By the early 80’s Old Patong was gathering a strong expat community.
Most of Patong Beach was little more than a 5 kilometer stretch of coconut plantation with Sea View Bungalow on the south end and Patong Beach Bungalows near the middle of the beach at what is now just north of Soi Bangla[Bar Road].
Beyond to the south was jungle, a small path leading to Karon Noi, which later became Relax Bay, which is now the site of a large French hotel-resort.
To the east, a two kilometer wide rice paddy, partially cultivated.
To the north after Patong Beach Bungalow was a graveyard and a path that led northward to Governors Bay, AO Kamala.
The majority of bungalows were Thai owned and operated, but by the 80’s, expats had made inroads into operating or “controlling” various bungalow properties mostly along the beach from Soi Bangla[Bar Road]to Sea View Bungalow.
Life then was laid back and s l o w!
The highlight of the day was in the extreme heat of the late afternoon when the water buffaloes would saunter a few kilometers westward, out of the rice paddy and nearby village of Bann Sai Nam Yen and end up walking from the north end of the beach, all the way south along the sand and then disappearing back into the jungle to the east around sundown.
Sometimes the huge gray black creatures could be found wandering thru the various bungalow area to the fear of the tourist nearby and occasionaly could and would suddenly get spooked and end up knocking over a heavy laden motorbike, those unfortunate to be on the bike, in the buffaloes immeadiate area learned to either slow down, STOP IMMEADIATELY or suffer the wrath of the big horned beast!
The usual pack of semi-wild dogs that seemed to inhabit ALL the leg area under tables, beach chairs, porches,etc would look almost like they were trying to heard the bulls on the beach, but then again, anyone that has been anywhere in the Kingdom knows these dogs just run with the pack and their frenzy annoys one and all, including the buffaloes.
At one time, the majority of land which was across the street from the beach was owned by “The Old Lady, a Khun Hearn, believed to be her nephew or relative was the guy all the bungalows paid.
Evidently “The Old Lady” was advancing in age and was actually selling longer leases, with which she would then donate large sums of baht to the local Wat,garnering merit. I don’t think anyone other these few Thais actually “owned” anything, but the leases seemed to be gaining popularity as the expats and locals started their mini-boom of restaurants, bars and the Thai favorite, “The Gift Shop”.
Many of “The Gift Shops” were run by girl friend/wives of various expats and locals.
All gift shops were similar: tee shirts were their main commodity, a fellow in the village had learned silk screening and tee shirts with anything that could be printed were popular with the tourist.
In addition to mozzie coils, sun lotions, flashlight batteries, film, flip flops and SARONGS fill the little shops. Smokes and Mehkong rounded out the rest. Most of the shops would open about 9am and depending on customers, may never close again.
Business in Old Patong was starting to get VERY good!
Once Soi Bangla[Bar Road]opened, mainly to appease all the beach shacks that had been BULLDOZED the year before, considered “squatters on the Kings land”, two or three little “bar sois” immeadiately sprang up, which brought a inkling of things to come.
One store, 5 restaurants, 4 food stalls/carts, a bakery, beauty shop,at first just a few bars, the ever popular “Kangaroo Bar” which had an abundance of Aussies, the beer was cold[and often they RAN OUT], the Michler Bar, the very first katoy show bar in Phuket[the locals finally make them pull the tarps down during nightly “shows’, an “art” gallery, real Thai artist would paint your recent photos into stunning[fairly decent]oil painting for a less than 500 baht and of course on the corner of Soi Bangla[Bar Road]& Patong Beach Rd on the southwest side was the famous “Lada Bar”, which was run by Lada, the Tina Turner of Patong Beach.
Just down the beach road from Bar Road little shops were starting to embed into the coconut groves. Post Office Soi was popular with little shops and cafes. A motor bike rental popped up infront of the big Patong Beach Hotel, a few SCUBA dive shops kept the local fishermans boats full with tours to the nearby coves and bays, some as far west as the Similan Islands, Patong Patty and I were often offered free travel on these cruises, but there was a little too much booze in the veins of the peaceful fishermen[by day, by night..pirates]for us to ever venture farther than a windsurfer could take us over Ao Patong.
Old Patong, where everyday was a holiday and if it wasn’t a holiday, then it WAS a party…:-)
During these early years, as things were starting to hop, there was still that feeling of just another lazy day on the beach.
A big batch of King prawns from No 1, a few Thai Garden Lemonades and the time would just fly by…