Patong Beach is Phuket’s most famous beach resort where tourists end up staying when they visit Phuket. Indeed, Patong is bustling, very touristy and people either love it or hate it.
I was on the neutral side – could it be because I went during the rainy season (where there was no rain during our weeklong stay?) and crowds were nonexistent in Patong? Who knows, but I made some interesting observations that most people who have never been to Patong might find interesting during my year of travelling.
If you are visiting Patong for the first time and you want to get an idea of what to expect on this beach, read more for ideas on what to expect for your vacation.
#1: Patong has so many activities for people of all ages!
I’ll be honest, Phuket wasn’t a huge priority for me during my year of travel and I wasn’t expecting to do much in Patong. Visiting Phuket was more of a stopover than anything as I made my way from Malaysia to Krabi. However, my visit to the area changed my perception of Patong and all the things that you can do in the area. I was surprised to see a lot of families and people of all ages in Patong as there are lots to do in the area! From golfing to visiting neighbouring islands to relaxing massages, there’s something for everyone in Phuket. However, I recommend you book your activities and tours online as the number of choices will leave your head spinning if you try to book while in Phuket. Read my post about what you need to consider before booking your Phuket tours and activities.
Here are some ideas on what you can do in Patong.
Catch some great shows on Patong Beach
- Cabaret shows are definitely something worth watching at least once in your lifetime. The shows are incredible and it made me even more fascinated by the Thai culture and their acceptance of katoeys.
- Watch professional Muay Thai boxers at the famous Bangla Boxing Stadium. Definitely not for the faint of heart and you’ll likely see a lot of blood and potentially broken bones!
- Phuket Fantasea is another award-winning show that showcases Thailand’s cultural heritage. This show is family-friendly and comes with dinner. Note that this show is actually not in Patong but is actually located right next to the area.
#2: Patong nightlife starts at the Bangla Walking Street
If you’re in Phuket for the nightlife scene, then Bangla Walking Street has you covered. The road closes to traffic at 6 pm and turns into a busy walking street. Expect crazy lights, sounds, and lots of touts trying to pull you into their bars. Avoid following the touts and do your research to find live music bars, restaurants, nightclubs and rooftop bars before your visit to Phuket. On that note about parties, partying on luxury boats during the day is another great thing to do if you want to be out on the sea in a beautiful boat.
You’ll also encounter some beautiful katoeys (ladyboys) along this street. If you want to take a photo with them, expect to tip afterwards.
#3: Enjoy water activities safely by doing your research before your visit!
If you’re looking to do water activites in Patong, I highly recommend you research on vendors and plan in advance before your visit to Phuket. Otherwise, you might feel impulsive and book a water activity while on the beach and not realize until it’s too late that safety wasn’t the vendor’s priority. Take the parasailing activity and the shenanigans that I saw while in Phuket as an example.
The parasailing process looks something like this: once they have a customer (1,300 baht for a five-minute parasailing ride), they get the person ready by putting on a tattered harness and life jacket. The tourist waits in the landing area for the parasail and boat to come back to the beach. Once the parasail lands on the beach, the workers spend two seconds unhooking the first tourist who just finished his/her session and hooking the second tourist for the next ride. They also have this guy (I call him a ninja) who joins the tourist on the ride… he doesn’t wear a harness and he’s just balancing himself between the ropes! As you can imagine, I don’t think safety is a priority for some of the vendors providing water activities in Phuket. For that, I highly suggest you do your research online and book in advance if you are dying to do some fun water activities in Phuket.
#4: Rainy season on Patong Beach in Phuket isn’t so rainy after all
If you ask me, visiting Patong during the tail end of the rainy season is great because there was barely any rain in Patong. That also means there aren’t many crowds and activities are cheaper since it’s low season. Of course, you can’t expect no rain, but the showers go as quickly as they come. For example, it only rained once at night, and it spat during the daytime on our last night in Patong during our eight-day stay.
#5: Patong has a great food scene
Whether you are looking to eat some delicious Thai street food, fresh seafood, or non-Thai cuisine, there is something for everyone in Patong.
My favourite thing to eat in Thailand is street food, and Patong is great for that. Whether you are looking for curry, meat skewers or seafood, you’re bound to leave Patong with a full stomach.
If you are a frequent traveller to Thailand, you’ll notice that the food in Patong is more experience compared to the rest of Thailand. Of course, compared to Western prices, everything is still a lot cheaper than the meals you’d pay for in North America. The price reference I use is for mango sticky rice. It’s 120 baht ($4 USD) in Phuket, but only 50-60 baht ($2 USD) in Chiang Mai. Same with pad thai – you can find pad thai for 45 (Under $2 USD) baht in Chiang Mai, but the same dish in Phuket will cost you close to 100 baht (or more!). Not a dealbreaker, but something you may notice if you’re used to cheap Thai prices.
