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Old Phuket Town, confused with Phuket City by some small-town thinkers

Planet Phuket: Small Town Thinkers Out of Touch

Sunday, January 24, 2010
Planet Phuket News Analysis

IT WAS a promising week for Planet Phuket. For the first time, authorities on Phuket (and in Bangkok) began to seriously consider and discuss the island's public transport needs.

Talks are being held now about tuk-tuks and airport taxis, which is good. Yet it's as if, somehow, the two are separate problems.

In fact, they are clearly related and need to be looked at that way, in the big picture. The needs of the whole of Phuket are paramount. The whole island needs to be in the picture.

Minor improvements to public transport are on the way in ''Phuket Town.'' A few more pink seung taew buses will soon be brought into service there, which is particularly good news for local schoolchildren.

Tuk-tuks, airport taxis, pink buses in so-called ''Phuket Town'' . . . each issue is still being treated separately, and administered separately.

One of these days, the one-baht coin might drop. ''Phuket Town'' actually officially became Phuket City several years ago, when the population grew beyond 70,000 citizens.

And these days, the entire island of Phuket is a conurbation (''a predominantly urban region including adjacent towns and suburbs; a metropolitan area'') of one million-plus people.

Phuket's villages are sprawling and merging. These days, some tourists even refer to the whole island as being a ''city.'' They see nothing but shops and houses.

Those who continue to refer to Phuket City as ''Phuket Town'' are clearly living in the past or longing for the past, a time when towns and villages each dealt with their own problems, and their own transport issues.

Let Planet Phuket put it this way: Until the governing authorities and the tuk-tuk drivers and the taxi drivers and the island's media start treating Phuket as a 21st century conurbation, not as separate villages or towns, no solutions can possibly be found to the island's public transport needs.

Like the overseers of the island's tuk-tuks, who prefer to have Phuket continue to be run along traditional village lines, those who refer to Phuket City as ''Phuket Town'' are destined to live in the past. They will think small forever.

The flaws in that kind of thinking are painfully obvious. As Patong's police chief has pointed out, the tuk-tuk system is failing because traditional village rivalries mean that customers have to be charged a return fare, even though the passengers are only going one way

The customer pays for the tuk-tuk to return empty to the ''village''. In the efficient, transparent 21st century, there is just one term for that: a rip-off.

And the same rules apply at the Phuket International Airport, which is prospering from a 21st century approach to air transport . . . and a 19th century approach to road transport.

Once passengers' feet touch the ground, it's as though the airport administrators no longer have to adhere to international standards.

The future of the overwhelmingly large numbers of drivers involved, both tuk-tuks and taxis, needs to be a prime consideration. They too have been conned, and they should be given every opportunity to make a fresh start.

But ''Old Phuket Town'' has clear boundaries. The folk who live there can tell you where the borders are. It's a great destination for tourists, but it's just one small, traditional area.

''Phuket Town'' should not be confused by forward-thinking people with Phuket City, or for that matter with Patong, Karon, Kata, or with the needs of all the tourists arriving at the airport . . . or with the future of the whole of Phuket, the modern conurbation.

Once the realities of the island and its needs are understood, change will come. It should, it must, and soon.
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Comments have been disabled for this article.


Regardless of how Phuket Town is classified by the authorities, it is very obviously a town, not a city. And almost nobody, in conversation, talks about "Phuket City". And claiming anyone using the term "Phuket Town" is "living in the past" is absurd. Get a grip. Bizarre, unfocused article. No news today, I suppose?

Editor: What people talk about in conversation and the reality are two different things. As a small 'Town' thinker, perhaps you need to re-read the article. It was written for you.

Posted by Simon Smith on January 24, 2010 19:02


To claim that merely saying "Phuket Town" rather than YOUR preferred designation of "Phuket City" makes you a "small 'town' thinker" is pretty childish. And if the powers that be decided to designate Kathu a "City", would you dutifully fall into line and write about "Kathu City"? The junta in Burma renamed that country "Myanmar". But I don't see you talking about "Myanmar" on Phuketwan either. People say "Phuket Town" in conversation because that's how they view the place: as a town. I suppose Phuketwan sees the reality of its "city-ness" while so many lesser mortals (99% of people on this island, I'd guess) cannot.

Editor: The shift in thinking needs to take place to help bring to an end the village and town-based transport scams, among other issues. Recognition of growth is a sign of looking to the future, not backwards. Besides, it's been offcially Phuket City for years. It's time to move forward. The island will eventually be all-city. Best start getting used to it. Is the emperor wearing clothes, or not? How many people do you know who still refer to ''London town'' or ''Sydney town''?

Posted by Simon Smith on January 25, 2010 10:05


24th January, 6:15 pm, in the narrow passage behind Mom Tri's, roadworks in progress. In the high-season! Traffic jams of 10 minutes minimum. Had to go to the airport, so we drive from Kata Noi and via Rawai. On the way back from the airport and before the Heroines' monument . . . Roadworks! This took me 25 minutes to negotiate at about 7pm.

For as long as I have been in Thailand, authorities seem total unable to plan major traffic-stopping works to be in the low season. There's a total disconnect between what fuels the island and the powers that run our roads and other infrastructure.

Posted by Ian on January 25, 2010 11:15


Perhaps we should just call it Phuket, Phuket. Same like New York, New York.

