First Impressions: Phuket, Thailand

It feels wrong writing first impressions for Phuket, a place that we have travelled through five or six times in the last year. But this time we are staying a while...

(Roll over the circles on these photos to read some of my (almost) first impressions and experiences on Phuket explained.) We chose to spend some time in Phuket rather than a more peaceful Thai island because of its reliable connections in terms of internet, infrastructure and international travel. We also know the lay of the land here, what's on offer, where to avoid (Patong!) and where to find little corners of happiness. There are many more of these for us to seek out and I am unexpectedly grateful that we chose to go somewhere that feels familiar. Phuket is an often beguiling mix of the best and worst of Thailand.

The best can be found in the hard working Thai and expat residents who want to maximise the potential of this huge, solid island; beautiful beaches, warm swimmable water, rich cultural heritage. It can be found down unsigned roads where old men in sarongs shuffle to sit in their next door neighbours' porch. It can be found in the businesses that are run in earnest from front rooms; hairdressers, computer repair shop, grocery stores. It can be found in the barefoot Thai children wearing knock off Man Utd tops who define cheeky in their smiles and run around back streets ignoring the skinny chickens that surround them squawking. It can be found in the Muslim women who laugh and joke together make pancakes for the (very) scantily clad Russian tourists. It can be found in the locals who congregate towards the end of the working day and dive into the sea fully clothed, much to the amusement and encouragement of sunbathing Westerners. The worst can be found in the areas which are dominated by over development; lurid neon, plastic signs fight for your attention above the heads of unenthusiastic yet annoying persistent restaurant, nightclub, bar and FantaSea touts. Massage parlours staffed by young Thai women wearing too much make up who only call out to male Western tourists of a certain age. When you realise you have been charged double for your meal than the Thai family next to you in a locals' seaside restaurant. There is also something sad in seeing construction workers - often including women and teenagers - struggle through hot and humid 10 hour days only to be sandwiched onto the back of a truck so full that there's no room to take the weight off their feet. Whenever I see this I pray they are going home, not to another job.
The longer I stay here the more I notice and acknowledge both - the best and the worst. It's anybody's guess which one will conquer by the time we leave...

Frances M. Thompson

Londoner turned wanderer, Frankie is an author, freelance writer and blogger. Currently based in Amsterdam, Frankie was nomadic for two years before putting down some roots with her Australian partner and having a baby boy in July 2015. In 2017, she launched WriteNOW Cards, affirmation cards for writers that help build a productive and positive writing practice. When not writing contemporary fiction, Frankie shops for vintage clothes, dances to 70s disco music and chases her son around Amsterdam.
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