Sure, the food is great, the beaches brilliant and luxury resorts aplenty, but the charms of Phuket tend to lose their shine once you look around long enough to realize it’s also a cesspool of everything gross about modern-day tourism in developing countries. So with that, dear reader, here are five reasons why you needn’t include Phuket on your Thailand itinerary.
The nightlife can be, well, icky
You’ve no doubt heard the stereotype – sleazy bar after sleazy bar packed with middle-aged western men and young Thai girls or ladyboys, right? Guys, sorry to say but Phuket gets its reputation for a reason, especially on Bangla Road, and it’s one that we’d happily live out the rest of our days without witnessing again. There’s nothing fun about watching people reduced to selling their bodies, especially when it's right next to tons of care-free tourists wasted out of their minds.
Ping pong shows aren’t as fun as you think
Contrary to all too many travel blogs, seeing a ping pong show is not a must. Having (regrettably) seen a show in the name of ‘travel experience’, no amount of showmanship and overpriced drinks can disguise the sad expression you can expect to see on the faces of performers, forced to not only shoot ping pong balls out of their lady parts to a crowd of random onlookers, but also razors, darts, even a live bird. Once that mojito buzz wears off, it’ll feel more somber than silly.
Elephants are many, but often mistreated
You needn’t go far in Phuket to see elephants used for begging or tourist rides, both of which involve varying degrees of animal abuse and a heartbreaking situation behind the scenes. Though Phuket is home to a number of elephant “sanctuaries”, some still prioritize a tourist buck over animal welfare, so do your homework. As a general rule of thumb, if the organization offers elephants rides, don’t visit or support. There’s plenty of evidence out there (check out World Animal Protection) on how tourist rides are actually really damaging on elephants, both physically and mentally.
The beaches ain’t what they’re cracked up to be
While we’re all used to seeing pictures of Phuket’s impossibly pretty beaches where party-goers go to sizzle off their hangovers, the truth is that you really need to know where to go. More crowded areas like Patong Beach can be pretty filthy at the best of times, having earned plenty of bad press for litter, roaming dogs, pestering vendors and (*gasp*) sea lice. There are a few more chilled alternatives at times, like Layan Beach, Karon Beach, Kata Beach, and Surin Beach.
Authentic experiences are few and far between
As a destination where just about everything is catered to tourists, authentic experiences are hard to come by. Even local markets have jacked-up prices, as do local tuk tuks, which are usually the cheapest way to get around in Thai cities. On that note, public transportation is basically non-existent in Phuket, so if you have to get around, take a metered taxi.