‘can you do me a deal’. That is when the interplay begins, as you throw offers back and forth until you settle somewhere in the middle. Sometimes they won’t be happy, other times they will – however never pay what they ask, always talk them down.

Beachfront Markets Beachfront Markets

That doesn’t necessarily mean that all of them will haggle. Some of them will point blank refuse, at which time I then move on to find somebody who will. Also, I generally don’t haggle with the food vendors, namely because it is generally not worth it (and they won’t in any case). I did manage to talk a bartender into knocking 5฿ off of a beer one night, but that was because I had just paid 5฿ to visit the toilet and I wanted to get rid of that change (and he found it somewhat amusing as well).

Remember, Thailand is a touting culture, so if you are wandering through the markets don’t expect the shopkeepers to simply stand there and let you walk buy – they will try to entice you into coming into their store to make a purchase. I found myself in that situation as I walked through one of the markets and a young lady enticed me into her stall, repeatedly telling me that I was her first customer. As I found out later the first customer is consider a lucky sign and indicates that they will have a profitable day (though when you don’t get a first customer that day it basically means that you haven’t sold squat). Anyway, not only did she convince me to buy four t-shirts, but also some clothes for my non-existent girlfriend (though I ended up passing them on to my sister). Mind you, I didn’t settle on the price she asked, but talked her down to a price that I was more willing to pay.

Wandering the Streets

I found myself back on Bangla road, though it was quite different to the experience I had the night before. First of all there were vehicles on the street, and pretty much everything was closed. There was still the odd tourist (like myself) wandering along its length, but generally it was quiet. I decided to use this opportunity to take some photographs during the day, but unfortunately it simply wasn’t the same as it was during the night.

Bangla Road
Looks like it needs a bit of a cleanup

The one thing that always gets me about Thailand is the electrical work. It just seems so chaotic – much more here than it was in Bangkok. It seems as if there is no real order, nor is there any concern for safety. One of my friends, who happens to be an electrician, is very particular about electrical work – to the point that he will make criticism of any work that he considers dangerous or shoddy, even if it was put up by the government (though some people will say that is the problem). Of course, I took a photograph of one particularly crazy piece of electrical work and proceeded to post an advertisement for an electrician on Facebook.

Phuket Electrical Work
I really think they need a good electrician

I then found myself back on the main road, not that it really is a main road simply because you can only head in one direction. Okay, you can probably head in the other direction but you are likely to get into a bit of trouble because the rest of the traffic will be coming at you, and I doubt the Thai authorities will be to impressed either (I’m sure there are lines that you simply don’t cross when you are driving in Thailand – not that I have ever driven in Thailand, but I wouldn’t mind giving it a go one day).

One thing of note are the huge number of Tuk-tuks you see on the road – or rather at the side of the road with the drivers asking anybody and everybody who walks past if they would prefer a lift (for a price of course, usually around 200฿, even if it is a couple of meters up the road – and they don’t haggle). To me they weren’t tuk-tuks because in my mind a tuk-tuk is a three wheeled contraption that hoons around the streets of Bangkok. These ones have four wheels, but they also have music blaring out of the back. I did end up catching a couple on my last night here, namely because I had become sick of walking between my hotel and Bangla Road.

Green Tuktuk Red Tuktuk Yellow Tuktuk

I remember when I was younger I would see DVDs at friend’s houses that clearly hadn’t been bought in Australia. Upon wandering around the markets I realised that they must have been on a holiday to Phuket because I saw a few DVDs on sale outside some of the stalls. Mind you there weren’t all that many stalls selling DVDs – in fact I only counted two – but they were there. One of the stalls had the latest season of Game of Thrones on sale while another one had Mad Max Fury Road. As far as I was aware Fury Road was still in the cinemas. One of the guys tried to sell me the Game of Thrones DVDs, telling me that the quality was second to none, though I was a little hesitant. However, seeing only two of these stalls suggest that even the Thai market in pirated DVDs is also being hit by the rise of the internet.

Dodgy DVD
Yep, I’m sure the quality is really good.

An afternoon stroll

I returned to the hotel, had another coffee (without knowing whether it was good coffee or bad coffee) and did some more writing before going out for another stroll, this time in the opposite direction. I grabbed some lunch at one of the many Thai restaurants (and I must say that I do regret not eating at more restaurants than I did – maybe I will rectify that the next time I head out overseas) and then continued on my round-a-bout walk. The thing about food is that apart from the restaurants you will see these little motorised trolleys cruising around the town during the day. A number will park outside the hotel around dinner time, hang around there for about an hour, and then head off somewhere else. The trolleys sell various things, though they do tend to specialise. One will sell pancakes, another meat, and another fruit. I did grab a pancake, but looking at the meat offerings I wasn’t really keen (fried chicken feet really doesn’t create any desire, and anyway a friend told me that it tends to be really boney). These trolleys also tend to have grills and stoves attached to them (though it is probably better described as a motorbike with a kitchen attached).

Food Cart Food Cart

The other thing I regret is that I didn’t get a tailor made suit. Guys selling suits are literally everywhere in Phuket, and they can say some of the funniest things to try to get you in through their door, “sir, don’t you remember, you said you would meet me here tonight”. When I think of suit salesmen, particularly in South East Asia, I generally think overpriced and poor quality. However my Dad pointed out to me when I got back that this is actually not the case. In fact they not only are really cheap, but are actually top quality. He even told me of a friend who would always go overseas when he needed a suit. Mind you, if I went overseas just to get a suit then it would probably be just as good to stay home since the cost of flying over there would pretty much wipe out any savings that you might have made.

The other things that you see as you wander around Patong Beach are the dentists (and the plastic surgeons). Once again people actually travel to Thailand to have work done on their teeth at around a tenth of the cost of having it done in Australia. Mind you, if all you need are fillings then the cost of the plane trip doesn’t justify it (as is the case with the crowns). However, it you need dentures, or implants, then that is a completely different story. Dentists in Australia aren’t too keen on the practice, but then again I am not surprised considering they are being undercut. However they may just have a point when they say that the quality of the work done in Thailand is not necessarily as good (nor do you have the same protections that you do in Australia). Plastic surgery falls into the same category, though I have never been a fan of plastic surgery (why not just grow old gracefully – but then again I am a guy).

Anyway, I think I’ll finish off though here are a couple of more photos of the beach:

(pic - Story) Phuket - Beach Walk 03 (pic - Story) Phuket - Beach Walk 04

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This work by Phuket Phenomena – A Day at the Beach is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.If you wish to use this work commercially please feel free to contact me
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