Life’s a beach – Patong

Want to experience the big hangover? Feel like you haven’t partied enough on your holidays? I dare say the place to fix that is Phuket. God knows I have partied in Thailand plenty of times. In fact, I was almost sold on the prospect of leaving everything behind and becoming a bar tender at one of the beach bars when I was much younger. Thankfully my inner lion aimed a little higher and I joined another bar (not one you drink at either).

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One of the fresh food stalls in Kamala Beach

Patong, about 40 minutes from the airport, has the most attractions in terms of nightlife for Phuket’s beach towns with an entire street packed with hundreds of bars and nightclubs.

Patong’s beaches, however, are second-to-none. For me, a full day can easily be spent basking in the sun, and what’s better is you don’t have to take anything with you. There’s a towel provided, water, an umbrella which gets adjusted at every turn of the sun, and even a food lady that walks around selling corn, or mais, as my partner in crime calls it.

I call the beaches of Gold Coast, Australia, home. They are supposed to be the highlight of the eastern seaboard in Australia. For the most, I have never seen at least half of the amount of people on a summer’s day on a Gold Coast beach as what I see in Thailand. This could

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Sunset from our hotel Sira Grande

also be due to the fact that Thailand has some of the stillest waters in the world, so definitely not a surfing spot, but a swimming spot – most definitely.

 

In the evening, aside from the repeated games of connect four with local bar workers, one of the popular attractions to Phuket is the Simon Cabaret show. I’ll give you the heads up now, it is a ladyboy cabaret show, but still a fun musical to watch. The ladyboy culture is quite popularised in Thailand, whether it be for a tourism aspect, or for pride of one’s self, Thai people seem to openly embrace it. FullSizeRender-30

In terms of relativity for the other towns, north of Patong is Kamala Beach which is a much more docile version of Patong and with minimal, if any, nightlife. On our visit to Kamala Beach it was evident there is a more family-friendly environment, where the resorts with poolbars, instead of hotels are more common. South of Patong is the mirrored effect, with Kata Beach providing a longer stretch of beach and more of a honeymoon feel to it. If you’re going to Thailand for the food and the beaches and not the parties, Kata beach is far more appropriate as has market stalls along the beach track and are more open and diverse. Patong, however, has the biggest mix of bunched street food

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A very hot prawn laksa

stalls, the best of which is the fresh seafood market near the Banzaan Fresh Seafood Market. It has the greatest mix of seafood which is cooked right in front of you. We forged many a cute date elbows deep in barbecued prawns and finished them off with banana and chocolate crepe.

 

And with all of that, the pertinent question is, how can you keep a beach body with such great food and cheap beer around?

Fluro – Ko Phanang

You would be a questionable traveller if you have never heard of South-East Asia’s biggest party on the beach, the Full Moon Party. Tens of thousands of wide-eyed travellers, young and old, make the long stretch of journey to Kho Phangan island every month to rave on a beach under the light of the full moon. Our Full Moon experience was the first in 38 years to clash with Christmas Day, which apparently boosted the numbers to an exponential capacity.

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Our ride to the beach, in the back of a ute.

From a business side, our group noticed how well the community had adapted to the event which has been spreading through word of mouth since 1985. Every hotel in the area offers a transfer to the party and every hotel receptionist greets you with a “you’re here for the party”. Although, that’s expected when you’re with a group of eight guys. Closer to the vicinity of the Party itself are clinics specialising in dealing with overdoses on illicit substances and hospital clinics specialising in treating burns. An eye opener for anyone on their way to the festival.

For reference to anyone confused, the Full Moon Party is in Haad Rin, the south-eastern most tip of Kho Phangan, when booking accommodation it is a good idea to keep this in mind, specifically for the return trip for a full night of partying until sunrise – a 10 minute drive is better than an hour.

FullSizeRender-16For our group, we booked a cheap resort as we didn’t mind the 40-minute travel time to the party and also wanted to enjoy the amazing beaches, specifically at the Long Bay Resort. The water and kayaking is amazing at the resort. As a libeling couple we paddled one of the kayaks around the coastline. The management staff were nice enough to let us use for free as they were not being used.

Prior to our departure, and a custom for Full Mooners is to don the war paint of fluorescent glow paste and bright shirts. Anything you wouldn’t wear in public back at home is suitable for this party and there are a plethora of stores that stock a range of tie die fluro dresses, shirts, shorts and bikini outfits.

Securing transport is easy as there are shuttles that leave every 20-or-so minutes. For us, we had one of the hotel staff drive all of us in his ute, so we had an open cab ride through the whole island. For one of the world’s biggest parties I was impressed with the lack of queues or tight crowds – everything was very streamlined with no waiting. The entry price was the price of two coffees, 200 baht (US $5.50), and bucket drinks (a small bottle of smirnoff vodka and two red bulls) were the same price. Needless to say, I have never paid so little at festivals in Australia.

The whole beach has its own genre zones, with the Cactus Bar and Drop-in Bar being the most popular for its music and fire shows. There are also areas specifically catered to trance, deep-house, tech and drum and bass. Further up on the northern part of the beach is a bar perched up on a cliff that overlooks the beach and is the best place to watch the sunrise. It serves the special Full Moon milkshakes which are a delicacy at the event so a lot of the patrons here are a little happier than everyone else.

This bar is also a very romantic place and traveling couples often perch themselves up here to enjoy the sight of the festivities and enjoy the sunrise, of which the host beach derives its name from, Sunrise Beach.

Rocky ride – Ko Phangan

I still find it amazing to this day that on such a far island stretching into the pacific there can still be such a cluster of communities and life. Today’s experience was Koh Phangan.

Stretched out into the far fetched islands in Thailand, Koh Phangan is one of the further of the tourist destinations. I was travelling from Phuket so it was a quick flight over to Koh Samui, a ferry over to Koh Phangan and a bus to Long Bay Resort (pictured).

The flight is the quickest leg of the journey, and quite possibly the easiest, given flying in South-East Asia isn’t always that peaceful. After landing in the airport our group of eight had to broker with the ferry and bus agents for a good deal to our rest spot. We made our way from the airport to the ferry terminal via a 15-minute shuttle.

We were greeted at the terminal by a young traveller being escorted off the ferry with staff carrying an intravenous bag of saline, she was obviously a casualty of the Full Moon Party and perhaps had too good of a time.

The ferry ride itself takes the good part of an hour so we, as good-natured Australians do, decided to fill the time with beer and music. It’s times like these that I would like to introduce an essential item for any traveller, which is a portable speaker, and preferably a fully-charged battery pack. I have caused too much excitement in my travels with a portable speaker and a subsequent let-down at not having any power for it.

As expected, the water between the two islands is not calm. As a matter of fact there can be times where the ferry will replicate scenes of the Perfect Storm. The staff like to show off in these instances by maintaining their perfect balance on the deck of the ferry despite people falling around them trying to get to the toilet, or the bar. Depending on how many drinks you consume during the ferry ride, the walk to the toilet can prove to be quite challenging under these conditions. Note: drink responsibly, otherwise you might end up with an intravenous bag as well.