Tuesday 16 June 2015 – Phuket, Thailand
Heavy rain today, but I can’t really complain as it’s the rainy season and this is the first such of the trip. This is the monsoon season, after all. Walked to the central market and bought a folding umbrella for 150 baht then caught a songthaew across to the west coast of the island to Patong. Not many photos today due to the wet weather, so I suggest you click on the links to see pics of this town from my earlier visit.
It’s bigger, brasher, nosier and more hedonistic than ever, which is fascinating given the shift in clientele to Asians and those from the Middle East (I did see a few bobbed heads on the streets). I could find no sign of the Baan Thai Hotel on Bangla Road, where I stayed in 2006. It was either completely hidden behind a barrage of street side bars or has been demolished.
The big Junk Ceylon shopping mall had been under construction when I last visited. Today it was popular given the rain, although it was patently poorly designed to cope with the deluge. Buckets and staff were deployed everywhere to squeegee up the flood and water gushed onto passers-by through gaps in the covered awnings.
Had some noodles and somtam in a little café before checking out the beach where a few hardy souls were persisting with swimming and jet skis, then caught the songthaew back to Phuket Town.
On the way over to Patong the driver had simply stopped halfway and collected 30 baht from each passenger. On the return trip, a noisy Thai lady with dyed orange hair took it on herself to instruct new passengers where to sit, then started collecting fares. She was carrying the signs of a taxi tout so no doubt had some little scam going. I’m sure she wasn’t doing it just as a public service.
Got off the bus at Central Festival, the big mall on the edge of town (giving my 30 baht to shouty lady as the driver had not by then stopped to collect fares). Had an iced coffee and a look around (the mall had a branch of Jim Thompson House, always an eye-opener with its colourful silk scarves and clothing at eye-watering prices) before walking the two kilometres back to town. I don’t think Thais or Asians in general comprehend that anyone might actually choose to walk anywhere. Their otherwise perfectly civilised town are let down by the poor repair and complete absence of footpaths. Where they do exist, they are better used for setting up a stall, parking your car or as a shortcut and preferred route for scooters.
Back at the hotel I washed up and dried out before a quick meal of noodles and a beef curry (quite good, with lots of Thai basil giving it an aniseed flavour) on the ‘Avenue’. While I was eating, a young European man parked in the street and got out with an older woman with a suntan. Presumably he had just collected her from the airport. A while later they reappeared from one of the apartments upstairs in this block, walking off to find dinner. Would love to have known their story and what business they were in – although there is no shortage of expats living in Phuket these days.
Here are some more photos of Phuket Town’s Sino-Portuguese (aka Peranakan) architectural heritage.