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US military personnel will be on Phuket from January 31-February 4

Phuket to Greet US 'Fleet' of 6000 Big Spenders

Saturday, January 30, 2010
UP TO 6000 US military personnel will be arriving on Phuket from Sunday, and the island is ready and waiting. A cash injection is just what the revenue doctor ordered.

As with all of the US Navy visits to Phuket, an advanced team has been on the island, liaising with police and local authorities, smoothing the path for the crews of nuclear aircraft carrier USS Nimitz and two warships, USS Pinckney and USS Rentz.

Douglas H. Robinson, Chief of Naval Security, Force Protection Detachment, US Embassy in Bangkok, met with officials at Provincial Hall on Thursday and said everyone had been ''very accommodating and welcoming.''

''We are looking forward to a great visit,'' he added.

So is Patong and Phuket's needy businesses. The Phuket Navy League is playing an increasingly important role as the number of visits to Phuket by US warships increases.

Denny Bowman, secretary of the league, says: ''What usually happens is that there are shoreside parties for promotions, and the crews seem to like Phuket.''

Businesses affiliated with the league tend to win the opportunity to showcase what they have on offer to a tourist segment that is hard to beat for spending firepower.

Estimates of $1 million a day may be on the high side but the boost to Phuket's economy when the warships are at anchor is plain to see.

Open for the first time for a US Navy visit is Patong's Hard Rock Cafe, a friendly beacon for American sailors if ever there was one.

General Manager Urs ''Mee'' Mosimann says that reaction to the arrival of the Hard Rock has been ''awesome'' and exceeded expectations.

He expects the Navy visit may produce the kind of late-night audience that the venue would like to experience more often.

''Late nights overall in Patong are a bit of a challenge, especially for the upmarket venues,'' he said.

Contrary to the views of some old-time observers, daylight activities on Phuket are also extremely popular among Navy visitors. Briefings are usually given in advance about the dangers of jet-skis and tuk-tuks.

Personnel are advised not to hire vehicles, and to beware of touts and the katoey ladyboy invaders who usually accompany US Navy visits to Phuket.

It seems the old version of R&R and all it stood for has been quietly laid to rest by a new generation of better-behaved sailors, many of whom are women.

Douglas Robinson says: ''We have what we call MWR, which is morale, welfare, recreation.

''A lot of our sailors like to take the tours, they like to go out and experience the Thai food, they like to visit some of the bars and restaurant areas of town, go to the beach, take elephant rides.

''A lot of the sailors too are engaged in community relation projects.''

He expects Phuket to tally around 15 warship visits for the year following a pronounced increase in the frequency of visits that began in 2009.

''We tell our sailors when they come in to enjoy themselves, to be respectful and to understand the culture,'' he added.

''The police on Phuket have been fantastic in working with us to resolve these issues and we found these issues really haven't affected our ship visits because the police have worked so closely with us.

''We don't have too many concerns. When our sailors come, some tend to drink alcohol, which lets down their inhibitions, so there are sometimes problems there.

''The main concern on Phuket is that if a sailor drinks too much, he can find himself in trouble.''

Robinson, who was accompanied by Gregory S. Miller, new chief of the forces protection detachment in Thailand, has been in Bangkok for two years and spends ''20 or 30 weeks a year'' on Phuket.

''For me it's got everything one would need for a holiday or to live here,'' he said.

USS Nimitz, USS Pinckney and USS Rentz will be off Phuket from Sunday until February 4.

The Phuket Navy League is holding a welcome event for senior officers and crew from US vessels. 7pm-9pm, February 2, BBQ Hut Smokehouse, Rat-U-Thit Road, Patong (opposite the Mercure). Cost is 200 baht for members and 400 baht for visitors. E: info@navyleaguephuket.org
US Warships Anchor! Phuket's All Set to Rumble
Extra Photos Added The USS Ronald Reagan anchors off Phuket with other US warships and a stream of sailors begin heading for the island. It's a bonus for tourism after a lean low season.
US Warships Anchor! Phuket's All Set to Rumble

US Warships Visit Brings Ladyboy Crime Invaders
Phuketwan Exclusive The visit by USS Ronald Reagan and other US warships to Phuket has triggered an invasion by ladyboys, bent on a crime wave. Here's what one of their first victims has to say.
US Warships Visit Brings Ladyboy Crime Invaders

Phuket Tourists Tell: Rampaging Elephant Horror
UPDATE A Swedish couple have given a first hand account of a ride on a rampaging elephant that casts doubts over the use of male elephants for tourist rides on Phuket.
Phuket Tourists Tell: Rampaging Elephant Horror

Phuket Expat Killing: Sea Eagles Man Charged
Latest A man well known by tourists on Phuket for his sea eagle photographs at Kata Viewpoint has been charged with the murder of a German expat in what appears to be an incident of road rage.
Phuket Expat Killing: Sea Eagles Man Charged

Phuket Rescue as Longtail Fishing Trip Goes Awry
Breaking News Six people on a Phuket longtail fishing trip, including two expats, have been rescued by Marine Police after an early morning distress call.
Phuket Rescue as Longtail Fishing Trip Goes Awry

Phuket's Sky Dive Reef: Comeback on Track
Latest Phuket's sky dive reef, the artificial destination for divers off Bang Tao, is being improved with protective buoys and the addition of railway bogeys. It's a comeback that's on track.
Phuket's Sky Dive Reef: Comeback on Track

Phuket Has 4000 Illegal Taxis, Meeting Hears
UPDATE Phuket has 4000 illegal taxis, a meeting has been told at Provincial Hall. Planning continues for possible changes to the dysfunctional,overpriced system of public transport on the island.
Phuket Has 4000 Illegal Taxis, Meeting Hears

Comments

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It would be nice to read if on this or similar occasions the warships will be visible from the coast or if there might be even some kind of 'open day'.
This would be a really big attraction for my son (and lots of Thai kids in his age).

Editor: Once upon a time, such visits would have been encouraged. But that was a different world. Since 9/11, innocent pleasures are no longer possible.That's also why the ships anchor some distance offshore. Let's hope those good days come back . . .

Posted by jts on January 30, 2010 14:18

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It's good to see these groups of people getting some well deserved time ashore following months at sea. Their behaviour ashore should be an example to other groups of people who visit the island. it's just a shame they are filled with fear to an extent (vis a vis katoeys, STDs, BGs etc) and can't relax as much as they should be able to.

Just a shame that the high priced taxi journeys to and from the anchorage are tolerated. It wouldn't hurt for the tourist police to have a checkpoint at the port to take taxi driver's numbers and inform the sailors of the 'fair' rate to and from Patong. This could be confirmed for return journeys on arrival at the port.

Posted by Mister Ree on January 31, 2010 20:28

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Here's to a great port visit for the men and women of the Nimitz Strike Group! God Bless you ALL!

Posted by Sarahsmome on January 31, 2010 23:38


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