Posted by Antz Pantz on January 25, 2010 12:46


I agree wholeheartedly with Simon Smith. The name change to Phuket City is a ridiculous attempt to make the place more important. If there ever was a town, Phuket town is it! Besides, why is it so terrible that the island only has a town? You want a city experience? Well, Phuket don't offer it, and certainly don't need it. And the name town can definetily be used to describe a city anyway, if Phuket Town ever got to the point where the word city can be used to describe it. It's just a name after all. Cape Town, Georgetown, Freetown etc etc are all cities. Get it?

Editor: Perhaps they'd better rethink Royal Phuket City . . .

Posted by christos on January 25, 2010 13:13


I thought Phuket Town is the "old" place, the "inner city" of Phuket City.

And it is definitely a city, a lot of people, universities, three major hospitals, a harbor for aircraft carriers, a lot of brothels, night clubs, shopping malls without end, even suburbs like Kathu...

Do they behave like a city? I think that was the point of the editor. So I do not see a big difference between Simon and him.

Posted by Lena on January 25, 2010 15:25


Alan's message is clear - Phuket has five-star facilities but a third-world transport system which is ripping-off both tourists and locals alike. The authorities should look at the big picture and consider the needs of all residents and not the select few that control our inefficient transport system.

Think of the employment opportunities and economic benefits that an efficient transport system would bring.

Whether ''Phuket Town'' is a town or city is irrelevant but tourists can give it a miss. Very little effort has been made to make the Town area attractive and the same can be said for our public transport system. Let's hope the authorities are now serious about change and have the power to act.

Posted by Peter on January 25, 2010 16:59


Does Phuket want to lose the ''town'' label and be like London and Sydney or hang onto it, like Freetown and Georgetown? Christos, surely you jest. This is all about aspirations, and getting there from here. With small ''town'' thinking, you are going . . . where? Not into the future, that's for sure. .

Posted by Angelfire on January 25, 2010 17:18


What I mean is that when the word Town is used in a name of a place, whether it's a city or an actual town, it should be kept regardless off if it becomes a much bigger "city". London and Sydney don't have the word "town" in their original names, so no need to drag them into the discussion.

But many cites do have the name "town" in their name, that's why I think it's rather weird to change the name of a place in order to try to make it seem more important. Especially since the place is obviously not a "city"

Editor: It has officially been a city for years, and it spreads across a vast area. High-rise buildings do not define a city. They all start out like Phuket City and grow.

Posted by christos on January 25, 2010 18:30


I've done some research and discovered that Phuket Town was upgraded to Phuket City a long time ago, on February 13, 2004. So in a couple of weeks, Phuket City will have been a city for six years!

Simon and 99 percent of his friends have been getting it wrong for all that time. Even the local media gets it wrong. You can see that it's officially Phuket City at Time for everybody to change and get it right . . .

Posted by Angelfire on January 25, 2010 21:45


I call it Phuket Town because it rolls off the tongue easier. However, this isn't the point. The point is, do the people who govern the area have a 'city' or a 'village' mentality? There is a huge difference.

The transport is run using a 'village' mentality of small feudal landlords running their little empires. Progress then rests on gaining agreement of all interested parties. A true city would combine these small empires into one autonomous division and run it accordingly.

The cheap pink busses run in town, (sorry, City) mainly for the locals could set a trend, but the feudal landlords are unlikely to give up their cash rich tourist tuk-tuk rip offs easily.

The Governor should just run the busses up the West coast and be done with it. Plenty of Thai people live there too - not just in the city.......

Posted by Mr Mark on January 25, 2010 23:06


I remember clearly when the town was named "Phuket City" it was stupid then and it's stupid now..Who cares what is official here?

James Bond Island is officially a national park, and sellers on the island sell forbidden goods such as sea shells etc a few metres from the national park office.

Prostitution is officially illegal in thailand, its officially forbidden to drive a motorbike without a helmet etc etc. So the town is officially (and stupidly) renamed Phuket City..Ah, it's been decided by officialdom! Just forget about common sense then!

Editor:You are confusing law enforcement with growth and progress, Christos.

Posted by christos on January 25, 2010 23:36


Angelfire, you have failed to understand my post. Please read the second one again. My point is that regardless of what the authorities are calling it, it is clearly a town. I also fail to see what bearing this has on the transport debate.

Why does calling the place a city make it easier to solve island-wide transport issues? You could have an integrated transport system running across the island while still conceptualising the place as a collection of towns and villages.

Editor: Simon, Mr Mark's comment answers your questions. ''(Small) town and villages'' thinking prevents progress and leaves the island captive to fiefdoms.

Posted by Simon Smith on January 26, 2010 00:00


Hey here is a solution, just call it the CBD, Central Business District and be done with the pedantic thinking.
Yes Phuket CBD.

Posted by Graham on January 26, 2010 09:31


Yes but Bangkok is a city, certainly full of corrupted fiefdoms there.
Not until all laws are enforced, or taken OFF the books, will there ever be respect for law.

Look to NY city in the 80s, not until graffiti was scrubbed and subway jumpers curtailed did the populace get the idea it is not OK to break any laws.

Posted by HorseDoctor on January 26, 2010 11:26

Wednesday March 29, 2023
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa


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