…he’d be Patong. Let me explain.
Following incredibly amazing, yet exhausting tours of Japan and Taiwan, it was time, time for rest. So we tabled our dumpling- and pork-bun fantasies of Hong Kong, and subbed in Thailand. For those of you with images of swaying palms, warm breezes, lonely white-sand beaches, and fruit cocktails you’d be right…well, eventually. Emily will cover that in the next post.
Once Thailand was determined, we chose Phuket as our first stop. Why? Phuket was easy to access, and supposedly had beautiful beaches, good food, and luxurious resorts, all at closeout prices. We booked a red-eye flight with AirAsia and a hotel for four nights in Patong Beach.
As soon as we boarded our connecting flight to Phuket, we knew we’d screwed up. Imagine a demographic blend of Sturgis moto-ralliers, Preakness infield partiers, and a couple of soccer hooligans – many of whom were already buzzed on our 6 am flight. But, good travelers roll with the punches, and that’s what we did.
After arriving in Phuket and catching a taxi to our resort in Patong Beach, we were told that we’d arrived a few hours too early to check in, so we dropped off our bags at the front desk and took off for the beach. What we saw was a city that stayed up partying hard till 5 am every night, waking up just enough long enough around noon to vomit on itself, and repeating for 30 years. Heaps of hot trash on the sidewalk, prostitutes giving me the eye, rip-off Beats by Dr. Dre headphones, and sign after sign advertising all-day English breakfasts…all set on a once pristine beach. Patong Beach represents everything I hate about poorly managed tourism.
On the bright side, there are a few highlights in the Patong area worth mentioning.
The Senses Resort: Our normal ritual for booking a hotel involves a lot of work. We pore over reviews on Agoda and TripAdvisor, careful to search for value (a formula involving cost, quality, location, and amenities, including the critically important wifi – this blog ain’t writing itself). And the resort that floated to the top in the case of Patong Beach was The Senses Resort. Located in the quiet hills behind Patong and built just last year, The Senses was a knock out – outfitted with large rooms, a soft bed, an infinity pool, and a nightly happy hour with strong pina coladas. After a few days in Patong we didn’t venture more than a few blocks from this place. I mean, why would you need to.
The Restaurant with No Name: Always in search of the best local bites, there’s a bit of tango played with hotel staff each time we move to a new city. We generally ask where they eat; confused, they try to send us to the town’s cheesiest TGI McFridays look alike. Then on night two or three, with enough harassment, the hotel staff realizes what we’re looking for and we hit gold. In Patong, we didn’t get a restaurant name (doubt it had one), but we did get rough directions (bottom of the hill, hang a left, first open air restaurant you see on your left without tourists). The fiery papaya salad, and grilled pork and mushroom soup were perfect, and hinted at the culinary wonderlands we’d experience outside of Patong.
The Amanpuri: I hadn’t seen an ultra-luxury resort until visiting Aman Resorts’ Amangani property located near Jackson Hole, Wyoming. I was wowed. Set in picture-perfect locals with only 50 or so rooms, Aman Resorts – for me – is the pinnacle of hotel luxury. When we found out Aman’s first hotel, Amanpuri, was just a taxi ride away, we decided to pay them a visit. The hotel concierge was nice enough to take us on a tour of the place – black granite infinity pools, white-sand private beaches, plush cabanas on rocky outcrops, yachts just for guests, villas that come with a cook and butler, the latter of whom brought us ice-cold towels and water…on a silver tray with orchids. Let me make this clear: if we could swing $1000/night rooms, Em and I would split the rest of our days on earth living in all of Aman’s 24 resorts. (Aman Management, if you find this post via google alerts, I want to work for you, like forever, http://www.linkedin.com/in/pattenwood)