Fresh-off-the-boat? Welcome to Phuket! Enjoy the sunny weather, the turquoise water, the bright smiles. Oh, and brace yourself. New things are coming your way, things that take some getting used to.
It’s this part of beachside-living that hotel, real estate and what-not marketing experts fail to mention in their colourful folders and ads – sand in your shoes, your hair, your bed. There’s plenty of white sand on Phuket beaches, but facilities to wash it off your feet, not to mention full swing showers, are few and far between, which means you will carry it in your car, on your body and back to your Phuket lodging. Better get yourself a broom or a vacuum cleaner.
It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. If you live in Phuket and have a garden, sooner or later you will encounter a snake there. Don’t panic – it’s a very common occurrence and help is on the way – that is if you call it. Before you do, make sure that the snake is actually dangerous – for example by snapping its picture and posting it on one of numerous Phuket-focused Facebook groups. Chances are, you’re dealing with nothing more than a harmless, and beautiful, Tree Snake or other such innocent creature. But just in case you were honoured with a visit of a King Cobra, remain wary and once your suspicions are confirmed, give the Kusoldharm Rescue Foundation a call on 076-246301 or 076-246599 – they will take care of your serpent problem.
There are two separate coffee universes in Phuket – one belongs in trendy, airconditioned cafes where Italian style coffee is served, the other – on the streets where Thai-style coffee and tea rule supreme. In the former, sugar is an extra that you add yourself, in the latter though, your coffee will come sweetened not only with sumptuous amounts of white crystals but also with condensed sweet milk. Therefore, even if you ask for unsweetened coffee, your daily dose of caffeine will probably arrive with some dose of uninvited sweetness in it. The problem is, sometimes both those universes overlap, so if you really detest sugar in your coffee, make sure to mention it even in some of those trendy airconditioned cafes.
The case of chili is very much like the case of sugar – you might nor ask for it but you will probably still get some, that is if you dine locally. What to do? Best – get used to it, especially that Thai food actually tastes better when it’s spicy and once your spiciness tolerance threshold increases, you will start adding red hot chili peppers to other, non-Thai dishes as well.
You use the ATM, grab the cash and go…only to realize that you left your card behind. In many other countries, this problem does not exist, as the bank machine first releases your bank card, and only then your precious cash. In Thailand, however, it’s the other way around – first you get your money and only then your card, which is a recipe for disaster. So either get used to it or get used to visiting your bank branch and applying for new ATM cards.
Not sure if you actually can get used to them, but there you have it – half naked tourists away from the beach are a pretty common sight in Phuket. Riding bikes without t-shirts, shopping in supermarkets wearing only swimming trunks…some of us get very annoyed by this behaviour – though I have a feeling that it’s mostly foreigners, Thais seem to be less bothered or manage to keep a straight face. So, if you don’t want to be regularly annoyed in Phuket, better get used to this site.
If you drive in Phuket, or even if you’re just trying to cross the road, for their and your own safety sake – get used to the fact, that bikes are as common on Phuket roads as trees in a forest. They zoom all around, often against the traffic, at times on the sidewalks, frequently carrying more passengers than it seems possible. Keep your eyes open for bikes at all times.
You can be lucky and be done with your quick 7Eleven run in an instant – just grab that footlong cheese and red bull, pay and be on your way. But it’s also very likely that you’ll drop by the popular convenience store when a Chinese tour group descends on it and then you can forget about leaving quickly. If you’re not in a rush, enjoy the free lesson on dealing with cultural difference and overcoming language barriers. Thai staff are amazing at it!
Phuket roads are narrow, tour buses are massive, you do the math. Eventually, you will get stuck in traffic behind a tour bus, and eventually, you will get used to it. Just get over it because overtaking it, going uphill’s and on a curve, is not a good idea.
Phuket police don’t bother hiding with speed cameras in the bushes or driving around the island in unmarked vehicles, chasing traffic offenders. Instead, they simply block the road and catch everyone. While we have our doubts if this is an effective technique of traffic violations prevention, it certainly is an effective way of fines collection.
At first, they are a striking reminder of the tragedy that hit the island on the Boxing Day of 2004. But after a while, you will get used to the omnipresent “Tsunami Escape Route” road signs. Just in case, keep the location of the nearest higher ground in the back of your mind.
When you see them for the first time, you will probably find them fascinating; after a while, you might find them just noisy and annoying in the way they block the traffic; eventually, you will get used to them and treat them as just another element of Phuket’s vibrant landscape.
For most, Phuket is a holiday destination, but for many, it’s a triathlon sweet spot, with fantastic hilly and curvy roads for cycling and running and the sea and well as man-built facilities for swimming. So get used to the site of roads cyclists in full gear scaling those steep Phuket hills – they’ll make your morning jog look like a walk in a park.
Living in Phuket, you’ll have plenty of guests – that’s just the way itis when one’s home is in a world-famous holiday destination. So prepare yourself for numerous visits to the same Phuket attraction – Big Buddha, Wat Chalong, Old Phuket Town, Prom Thep Viewpoint and others. It’s funny how impressive they once were and how mundane they’ve become.
Those fancy hotels, condos and villas don’t build themselves. It’s hard to imagine Phuket's property sector without the pillar of migrant – mostly Burmese – labour. And while the migrant workers are often building luxury residences in Phuket, they themselves often live in slum-like conditions. Corrugated iron sheets, heat, filth – a visit to one of the migrant workers' camps can be an eye-opening experience. But after a while, you’ll get used to it, and maybe even make some friends in the Burmese community and visit them for occasions such as Thingyan – the Burmese New Year.
I know, it’s something one should never get used to – yet it’s kind of impossible not to when depressing stories about holidaymakers who, having ignored the “No Swimming” red flag, meet his fate in one of Phuket’s infamous rip currents are so common in local news. But while you might get used to this kind of morbid stories, don’t ever get used to the idea of swimming in Phuket during monsoon season – better safe than sorry.
For a list of things to avoid in Phuket click here