Old Patong: mid 80’s change is in the air

The mid 80’s saw Patong Beach drastically change, what was once a sleepy, dirt road village by the sea started to grow like a weed!

Little Relax Bay only a few kicks southeast of Patong Bay was gobbled up and made into the new Le Meridian Resort, an ideal spot, but the old bungalows were quickly torn down and the new resort was HUGE! Just one of many new mega-resorts that would cut into the once pristine beaches of Phuket Island.

Next, Club Med built their rectangle shaped units on the wide beach at Kata. They managed to upset most of the locals and even tourist when they “decided” that the dirt road that ran between their units and the beach was now…theirs.

They quickly tore the road up, making it practically unusable by even motorbikes, often watering it into a rich slurry of mud, local trucks, buses and others made a big fuss when this happened, as usual, it took about 2 yrs for things to die down and the road flooding stopped.

Funny, Club Med, then referred to by most of the locals as “Club Dead” told their visitors that it “might not be safe to venture past the official Club Med compound” and that food and health beyond their gates could be a problem!

About this time, a giant ship started visiting Patong Bay, it even had a hilocopter on it! At the time, private choppers were not allowed in the Kingdom, but the owner of this mega-ship evidently was a famous billionaire who would soon develope the once pristine coconut groves just to the north in Kamala bay.

Just south of the airport, which now had direct flights from Japan,etc was a new, bigger resorts built on the steep hills by the sea there, Armin Puri? or something like that.

These new mega-resorts quickly had the trickle down theory working great on all the beaches on Phuket island.

Where before you could always get a little bungalow on the beach for about 50baht, short term rate or 25-40baht long term rate, with the mega-resorts charging up to 10,000 baht per day, ALL the smaller bungalow places suddenly started charging 2-3 times what they charged just the season before…:-(

Progress had come to Old Patong, the front beach dirt road was paved, bar road[Soi Bangla]was paved.

All these new paved roads did was incite those on motorbikes or cars or trucks or ANY bus to travel as fast as the machine was capable of! Before, when the tourist or locals would go out of control on a bike, occassionally hitting one of those “moving” coconut trees, a water buffalo or dog, usually just minor road rash was absorbed by the unlucky riders, after the road was paved and speeds SKY ROCKETED, death and danger greeted those on the road, whether on a bike, truck[we already know the driver ran away after the various wrecks]or the most unfortunate pedestrian who just wanted to walk across the street to the beach, this could and DID lead to death in Old Patong!

As business greatly increased during the mid 80’s, motorcycles of ALL sizes and shapes could be rented by anyone who had the baht! Many were the days where we drove slowly by a bike wreck, where the owner was shaking down the renter for new parts, often at exorbinate prices, this happened daily!

Soi Bangla[bar road]actually painted little marks on each side of the road where motorbikes could park. This became comical at times, when for some reason or the other, one side of the street or other was illeagal to park! You never really know what was going on in those days, but if you saw ALL the bikes parked on one side, you parked there. Stiff fines were giving to offenders of the newly installed parking codes, which seem to change at will.

Occassionally, Patongs finest would check to see if the tourists had “drivers licenses”, we bought some little piece of paper that was called “International Drivers Licnese” for around 100baht and just left on The Spirt Of Patong, funny, we were NEVER asked to show it!

Once in a blue moon, HELMET wearing was inforced, but the 10years we road the roads of Phuket, we never wore one! Having a unit with 3 wheels kept us out of the usual, stop and the bike falls over thingee!

Just north of Soi Bangla[bar road]they put in a little strip of booze shacks. I believe you could lease one for 500baht per month, these little ghetto blastered huts were identical, all had very LOUD stereos, all playing DIFFERENT music, they became very popular with those staying around all the new bungalows on that part of the beach.

We knew various owners/workers at most of the shacks, some were just funny expats that “thought” they were buying their Singha at discount, but atleast it was delivered! Many of these proprietors lived on little mats under the bar after the place closed each night, course, some of the places NEVER closed. It usually was an extremely noisy area.

The good thing about these new little “bar sois” were that all the cool, good tasting noddle carts would congregate there! It was rare that I wouldn’t order some of that tastey dry-as-leather plamook! I loved the stuff, a few of our local pals would eat it, but mostly I was the on Farang that was seen eating this “fish jerky”!

Almost everything was available from the noodle carts, delicious thin buffalo bbq’d to perfection[sorta burnt], yummy shave iced treats, wonderful fruit drinks of all kinds[YES, even durian]and even bratworst! Patong Beach was becoming truely international by the mid 80’s, word had leaked out to the rest of the world and THRONGS of visitors were there ALL year around.

In the “old days” you could count on the monsoon season to be fairly quiet and prices were always decreased during this “off season”, well by the mid 80’s all that changed, bungalows were booked years ahead of time, it was funny to see some Euro-back packer wander from bungalow to bungalow looking for those 50baht rooms, that were now 250baht per day!

Many of the “cheap charlies” would end up at the other beaches, north and south of Patong where rates could be considerably[and still are]less expensive!

Sometimes Patong Patty and I would even go down to slow, laid back Karon beach for a few days when things were really busy in Patong!

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