I should preface this by clarifying that Phuket is a large island in case you’re wondering why this isn’t a characterization of Phuket as a whole. There are many different cities, and I really only spent time in the resort town of Patong Beach which is at least 30-45 minutes from anywhere else. It’s a wild beach town with a large, gorgeous beach.
As you may already know, I hate it here. But then, I love extremes. I either love something with unbridled passion or hate it with the fire of a thousand Caribbean suns. I have no time for things that are just okay. God, can you imagine living in a world where you’re just dispassionate about everything? I’d rather be dead. So when I realized I hated Patong Beach, I was kind of excited because it’s always really funny when something sucks, and because I knew Thailand couldn’t possibly be perfect. And Patong Beach is the opposite of perfect.
So what are the chances I could live here?
Phuket’s Patong Beach is like the Thai beach version of Vegas. It’s an artificial town designed for tourist consumption. It has no real personality of its own, only drink specials and gift shops. We met a wonderful Australian woman who owns a café and has been living here for 5 years. She gets her eggs delivered every day from a farm and lives down the street from her café. That life sounds pretty great, but I don’t think I can get past the long strips of over-the-top clubs and bars that make up Patong’s nightlife (read: strip clubs and sex shows; more on that here). Though the beach was beautiful and has a picturesque backdrop of the mountains, it’s also crawling with people trying to sell you drinks food, henna tattoos, and souvenirs. It’s really hard to relax when you have to say “No, thanks” every 30 seconds. I found myself haggling for a bamboo flute when I realized I had to get out of there. As for the partying and drinking, I’m not a 22-year old male or an octogenarian looking for a happy ending so no thank you. The only upside of Patong Beach is that it’s in close proximity to amazing natural wonders like Phang Nga Bay.
Though the food has been good, both Chiang Mai and Bangkok have far better options. On a scale of 1 to 10, with one being garbage Czech food and 10 being New Orleans, I would put Patong dining at like a 6.5. Nothing has been bad, but nothing has really blown my mind either. I had better food from street carts in Chiang Mai than I have had from restaurants here.
The weather here is typical tropical beach weather. On our first day, we went to the beach and walked around the city for several solid hours with a clear blue sky and a shining sun. Then from one second to the next, there was a torrential downpour – the kind you only get in this kind of climate. You don’t want to get caught on a boat or on the beach in one of these showers, because it’s more like a bath. The city is dotted with signs for “Tsunami Evacuation Routes,” which are a not-so-subtle reminder that this whole place could be wiped out in a few minutes.
As someone who travels a lot, I need the airport to be accessible. Phuket is huge and the airport here is a 45 minute cab ride from Patong Beach. You can also take a mini van at a 4th of the price of the cab, but it takes 2 hours to pick people up along the way. What a nightmare that as much as I hate Patong Beach, I also have to work really hard to leave it. Getting around in the city is fairly easy on foot. The hard part is dodging people who ask you if you want a cab or a tuk tuk.
Total Livability Score 2/10
Though I do like living close to the ocean, this kind of rowdy beach town is not my cup of tea. I think I prefer an actual cup of tea in a quiet café in northern Thailand.