Falling Out of Love With Phuket
Well, I’ve officially jumped on the Phuket haters bandwagon. I really thought all of the negativity towards Phuket was a little over the top about it being “too touristy” and “overpriced” and I never wanted to dissuade anyone from going there. After all, I visited Phuket on my first trip to Thailand almost four years ago and that’s when I completely fell in love with this country. But after paying another visit during our two week Thailand trip when my brother was visiting from the States, I completely get it now. I won’t say I hated it, but Phuket has really changed over the years and not for the better. Or maybe it’s me that’s changed. Either way, I’m not going to say I will never return to Phuket, but I don’t have any desire to return. At least not in the foreseeable future.
Krabi vs Phuket
Phuket vs Krabi is often the big debate for tourists and travelers visiting the beaches of Thailand for the first time. I couldn’t decide between the two either, which is why I decided my brother just had to see both. Going forward, there is no debate for me. Krabi will win every time, hands down. The strip in Ao Nang is cleaner than any part of Phuket I’ve seen. Although both are pricier than the north, Phuket is still far more expensive than Krabi. And to me, the beaches in Krabi are so much more beautiful and less crowded. Sure, they are both touristy. I’m not usually one to complain of “touristy” places though; I am a tourist myself after all. Railay Beach in Krabi is lined with tourists but it is still one of my favorite beaches in the world. And it still feels like Thailand. Phuket, on the other hand, took the term “touristy” to a whole new level.
Phuket AKA Little Russia
You may have heard of the influx of Russian tourists to Phuket? Well…that’s pretty much all it was. No offense to any Russians but if I wanted to go to Russia, I would have gone to Russia. Everyone around me was speaking Russian. All of the signs were in Russian. All of the menus were in Russian. Even at the airport, the gate signs were Russian. I started to question which country I was in! It definitely did not feel like Thailand at all.
Because of the influx of tourists, the prices in Phuket were insanely high. It was nearly impossible to even find simple street food until we got completely away from the beaches. We thought we could at least depend on the Kebab man we ate at several times on our last visit for 50 baht, but as it turns out he has doubled his prices and is now slinging kebabs at 100 baht each! I have never ever seen a kebab in Thailand cost more than 50 baht. Furthermore, we know what the cost of a motorbike rental should be; the price of fried rice from a local Thai eatery; a fair price for a 1 hour Thai massage. It grew really annoying having to negotiate practically everything due to absurd prices the whole time. Even more frustrating was the cost of trying to get back to the airport. Prices were at 1,000 baht for a taxi ride from Kata and it took us a half day to find a mini-bus that would take us for 250 baht/person. This ride ended up taking us 2 hours and we probably should have opted for the 1,000 baht taxi ride in the end…which is still outrageous for Thailand. Sure, these prices might still sound reasonable compared to other parts of the world and maybe we sound crazy for complaining about them. But after living in Thailand for nearly 2 years, I suppose our mentality has changed. Maybe that’s why we enjoyed it so much more the first time around – before we were spoiled by the rest of Thailand and before we learned what the “norm” was. As bad as it sounds, maybe it was one of those “ignorance is bliss” situations?
Don’t get me wrong. The beaches are still undeniably beautiful. The emerald seas sparkle just luring you in for a dip. There is nothing like motorbiking around sharp curve only to be met with some of the most magnificent vistas and the cliffs plunging into the sea in front of you. Its truly spectacular and reminds me a bit of driving the Pacific Coast Highway in California.
But the rest of the city just felt rundown. For the same price we paid in Bangkok, Kanchanaburi and Ao Nang, our hotel was much shittier in Phuket – outdated, unkempt and we could barely get lukewarm water in the shower. Also unlike Ao Nang, which has one of the nicest beach strips we’ve been to, the streets were just dirty and filled with trash and rats scurrying around in the rubbish. It wasn’t the most inviting or relaxing vibe.
Scams in Phuket
Scams targeting tourists are prevalent in some areas more than others and Phuket happens to be one of them. Everything in Phuket felt like a scam so you really have to do your research (like we should have done in Bangkok!) and keep your guard up, whether you are renting a motorbike or jet ski, etc. For example, we encountered a massive police check point while motorbiking around the beaches. Although we had no issues since we were wearing helmets and had our Thai motorcycle license with us, there were about 40 other tourists that were not so lucky and that was just what we saw in the two minutes we were driving through. Sure, a lot of them probably deserved whatever fine they were getting, but at the same time these check points are often set up specifically targeting tourists and these “fines” collected are pocketed for beer money later.
There are many things that lead to my falling out of love with Phuket, but regardless, it just isn’t what it once was. Thailand has so many beaches and islands waiting to be explored. I think we are ready to move on and see something new the next time we take a trip down south for some fun in the sun…
Have You Ever Fallen Out of Love With a Destination?
What Are Your Favorite Beaches in Thailand?
Let us know in the comments below!