You won’t read this in the holiday brochures or hear it from your Cheeto-stained travel agent, so I’m going to tell you myself. Phuket is a shit-hole.
If anybody tells you otherwise, they’re either lying or they’re an idiot. And before you start with, “Antony, people have different tastes you know! Not everybody likes what you like”, I do get that people have different tastes. Some people don’t like sushi for instance, and that’s fine, but only an idiot enjoys being treated like a retarded child with a bottomless piggy bank in a tacky, sleazy holiday resort.
It might sound like I’m being dramatic, but it’s with good reason. I absolutely love Thailand. It’s a beautiful country, with a rich and interesting culture (with the notable exception of Pattaya) and it’s filled with some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met.
Phuket is not Thailand. It’s a shitty package holiday destination devoid of any Thai culture, filled with all of the worst aspects of the Thai tourism industry and it pisses me off to realise that this is probably the only taste of Thailand that most people will ever get.
Unfortunately for us, we found out all of this the hard way after fucking up and getting stuck here for three weeks.
If it seems too good to be true
After our crazy few days of partying in Bangkok, the fun was over and it was time to settle down somewhere and play poker, so I could pay Rick back the money he had lent me and to save up for the next part of our travels. Given that Thailand has lax laws regarding online poker and we already had a 30 day visa on arrival, it made sense to choose somewhere nice here.
A bit of interneting later and we settled on Patong in Phuket, as it seemed to have nice beaches, cheap hotels and it being monsoon season, the weather seemed to be decent.
The first warning sign that we had made a bad choice came almost straight after stepping off the plane, when the airport shuttle van we were in stopped off unexpectedly at a tour booking agency and forced all of the sleepy, jet-lagged tourists inside to endure a fucking sales pitch. We should have realised right there and then that this was just the beginning of being treated like a walking money-bag and turned right around. Instead we hopped back in the van, pleased with ourselves for stubbornly refusing the sales pitch and dreaming of the palm lined beach that was waiting for us.
After one night in the hotel we’d booked online, we wanted to find somewhere with a bed a little softer than your old Nokia 3310, so we checked out and ended up at the Little Moon Residence. The guy at the front desk showed us a nice, big comfortable room with a private balcony and told us that if we stayed for 21 days we could have it for 300 Baht per night (less than $9)… holy shit, yes!
After a couple of days chilling, it was finally time to fire up some poker tables on PKR, the site that I play on, and make some money. So I sat down, opened up the client … and … nothing… The client wouldn’t connect.
Obviously I thought it was just a temporary glitch, but several tries later and still nothing. I couldn’t even access the website. After several hours of desperately trying to log in and emailing support, it turned out that for some reason gambling sites were blocked on the hotel wifi.
‘Oh fuck, why didn’t I check before we paid in advance for the room?!’
I spent the next few days between being seriously pissed off and trying to think of solutions. I tried everything from using a VPN, to buying a wireless dongle, which didn’t work and just wasted more money that I didn’t have.
I also wasted a lot of time trying to get onto the wifi of the neighbouring hotel; at first by pretending I was interested in viewing a room just so that I could steal the wifi password. That didn’t work though, because the bitch showing the room was onto me and made sure I couldn’t find it, she wouldn’t even let me ‘test’ the wifi with my laptop. Eventually we actually booked a night in their cheapest room just so I could get connected. When we went back to the Little Moon the next day however, it turned out that the signal wasn’t strong enough here to play poker… fuck.
So in the end I accepted defeat, played no poker and earned no money. Even though this was the main reason for being here, we still figured we could just kick back and enjoy the rest of our time in Phuket. That was our second mistake.
No, I don’t want a fucking taxi!
I’m just gonna get straight to the point, the biggest problem with Phuket are the hawkers. You literally cannot fucking breathe without some cunt asking if you want a taxi, a new suit, or a shit pair of sunglasses. I’m not exaggerating.
It sounds harmless enough and of course you can always just say ‘no thanks’, but in Phuket, the hawkers are relentless, aggressive and they are everywhere. For example, most days we would walk the 15min from our hotel to the beach and we would be stopped no less than 20 times, by shouts of ‘Hey you! Taxi?‘.
It’s the same story whenever you are walking anywhere in Phuket, after just a couple of steps you’re guaranteed to have a taxi nipping at your heels as though you are one of the humans from WALL-E who needs transporting everywhere you go. It’s hard to stay polite when every time you just want to leave the room you’re constantly hassled. After a few days we started trying to ignore them, but this just made it worse, because they started shouting louder, beeping, clapping and whistling even from across the street just to get our attention.
