I’m not going back. We visited in March 2008, again at Christmas 2010/11, and now February 2012. This time it wasn’t really our choice. My niece decided to get married in Phuket, and we weren’t letting the rest of the family go without us! But you know, revisiting places can be tough. It’ll be a while before I can face it again.
We first visited Thailand together Christmas 1988 (give or take a year – my memory fails me). We flew in to Phuket, and stayed at Patong Beach. Phuket was only just opening up in those days. We stayed in the one hotel (still the ONLY hotel) on the beach – there were a few across the road though – and there was only the street parallel to the beach, and one other turning off diagonally with a few bars and restaurants. I remember the beach was wide and deep and had perfectly white sand. The sea was warm – so delightfully warm – and swimming every day was a delight. We enjoyed dinner that first night at a restaurant right on the beach – we tossed off our jandals and buried our feet in the sand, as we shared a whole fish. A perfect introduction to Thailand for my husband. Patong Beach was beautiful, pristine, and serene.
This is Patong Beach now.
Words can’t express my horror. It looks like something on the Costa del Sol. But this is my beloved Thailand, not a crass Spanish beach! There is nothing – NOTHING – like this in New Zealand. Or I think Australia, or the Pacific. I have no idea about beaches in the US. Most of the people on this beach are Europeans. You can tell by all the men in Speedos, and women in bikinis, regardless of their shape. (My sister called it “The place where you will always find someone who looks worse in a bathing suit than you.”) We, in the Southern Hemisphere – or perhaps the New World – don’t know how lucky we are to have space. Space to go to the beach and to enjoy privacy, or at the very least not to have complete strangers just a few feet away.
Looking at Patong Beach in 2012 made me want to cry.
PS. I have to note we didn’t stay in Patong, but about 45 minutes away, in a very peaceful spot, and it was great.