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Patong, how low can you go: Phuket's popular beach is slipping fast

Stink Over Beaches Floats Towards Europe

Monday, March 2, 2015
PHUKET: The interview began badly. Across beach road, a ladyboy had lifted his/her skirt. Patong was flashing a less pleasant side of its character.

An Italian tourist, lolling in an illegal beach chair, gave the katoey beach vendor a telling off as she/he urinated up against a tree. The ladyboy responded with a bitch slap or two.

And there was uproar. Other vendors rushed to the aid of the Italian, who is well-liked. Two traffic police turned up speedily. There were more angry words. We were told the offending vendor would be fined 500 baht.

We crossed the road but the metaphor lingered. Yes, we thought, the future of tourism in Patong is being urinated on from a great height. The idea that compromises can work between nature and commercialism gets up the noses of most people.

Yvonne De Haay Stekelenbrug, the highly-regarded representative for Diethelm Travel on Phuket, was more polite but just as critical of what's happening. After more than 20 years encouraging tourists to visit Patong, she can see that the task is becoming more difficult.

She hopes her bosses are able to make the point at ITB Berlin this week that Phuket's tourism future is in danger.

Dutch tourists are being treated badly by the police, she says. They can no longer bring their own beach chairs.

''Everybody is very unhappy,'' she says. ''I wonder if the governor really knows what's going on. There is still 'mafia' taking money on the beach.

''I can understand the Army doesn't want that and cleared the beaches but now slowly, slowly the 'mafia' is coming back.''

Yvonne - like Beyonce she only needs one name - has seen Patong change over 20 years. Now she doesn't like what she sees.

''You see where you can swim,'' she tells us. ''That is a small part. The rest is for the jet-skis and the parasails. They own the beach.

''And when you sit on the empty part, on their part, the parasail people come and order you away. One Australian guy who swam there, they hit him. They are very aggressive.''

Yvonne says Australians and South Africans are her main market and they don't sit on the beaches. They shop, they drink beer, they stay in resorts with pools, they go on tours.

''I know many people who come here who stay in guesthouses and who do not have access to pools,'' she says. ''The guesthouses are the ones that will suffer first because for sure, their customers will not come back next year.

''If you talk with people, you will find that they are not happy with what has happened on the beach. They came for years and years.

''The older people in particular knew the beach people, and they bought presents for the beach people. Visitors felt safe and happy with them. It's so frustrating.''

The sunbeds remain forbidden. But the mats and umbrellas have been allowed back. There is no logic to that decision.

''Now people are not allowed to bring their own beach chairs, and next year a lot will not come back.''

Cancellations are coming already: ''Heaps of cheaper hotels and guesthouses will be first to suffer.''

Germans, Norwegians and Swedes are following Dutch people in deserting Patong. The beach has, as Yvonne says, been taken over by the jet-ski and parasail operators.

''Please talk with the governor,'' is Yvonne's message to her bosses in Europe. ''Patong is now a jet-ski and parasail beach.

''Last year, the beach was full of chairs and umbrellas. They were all occupied.''

She says the one positive aspect is that the dirty water that once polluted Patong Bay has gone. The water is now great for swimming - if only people were allowed to sit on the beach and swim wherever they like.

''When I came here 22 years ago, it was so nice,'' she said. ''I don't remember jet-skis being here.

''People should be allowed to sit on their own chairs on the beach, under their own umbrellas, if they can't it's ridiculous.''


Comments have been disabled for this article.


Who owns the jet-skies, are the company accounts, names of shareholders open to for inspection?

How on earth are the parasais not a commercial business operating on public land? A glance at those 'employed' questions must be asked, are these people certified to conduct this activity? How hard can it be?

Posted by gee on March 2, 2015 11:36


If you don't think tourism is hurting in Patong just take a walk down Bangla Rd one night.Bars they use to be filled with Europeans and Australians are now empty bars and pubs that last year charged 110 baht for a beer are now having problems selling beer at 69 baht just walk by Monsoon bar one night.You can now buy a beer for as little as 60 baht at some bars on Bangla Rd.So you have what you wanted quality Chinese tourists who spend no money and are rude to the Thai people.

Posted by Derek on March 2, 2015 12:40


Madam De Haay Stekelenburg hit the nail on the head. The beach clearing Army/Navy has gone, they did the beach clearing job. After that beaches became a 'vacuum territory'. Phuket authorities without any clou or knowledge how to manage beaches were from the beginning no sparring party for the mafia ( sorry: Mob) who bit by bit take back now, and more than that, what they see as being 'theirs'. The Army/Navy are not 'ordered' to remain in charge of the beaches. And the police? ( I first laugh now a bit). The Police never bit the Phuket mafia, and without strong acting superiors they never will. By mistake at Phuket appointed strong police commanders are always very rapidly transferred off the island. That is saying something, Right?
Phuket beach tourism looks grey and dark this moment. Many present tourists feel they are just waisting their money this Phuket holiday.

Posted by Kurt on March 2, 2015 12:42


Other Thailand beach holiday destinations, these were Governors/authorities firmly keep the para sailing/jet skies away, and welcome the beach tourists as real guests, are going to have next time a very, very good High Season. And indeed, guesthouses, small resorts without pool can close their doors. Financially they can not survive without a good High Season on very expensive island Phuket.

