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Patong Beach, Phuket

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Patong Beach, PhuketPatong, Phuket (1 October, 2005)


`Patong Beach (GPS: 7.89619, 98.29541) is the most popular beach in Phuket. It is located on Patong Bay - Ao Patong, a lovely stretch of golden sands facing the western horizon between two capes, Laem Daeng to the north and Laem Kho Sai Rot to the south. As late as the 1970's, Patong was nothing but coconut groves. Although westerners like Captain Alexander Hamilton had arrived in Patong Beach as early as the 18th century, it had remained relatively isolated from the rest of Phuket. Phuket City, or rather Phuket Town at that time, developed on the eastern side of the island, and Patong Beach, being on the west, is cut off from development by the central range.

The isolation of Patong Beach was only broken in the 1940s when a timber mill owner built a dirt track from Kathu to the villages at the foot of Khao Mai Thao Sip Song, the hill behind Patong Beach. Still it was very much a place for the locals until the early 1970s, when backpackers and hippies discovered Patong Beach and brought it to the world. It was then a paradise devoid of any modern amenities - there was no electricity in Phuket until 1979. The majority of the population was then ethnic Muslims. Nobody knew or had foreseen what was going to happen to Phuket, let along Patong.

The disparate collection bars and eateries scattered around Patong Beach were eventually bundled by the health authority to operate along a single strip, called Soi Bang La, which became Thanon Bang La, one of Patong's main roads.

By the eighties, the Thais were beginning to realise that Patong Beach was their golden goose, and active commerce converged here. New soi (lanes) appeared and businesses squeezed tightly against one another for a piece of Patong action. It was a decadent playground where any form of pleasure is available, when the price is right. Neither South Thailand terrorism nor SARS could put a dent on Patong's rapid growth, that perhaps only divine intervention could put the brakes on Patong. That came, without any warning, on 26 December 2004, when a massive earthquake a thousand miles away sent waves of Noah's Ark proportion sweeping into Patong, lifting parasols, deck chairs, beach sheds, cars, shops and anything else that happened to stand in its path. Many in Patong Beach lost their lives, and those who don't were left with little more than the clothes on their backs. Their shops, their business, all obliterated within a matter of minutes.

My business partner was in Phuket when the tsunami hit. (We co-own a travel business in Phuket.) My immediate concern was for his life. Lucky for him (and the guests), they had just left Phuket when it happened. So he neither witnessed the tsunami nor was he caught in it. Our business took a nosedive in the immediate aftermath.

It took weeks to clear all the debris from Patong Beach, but when it was done, the beach looked cleaner than it had ever been. Of course, it wasn't long before the masseurs were back on the beach with their mats, and in their wake came the jet-ski operators, the paragliders, things were slowing returning to normal. Tsunami warning signboards sprouted along the sidewalks, telling people of the direction to run, in case the next big one comes along. It took a longer while for the tourists to return, but eventually they did, and the bars, restaurants and hotels were packed once again.

Orientation

Patong Beach comprises two main roads running roughly north-south. Hugging the coast is Thanon Thawiwong. Further inland is Thanon Rat Uthit 200 Pi. Both have been converted to one-way streets, Thanon Thawiwong running north and Thanon Rat Uthit 200 Pi running south. These two roads are connect to each other by numerous lanes, or soi. Of these, the most happening street is Thanon Bangla. When night falls, Thanon Bangla is closed to traffic and becomes a pedestrian zone throbbing with loud music.

Patong is a thriving boomtown. Development is encoaching deeper and deeper inland with more hotels, more resorts, spas, entertainment outlets, without a second thought whether any of these will be filled. The tallest building in Patong, 27-storey Patong Tower, appears forever empty. But that does not deter the developers.

Patong. You either love it or hate it. Those who came here do, or so says a survey conducted by the hotels in Patong, a few months before the tsunami. Of the 1000 or so tourists polled, ninety percent said they would come back to Patong, while only five percent said they would not recommend it to their friends.

Getting there

Patong Beach is some 35 km from the Phuket International Airport. Limousine taxis are available for 500 baht while meter-taxis will cost you about 300+ baht. Minibuses or songthaews are also available for just 150 baht (but 180 baht the other way).

Getting around

If I am at Patong Beach, I prefer to walk if I don't have my own transport. The tuk tuks are mercilessly expensive. They would ask for 100 baht to go from the hotel to the main road, a distance of perhaps 200 meters. If you are game for it, take the motorcycle taxis, fares start at 20 baht.

Patong Beach, PhuketPatong, Phuket (1 October, 2005)


Patong Beach, PhuketPatong, Phuket (1 October, 2005)


Patong Beach, PhuketPatong, Phuket (1 October, 2005)


Patong Beach, PhuketPatong, Phuket (1 October, 2005)


Patong Beach, PhuketPatong, Phuket (1 October, 2005)


Patong Beach, PhuketPatong, Phuket (1 October, 2005)


Patong Beach, PhuketPatong, Phuket (1 October, 2005)


Patong Beach, PhuketPatong, Phuket (1 October, 2005)


Patong Beach, PhuketPatong, Phuket (1 October, 2005)


Patong Beach, PhuketPatong, Phuket (1 October, 2005)


Patong Beach, PhuketPatong, Phuket (1 October, 2005)


Patong Beach, PhuketPatong, Phuket (1 October, 2005)

Patong Beach is on the map of Sights in Phuket

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