The heat hits you like a slap in the face as you walk out of Phuket airport. Thai men are lined up along the airport pick up area all vying for your attention, “Where are you going miss? I take you there!” Luckily, I had received the best piece of advice I’ve needed to date from my friend Moff – keep your head down and walk straight to the metered taxis! Finding the whole scene so hectic and surreal I tried to reason with the men, “Sorry I have a ride already.”
“Who with?” they replied.
“I am going to take a metered taxi”
“There are none!” a particularly brazen man pointed to a stand that had ‘Taxi Meter’ emblazoned across the top, which to my horror had a sign ‘No Taxis’.
“I’m just going to go talk to him and come back ok” and I wandered away. Arriving at the stand I inquired, “are there really no taxis?!’
‘Where you going’ the man replied so fast I could hardly understand him.
“Patong” and I showed him the address.
“500 baht! You wait!”
And so I waited about twenty minutes by the taxi stand taking in my surroundings. Others were doing the same as me, some having the luck I did and others being turned away for unapparent reasons as it seems I wasn’t the only ones having the language problems with the fast-talking taxi-dealer.
The window of the taxi stand was roughly pushed open “Miss your taxi two minutes away! Go now!” Being said incredibly fast so I can only assume this is what was said.
Getting in the air conditioned taxi was like finding heaven on earth. The heat in Phuket at even 8:30pm was incredible, and such a dry heat that I could feel my clothes sticking to me immediately.
My taxi driver was all smiles but unfortunately spoke little English. I was disappointed as I was hoping he would double as a tour guide as I took in Phuket through the window. He did try though and pointed out things he thought I would be interested in, “Shopping Outlet” he said gesturing eagerly, followed by “Sea Pearl Resort” for which the entrance was quite magnificent set against the run down surrounds we were driving through. I followed up with an obligatory “ohhh, wow” and he was pleased with himself. There was a huge billboard for a Fantasea show and my tour guide pointed and said “Show!”, “Good show?” I replied. “Yes, good show” (I have since been warned by another friend that this is not the case). This was the extent of our conversation, although it was a blessing in disguise; I was exhausted from a day of traveling and trying to take in everything I could.
The cars are the king of the roads, swerving and ignoring lanes and speed limits. My heart only stopped about three times – I take this to mean my taxi driver was a good driver. Scooters outnumber the cars and have their own lanes – they are chaotic, and many, each with anywhere between one and four (probably more) passengers, and some with so much cargo that I wouldn’t have thought would fit in a car let alone a scooter. Some of the locals didn’t wear helmets and I shook my head – they must have more luck than me on those things.
For a Monday night there were people everywhere. It appears Phuket, especially Patong, never sleeps – it is a lady (boy) of the night and through it’s boisterous charm and smiling, friendly people it has utterly seduced me.
*Meter taxi to Patong Terrace Boutique Hotel was quoted as 500 baht and ended up costing 312 Baht. Knowing that tipping is customary but still getting used to the currency I still paid 500 Baht and was offered no change, although satisfied with the drive I decided to let it slide.