Posted by Kurt on March 2, 2015 12:55


I disagree with the article : we produce goods that are sold to hotels in Phuket and Phang Nga, so our sales rely partly on the success of the local hospitality businesses. I think that by restoring the beaches to their natural state the governor is right, he has a vision for the future : the number of tourist is always increasing ( the world population increases ) so chair invasions, whether rented or private would destroy the vista as we have seen for too long. Also they would limit the numbers of beach users. Instead a quality tourism will accept the idea that there is a unique solution, green, it is shade provided by trees and a bit of exercise to reach the water if the trees are " far " from the it. Some " beach hotels " built recently have already started to understand that instead of cutting off trees to replace them by hot umbrellas and coconut trees, a better alternative is to plant large trees where the hotel area joins the beach. To me this is about a new beach culture and Thailand may have lessons that are worth learning.

Posted by Anonymous on March 2, 2015 13:00


Thank you Yvonne De Haay Stekelenbrug.

We can only hope this article will be read in Germany. And that the governor will change his mind and reconsiders his previous decisions.

It's note too late yet.

Ginis Beach Resort

Posted by Janeeta on March 2, 2015 13:45


I think it's a crying shame what has happened to Phuket.
I first went in 1996 for my honeymoon and loved it. Based in Hong Kong we visited 3 or 4 times a year, and planned to retire there.
We haven't even visited for 4 yrs now after tuk tuk problems all those yrs ago, and we won't be back.

Posted by Jazzer on March 2, 2015 14:16


I think I have some illness in the head. In Naiharn are beachchairs banned but now you see bleu mats and parasols to rent . What is the differents between to put a chairs under the mats . They said the chairs are maffia things . What are the bleu mats and same umbrellas ??? We stay here for 6 months already 3 and half months past . Every day you read other laws and things . Is there in this country not others things to keep under control like big busses who fly from promtep cape down . New construction that they put in a very narrow please like Calypso in Naiharn These are things to look after and please let the beach in Naiharnlike they were last year

Posted by malena on March 2, 2015 15:39

Editor Comment:

Yes. Sunbeds banned, umbrellas and mats ok. Who can work that out?


As I said at the start the only way was for local councils to manage the puplic land licence and charge taxes for suitable section of their public beaches and publish the taxes collected. Then police those licences. Everybody wins, tourist get what they want and councils have money for bins, patrols and other needed improvements.
And get rid of the jet ski mob!!

Posted by What that pha on March 2, 2015 16:27


No sunbeds and umbrellas for rent on the beach by legal vendors = not many tourists on Phuket in the future!

In the next high, peak and low holiday season there will come none or very few tourists to Phuket - so the only way all the people who are living in Phuket have to get money from forwards are from the rubber plantation and may be a little bit from fishing and the few backpackers - who are visiting Phuket short on their tour trip in the eastern countries - and all the hotels can be home and platform for the rubber-plantation workers from other parts of Thailand - for there will be none or very few elderly foreign guests and family' s with children to visit all the hotels!

So none new beach rules are forwards necessary for there will be nobody on the beach - only the jetskis and speedboats operators will be back there - all alone sitting on the beach on their chairs - waiting in vain for the tourists are coming!

There is only one way out to keep the tourists (young and old) in the future. All chairs may be given free all over the beach! Of course there have to be establish a legal corps of vendors also - to let out sunbeds with umbrellas!

We are too old to lay on a beach-matt a whole day it' s not good for our back and legs, and also sometimes we have to sit up!

So we want the beach bars back for something to eat and drink. As it was before, that is very easy to put on - only make it so it' s legal by rules from the Government and municipality's. With emission of tenancy to the sunbeds hires.
So it' s acting in other countries all over the world.

Otherwise we have to go to Bali, Indonesia or another sunny place/ country on our next trip/ holiday!
It' s not easy to say good-bye to Thailand, but so it have to be if the strong beach rules are holding on - sorry!

Posted by VOC from Denmark on March 2, 2015 17:28


I ask the same question as last week. There are some times you posted that zones are divided. 200 meters for water sports and 500m for tourists.
To this day I see: the area from the south jetty to the old Ocean has 350 meters. The area starting at the Impiana to the Loma Park has 420 meters. Together this makes 770 meters or 35% from the beach only for these two areas. Let us not forget that there are still several areas for these water sports. We arrive at more than 50% for jetski and parasailing! Do you find that normal? Is there someone that can control and direct the rules published by the autorities. These operators are they so powerful? Is money really the master Here?

Posted by Manu on March 2, 2015 18:35


Bye,bye to European high quality tourists.
Soon you will only see Chinese big group tourists, bying noodles, walking in the middle of the roads with their umbrellas and 100% covered for sun with ladies in long full covered bodies with long robes and the men with their cameras.
Phuket is banned as tourist destination in my home country and many more.

Posted by scandinacian expat on March 3, 2015 11:26


In case you have not understood.. Patong does not want Europeans anymore..The new market is Chinese, Japanese and Koreans

Posted by bob on March 4, 2015 10:28


Been going to phuket since 89 up to Christmas 2014 - was so disgusted with what I saw that will never return - just returned from a beautiful friendly island in Thailand that should be commended for how it should be done ......

Posted by Phuket nemesis on March 5, 2015 01:02


Gee - company accounts and shareholders for the jet skis, LOL. Have you actually ever been to Thailand?

Posted by mr21 on March 8, 2015 23:41

Saturday December 9, 2023
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa


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