Then when we finally made it to the beach it wasn’t over. The taxi drivers were replaced by hundreds of guys selling Jet Ski rides, sunglasses, massages, fake tattoos, snacks and drinks, all of whom think nothing of waking you up while you’re sunbathing. A few times we saw tourists stopping to take a look and within seconds they were swarmed by other hawkers, like flies on a fresh turd. It’s a shame because the beach itself is actually pretty nice, lined with palm trees and has some really beautiful sunsets, but when you can’t relax without being hassled every thirty seconds, it just isn’t fun.
Aside from the beach, Patong is a typical tacky holiday resort full of hotels, souvenir (for the people you hate) shops, restaurants and bars. As if to prove my point that I’m not just being sensitive, the shitty souvenir shops even sell t-shirts with ‘No I don’t want a fucking taxi!‘ plastered on the front. They’re self-aware, they just don’t give a shit.
There is a main ‘walking street’ of tacky bars which would be ideal for a cheesy stag do, selling cheap booze in buckets and prostitutes in the strip clubs. Again this street is swarming with sellers, eager to grab you, shake your hand and force you into their bar or suit shop (because who wouldn’t want a tailor-made 3 piece suit on a tropical island?).
Worse than just that though, the tourist culture around here seems to focus solely on the sleazy sex trade that parts of Thailand are now notorious for. You’ll walk past these bars and see that every other one is filled with tarted-up Thai women shouting ‘hey handsome‘ at you while sat waiting for their regular stream of old, lonely western guys. So goodbye any thoughts of just enjoying the nightlife and partying ourselves into the ground.
If you’ve been to SE Asia before, you’re already familiar with most of these complaints. It’s normal to be hassled and hustled by sellers every day, but this is the worst I’ve ever experienced by an absolute mile and it feels totally suffocating.
We found ourselves actively avoiding all eye contact with any locals, knowing that anybody who tried to speak to us was simply trying to sell us something and that’s not how we like to travel. Unfortunately we didn’t realise all of this until it was too late and didn’t want to just leave our hotel room behind when we had already paid.
We spent our three weeks there hating it more and more. Most days we ate at the only ‘street food’ market we could find, near to the walking street and spent more and more time hiding in the hotel room playing Mario Kart on my laptop.
License to Chill
In our last week we decided to rent a scooter and check out Phuket town to see if it was any nicer. Somehow it managed to be worse, with just as many hawkers, while being much uglier and dirtier than Patong.
It’s lucky that we went though because it was here that we found the main thing that we actually enjoyed about our time in Phuket, the ‘James Bond Island’ boat tour. We saw a sign offering the all-day island hopping tour at a massive discount for just 800 Baht/pp, including lunch and a pick up from our hotel (no need for a taxi then). Naturally we still tried to haggle a bit, but the woman assured us it was already the cheapest it could go and yeah… it was well worth it.
We went the next morning and spent the day forgetting all the stress of the hawkers, while chilling on the deck of a nice boat in the Thai sunshine. We stopped off at several beautifully green islands and pristine beaches with clear turquoise water, each one being stunningly impressive. Perhaps the least impressive of all the stops was the one which gave the tour it’s name, the ‘James Bond island’. It became famous as a set in ‘The Man With The Golden Gun’, which means that the beach is now just filled with a steady stream of tourists waiting in line to take a photo in front of it’s iconic rock and leave.
Lunch on the boat was a buffet of several freshly made Thai seafood dishes, which were absolutely delicious and easily the best meal we ate in Phuket. Here are a few more photos from the tour so you can see for yourself how beautiful it was:
So if you do somehow find yourself trapped here like we did, then this tour is absolutely worth doing. But if you have any choice whatsoever, just don’t come at all.
We spent our last few days here drinking and planning what we were gonna do when we left. We needed a break from tacky tourist shit, so decided to head up north to explore Laos for a few weeks. Rick had also applied for a job he found advertised online for an English Teacher in Chiang Mai and after a short Skype interview with the boss, he got an email saying he got the job! After hating Phuket and wishing we had never came, we ended on a high and were excited about the future. Even if I was still broke.
So if you’re still considering going to Phuket because you cant think of anywhere else to go, let me help with a suggestion: go literally anywhere fucking else!
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