Tag - touristy

Patong Beach – is it really that bad?

Tiger Disco on Bangla Road in Patong City at night with neon lights and bar girls.
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?
Patong Beach with many sunbathing tourists but no sunbeds or sun umbrellas

Patong Beach anno ’15: No sunbeds or umbrellas!

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

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 – Great resource, especially if you find yourself in Phuket. News, events, listings, and general info.

Photo credits:
Cover photo of Bangla Rd. at night: Heber from
Photo of Patong Beach: Diego Bianchi from

Have you ever thought “Thailand is too touristy for me”?

Khao San Road in Bangkok Thailand in the evening with tourists, food stalls, markets, and illuminating signs.
“Naah, Thailand is too touristy for me”

For all of those who love to travel to Thailand, there is almost equally as many who avoid the country because it is “too touristy”. Tourism is a quirky fellow, full of contradictions, stereotypes, dreams, and …tourists.

Most people have a preferred balance between novelty and familiarity. The former is exciting, provocative, challenging, and sometimes uncomfortable and stressful. The latter is safe, convenient, and relaxing, but not very mind-expanding. As tourists we juggle along this spectrum when it comes to holiday choices.

Figure showing tourist motivations regarding novelty vs familiarity

As much as we like to think travel is about the opening of horizons, learning experiences, and a journey into the unknown, in reality what most tourists seek is the following formula:

Tourist Holiday Success Formula

Homely convenience daily worries + pampering, sun, and fun + a sprinkle of exoticism

Most holiday seekers want to relax and reload their batteries in a comfy, fun, and not too challenging environment. This is why all major international tourism destinations offer familiar conveniences and tourism experiences. This is sometimes called a “Tourism Bubble”, i.e. a zone of comfortable familiarity in the midst of a foreign destination with different language, values, traditions, lifestyles etc.

Is Thailand too touristy?

Thailand has loads of tourism destinations that fit this equation. But far from all regions and areas in Thailand are full of tourists. If you think Thailand is too touristy, it is probably because you decided to go to the touristy areas. The areas where there are a variety of hotel options, international restaurants, stable WiFi connection, major attractions, brand shopping, English speaking staff, and easy transportation. This is what most tourists desire, but rarely can you have these elements without a significant amount of other tourists seeking the same. The relationship between “touristy” and positioning on the “novelty vs. familiarity” scale can generally be illustrated as follows:

Figure showing the tourist dilemma of avoiding tourists and touristy places

How to avoid the most touristy places in Thailand

The good thing about Thailand is that it’s fairly easy to get away from the most touristy areas, and you don’t have to compromise too much on comfort if you don’t want to. Do you want to find that calm beach with unobstructed views of the sea and only the sounds from the wind and the rolling waves? You might be surprised that even on popular islands like Phuket and Koh Samui this is not that difficult. You might have to take a longtail boat to get to your beach, you might have to sit 20 minutes on the back of a pick-up truck, or you might have to traverse a small hill to get there. But that’s not too much of an effort if your desire is to get away from the crowds. Needless to say, traveling in the low season, will also greatly enhance your chances of avoiding tourist crowds.

If you want to reach the more secluded islands in Thailand, they are mostly within a day’s travel combining local transportation and boats. It is likely that you will need to be more flexible regarding your accommodation, meal, and facility options.

So if you tell yourself that Thailand is too touristy for you, ask yourself where you would like your holiday to be on the “Novelty vs. Familiarity” spectrum. If you are willing to go slightly off the beaten track on your journey, you can easily avoid the most touristy areas regardless of whether you are looking for cultural, natural or historical experiences.

If you want to learn more about the issue, take a look at this great article from Khiri Travel called “This Place is too Touristy“. It sheds light on the dilemma of tourists wanting to avoid touristy areas, while still wanting to see the major sights and attractions.

We can also recommend an article by China Williams in The Independent with a few tips on finding some hidden treasures in Thailand: “Thailand’s secrets: Blissfully quiet beaches, traditional villages and architectural wonders.