Patong Beach is the beating heart of Phuket and what makes it so popular to some is often what other people hate most about it. Patong is big, bold, crowded, bright and loud, yet millions people flock there every year like flies on honey. If Bangkok is the Big Mango, then Patong is the Big Durian: you’ll love Patong… or you’ll hate it!
The original success and popularity of Patong beach only rotates around two things: its amazing beach, and its worry-free wild nightlife. The rest? Don’t blind yourself: shopping, dining, and foot massage are just the cream on the cake.
Just walk in Soi Bangla at night and you will understand; everyone is there: guys, couples and even families with kids. For most it’s party zone, for others it’s a curiosity to tick off the ‘must-see’ list and to talk about once back home. Just look at the crowd staring at some sexy and very feminine ladyboys dancing on a street stage in very tiny outfit and you’ll get the picture, literally. And don’t forget to close your mouth.
The beach is 3 or 4 kilometers long and often crowded in the middle part. Forget about parking your car anywhere around there, even a bike is problem. The northern part of the beach, not far from Novotel Phuket, is much nicer and less populated. Fewer people, easier parking, plenty of local food vendors to have fun and water gets really blue in this part (at least during high season).
The water at the southern end, near the bridge, is not always very clear, but under the bridge is a surprising old fashioned fishermen village worth a photo. Anywhere, you can rent an umbrella for 200 baht but beach chairs have disappeared for the moment. You can try some parasailing, or get yourself killed by renting a jet ski (we warned you).
Patong beach nightlife essentially rotates around Soi Bangla, all the way to Rat-U-Thit Road (the second parallel road). Further is the Paradise Complex area known to be the very popular gay street, easy to spot as it’s right at the feet of the Royal Paradise Hotel tower. It can be worth a visit, it’s friendly and you can watch a small ladyboy cabaret show for the price of a drink.
I was going to say “There is something for everyone in Patong Beach” but I changed my mind: it’s is clearly tourist oriented. Souvenirs shops, tailors, night markets specialized in fake brands, tailors, Thai massage-foot massage-naughty massage, tailors, suitcases shops, tailors, art galleries selling DVD copies in their secret rooms, tailors. Did I forget most visible and often invasive: tailors!
Since the opening of Jungceylon, shopping is a tad more sophisticated and but also a good way to escape the heat of midday by exploring this overgrown shopping mall. Plenty of restaurants and activities in there, even an indoor shooting range, with live bullet… how fun. If you want to know more, read Jungceylon Shopping Center.
Restaurants are everywhere, serving anything from Japanese to Russian… but real Thai food is hard to find around there. You’ll get some Thai restaurants serving decent Thai food, but you would hardly see a Thai person eating there, and this should give you a clue. In Soi post office for instance, roughly around the middle of the beach, is Sabai Sabai, a Thai restaurant very popular among tourists… I have no idea why (and I tried). Around these small streets you can easily find small places to eat, but it is clearly Thai food for tourists.
Further north, on the way to Novotel Phuket Resort, few restaurants were lucky enough to get their share of sand. Walk on the beach around ‘La Flora resort’ and you’ll be able to pick one of the few restaurants having tables right on the beach.
Not far from there you can also try the ‘Food Court’, a popular concept in Asia, where you order your food at one of the many booths built around a central area where tables are set. Usually good enough and cheap. Then you can’t avoid the three or four ‘seafood centers’ with its army of waiters trying to lure you into their designated areas using every catch lines they know. It is actually not bad, but not cheap as most people believe at first. Here are few restaurants we recommend in Patong Beach: Pan Yaah (Thai), Seahag (Thai), Kaab Gluay (Thai), La Gritta (Italian), Karlsson’s (Steakhouse).
If you want to go real Thai food (with a view), you will have to drive outside Patong, direction Kamala Beach, and right before the Thavorn Hotel is Romsai Restaurant on the cliff. Hard to spot, but that’s the real (good) thing. So in conclusion, I still have fun in Patong Beach… it’s alive, it’s bright and colorful and for a photographer there is always something new. I could talk about it for pages… but that would be boring, you better come and see it by yourself.
If you plan to visit the middle of Patong Beach and the central part of the beach and you are driving a car, park it in the Jungceylon underground parking. Buy or drink anything in the shopping complex and keep your receipt. Even if you plan to go to the beach, it’s better park here and walk down through Bangla Road than driving in circle on the beach front. If you plan to use a Tuk Tuk, always bargain your rate clearly before.
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