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One-minute trip, 150 baht: A tourist points the finger at a tuk-tuk driver

Will This Photo Give Phuket Real Public Transport?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010
Phuketwan News Analysis

IS THIS the photograph that will start a revolution for Phuket's public transport? Let's hope so.

The picture shows Canadian tourist Ivan Bob Anwar, 51, identifying the tuk-tuk driver who gave him that cut eyebrow and cheek in a dispute about a fare this afternoon.

He was punched five times, he says. His nose is stuffed with gauze to stop the bleeding. He has had five stitches to his eyebrow. His holiday on Phuket has not been fun.

We understand Mr Anwar wanted to go from the Baramee Hotel in Patong to the Sunset Beach Resort in Kalim. The journey took one minute. The fare was 150 baht.

Mr Anwar apparently offered 100 baht, but that was not enough.

The driver, according to what police have been told, struck out at Mr Anwar, then took off in his tuk-tuk.

Phuketwan believes this photograph and the violent incident may start the process of change that must begin soon to bring urgently needed reform to public transport on Phuket.

Tuk-tuk fares on Phuket are extortionate. It is becoming apparent that if change does not come, more violence surely will follow.

Ridiculously high fares and a local monopoly on services have made the current system unworkable, yet this is the 21st century.

The man is from Krabi, although tuk-tuk groups on Phuket say they only employ local drivers.

The economic downturn means that the system cannot sustain an increasing number of tuk-tuks, yet that is what is happening.

As more people take to driving tuk-tuks and taxis, fewer tourists are coming to Phuket. Where is the logic in that?

Some people say the total number of tuk-tuks exceeds official figures by hundreds.

It's time for the Government of Thailand to give proper consideration to creating a workable public transport system on Phuket.

Do they want tourists to continue to come, or not? The answer, we think, is obvious.

It's time for public transport reforms on Phuket. This photograph may signal a fresh beginning.

The arrest of the tuk-tuk driver came as the climax to a dramatic afternoon that involved the island's police force in the hunt, with the Governor saying that the man had to be arrested, and that bail would not be granted.

Phuketwan covered the afternoon's events as they unfolded, providing about 40 ''live'' updates to the site, giving readers the news as it happened.
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Comments

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The Phuket Tuk Tuks are stronger than any Governor or government and tourists should try to avoid them for their own safety. Best to have their hotels find them reputable taxis instead.

Posted by Buck Wild on January 5, 2010 18:34

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This is not a solution, but every hotel putting a HUGE sign at the entrance saying "Don't use Tuk Tuks. We'll find you cheaper and safer transport" could help a little.

Now time to see if the Governor can be successful where so many before have failed. It's way past words. It's clear no other authorities on the Island have the desire to fix the problem... it's the Governor or more injured tourists.

Posted by Duncan on January 5, 2010 20:18

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More international travel warnings about Phuket and more pressure on the Bangkok government are needed.

Posted by Gerd on January 5, 2010 20:19

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Are embassies proactive, or reactive? You have to hope that one or two, with many visitors involved, will realise the inherent danger in the current situation, and urge action BEFORE their citizens are harmed.

There seems to be no turning back. More wounded tourists are likely, along with more pain for Phuket. Wise ambassadors do not usually let disasters happen.

Posted by Angelfire on January 5, 2010 21:12

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Has anybody informed travel agencies overseas to put a warning in their catalogues about using tuk-tuks on Phuket holidays?

Posted by No Name on January 5, 2010 22:57

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Hopefully this story might educate the tuk-tuk drivers to the power of the internet, but this is probably wishful thinking on my part.

An example of internet power would be a Chinese businesswoman friend of mine who travels independently. Earlier this year she stayed in Surin and decided to go into Patong for dinner.

She found it outrageous that she was forced to pay rude tuk-tuk drivers 650 baht each way for the trip in an uncomfortable vehicle, so she checked out of Phuket and went over to Krabi.

She loved Krabi and has been telling her online contacts to avoid Phuket and instead go across the bay, and people are taking her advice.

In this case, she is keeping the tourists in Thailand, albeit out of Phuket. in many other cases, however, the disgruntled (and some battered) tourists are strongly suggesting that Thailand be avoided completely.

This Governor seems to get it. Hopefully, his bosses in Bangkok will listen to him.

Posted by Treelover on January 6, 2010 06:53

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I've been to Phuket twice. I rented a car the first time and enjoyed it. The second trip I used taxis and hated the experience.

I advise all my friends not to visit Phuket until you have public transportation and metered taxis.

No point in going to Phuket, there are places that are just as nice that don't threaten violence or rip you off.

Don't go until things change.

Posted by Anonymous on January 6, 2010 18:11

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Thankfully I have never visited Phuket to experience the attitude of people like JJ and rude tuk tuk drivers. My advice is to check out the other less travelled but equally lovely beaches in neighboring Trang. The people there are some of the friendliest I have met - and no rip offs!

Posted by Anonymous on January 6, 2010 19:34

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Speaking as a Farang who has lived here for a good number of years, I advise my friends who were thinking of coming from abroad to avoid the place as it has become unsafe as a holiday destination and from what i see and hear around the Island it can only much worse.

Editor: Forgive me for saying so, but I think you are exaggerating the scale of the problem. Phuket remains an extremely pleasant place for a holiday. The vast majority of tourists who come here have a great holiday, and don't get into trouble. It's certainly time for the government to intervene and give Phuket a decent, reasonably priced public transport system.

Posted by Local on January 6, 2010 21:19

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Please PhuketWan, I strongly urge, in order to enhance this publication's reputation for journalistic integrity, editorial comments should refrain from... harsh indictments of reader comments and seek to only correct or clarify.

