We asked twice before leaving the hotel, which would be the nicer area to visit. In both cases we were told Patong Beach was much nicer than Phuket town. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder I guess.
We took the hotel shuttle at 2 PM with scheduled pickup at 6:15 PM. We arrived at 3 PM. By 3:45 we were ready to come home. Although the setting was nice, with a sandy beach in a fairly large cove, the town and shopping left much to be desired.
The drive to Patong was through rural areas dotted with class C commercial buildings and an apparent lack of zoning. It was a miss mash of stuff that was anything but appealing. Try to imagine the outlying areas of your city and the least appetizing approach to your downtown.
Downtown was a mixture of older and newer structures with several mall developments but the beach area was a disaster. Narrow stall shops with the owners hocking their wares to every farong that walked by. I must have been approached by 20 tailors wanting to fit me with a custom made suit. They all thought we were from Australia as the number of Americans must be limited. The renowned sex trade was not evident mid afternoon, but several of the bars appeared to be gearing up for the evenings activities. There were as many massage parlors as tailors and we got a kick out of one that advertised heavily “No Sex Massage”. The others did not have that disclaimer.
Along with the tailors, massage parlors and junk shops there were hundreds of personal cabs waiting to take you for a spin around the town. A sample photo is above.
Pricing in the shops was an interesting bargaining adventure. Vivian wanted two pair of Thai fishing pants. She had indicated that many years ago she got a pair for the equivalent of $3 US. We finally found some and the first price offered us was $90 per pair.The Frugal Guy gave it his best shot, and to my bride’s amazement we walked out with two pair for just under $18.
Later down the street, I asked about another item and was told 950 Baht. I laughed and started to walk away and the price magically went down to 300 Baht. Sometimes I feel bad negotiating with the vendors as I know they can use the money, but starting at 10 times the accepted asking price for the pants seemed a little out of line.
As a side note, gasoline sold for 24 Bahts per liter or about 67 cents per liter which I think is about $2.50 to $2.80 per gallon for regular. About 50% of the road traffic was motorcycles. Most were in the 110 CC range and far from the big Harleys found in the USA. The most I saw riding on one bike was three, but have heard reports of four on a motorcycle at a time. In contrast, in Cambodia, it was about 80% motorcycles and 3 per bike was the norm. Elephants seemed to have a capacity of two but it was 106 degrees and business was light.
With the weather becoming more bearable, and our adventure out of the safety of the Marriott compound less than satisfying, we will be spending the remainder of our time by the pool working on our tans.
Some people rave about Thailand. Maybe we just got unlucky with our choice of locale. The people are fantastic. I was looking for a shop called “two so phap” for a new cord for my glasses. If i can’t hang them around my neck, they disappear within a week.
So here I am walking down the street in my horizontal striped shirt, madras pants, black knee socks and white tennis shoes looking at the shop signs. At least 5 or 6 locals offered to help me and sure enough they all pointed me in the direction of the eyeglass store. The cord for my glasses waas 60 Bahts. I had 60 in my pocket and the gal took 40 Bahts and a $1 bill as I needed 10 Baht for the toilet for Katy. It is 10 Baht to piddle in Patong. I used the last 10 before getting on the bus for our one hour bus ride home.
No wonder Thailand is called the Land of Smiles. Everybody will help you.
But be careful in the shops or you may be the “farong fish of the day”
We are looking forward to visiting the Grand Palace and Temple in Bangkok before heading off to Australia.
Rick Ingersoll is one of the world’s experts on frugal travel and flying free and the author of The Frugal Travel Guy Handbook. A retired mortgage banker from Traverse City, Michigan, he has retired to Hilton Head Island,... All Articles
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