I would say that with a hard heart I climbed onto the Ferry to head back to Phuket, but the thing with Phi Phi Island is that there was only so much that I could do there before I became bored. I had pretty much visited all of the bars, and on the third night at the back beach, it just was nowhere near as exciting as it was that first night (and honestly, neither was the music). Okay, maybe I could have gone on that cruise for a little longer, and when we arrived back at port, a part of me was annoyed that we didn’t take the full day cruise, however what happens happens, and it was now time to leave.
So, we arrived back at the pier and was picked up by the tour company to take us to our hotel. Unfortunately the rooms were prepared yet, which was somewhat annoying (though I probably shouldn’t have been surprised since most places to allow check in until about 2:00 pm), so we dumped our bags and decided to go for a walk around Patong Beach, and also pick up the car that we had booked.
However, before I continue I should mention the hotel, the Seaview Patong. It turned out to be pretty cool, particularly since the manager knew everybody by name, and also knew their itineraries. Every morning at breakfast she would wander around the tables greeting everything, though I notice that in Thailand they refer to you as Mr or Mrs first name (so I was Mr David). This was odd, and came across as somebody who didn’t fully understand the complexities of the English Language, but apparently that is actually how they refer to people over there. In fact, from memory it seems as if when people in the past have referred to me as Mr David, it was because they have come from non-European cultures (or just simply been odd). The other thing was as I sat on the balcony of the hotel I would look down and see people simply lying on deck chairs in the sun. That always baffles me as well, since I tend to be more of an active person. However Tim, upon seeing everybody doing that, decided that he would get involved as well, and during our downtimes he would want to go down and lie by the pool on a deckchair.
Wandering Around Town
So, having some time to kill, we wandered down towards the main town centre, stopping by at one of the food halls to grab something to eat. Honestly, I’m not all that sure what to call them since food court doesn’t seem to be an appropriate title as they aren’t in a shopping centre. Then again, when I think about it, food courts aren’t necessarily in shopping centres either and usually denote a place where there are multiple stalls selling food and a communal area containing tables and benches. This was sort of like that.
The hotel was a bit of a way from the town centre though, which turned out to be a good thing. When I booked the first hotel it turned out to be right next to Bangala Road, and if you know Patong you would probably be familiar with Bangala Road. Needless to say that it isn’t quiet, at least before 2:00 am, at which time everybody basically shuts up shop. However, it ended up that we needed a place to park a car, and this hotel wasn’t going to offer that, so we ended up picking something else, and as is the case with Thailand, we ended up with quite a nice hotel at a really cheap rate.
We ended up near the OTOP markets, which means One Tambom, one Product, and is basically a collection of stalls pretty much selling anything. Well, not quite anything because I couldn’t find any place that sold coins or stamps, and in general it was basically just a lot of touristy stuff, and suits. This is a Thai government initiative to attempt to promote locally made goods, though as far as I could tell it was basically just touristy stuff. Mind you, you will find a number of brand name products here as well, though you can be assured they aren’t the real deal – as one shop keeper told me, ‘This is Thailand, everything is fake’, though he was a bit put off when I told him I would prefer to pay full price for a pair of shoes – then again in my opinion it isn’t price, it is quality.
Oh, and there are the suits. Patong is a great place to go if you want a suit. Mind you, I was more interested in finding myself a pair of good sneakers, and when I indicated to the shop keeper that I wanted good quality he passed me onto another guy standing nearby who lead me into a shop at the back of the stalls. I walked into the shop to discover that it was full of suits. I then proceeded to point out to him that not only was I a university student, but I was also studying computer science, so the last thing that I needed was a suit. Actually, some of those suit makers can be really cool, particularly when they try to persuade you to come into their shops. However, while I’ve never purchased a suit in south-east Asia, I have been told that they are actually really, really good quality.
There is a proper shopping centre there as well, the Jungceylon, and like most shopping centres it is pretty massive. I walked past it the last time I was here but this time, since I was looking for some electronic components, I decided to check it out. That is the thing with electronics, you should only purchase them from a reputable dealer. When I was in Hong Kong once one of the guys on one of the tours I was on mentioned that when he was in the Philippines he decided to purchase a flash drive from a market stall only to discover that it wouldn’t work. The problem was that there wasn’t actually anything inside. Oh, and my cousin, who lives in Hong Kong, mentioned, buying electronics from Hong Kong usually means that they stop working as soon as you get off the plane back home.
