Phuket is Pronounced “Poo-cat”

As hard as it was to say goodbye to Tonsai and all my new friends there, I had to move on to the next destination. I’d already overstayed my intended visit by about a week, and if I didn’t leave I wouldn’t have been able to dedicate an entire week to the Buddhist Monastery in the north before meeting up with my friend to go frolicking through Laos together. As it turns out, a lot of my friends were leaving the day after me, so it was less like I was leaving everyone behind and more like I was just excusing myself from the table early. Grischa made one last effort to convince me to stick around as he was going to stay in Tonsai another month, but the ticket had already been bought and there are no refunds in Thailand.

While I was slacklining a few days prior, I’d met a couple of older Korean-American women and we got to comparing our travel plans; we found that we had similar itineraries meandering towards Chiang Mai in the north. One of them had decided she enjoyed climbing too much to go, so the other was planning to fly to Chiang Mai on her own. Since going over land would have eaten even further into my dwindling schedule, I decided to join the Korean leaving for Chiang Mai by flying out from Phuket. We took a relatively quick ferry (about 3 hours) from Tonsai for 650 baht and had a few hours to kill in Phuket before our evening flight to Phuket.

As popular as Phuket is for foreign travelers, this isn’t a story about how I fell in love with a new aspect of Thailand. Quite the contrary, Phuket is such a stark contrast to the backpacker, dirtbagging lifestyle to which I’d grown so accustomed in Tonsai, I felt immediately uncomfortable, and even sorry for the hordes of vacationers we passed by, sunning themselves on the beach or waddling from one meal to the next. I can understand that vacation is a time to relax and be free to do whatever you want, even to do nothing at all. I’ve definitely had my lizard-under-a-rock moments, and enjoyed them quite immensely. But to travel halfway around the world to do nothing against a different backdrop? I just can’t rationalize the expense.

We had a mediocre lunch that had me missing Tonsai even more, then we ventured out to one of the more popular beaches in town and gawked at the hordes of oddly-shaped, pasty, sunburnt bodies cowering under endless rows of umbrellas or wading through the shallow and contemptible surf. Whatever character this beach might have had was replaced by European tourists doing their best to produce a little melanin in their skin. The closest thing to fun I saw was an overpriced parasailing ride, but I was pretty sure this scene was just as depressing from the sky as it was at ground level. Perhaps worse.

We had a few hours to spare but we both agreed that we’d seen all of Phuket we cared to and hailed an expensive cab for the airport. At 400 baht, the 40-minute ride to the inconveniently located airport was almost as expensive as our ferry ride that morning. I couldn’t wait to get away from this tourist trap, and I’m going to do my best to never return.

I’m sure there are some redeeming qualities to Phuket that I overlooked in my brief visit, but to be honest, I don’t have the money or the patience to find them for myself. If you disagree with my assessment, let me know in the comments below.