Editor: I wasn't aware that I'd harshly indicted any comments lately. Just as the vast majority of tourists to Phuket encounter no problems, so do most visitors to this site. I am always going to respond in an up-front way. Phuketwan has taken plenty of harsh criticism, often without complaint, and will continue to do so. But we welcome debate, not divisiveness, solutions, not pot-stirring. Bad ideas won't get too much air.

Posted by MediaWatcher2010 on January 7, 2010 08:00

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start treating thais in ur country as u get treated in phuket, you`ll get arrested!

Editor: Jojo, I get treated well in Phuket, and so do most people. Perhaps you mix with the wrong kind? The offensive race-based commentary in the second part of your comment has been cut.

Posted by jojo on January 7, 2010 15:33

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Phuketwan, you say "vast majority of tourists to Phuket encounter no problems" I think that is a false statement as the "vast majority" of visitors stay in Kata, Karon, or Patong, and the "vast majority" have to take TUK-TUKS because thier is not option. The vast majority may not get into a physical fight, but the "vast majority" know they are being taken advantage of and can't do anything about it, and a large number of them go onto travel sites and say so. I have advised my family NOT to come visit me in Phuket as PHUKET does not at the moment DESERVE tourist money.

Editor: We try not to make false statements, but we can't stop people from misinterpreting what we say. Problems equals encounters with the law or trips to hospital, anything that requires that kind of intervention. Everyone who takes a tuk-tuk is paying over the odds. Perhaps you've missed our calls for a reasonably priced public transport system? The best advice for achieving change is to lodge formal complaints with embassies. There is no evidence of any official ever taking action on the basis of what goes on travel sites.

Posted by me on January 8, 2010 17:52

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I see that there are so many tuk tuks in Patong now that they have to double park on each other which chokes off the roads to moving traffic.

The problem is nearly as bad as the island's termites, which people pay to control. With the tuk tuks, it's the opposite.

Posted by Brian on January 12, 2010 20:20

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What does it say about Thailand when the only time action is taken is when foreign embassies complain? It isn't their job to enforce existing laws, why would you demand it of them?

Until even the small laws are enforced, ( helmet rule, children driving motorcycles, speeding, etc., ) no one will respect the law. Stop spending money on cutting down mature indigenous trees, ( still can't get over that one..) or massive, two year old, unused buildings, pretty fencing , etc. etc. etc., and get more police, OR pay them a decent wage so they aren't so prime for corruption.

Posted by HorseDoctor on January 13, 2010 10:19

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Just come back from Phuket: Airport-Patong by taxi meter 400 baht, Patong-Kata by tuk tuk 400 baht, Same fare. The airport is very far and Kata very close, but we don't have a choice!!!

Posted by Anonymous on January 13, 2010 17:32

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How does the editor know that the vast majority of tourists face no "problems" on Phuket? Are there any statistics?

Once a year, I spend a week or so on Phuket (and usually do not leave the hotel), but after I relaxed enough, I go to Krabi, Phang Nga or Satun, rent a car or a motorcycle and explore Southern Thailand.

Editor: If you define a ''problem'' as being an event involving the intervention of police or the need for medical treatment, the vast majority of tourists face no ''problems.'' Statistics are supplied for arrivals and departures by air. Some embassies supply statistics about ''problems'' that their citizens experience in Thailand. The vast majority (99 percent plus plus) experience no problems. Indeed, many of them have such a good time that they keep coming back. It's a very hospitable country with plenty to see and do.

Posted by Karl on January 19, 2010 02:25

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After being informed the airport " Limo" will now cost 550 baht, 150 baht more than my last trip two months ago, I walked over to the meter taxis and was informed they are now charging an extra 100 baht "Airport tax".

SO I hoofed up to the road and jumped in a meter taxi, fare - 160 baht. I gave the driver the 100 baht anyway- better him than the authorities who appear incapable of providing reasonably priced transport.

Keep it up, Phuket, keep it up - word is getting around.

Posted by Phuketarium on January 19, 2010 08:08

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I think this is one of those posts where only those who have experienced 'problems' speak up. For that reason, and to give some balance to the post, I must say that in my 4 visits to Phuket I have never experienced any such problems.

Moreover, I would agree with the editor that the biggest problem that the VAST majority of tourists here face is nothing more dramatic than inflated fares.

Also 650B may seem extortionate for a 30 min ride but that journey would cost the equivalent of 1200B from the cheapest mini cab in London for instance. Relative to Thai costs they are expensive and I agree that public transport needs government intervention and investment - but perhaps we are a bit spoiled by the low cost of living in general over here...?

Posted by Ferg on February 7, 2010 17:28

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I would suggest to Ferg that if the cost of a tuk tuk or taxi is up to TEN TIMES as expensive as it is in Bangkok, than whatever way you cut it, there is a problem.

To say, ''well it's not so expensive relative to our home countries'' is a very strange thought process. One of the great attractions of holidaying in Thailand is that it's cheaper. If it weren't, many people would be vacationing at home instead.

And remember that there are dozens - perhaps hundreds - of other Thai island resorts, large and small, that don't have this issue to deal with. For the 500 baht you pay for a ride from the airport in Phuket, you can ride around all day and all night in Koh Samui, Koh Chang and Koh Anywhere Else.

But if people want to stick their head in the sand and hope it will all go away, it won't. This isn't the only recent problem to be highlighted. Some people may remember the jet-ski scam that featured on UK TV a couple of months ago.

Phuket is beginning to get a reputation as a rip-off resort and in the long-term that's not good for anyone. Tourists have options - they'll just go elsewhere.

The travel blogs, the message boards and the travellers' comment sites are buzzing with discussions of the latest examples of attempts to gouge tourists. If this keeps up, 5 years from now there won't be any tourists left to take advantage of.

Posted by Doug on February 8, 2010 09:15


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