To continue our tour of the beaches of Southern Thailand we made our way from Koh Phi Phi to Phuket, specifically, Patong Beach. I had been there once before with the PK crew, and spent 3 nights there. I swore to myself I’d never go back, but in order to give the guys a true taste of Thailand filth we spent a night there. It was necessary since we had to work our way from one side of the country to the other, and all of the flights from Krabi to Koh Phangnan had been booked.
So. Patong Beach. This is how I would paint a picture of this place, confirmed by travelers in my group and other people I have met in my travels. If you’re going to go here, only spend one night, and one night only. The place is a mix of Times Square and Vegas, both in their more seedier times. Bangla Road is the main strip, and at night it comes to life. Full of bars, flashing neon lights, pumping techno beats, and shitty cover bands trying to lure packs of tourists onto it’s bar stools. Many bars in the Soi’s (streets), that run perpendicular to Bangla have Bar Girls (aka scantily clad women or ladyboys) that have Connect Four, or this Hammer game to lure men into the bars to buy drinks. The Hammer game consists of a large tree trunk and a pointed hammer that a blacksmith might use and nails. The object is to get the nail into the wood in the least amount of strokes, as you pass the hammer around in a circle amongst the competitors. The bar girls are extremely adept at both games, and will gladly hustle you to buy them a drink at 4 times the price of what you might be able to buy in a 7-11. We got our butts kicked in the hammer game, but it was fun.
On our first trip we took a polaroid photo and posted to the ceiling of U2 bar on Bangla Rd. Unfortunately I’m sad to say it no longer exists. Apparently it was a fire hazard, and the number of polaroids have been scaled back.
Patong has a newly opened Tiger Kingdom, which was not there when I visited 3 years ago. I did this 3 years ago in Chiang Mai under the same operation, but for those that want a photo opportunity with a tiger, this is your place. It might not be the most humane of places, but nothing is confirmed as to why these massive tigers are so docile. I’ll leave that up to you for decide. I decided to stay outside of the grounds and not go for another picture with the big cats.
From Patong we took a pretty comfortable 6 hour minivan ride to Don Sak pier. I made sure to secure a van that had a DVD player, and we watched an awful camcorder version of Anchorman 2. From Don Sak it was a 2-3 hour ferry ride to Koh Phangnan, where we’d spend the next week leading up to New Years, and a few recovery days.
Koh Phangnan is known for it’s Full Moon Parties that it holds monthly on the beach of Haad Rin, in this case twice a month for the special occasion of NYE. An average Full Moon party brings 20,000 people to the beach to party, while NYE is said to bring 40-50,000 people. Like Koh Phi Phi, fire shows, techno, and buckets of alcohol are all quite common at night. The days leading up to NYE were pretty crowded, and a couple of the guys got into a beauty competition during the day which was a lot of fun. It’s dubbed as Ms Haad Rin, which had ~ 20 contestants, but to make things equal they also had Mr Haad Rin, which had roughly 10 contestants. Unfortunately our guys didn’t bring home the title of Mr Haad Rin. The winner went all out, by wearing a bikini on stage, complete with make up, so it’s really tough to upstage that.
NYE was a neon shit show, and we were urged not to bring out our phones due to a large number of thefts. Everyone dresses up in neon and paints themselves in various neon paint adornments. It’s roughly a mile long stretch of beach that was maybe 75 yards deep? Therefore finding someone after losing them in a sea of drunk people really isn’t that easy. Even if you set a meeting point, it’s still not that easy to find your group. We ended up losing some of the group but it still turned out to be a great night.
Sunrise Beach on Haad Rin is a disgusting beach during the day, and not really anything you want to spend much time on except for the evening. We actually found a really great beach on Jan 1, in search of a New Years after party, full of zombies that looked like they haven’t slept yet. There was a resort that didn’t seem to mind us using their pristine beach or facilities, so we made that our go-to spot for the next few days.
Slowly the crew dissipated and what was a crew of eight slowly made it’s way down to three. Erik, Mike and myself made our way to Ko Tao once we got to a smaller crew. The idea was to get SCUBA certified, since Ko Tao is world renknowned as one of the best dive places in the world, and certainly one of the cheapest places to get certified due to the vast number of dive shops littered throughout the island. We showed up on Jan 4 thinking we could find accommodation no problem, especially since we had intentions of diving, and they typically provide free, or discounted lodging for those that are diving with them. We apparently had the same idea as the thousands of other people who went to Koh Phangan for NYE. We got very lucky in finding a room close to the dive shop, but it was a shitty bungalow right next to a bar that blasted music into the wee hours of the night. In hopes of possibly finding better accommodations we all set out in search of another room, but couldn’t find anything at all.
I ended up dropping out of the SCUBA before the class started. I had done a fun dive once before in Phi Phi a few years ago, and while it was really cool it also was cause for a good deal of anxiety, perhaps due to poor training. So I decided to save the $300 and use that for something else that I’ll definitely enjoy on the trip, not to mention I don’t need another expensive hobby. It’ll most likely go towards more surfing lessons in Bali or Australia, or maybe I’ll treat myself to a round of golf somewhere exotic. Erik decided it wasn’t for him either after one day of open water training, but Mike powered through and really enjoyed it.
We did however partake in a snorkeling excursion where we were taken to two different dive spots, and got to see some pretty cool stuff with solid visibility. The second dive I gave my phone dry pack a test run and got some decent video, but nothing compared to a Go Pro.
Overall, Ko Tao is a pretty cool island, there’s a ton of great diving if you’re into that, and the nightlife is solid if you’re looking for that as well. It’s a relaxed version of Koh Phi Phi I’d say. I prefer Phi Phi personally, but you could certainly do much worse than Ko Tao.