This heavily populated area on the western shore of Phuket was devastated by the tsunami. Patong, which attracts tourists in vast numbers, is jammed with hotels and cheap inns. Its streets are choked with bars and tiny stores. The area caters to everyone. Quiet English families mingle with Australian youths bent on beer binging. Transvestites sit in seedy bars, and tiny Thai girls seek customers for massage parlors that do not always follow the ancient rules of healing. Gay couples stroll arm-in-arm alongside petite camera-clutching Orientals. Street markets offer the full range of inexpensive “copies” of watches, designer clothes, CDs and luggage. Tourist trinkets feature elephants and colorful but cheap silk products. If it wasn’t for the heat or the chatter of the Thai traders this could be Blackpool or Southend, two of Britain’s major holiday centers. We are also reminded of San Antonio, on the Spanish island of Ibiza, which tends to attract the British lager louts. Locals expect the summer brawls and bravado. One told us, “Football hooligans have to holiday somewhere. At least we know where they are!”
We have stayed in Patong, in the new wing of the Holiday Inn, and were very impressed with the quality of the accommodation and friendly service. We often shop in the area because prices in the street markets are lower, thanks to the huge volume the vendors enjoy. And there are several art studios where talented Thai artists produce excellent work. They have a wonderful ability to copy any picture you request: Want your own Mona Lisa? This is the place to get it. They also produce good portraits of family or pets at fair prices. Again, do expect to bargain.
If you like things loud, with crowds and late nights, and being jam-packed on a beach infested with personal watercraft, this is the place to be. We prefer the tranquility found just a mile or so north or south.
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