Living in Old Patong, the visitors to the island were mosty northern Europeans in the early 80’s. As word got out of the wonderful beaches, inexpensive lodgings, great seafood of southern Thailand, the travel industry , even Lonely Planet didn’t know of Phuket.
Friends and relatives that hadn’t been to South East Asia, particularly Thailand would often tell me that I was in great danger and that it was foolish to take my wife to a “WAR ZONE”!
Nothing could have been further from the truth! The Land Of Smiles was NOT Laos, Cambodia, Burma or Viet Nam!!! We’d giggle when these know-it-alls would ramble on about what they knew of “them foreigners”…:-)
Sadly, the same kind of talk is STILL going on these days, you think with the rapid flow of information on-line, this stupidly would dry up, but as they say “bad news travels fast”.
A few ex military westerners had heard of the sunny isles while on R&R in Bangkok or Pattaya during the 70’s, but most of those seekers of girls n booze never got past a weeklong drunk in Krung Thep.
Sweden was represented at Scandia Bungalows, the first real ExPat lodging on Patong Beach.
Run by “Papa Jorgen” he’d married a local beauty a few years before and his 12 little rooms were let out by the day, month, short term or longterm, depending on the needs of the lodgers, even short time…:-)
At the time, the monsoon season was a desparate and empty block of months where there were few tourist, some Nickerman type bus loads at the big Patong Beach Hotel, but these were true tourist, ala “4 countries in 4 days” types that weren’t around long enough to do much more than go to the beach a day or two, most didn’t even venture away from the hotel pool.
Papas Scandia was often full of happy, frolicking Swedes, a Singha in hand, running up and down the almost empty beaches. These band of northern gypsies were always easy going, never started any trouble and could be relied on to behave themselves their entire stay, often for months at a time. These folks spent freely and the locals adored them.
The other bungalows along southern Patong Beach were mostly filled with Brits/Aussies, some Yanks.
Towards the center of the beach, along Patong Beach Bungalows were mostly teutonic crowd,they never stayed for over a week, but they drank the beach dry and were not immune to trouble. “Some” didn’t treat the girls all that well, trying to welch out on payments,etc, but the local lasses proved more than able to fend for themselves, many had boyfriends made up of Patongs finest.
The travelers/backpackers tended to be the least offensive of the new group of sun seekers. They mostly found the 20-50baht rooms to their liking, they didn’t ask for much and they certainly could make a deutch mark/english pound stretch for weeks at a time this way. Many would make little fires on the beach to cook fish they’d bought from local fisherman. Tents could be seen along the southern end of the beach.
The ExPats were more of the permanent party of various parts of Old Patong,living in the small Muslim village of Kalim on north Patong bay, to Baan Nam Sai Yen to the extreme east of Patong beach, behind the rice paddy,where the herds of water buffalo roamed by night and by afernoon, the heat of the mostly rubber tree planted mountain jungle forced them onto the wide, long beaches of Patong, where the packs of wild/domesticated hounds plagued them up and down the beach and finally back into the paddy behind the newly increasing bundle of misshapen bungalows along the beach.
Many of the ExPats bought motorcycles, a few pickup trucks, maybe a VW dunebuggy or beetle at most. The rents were even less in the villages and these areas were full of kind locals that kept an eye on the newcomers, but on the whole, village life was sedate compared to the non stop never close beach life.
As the early years rolled by, word of the wonders of Ao Patong got out and the tourist/travelers/ExPats increased to the point where there was no “off season”[monsoon]anymore. ALL the bungalows/hotel rooms were often booked, atleast during the high season/NewYears time full throttle with backpackers going from bungalow to bungalow looking for those 20-50baht rooms and soon finding that what rooms were available were now about 150-300 baht per day.
But, there were still other beaches on Phuket Island! Kata, Kata Noi, NaiHarn, Karon and Karon Noi all were thrivingly building non stop, many of the old hands moved south from Patong Beach where rents and attitudes tended to be even more casual!