Catching a local bus from Phuket Town to the beach in Patong was probably one of the most authentic experiences I have had whilst in Thailand. The bus is used not only by tourists, but locals as well. It has no windows and no air-conditioning and is absolutely packed, to beyond capacity, with people from all walks of life.
We were among the first people to hop on the bus and so sat down on one of the of the padded bench seats situated on each side of the bus, as well as there being one in the middle. The openness of the bus created a decent airflow and I remember thinking that for 20 Baht (less than $1 AUD) per person, for a half an hour ride, this wasn’t too bad. But, that was before more and more people kept piling on. The locals were yelling at the tourists to move over and to invade the personal space of those around us, and so after a lot of shuffling, off we went on our journey. It didn’t matter that the bus was already squashed full of people, if there was someone waiting at the next stop, the driver would pull over and we would all somehow squish even closer together to accommodate the next passenger. I had the delightful experience of being sardined beside a lovely Lithuanian man, who unfortunately had a cold and couldn’t stop sneezing (ick!!), and a local lady who had bags full of empty, dirty water bottles and cans, that were sticking to my leg, as well as having Rory perched on my knees. But as uncomfortable as this may sound, it was an experience that I actually enjoyed.
Arriving in Patong was a different story all together. The beach was beautiful, more so than any I had the pleasure of viewing in Bali. But the whole touristy vibe in this beach town was not for me. The restaurants were all far too expensive, every second person on the street or beach wanted to sell me something and it all looked (at the risk of sounding like a ‘wanker-traveller’) so commercial…man. There was nothing that seemed in fitting with the Thai culture at all. This difference seemed especially stark having come from Phuket Town, full of locals, with all of the lovely inter-connected buildings individually painted various shades of pastels that lined the cobble-paved footpaths.
And so after a swim in the lovely warm, blue, waters and a quick sunbathe on the soft, yellow sand it was back onto the bus, to get up close and personal with some new people, before heading to the local Sunday night markets of Phuket Town. And wow. Just wow. It was like no other night market that I had ever experienced. Holding onto Rory’s hand, to keep him safe, almost seemed insufficient. In the absolutely clogged up, people filled road, one wrong move, a fall to the ground and I could imagine being completely trampled on. But again this was what travelling was all about. Keeping yourself safe, of course, but stepping out of that comfort zone, away from the familiar, and trying something new. And that, we did! Cups of corn, fried mushrooms, interesting looking crepes, bright orange drinks that were apparently pure orange juice… We tried everything that fitted into our restrictive eating habits and filled our tummies to the brim whilst spending very little money.
The chaos, the abundance of food stalls and the music all combined to make for one buzzing and entertaining evening. There really wasn’t a dull moment to be had at this market. Or really, anytime so far, whilst in Phuket Town. While this place was not always so lively or crowded there was usually something going on in this wonderful little town and I was loving it all…. possibly a little too much and I am not sure I really, ever, wanted to leave!
xx Travelling Fresh