Westerners have fucked Phuket. Quite literally in an astonishing number of cases. Phuket is behind me and the almost complete unknown of Laos is in front. So now seems to be a fitting time to reflect.
Unfortunately those first few words are the overriding thoughts I’ll take from Phuket. Having said that, the place is still incredible, just in such different ways than it would have once been.
|One of the quieter beaches in Phuket|
I’ll start with the not so great and hopefully finish in an uplifting fashion by telling you all the things I love. My major complaint? It just feels like Australia. The people serving you are different, everything’s cheaper and there are a lot more women with questionable objects in their vaginas, but I just don’t feel like I’m in in another country. Thais and tourists don’t mix, It feels like an amusement park more than a town. I know there must be so much more going on beneath the surface but it’s as completely invisible and inscrutable here as it would be from my lounge room in Brisbane.
Zac (travel partner) summed it up pretty well on his blog:
"Patong beach is a hub for the western world to satisfy every possible indulgence a person could ever have."
Having said all this, Phuket is what it is. It doesn’t pretend to be a cultural metropolis. It’s a place where tourists go to get absolutely shit-faced. To go wild and have a great time. It also seems to be a place where it’s impossible for a man over a certain age (about 50) to go without buying himself a Thai girlfriend. But that’s irrelevant. Phuket is fun. In fact, it’s a hell of a lot of fun. It’s a place to over indulge in just about everything. And despite what I said earlier, it’s beautiful. Long white beaches, tree covered hills flowing right down to the water’s edge and a freedom that you couldn’t hope for anywhere in Oz. I’d recommend it to anyone, especially those who’ve never travelled, particularly because I think it’s a place which would be seen better through the rose coloured glasses of an entirely new experience. Like I said, it didn’t particularly feel like another country to me. But this is because I’ve seen it all before to some extent. To someone who’s never left Australia, or even never been to Asia, the differences would be astonishing. Indeed it would feel less like a different country than an entirely new world.
I guess what I’m trying to say is the minor complaints I have with Phuket (and I really must stress they are minor) are not the fault of the island. They’re mine. When I think of my first trip to Asia, the thing which stands out most is my sense of wonder, the feeling of discovering something absolutely new. This isn’t something I was ever going to find in Phuket. Laos however, is looking like a great place to find it.