Phuket’s best-known beach town, Patong, doesn’t have the best of reputations. The ‘Kuta of Thailand’, the west coast’s answer to Pattaya caters for the lowest common denominator — sun, sea, beer and cheap thrills. So when I stepped off a cruise boat with eight hours ahead of me before moving onto my next destination, I thought I already had the town summed up. Typical, low-end Thailand.
Yet there is something visually enticing about this place, a bombardment on the senses, a vibrancy that calls at you. I felt like I should hate Patong, yet everywhere I looked I found myself being seduced.
Maybe it’s the non-stop tourist season bustle, the crowded municipal beach, the street-side stores selling cheap tack, or the watering holes on every block. Maybe it’s even the endless massage parlours, with heavily made-up, mini-skirted masseuses standing outside, ushering you in. Or perhaps the ubiquitous neon signage, each gaudy advertisement trying to outdo the next.
No matter how much you may love or hate places like these — white sand clichés like Cancun, Mallorca, Kuta, Pattaya — they all have something to draw in the tourists, and to keep them coming back. Patong is no different.
I wouldn’t choose to go to Patong on holiday. But having been there, I can now understand how so many others would.