Can tourists expect to find something new when they visit Patong, Karon or Kata? Phuketwan offers a user's guide:
WHAT'S different this high season about Patong, Karon and Kata, we asked.
''My four-year-old daughter used to chase tiny crabs across Patong beach but there are not so many to chase now,'' one friend said.
''No worries to get a Patong resort room at the last minute, no worries to get a flight at the last minute, one thousand more apartments empty and waiting to be sold, Carrefour has 50 different french cheeses, taxi prices are still the same despite oil being half the price since August.
''You still can not get a parking space, and there are still too many Indian tailors being rude to guests when they do not buy.''
That came from resort doyen and longtime Phuket resident Wolfgang Meusberger, of the Holiday Inn.
IF PHUKET has a heart, then it's Patong. But as everyone knows, Patong has no heart. It's a heartbreak town.
That's probably said as a joke but often, there's an element of truth in every good laugh.
Down the road at Kata, a big new restaurant, Phileas Fogg, is due to open this weekend, and another, the Oasis, will follow the week after.
Soon it will be early December and time for the annual King's Cup Regatta.
At Karon the high season party begins on November 5 with the international women's beach volleyball tournament over five days. (the start has been delayed.)
The new Mali Waterfront on the lagoon is open, and so are the even newer beachfront restaurants nearby.
Opposite the restaurants, which are good value compared to Patong (spaghetti bolognese 90 baht, banana shake 80 baht) there will be a Loy Kratong fair from November 3 until November 12, 10am to midnight.
Rawai is holding a Loy Kratong celebration too, under the night sky by Nai Harn Lake from November 9-13. Another Loy Kratong fair will be held at Saphan Hin in Phuket City from November 9-12.
Biggest change at Karon is still on the way: the huge Centara Resort now being built at the northern end, right on the beach, four storeys high and likely to cost a billion baht.
The wonderful lonely walks that can be undertaken at this end of the beach will not be lonely for much longer.
For the time being, the competition at the new restaurants is so intense that neighboring owners call out to passersby, and give a free serve of fruit following meals.
Compared to Patong, it's heavenly.
Beyond the temporary volleyball stadium on the sand, we found the Kata Villa, actually sandwiched between Karon and Kata, setting the standard for marketing for other small resorts.
The Kata Villa has a couple of huge signs up now advertising accommodation and food, too. Staff hand out envelopes with a CD, a brochure, and a special deal on their Beach Box to Go.
Not only do you get a beach towel provided, but for 100 baht you can also have a selection of delicious sounding sandwiches and french fries.
The November rate for a double room, with garden swimming pool and Karon beach metres away, is 1050 baht a night, rising to 1850 for January/February.
For a small resort, we think they deserve an award for marketing excellence. Others will need that kind of gung-ho enterprise to survive in 2009.
Over the hill in Kata, right under the tsunami warning tower near the Kata Beach Resort, we found the appealing-looking Phileas Fogg restaurant. It's due to open this weekend.
The Fogg is big enough for 65 people and we haven't see many places that are better decorated. If only they can get the water and power on in time. . .
A little bit further down the beach, the new beachfront Oasis at the Boathouse is due to open on November 6, in time for the yachtie armada's invasion in December.
As for Patong . . . well at one end of the beach road, the Seagull Luxe apartments deluxe are about to open, with squirly surf all over the see-through bathrooms, and at the other end, stretching a long, long way, are the Jee Tang Residences, all in white.
Around the middle, there is some irony in Patong's new beachfront five-star resort, La Flora, having a Starbuck's on one side and a McDonald's on the other.
Still, business at the new resort has been brisk ever since the doors opened.
Around the corner in Soi Bangla, there's another McDonald's and another Starbucks, and further up near Ocean, a KFC.
Oh Soi Bangla, what's to become of you? (Our tip: trendised, gentrified, and suitable for general exhibition.)
Jungceylon, the popular suburban shopping mall with a That's Siam souvenir market downstairs and a new IT section upstairs, seems to be draining some of the life from nearby local markets.
One visitor to the OTOP shops opposite the new Courtyard by Marriott, which is due to open soon, along with a Hard Rock Cafe, reported a ''degree of desperation'' for a sale there.
We guess that means people were clawing, yelling and screaming to get your attention, pretty much the way the vendors always have done in Patong.
Getting a decent, reasonably priced feed in Patong has never been easy, but the Loma Park food court was always pretty good for taste and value.
Now it is still being renovated behind green screens, and the businesses have move to temporary quarters outside the Muslim cemetery, where dining tourists stretch on down the pavement day and night for what seems like 100 metres.
But Khun Wolfgang is right, as usual.
The biggest change in Patong is the number of condos going up.
The hill to the south near Simon Cabaret is being turned into the Montrakira, with villas as well as condos.
Lower down, where the main road swings towards Patong beach, there are 25 apartment blocks, each one presold to Bangkok investors, we were told, and a large sign now advertises a shopping centre.
Behind Jungceylon, on the back road, condo block under construction follows condo block under constrution. It has to be seen to be believed.
But make sure you are in a four-wheel drive: the road is mostly dirt and difficult going. Gumboots are essential.
Past us came a pickup with the audio system touting at full volume. ''Bangla Suites! Buy a condo today, share ownership! Prices start at . . . ''
Yes, if Patong does have a heart, it's probably on the back of that pickup.
We would have asked Phuket's marine biologists about the number of crabs on Patong beach, and whether the turtles will ever come back.
But they are probably busy, chasing box jellyfish.