The first time I went to Thailand was with a family holiday at Christmas to Phuket after a short trip to Bangkok in 2004. Little did I know I would be returning 10 years later as a backpacker, exploring many of the other islands and what Thailand has to offer, as well as inland. Our visit was pre tsunami and so, the scenery and infrastructure have changed somewhat.
Heading away from the main area of Patpong, my family and I stayed at the Sheraton Bangtaou, on the south coast. It is a lovely hotel (or was), where lilies and lemon grass scents greet guests and perfectly planned pools and entertainment for kids are arranged (such as a daily visit from a baby elephant). Although organized well, this hotel is massive and so brings this large complex feel to it. However, being young and new to the gorgeous Thai beaches and Thai Food- I loved it. Getting oily massages on the beach listening to the waves of the sea, quad biking through the jungle and riding an elephant were my highlights. I remember being disgusted by the elephant I was to ride because of the treatment towards the poor elephant and the chains it was put in. It is a shame that in the present day, and from my recent trip to Thailand, nothing has changed.
Patong is more commonly known as “sin city” and it is quite obvious when visiting why it is titled so. Seeing skimpily dressed Santa’s helpers stand on street corners, dancers wrap their legs up in the air along metal poles and everything fake, “but real I swear” under the sun for sale- was an eye opener for an 11 year old. Our family did not stay here, rather hurrying back to the safe and calm sanctuary of our resort. Walking along the streets and drinking in the bars, is an experience in itself and when visiting Phuket, I implore you to visit here to catch a glimpse of this world revelled in debauchery and consumerism. Many books have been written about the underworld of Patong and I am sure there are many people you should avoid at dark alleyways at night- when visiting make sure you have your wits about you when darkness falls.
Phuket for me, is an island created for family holidays, or rather, it now has been transformed for that. With its pristine shores, fancy restaurants, large resorts and safe beaches, it makes an easy option for families who want to travel. If you have a young family, a trip here would be perfect, as Koh Samui is more suited for couples, however, if you are a backpacker or even a flashpacker- avoid Phuket.