Everybody has heard of Phuket, Thailand’s most famous beach destination. Some remember it because of the tsunami that hit the island in 2004 while other knows it because of its reputation as a sex tourism center.
Phuket is disconcerting at first glance: it no longer look like Thailand, you could be anywhere on earth. McDonalds, Starbucks, Carrefour, Burger King, 7/11 are right around the corner and all the restaurants claim to have the best Western food. In fact, local food is so rare that restaurants advertise “Thai food”. Can you imagine going to Italy and look for signs that say “Italian food”? Enjoying the “great capitalist way of life” in Phuket doesn’t come cheap. The island is slightly more expensive than Phi Phi, which wasn’t exactly a bargain in the first place.
Ko Phi Phi is where teens and young backpackers get drunk and rebel against God-knows-what, and Phuket is where their parents deal with their mid-life crisis. You see them everywhere, red-faced Westerner with giggling Thai “girlfriends”. Lovely couples—how did you meet, already? Oh right, at the bar.
Because really, I doubt most people come to Phuket to enjoy the beach. Ah, sure, the sand is pretty good considering how jam-packed the beach is. There is barely any room to put your sarong down if you are not renting one of the chairs. The purple parasols block the view and you have to dodge the jet skis if you go for a swim. The beach is basically where you sleep during the day, waiting for some night fun.
Phuket at night is a bit of a circus. It’s noisy, smelly (don’t you love opened sewers?) and slightly claustrophobic as you try to make your way through the crowd of prostitutes, tourists, massage girls, tuk-tuk drivers and other hawkers. Half of the people participate in Phuket’s nightlife (read: actually go to the go-go bars) while the remaining half is just looking at the “ladyboys” or the girls dancing in bikini above their heads. Some people try to look appropriately disgusted by the display of skin (and really, there is little skin displayed compared to Pigalle in Paris) and I’m guessing some parents have some uncomfortable explaining to do.
The most annoying was actually the other travelers. People seem to think that anything goes in Phuket and they do things they wouldn’t do at home. Trashy attitudes are the new way to enjoy holidays it seems.
You can see the complete set of pictures taken in Thailand on Flickr.