September / October Trip Report
I had the good fortune to spend 30 days in Thailand, during September and October. I more enjoy observing the nightlife than participating so here goes with some thoughts on Thailand today.
Bangkok seemed busy especially around the Sukhumvit area, but the usual stalls that line the road were absent, and the Nana hotel parking lot offered grim pickings. The airport was a breeze, as was getting into the city by train.
Ko Samui was beautiful in the beach areas, but a real mess elsewhere, with rubbish from closed building sites blotting the landscape. About half the accommodation establishments were still mothballed, a combination of low demand and lack of staff. Very few beachside hotels were setting up the nightly on beach restaurants. Nightlife was spartan and unappealing. Plenty of massage places open and competing for business. Some were crowded while others had no customers. I couldn’t help feel sorry for those without business and therefore income.
Flying into Phuket, the cheapest option is to take a minibus to Patong at 180 baht, which leaves when it gets 9 or so passengers. They still do the cunning half-way stop at their office supposedly to check where the passengers want to be dropped, but really to sell accommodation to those silly enough to say they don’t have a hotel. This annoying practice can easily add 45 minutes to the journey. I’m sure I read that it was unlawful for the minibus company to still do this, but hey, this is Thailand.
About one third of hotels in Patong were still closed. There were signs outside hotels and bars, seeking staff. Many buildings had deteriorated badly over lockdown and were in need of a good scrub or waterblast. Buzzing and at night visible sparking from overhead electricity wires, mean it was very sensible not to wade through water during flooding anywhere near there was a chance of being electrocuted. It has happened too many times in the past.
Bangla Road was busy, but not overcrowded, with tourism not having reached the previous high levels. Beer seemed to go around 99 baht and you could get a cocktail for the same price during happy hours. I reckon more than half the ladies on the street were ladyboys. If a tourist was going to Patong to meet a beautiful and exotic woman they would not find at home I’d say think again. Although many of those present have endearing personalities a large number are well worn and past their best, rather like many of their customers to be fair. Plump has also become the new norm.
Some of the go-go bars still have very attractive staff, but whether they are available is another matter. Suzi Wong’s is reliably upmarket and the ladies friendly to the point when even after you’ve bought several 250 baht lady-drinks for them and often their friend, they hit you up for doubles. Either way they’re soon off back dancing. Many are very coy about whether they will go with a customer, preferring to drain your wallet in other ways. The atmosphere is good though, except that customers are permitted to smoke inside. That people can thrust their smoke on others in 2022 is a major turn-off in my books.
If you enjoy good music with your drink and socialising, New York Bar has an excellent band. Illusions seems to be the in disco currently. All the other bars have good crowds as the evening progresses. Soi Sansabai is also lively, although much of the accommodation off it is still closed. Jungceylon shopping centre is rumoured to be reopening in December, but the upmarket Central across the road is fully functioning.
There are plenty of places to eat still at reasonable prices. I’m a bit reluctant to mention names because there’s such a choice and I don’t want to reinforce the sheep-like behaviour of tourists queuing outside one place when there is an equally good one next door. Well, I will mention names in the hope of reversing that stupidity. Rat-Uthit Road has two restaurants located side by side. Number 6 Restaurant and Dang Restaurant. The prices, food and staff at both are excellent, yet often Number 6 is packed and has queues while Dang has only a few punters. Don’t be a sheep, try Dang, you won’t regret it. Across the road is another favourite, PS Hotel and Restaurant. I found another restaurant on a back street that does both wonderful Thai food along with a German selection, because the owner was married to a German. So you can get schnitzel alongside your pad thai. Be adventurous and don’t take reviews as your sole consideration.
Now a word for those hiring a motorbike or motor scooter. You will be targeted by Thai Police in various road checkpoints around Patong, Kathu and en route to Karon. You will notice that no Thai people are stopped. That’s right, Thai people with no helmets, three or four on a scooter, and driving the wrong way will be ignored. The police are after farang, who can fill the copper coffers. However, you are treated respectfully and all they want is that you wear a helmet and can produce an international driving licence. A few years ago it was any licence, but in 2022 they want an international one. So if you don’t want the hassle of a 1000 baht fine, ensure you comply. I do have an issue with selective enforcement though, but this is Thailand.
In conclusion a very enjoyable and relaxing holiday watching rather than participating. But I did have one question on my mind. Just for interest, did the very proud guys walking arm in arm back to their hotel with people who I’m certain were ladyboys, know? Or did it, so to speak, come as a surprise?
The author of this article cannot be contacted.