What We Don’t Like About Phuket

I really felt like I needed to write this post.  I’ve received quite a few emails lately from people reading this blog asking me if Phuket is a place I would recommend.  My answer? Yes, but no.

Phuket is not a place that we would have chosen had it not been for our friends the Millers.  They have been living on the north of the island in a town called Nai Yang for six months now.  They fondly refer to it as the quiet end of Phuket.  Before we had ever met in person I had been friends with Jenn online for over two years.  Even though we had never met in real life, our online interactions led me to believe I could trust her judgement.  We planned to check out Nai Yang to see if it was a place we would like to settle for a month.

When we finally met Jenn and her family in Penang we hit it off and they invited us to come and stay with them in their house while we decided if Nai Yang was the place for us.  We ended up being the house guests that never leave and spent the next two weeks with them!  We quickly decided that we liked the laid back vibe of Nai Yang.  It is small, relatively peaceful, has a local flavour, and the beach is beautiful.  Over half of the bay is protected as a National Park so building is limited which adds greatly to its charm.

Here is a 360 degree view of the beach in Nai Yang:

So yes, I do really like the North of Phuket and in particular I would recommend Nai Yang as a place to chill for a bit.  We also liked a few things on the rest of the island like The Gibbon Rehabilitation Centre, the old Chinese buildings in Phuket Town, visiting Wat Chalong, and seeing the Big Buddha up close.

And then there is the no…..

Phuket is expensive!  Accommodation, restaurants, and touristy stuff is going to cost you more here than elsewhere in Thailand.  Now that we have had time to figure things out for ourselves we have been able to greatly reduce our costs but we are still spending more than we would like to.

We have rented cars to explore the rest of the island and our verdict is we don’t like it.  It is busy.  So, so busy.  On southern beaches the beach chairs are lined up four or five deep.  The streets are teeming with package tourists here to have a good time in their two week holidays.  If you like being surrounded by other tourists and going on package tours then this might be the place for you.  If you are looking for a quiet, laid back beach experience then look elsewhere.

I don’t understand why anyone would want to holiday in Patong and yet there are thousands of tourists doing just that.  The sex tourism industry is alive and well in that town and it is also in your face.  We went there without kids to watch a movie (great movie theatre by the way) and afterwards we went for a walk.  It was about 10pm and there were throngs of people in the street.  We must have been asked about fifty times if we would like to see ‘sex shows’ or ‘ping pong shows’.  There were dozens of bars with half naked Thai and Russian women gyrating on top of counters and tables.  Definitely not a family friendly place, and yet there were many families in the crowds!

There is a little peep show going on in the background.

Husband Day Care Center? Hmm. I think not.

Patong at night.

We also saw monkeys and lizards being posed with tourists for pictures.  After visiting and learning about the dark side of poaching in Thailand at the Gibbon Rehabilitation Centre I could only feel sad for those poor animals and wish that the tourists would know better.

All in all most of Phuket is just way too busy and too touristy for me.  I’m not interested in getting my hair braided, laying on the beach with a thousand other people, getting asked every ten minutes if I would like to buy something, spending time in a mall that would fit in anywhere in North America, or letting our children witness the seedy side of Phuket.  No thank you.

Have you been to Phuket?  What did you think of it?

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  1. Renee says:

    Agreed. We passed through Phuket but didn’t like it all. We found it impersonal and expensive compared to other parts of Thailand. Plus I worked SO hard to learn Thai, and it was really difficult to get people to chat with me there, unlike other parts of the country.

  2. Jennifer Miller says:

    Yep. Agreed… which is why we’re in Nai Yang, and not elsewhere! 😉 Less is more on the sex tourism with our teen boys… heh. 🙂 Nai Yang is good. Mai Khao is also good, but would REQUIRE a car to make it manageable. If not for finding our little spot we wouldn’t have stayed on the island.

  3. Alyson says:

    No, I haven’t. I wouldn’t want to, it’s not what I go to Thailand for. Good to have my assumptions about Phuket confirmed for me though. Thanks for the post.!

  4. Nancy Sathre-Vogel says:

    I’m sad 🙁 We visited Phuket back in 1991 and it wasn’t all that touristy at all. It was lovely! I hate it when a lovely place “becomes known” and then is overrun.

  5. Tiffany Fite says:

    Good to know! Yikes – the husband day care?

    Nai Yang sounds lovely; I think we’ll avoid Phuket when we eventually make our way there (targeted: early 2014). Where are you headed next Amy?

  6. Rebeca says:

    I spent a little time on Phuket in 2001, and, ironically, we stayed on Nai Yang beach. I liked it because it was quiet and mellow. I think we drove around the island once and drove through one of the bigger cities, maybe Patong. A drive through was enough for me.

  7. Nadine Hudson says:

    We spent a few weeks on Phuket island back in 2000. At the time, there was one beach that had NO hotels on or near it and we decided it was the right place to pitch our little tent and hang our hammock and enjoy some peaceful days away from the world (I was pregnant with our first son, so I was mostly happy to be away from the smell of food….). We got around the island by hitching lifts with locals, which was great and everybody was friendly. On one of the days, we rented a scooter and looked at the touristy part of Phuket…. not our thing at all. We never went back there, but since then we befriended a doctor who works at the Phuket hospital (met him in Northern Pakistan of all places…). He told us the Thai side of the tourists in Phuket and it’s pretty sad actually. There are sooooo many places in Thailand that are much more lovely and if you are looking for a more lonely and adventurous experience, we can recommend the TeLoSu waterfall area…. Savadee Kah Nadine

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