Following Koh Lanta we headed to our third and final Thai island – Phuket. We chose this island as we had heard of it, it seemed popular so we thought we’d give it a go! From Koh Lanta to Phuket the ferry and transfer should cost around 350/400 baht. To get there we took two ferries, the second ferry physically pulling up next to the first, connected a metal bridge and we walked over. They don’t mess around here. And Sophie, after only travelling with us for 2 weeks has gone from a serious award-winning journalist to a dirty backpacker passed out on a floor of a ferry. 🙂
After docking and a 45 minute mini-bus taxi we arrived on the main strip of Patong in Phuket as we had not yet booked accommodation. In central Phuket, here the streets are filled with, in my opinion, everything wrong with Thailand.
- Parlours that offer everything from massage to “happy endings”. – You get offered a ‘taxi taxi’ every 2 metres you walk (just in case you change your mind after saying “NO ka poon ka!” to the past 12 drivers).
- Ping Pong Shows… and no I do not mean the game.
- Bars filled with working under-aged, under-dressed thai ‘girls’ entertaining old white retired men.
- Souvenirs are everything from overpriced fake Nike trainers to penis shaped soap bars. And the people selling them are the rudest I’ve come across… probably because they wouldn’t give into my haggling charms!
- What makes it worse, it’s filled with tourists of all ages, ourselves included.
You can’t like or agree with every place you go to. This is how they make money and it’s working for Phuket, but it personally made me feel awful as a westerner. It also makes you think about how different life could be growing up here, especially as a woman, and the choice job opportunities in a place like this. 😦
As we turned up, found food, opened the laptop and started searching for a place to stay for 4 nights. And the positive was, to our suprise, the hotels and hostels here are fancy and strangely affordable! We were so spoilt for choice especially when rooms were £5/6 each.
We decided on the Odly Hip Hotel just a 15 minute walk away. After seeing a room 5 floors up (no lift and our heavy backpacks) to then be spoken to rudely by the owners, we left to find somewhere else we could stay! After popping into about 5 hotels, dripping with sweat in the midday heat (because three bed rooms are hard to find), we found Sino Maison who took pity on us and were very hospitable – customer service goes a long way when you’re in a place like this. We got a room with 3 beds at almost half the asking price. The hotel was quiet that I’m convinced we had the place to ourselves. The lovely manager also helped discover a the hidden gem of Thailand… For anyone who’s been to Thailand, you’ll know these local 7/11 shops are everywhere! So to find iced coffee for 26p was AMAZING! We’ve had one everyday since.
It was Sophie’s last day so we explored the town and had a walk on Patong beach which was packed with people, stray dogs and paragliding where after clipping a tourist in, the guides just jump on at the last second for the ride 50 feet in the air with no safety harness (yikes!!) Patong beach was very beautiful but I didn’t like the town centre – it was a bit of a club strip with strangely named hotels and expats and locals trying to get us drinking. It just didn’t feel like a nice or safe place.
The following day Sophie left us to head back to the UK. The passed two weeks flew by and I’m so glad to came. I am so lucky to have two of my best friends here with me, even for a short while.
Phuket in April is far too hot. So once we’d explored the area by foot, Bekki and I spent the next few days enjoying a variety of air con places indoors. We researched a locally run café called Bean and Gone – it had been started up by two business studies students after not finding jobs in Phuket. We ate almost every meal time in the Siam Food Bizarre, a stylish underground food court – the Yakisoba Noodles at Tokyo Express was a personal favourite at only 65 baht. We visited 2 night markets (tourist and local) and saw Cinderella in the cinema.
So we couldn’t spend 4 days in Phuket without doing something touristy. It would feel like a waste of a trip (although we were having a fab time eating and sleeping in). We researched some tourist things we could do in the area and the Simon Cabaret was recommended by a friend who’d been here before. So we booked a late night ‘VIP’ evening show…
The Simon Cabarat show took me by surprise. It is the only show I have ever seen where my mouth was pretty much open the whole way through it. It is a variety of performances where the stars mime the lyrics whilst putting on a production. It’s bright, bold and bonkers! It started off with a blinding dance performance of more pink feathers and sequins an audience has ever seen. And then each time the curtain closed you had no idea who or what was coming next! The women were very beautiful, the songs were from all over the world and the glamorous costumes and sets topped it all off. But you do watch the show wondering… are they women? Some of them must be! But no, all of performers are ladyboys!!! You are prohibited from taking pictures during the performances but after the show the stars come out to take photos (for a 100 baht tip).
I honestly LOVED this show, it was so entertaining and fun for everyone. I’d see this over a ping pong show – much more classy and not degrading for those involved! I probably would not advice Phuket as a travelling destination. I did not meet another person here who thought highly of the place. If you enjoy night life and beaches then it may be more enjoyable but I think I like a place that allows me to explore a bit more and feel comfortable with where I am. I didn’t feel like there was anything authenticly ‘Thai’ to this place – I’m no thai expert but it does feel like a place that has just been adapted for tourism.