We did make our way down to Bangala Road, which turns out is reasonably quiet during the day (but really picks up at night). This is where you will find most of the Gogo bars, and other places of entertainment. In a way it can be quite fun sitting down at one of the bars and having some of the ladies come up to you and having a chat. Mind you, they generally want you to buy them a drink, which is usually somewhat more expensive than normal, but that is actually how they make a lot of their money. Well, not quite because they can make a lot more money in otherways, but I will leave that to your imagination. However, there was one place I wandered through were pretty much every single girl is trying to grab you to get you to sit down with them, which can be pretty disconcerting at times, but I’ll leave that adventure for another post.
Oh, I should mention that Bangala Road is more than just gogo bars, though that is a large part of it. Surprisingly there are bars along that strip where you can sit down, have a drink, and nobody will disturb you, at least not any of the locals. Interestingly there is a huge Australian flavour here, but that probably has something to do with all the Australians that end up here. I suspect Bali is very similar, but I’ve never been there and have absolutely no intention of going there either.
A Nightmarish Drive
We had booked a car, namely so we could go and see the elephants at the Elephant Sanctuary. To put it bluntly, after we got back I decided that I didn’t want to take the risk of having a prang so I pretty much returned it straight away and instead took a cab everywhere. Okay, the prices are pretty ridiculous, but it is better than losing your deposit because of the traffic, and the fact that half the streets are one way. We did take advantage of the car to go and visit the Big Buddha, which gives you some magnificent views of the island, and we also stopped by at the Tiger Kingdom on the way back. In the end the Big Buddha is basically just that, a really big statue of the Buddha, though there are a number of shrines around, though the interior is still being constructed. However, the trek up the mountain it pretty cool, and there are some nice restaurants on the way up there as well.
The elephant sanctuary, while expensive, is actually really cool. The catch was that you drive to the office and then jump into the back of a ute and they drive you out to the sanctuary where you watch a video about the elephant industry in Thailand, and also wander around looking at the elephants. You then have lunch while watching the elephants take a bath. The video itself was quite confronting, and really makes you wander about people forcing them to do tricks like paint pictures and walk on their hind legs. In fact, we had booked an elephant ride the next day, and after watching the video I started having second thoughts. We ended up going though, namely because my brother wanted to ride the elephant. Sure, they argue that they treat the elephants ethically, but I’m not so sure about that. As for the Tiger Kingdom, well, once again I’m not convinced that the tigers are just sleeping. I assure you, if I were to force open an animal’s mouth just to take a photo of its teeth, the animal will let me know of its displeasure.
Oh, an interesting thing that one of the cab drivers mentioned was that every day he sees a motorcycle accident, and without a doubt it is always a tourist. It seems as if in Phuket people just seem to assume that riding a motorcycle really isn’t a problem. In fact, I suspect that people who had never ridden a motorcycle before end up deciding that it would probably be an easy, and cheap, way of getting around. Don’t get me wrong, scooters are probably the easiest way of getting through the nightmarish traffic that is Patong, but I wouldn’t recommend it to a novice. I did end up going for a ride on a motorbike though, namely because it was half the price of the taxi, and it was an experience.
Down By the Beach
Well, Phuket is certainly known for its beaches, but don’t be fooled into thinking that it is a paradise. Okay, the beaches certainly aren’t that bad, and the weather is great, however the beaches can be pretty crowded. We decided to jump into a cab and head down to Karon beach, which is a lot quieter than the one at Patong. We did visit the beach at Patong, and not only was it jam packed full of people, but every five minutes a hawker would appear trying to sell me something. Needless to say I really wasn’t all that comfortable leaving my brother sitting on the beach alone.
Karon beach was much better, quieter and less hawkers, however I had forgotten to bring my bathers so I ended up just lying on the beach. In fact I also forgot to bring a towel, which was annoying, but my brother was happy just paddling in the water. We did go for a wander around Karon as well, which once again is much quieter, though the number of Russians was quite noticeable. Well, there were people from all over the place, but Phuket does seem to be a destination for the Russians, and there were certainly quite a number of them at Karon.
Don’t expect the Bangala experience at Karon either because, well, it is much more laid back and a quieter part of the island. Not by much though since it is only a short distance from Patong, but it is probably a decent place to stay if you don’t want to be surrounded by the party scene that happens to be Patong Beach. The bars tend to be quieter, and you don’t get hassled by girls wanting you to buy them drinks either. Come to think of it, there are quite a few more beaches around Phuket as well, though I didn’t get around to visiting all of them. However, in the end, a part of me likes the atmosphere of Patong beach, but I also quite like the old world charm of Phuket Town. Though, in the end, I suspect that if I end up here again, I’ll probably stay at Patong.