PHUKET: Participants in popular online forums indicate that long-time expatriate residents of Phuket tend to decry the changes that have transformed the island over the past two decades, yet fail to appreciate many of the positive developments that have taken place over the same period.
In this space since 1994, we have chronicled, criticized and editorialized – often in futility – about the ongoing, poorly-regulated “development” of the island.
While we are committed to keeping our esteemed readers informed about issues that continue to degrade the island’s increasingly urban landscape, we would also be remiss not to recognize some of the positive aspects associated with these changes.
Perhaps one of the best “reality checks” in this regard arises when the time comes to answer first-time visitors to the island who ask the simple, yet loaded, question: “So what is there to do here?”
Twenty years ago the answer would have been simple: hang out by the beach, enjoy a cold beer and the scenery, and perhaps take part in what was then a nascent nightlife scene.
Fast forward to 2013 and the same question is of almost the same complexity as the query: “What is the meaning of life?”
Apart from Winter Olympic sports, there is very little that is not “on the menu” in Phuket these days.
Gastronomes can enjoy not only the best Thai cuisine, but a range of authentic international fare unrivaled in any resort destination in the world: Russian, Korean, Japanese, Italian… the list is virtually endless.
“Range” is the operative word here, and it applies to far more than food and beverage. In terms of accommodation, Phuket has everything to meet the needs of visitors, who range from backpackers to criminals on the lam, and all the way to international celebrities seeking a private getaway retreat.
If there is another resort destination that can host a Gay Pride Week back-to-back with a Big Bike Week, all coming off the world-renowned Songkran Festival, we would like to know about it.
Where else can US servicemen come for “shore leave” and walk side-by-side with Muslim families from the Middle East and bus loads of Chinese package tourists, with no known reports of hostility there among?
Apart from the nightlife possibilities, which are too diverse to mention in this space, the recreational attractions are almost endless. From golfing to go-carting, bungy jumping to boogie boarding, there are few pursuits Phuket cannot accommodate.
The opening of the Thanyapura resort complex in Thalang has also established Phuket as one of the few locations in the world where top-class athletes and national sports teams can come and focus on training with first-class accommodations.
Yes, Phuket has it all – with one notable exception. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, all the island needs is a safe, reasonably-priced public transport system to tie the whole thing together as a perfect tourist destination package.
Authorities: please take note – and take action.