Patong Beach - naughty or nightmare? - 1stop Phuket

By Mark Bentley

Patong has a lovely beach, but is crowded

Located on the island’s west coast, Patong Beach is the largest beach resort on Phuket and its main tourist centre. This is the place to head if you’re looking for large chain hotels, ubiquitous dining establishments, abundant shopping opportunities and heavily diluted Thai culture. It’s also the place to find the island’s most significant concentration of nightlife establishments, the greatest appeal of the location for a large number of visitors.

Holidaymakers seeking an authentic Thai experience would be wise to steer clear of Patong Beach. The level of development has pushed Patong into the realms of what might be considered spoilt, while some deem it to be downright ugly. Still, for many tourists, Patong Beach is significantly more diverse than popular European beach resorts while still offering the comforts, conveniences, indulgences and hedonistic pursuits of such places.

Navigating the town centre is like taking on an assault course, with human obstacles popping up every 10 or so paces. If you are in need of a massage, a new suit or transportation, you may well be appreciative of the constant barrage of solicitations from hawkers representing local businesses. If you are simply hoping for a pleasant stroll or are using the resort’s main streets as thoroughfares, then your patience will inevitably wear threadbare by the end of your vacation.

The beach itself offers suitably stunning coastal views, provided you are looking away from the developmental sprawl situated behind it. In high season, you can expect masses to descend upon Patong’s golden sands and any hope of peace and tranquility will ebb as surely as the tide. However, even the crowds fail to diminish the beauty of the sea’s vivid blue waters in the daytime, or the sky’s fiery orange hue at sunset.

Shopping is more Gucci knock-off than Thai handicraft, and the resort’s countless retail outlets are awash with pirated goods of every description as well as beach paraphernalia and cheap accessories. Thai-style souvenirs are available of course, but we’re talking mass produced items as opposed to anything unusual or traditional in character.

A nice promenade was built after the Tsunami

Come the evening, a darker side of Patong Beach emerges as the resort gears up for the nocturnal excesses of the lusty contingent of its tourist community. Focused around Bangla. Beach and Rat-U-Thit roads is an entertainment scene which is geared predominantly towards male clientele. Girly bars aplenty line the streets and the small soi off of them, offering a feast of barely-covered eastern flesh which can be enjoyed by the eyes only or otherwise at the right price.

Though many consider these kinds of establishments to reek of sleaze, for a large number of customers they are just somewhere to enjoy a pleasant drink in the company of attractive female hosts and with the opportunity to listen to some half-decent music or play a few bar games. There really is no pressure to partake in anything seedy if you’re not thus inclined.

Altogether more overtly sexual however are the many go-go bars in the area where scantily clad ladies gyrate their bodies suggestively against chrome poles. This is the ultimate in voyeurism and customers come for titillation as opposed to scintillating conversation. Keep your distance if you’re opposed to this kind of venue, otherwise enjoy every second of the rich eye candy.

The gay scene is focused around the Paradise complex on Ratutit road, where you’ll find over 50 venues catering to gay male clientele including regular bars, go-go bars, saunas, massage parlours, discos and more. Since those who frequent such establishments invariably do so aware of their underlying themes, there is little chance of customers taking offence at any of the extremes of behaviour that might be encountered along the way.

If the sole agenda of your night out in Patong Beach is to enjoy some pleasures of the flesh, then there is every opportunity to do so with girls available at regular girlie and go-go bars. Customers are obliged to pay a ‘bar fine’ to release their new friend from the venue. After that, any activity that transpires or money that changes hands is entirely at the discretion of the two individuals.

Patong Beach activities go on all day

While the sexually-orientated venues of the Bangla and Ratuit road scenes are the focus of the area’s evening entertainment scene, they are not the only the kind of establishments to be found. Couples holidaying at the resort can find welcoming venues such as The Banana on Thaweewong road and The Shark Club on the corner of Rat-Uthid and Bangla roads. These and other venues like them offer opportunities for drinking and dancing until way beyond the witching hour.

Additionally, punters looking for more mainstream entertainment will find visual delights at Patong Beach’s interesting selection of live show venues. Phuket FantaSea (15 minutes drive from Patong) is perhaps the most famous of these, while the Simon Cabaret show is also notable for its highly professional lady boy dancers

Contrary to Thai licensing laws, night-time entertainment at Patong Beach finishes when the last punters stagger back to their guesthouses. There can be a few sorry characters on the streets around sunrise and while there is rarely any trouble, the feint-hearted would do well to be tucked in their cots by then.

All things considered, Patong Beach is probably not an ideal family holiday resort or the best place for visitors who are easily agitated by badgering locals. If you are looking to enjoy a wealth of pleasures of a slightly naughty nature however, Patong could be just the place for you. There’s no one around to wag fingers or look down disapprovingly, so why not indulge?

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