Patong Beach, Phuket’s untouchable
No matter how good a deal they get and no matter how charming or stunning the hotel is, Patong is rarely an option among the travel agencies I have worked with. It’s like an untouchable no one wants to come near. The perception of Patong Beach run along the line of these comments:
Patong is over-crowded
The place has lost all charm and authenticity due to uncontrolled tourism development
Patong and especially Bang-La Road is a noisy inferno of bad taste
We can’t send our quality customers to a place full of go-go dancers, touts, prostitutes, sketchy old men, and intoxicated tourists
Patong Beach certainly has a reputation to deal with…
But is it really that bad?
The quick answer is yes and no. Patong is Phuket’s most popular beach destination. The beach itself is a long stretch of fine white sand and swimming conditions are good. You will not have the beach to yourself, but the beach has recently become somewhat free from sunbeds, beach umbrellas, and vendors since the Thai military government decided to enforce beach clear-ups and clean-ups. Travel Fish has more on the subject. The bay is rather protected, so bathing conditions are quite good all year. You will only find three resorts that are actually located directly on the beach. Otherwise the beach is separated from Patong City by a road.
Check out this 360° view of Patong Beach from Phuket.net.
Patong City has hundreds of hotels, and the range is very broad. You can find 5-star luxury hotels with pool villas and stunning sea views, fully equipped apartments, and small budget hotels hidden in the small sois (side-streets). Not surprisingly, Patong has a wide variety of restaurants choices, but it’s actually not easy to find a local Thai restaurant which serves traditional and spicy Thai food. By guarantee, you can find a bar within a few minutes walk – the frequency increases, the closer you get to the centre of Patong City.
If you stay 5 minutes walking distance away from the city centre, you can easily find calm areas with a pleasant atmosphere. If you like shopping, many streets have small shops and stalls on the side. There is the big shopping mall Jungceylon for brand shopping, and then there is Banzaan Market, which will give you a little local flavour with its fresh market. Patong Beach is a central starting point if you want to go on excursions around Phuket or explore other islands in the area.
Bangla Road – the infamous heart of Patong
While a preference for some segments, the downside to many, is that Patong is full of tourists, touts, noise, and a nightlife and bar scene that is just too much. Most of the damage, though, happens on or near Bangla Road. When the sun goes down in the Andaman Sea, Bangla Road awakes from its sleep. As you walk down the street, you will be met by loud music blasting from everywhere, blinking fluorescent lights, touts inviting you to more or less shady bars, go-go girls dancing on the tables, and tourists walking up and down street, looking somewhere between amused, shocked, amazed or just plain drunk. Bangla Road is not everyone’s cup of tea, but you are guaranteed a unique experience.
Sending seniors to Patong Beach – really?
I recently assisted a travel agency in sending a few groups of very decent seniors to Patong Beach for a month of warmth and relaxation away from the cold winter. Admittedly, we were a little anxious about the feedback, but had done our best to give a rounded and just description of the destination. We got excellent feedback.
The sentiment was that if you stay a full month at the same beach destination, it’s nice to have some restaurants, tour options and life around you. If you don’t want to engage in the nightlife in the centre of Patong, don’t. And besides, staying at a more quiet and secluded beach would be okay for the first 4-5 days. What about the remaining 25?!
Read more about Patong Beach and City from these two excellent Phuket websites:
Phuket 101 – Lots of top 10’s, nice blog features, great images, and detailed descriptions
Phuket.net – Great resource, especially if you find yourself in Phuket. News, events, listings, and general info.
Cover photo of Bangla Rd. at night: Heber from http://rumbosyhuellas.blogspot.com/
Photo of Patong Beach: Diego Bianchi from http://easydaythailand.blogspot.com/