I hated Patong before I ever saw it. Everything I read online painted it as the epitome of a tourist-filled wasteland. My friends told me it was gross, seedy, and not their cup of tea. The Thai people I asked all shook their head and said “I don’t like Patong. Too busy.”
But, I decided to go anyways.
I was meeting up with two Finnish girls, Judith and Kata, that I’d met at a beach clean-up. We would be celebrating Judith’s birthday. I waited for them under the huge, neon WELCOME TO PATONG BEACH sign. It was a horrible place to stand because everyone was taking pictures of it and now I’m probably in a fuckload of Facebook albums and Instagram photos. All around me, party music blared, lights flashed, and touts tried to sell me on ping pong sex shows, drink specials, and Thai boxing events. Patong is, in every way, the complete opposite of quiet, local Thalang where I am living. Thank god for that, but it was fascinating to see such a busy, technicolor candyland for adults. I looked over and saw Western children heading down Bangla Road with their parents and even a couple pushing a stroller in. You want to show your kids some “culture”, cool, but a baby?! There’s gotta be something in the child rearing books about that being a no-no.
Once the girls showed up, we grabbed beers at a convenience store because they were only 50 baht. At most of the Bangla road bars, they are at least double that. We spent most of our time drinking on the street, hiding from the downpour that struck suddenly, and I enjoyed people-watching. I expected to see an epic shit show around me, but it was the same kind of buzzing, but not exactly full throttle, party scene I’ve seen in most touristy areas of Asia, like the backpacker district of Ho Chi Minh and Khao San Road in Bangkok.
We went into a bar that had a live band and singers covering Top 40 hits and they were surprisingly talented. I loved dancing in my seat to Uptown Funk and Bad Blood and cheering for Judith when they took her onstage to sing Happy Birthday. Bar girls tried to sell me fake syringe shots and ladyboys were dressed in sequin outfits outside, but it all felt weirdly normal (I may have been living in Asia for too long). Afterwards, we went to a club that offered 3 free drinks and free entrance. I danced my ass off with the girls, yet after chatting with a British guy, who asked me within one minute of meeting, “Do you want to kiss?,” (good one, dude) I decided to go.
Patong is everything they say it is, but do I hate it? Not at all. It may be a hedonistic cesspool, but it doesn’t try to hide it. Patong is everything you think it will be and it’s fun to check out and experience. Is it an area I’ll be spending most of my time in? Definitely not, as I’m not wanting to spend that kind of money and I’m not so into clubs or free shots anymore. I’d rather hang out in more local bars or drink by the beach, but if anyone comes to visit, I’ll have to take them to Patong. They’ll hate it.