Expect a lot of MSG in your food
Ok, so this won’t impact a lot of people, but it did for me because I don’t like MSG. If you don’t even notice when there’s MSG in your food, then you can skip this point. Just know that if vendors tell you there’s no MSG in the dish, they really mean there’s a little bit of MSG, especially if it’s a meat dish at a street stall. I kept getting sick every night because of all the MSG they put into the food and so I started to detest the night market.
#6: Food vendors in Patong Beach are very touchy with men
The food sellers are very touchy with males – they will grab your arm to get your attention to get you to buy their food. They don’t touch females though.
#7: Phuket is often referenced as the Kuta of Thailand
I’m sure you’ve heard a similar comparison between the two places and how Phuket is the Kuta of Thailand while Kuta is the Phuket of Bali. Well, let me tell you, what you heard is pretty spot on. Phuket is much like Kuta, a big party city with overdeveloped beach and beachfront, but it is a bit less ghetto, cleaner and it feels safer than Kuta. The Balinese are definitely nicer than the Thais in Phuket, but there seem to be fewer scammers in Phuket. There’s also a lot more Chinese tourists in Phuket compared to Kuta. And I mean LOTS!
With that being said, my visit to Kuta during my year of slow travels was quite chill and mellow. I never stayed out late enough to see the wild side of Kuta.
If you’re in Phuket and you’re looking to stay in a quiet place away from the craziness, you might want to check out one of the best hotels in Phuket.
#8: Some Thai people speak Mandarin very well
The need for the Thais to speak Mandarin is to cater to the Chinese tourists in Thailand who cannot speak English well. And of course, the Thais in touristy areas will always talk to me in Mandarin. Sometimes, I respond back in Mandarin when necessary, but those moments crack me up every time. Picture two people speaking to each other in broken Mandarin – we both think we understand each other, but we probably don’t… haha. At some point, we both end up running out of words to say and start giving each other blank stares.
Tip for Asians travelling in Thailand: How to stop a Thai person dead in their tracks when they are trying to hustle for a sale
Thai people in touristy areas always assume Asians are from China and would talk to us in Mandarin. Usually, we ignore them, but there are times when they ask us where we are from in English. I think it’s their way of trying to establish rapport with us before busting out their Mandarin and then “pitching” for a sale. I’ve learned to tell them that we are from Vietnam, to which the reaction we get is priceless. They give me this weird “HUH” look, and then turn to their colleague with this “I don’t know what to say, help me man” expression! It cracks me up every time. I guess not a lot of Vietnamese people travel to Thailand.
#9: There are a lot of Russians in Patong Beach
Signs were in three main languages, English, Chinese and Russian.
Yep, that was new to me too. In fact, on our James Bond Island tour, more than half of the tourists were Russian! They got to sit inside the boat while the rest of the travellers had to sit outside of the boat. It was a bit of a weird feeling to be segregated like that, but eh, it is what it is.
#10: Laundry is everywhere in Patong beach, you just have to look closely
Phuket is 50 baht per kilo and is ready the next day. A lot of travel kiosks double as laundry sites as well; you have to look carefully for the tiny signs. We walked for a good ten minutes before we found a place that does laundry, only to realize that there were a few places located next to our hotel!
Unlike Bali where laundry is done on-site, most places seem to take your clothes and send it offsite.
#11: Traffic around Patong beach is crazy!
Do not expect the motorcycles to let you pass when crossing the road. Instead, they will just drive around you. Cars and buses will stop, but you have to make sure you catch their attention. A lot of the traffic lights are not functional so you have to take the initiative to cross the street and hope that traffic will stop for you.
Also, catching a cab from the airport to Phuket is also crazy scary and I would highly advise you to book your airport transfer in advance. Not only is it cheaper, but it is much safer than trying to catch a cab from the airport. I’m not kidding you when I say that taking the taxi in advance from the airport to Phuket was one of the scariest moments during my year of travel. Scary AND scammy! We did our research and made sure to be aware of the taxi scams but we still ended up in a taxi with one of the sketchiest drivers ever! Read this thread about taxi scams if you want to learn more.
#12: Longtail boats on Patong beach are not available during the rainy season
As we headed to the beach, we found the waves to be pretty rough. We were sad that the long tail boats were not available since the sea was too harsh. We did ride a longtail boat in Ao Nang and…let me tell you… it was crazy.
Any other interesting facts about Patong beach that I am missing?
The actual Patong beach itself
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This post was first published in May 2018 and last updated on October 2019