If Phuket is the "Pearl of the Orient" then it is fair to say that Patong Beach is the "Fun Place" of the Orient. It is, essentially, a party town, with fantastic clubs, bars, hotels and restaurants and decent shopping, located on one of the best beaches in the world.
Patong Beach is a farily modern place – electricity didn't "arrive" there until 1979 - located on the west side of Phuket Island, about 640km south of Bangkok, 15 km from Phuket town, and 35km from the Phuket International Airport.
It fronts the Andaman Sea and is surrounded by lush green mountains. It consists of three major north south roads running parallel to the beach and to each other: Thaweewong Road (Beach Road), Rat-U-Thit Road, and Nanai Road, and five or six major east west roads, also parallel to each other.
The most important of these is Bangla Road which is located between Thaweewong and Rat-U-Thit Roads in the central part of Patong.
Patong Beach - and Phuket Island – may be reached by international airflights from several Asian and European cities, domestic Thai flights – primarily from Bangkok, bus or automobile (Phuket Island is connected to the Thai mainland by the Sarasin Bridge), or ferry boat.
The beach itself is crescent shaped and stretches 4 to 5 kilometers along the Andaman Sea between shallow mountain bases. The sand is white and powder-fine, the water blue, clear and agreeably warm.
The climate is usually pleasant enough, so the beach is an excellent place to swim, suntan, meet friends, rest… and maybe watch a beautiful sunset. It is usually a nice and relaxing place to spend the day.
At most locations, it's possible to rent a beach umbrella and chair, small scale proprietors operate concessions up and down the beach. This can be a good idea because most proprietors and their employees really look after you and your welfare. They will get you food and drink – at a marked up price – and handle other matters.
If you would rather just throw your towel down on the sand and claim your own space, that's doable. If you prefer to buy your own food and drink from vendors who walk the beach, or to walk to a nearby food stall or restaurant, that's also doable.
There are other pleasures on the beach one can enjoy. One is massage. Large numbers of older ladies – they are usually fairly heavy – frequent the beach in high season offering a fairly good modified version of Thai traditional massage. This service costs around 300 baht an hour and no tip is expected.
Another is jet skiing and para gliding. There is considerable debate about the overall desirability of such activities at beaches like Patong, but if you want to and if you got the money – about 1500 baht for 30 minutes – there are plenty of folks on the beach who will help you enjoy these activities.
There are, of course, problems to be encountered on the beach. The most serious is related to rainy season, approximately May through October or November. During this time, currents and riptides can make water activities dangerous.
On particularly dangerous days, the authorities post red flags to warn beachgoers, but basically it is up to people to use their own instincts. While there are supposed to be lifeguards on the beach, they seem never to be visible and beachgoers who get into trouble will be on their own to find a solution to their problem.
Other problems relate to the jet skis and para gliders. While they are supposed to be used only in certain zones, they frequently are operated outside the zones, and many people feel that they make the beach experience less pleasurable. In regard to the skiers and gliders, many have complained in recent years that they have been victims of scams in which the concessionaries required them to pay for damages they were not responsible for.
It must also be observed that the beaches can be very crowded during the high season - December through April – making the beach experience, at least for some, less pleasant. Very recently, a situation has occurred which has the potential to become a very, very big problem, the appearance of jellyfish.
The number of bars in Patong Beach is astounding. They are concentrated on Bangla Road and adjacent areas of Beach Road and Rat-U-Thit Road, and the sois that branch off from them, such as Soi Crocodile, Soi Eric, and Soi Tiger.
Hundreds of the bars are classified as "beer bars" and range from "holes in the wall" to very large concerns often having live music. What attracts most customers to these bars – besides the beer – is that these bars have large numbers of young ladies anxious to meet men.
There are also several very nice and sophisticated discotheques - "D" Club, Tiger, Banana, Baya Bay, Seduction, Tai Pan, Safari, and VIP – which are often parts of larger complexes with restaurants and beer bars. The bars and discos are open as late as the law allows (1:00 to 2:00 AM) and latter since the closing laws usually aren't enforced.
For those who tire of the drinking and socializing, it is easily possible to take a rest in one the traditional Thai massage establishments which, like the bars, also seem to be almost everywhere. It is also possible to watch Thai boxing while out for a night on the town, and the food stalls and restaurants are open until the sun rises.
Those who enjoy shopping will find more than enough shopping opportunities to keep them busy. Every night, the main roads in Patong become jammed with stalls and carts selling almost everything imaginable.
A huge shopping mall – Jungceylon - is located on Rat-U-Thit Road, diagonally opposite from the eastern end of Soi Bangla. For those seeking more traditional shopping, nearby Phuket town has at least one Big C, Tesco, and Robinson and another huge shopping center, Central Festival Mall.
Patong Beach has accommodation for every pocketbook although pricing is tilted toward the higher end – there is disproportionately large number of tourist class hotels in Patong.
Nevertheless, it is usually possible to find suitable accommodation – clean, safe, private toilet with shower, cable TV, airconditioning, etc – in the 500 to 600 baht a night range,except at times during the "high season."
Those seeking budget accommodations should head away from the beach toward Nanai Road. Patong Beach is one place where it does NOT usually pay to make Internet reservations. It is usually best to show up unannounced at potential accommodations and bargain. Again, however, it should be noted that during high season, prices will be higher than usual and bargaining MAY not be possible.
Inside the Patong Beach area, most people get around by hiring motorbike taxis or "tuk-tuk" taxis. Tuk-tuks are small, bright red, four wheel vehicles where the driver sits in a cab and the passengers sit in an enclosed flatbed area in back.
Motorbike taxis and tuk-tuks are safe and efficient, although the drivers are not always polite and friendly. Most destinations in Patong have a standard price, but you should always ask, especially at night and politely decline if the price seems too high.
Unfortunately, there are no local buses or metered taxis in Patong Beach. Traveling from Patong Beach to other locations on Phuket Island is more difficult.