You’d be forgiven for thinking that Phuket had imploded and been replaced by another island. Phuket seems to have the same sort of rep as Pattaya, but what’s really up with the island? It can’t all be doom and gloom, surely.
From a tourist’s perspective, it’s easy to understand why many people have bad impressions of Phuket. Tourism on the island is geared towards herding people in as if they were cattle. There are two sides to Phuket: one is aimed at mass tourism and the other is geared towards the people who live on the island.
If you’re visiting Phuket on a package tour, you should only expect to see the side that wants you to spend money. Most tourists end up in Patong Beach, hate the place and vow never to return to Phuket. This is a bit mad because there is much more to Phuket than Patong.
Phuket has had the same problems for years, but the trick is to gain some insider knowledge before you arrive. It’s not an ideal situation, because tourists shouldn’t have to go all 007 just to enjoy their vacations, but on an island such as Phuket, you will have a better time if research your destination.
Ask the people who live on the island. If they want to party, they’ll head to select spots in Phuket Town, Patong, Karon, wherever. If they want to go to the beach, they’ll visit Mai Khao, Yanui or Laem Singh.
Public transport is non-existent, so you need to hire a car or a motorbike, buy a map and then ferry yourself around. It’s not all that difficult.
As for the locals, sure, if you’re in Patong, you’ll be accosted by all manner of pushy salesmen and touts, but if you’re at Mai Khao Beach, you won’t see any buildings, let alone DVD shops. For the most part, the Thais on the island are a warm, friendly bunch.
A trip to Phuket is what you make it. Following the tourist trail will inevitably lead to misery, but the real culture and beauty of this large island is there waiting to be discovered. If you do it right, you’ll see better beaches than at Phi Phi, Samui and Pha-ngan and you’ll spend less money.
This post was written by Matt from Phuket Vogue.