Phuket is a challenge. Sure, you’d never be able to tell from the gorgeous beachside photos shopped into tourism brochures. But transport from the airport to any of the beaches takes an hour… or three. There’s no public transport system, so I caught a ticket for the minivan bus (200 baht – relatively cheap and painless compared to
negotiating a fares with a cabbie), but it was a two and a half hour rough and tumble ride to get to my hostel on Karon Beach, with a quick stop at a tour agency for the driver to get some commision off sales to my co-riders.
Karon Beach is a beach town with plenty of party hard Caucasian hostelers and retirees (mostly from Europe and a handful from the states) and a few affluent Chinese resorters. The Thais we’ve met here are working and seem jaded. There isn’t really a feeling of Thai culture here, rather, Karon should be a enjoyed as a beach resort instead of a cultural experience. And while there are some Thais running businesses, it seems like most business owners are originally from elsewhere in South Asia (like India or Burma), if not explicitly of European descent.
But its so gorgeous here. The beach street is lined with tropical palm trees and bright green and blue water. The sun is way hotter and brighter than in Bangkok, and its searing rays roast plenty of red tourists’ shoulders. On the hill on the edge of the beach, you can see the back of a giant white Buddha. And between crashing waves you can hear Thai hawkers trading their wares in English, Mandarin, and even occasionally Russian.
Around here is where James Bond did his Thailand island retirement. I can see why.