PHUKET: I've been coming to Phuket for three years now. I don't think I will be coming back. As a profile, I am American, in my early fifties, and I usually spend about 75,000-100,000 baht during my stay.
I usually stay in three star hotels, and always take a side trip to another destination. Two years ago I went to Pattaya. Last year I went to Koh Samui, and this year I went to Bangkok.
Generally speaking, I find Thai people to be very kind and generous. On a personal level, I have found the respect you give is the respect you get and a smile always returns a smile. Thailand has a rich and vibrant cultural history, and as a sovereign nation, I don't expect to lay my values on it.
There has been much talk lately about the desire to encourage ''high-value'' tourists. I don't know if that would include me, or exactly what that means.
There are some challenges that Phuket faces. Until they are rectified, I think I will seek out other destinations for my travels.
Here are some things I don't like about Phuket. First of all, traffic and transportation. Taxis are exorbitant. I travelled the same distance from Don Muang to my hotel in Bangkok as I have from HKT to Patong and the price was less than half.
Taxis to the Phuket airport are even more expensive at night, which makes little sense to me as there is less traffic. Patong hill seems incredibly dangerous for the amount of volume passing over it each day.
I have an expat friend who lives in Chalong. I can easily get a taxi there, but it is impossible to get one back even though there are dozens idling on the streets of Patong, Kata and Karon.
Even crossing the street, be it Rat-U-Tit 200 Pi or Beach Road can be harrowing.
Secondly, pollution is a cause for concern. There is pollution everywhere. There is raw sewage going into the ocean. There is trash all over the streets.
Even after placing rubber mats on the sewers of Bangla Road at night one can still smell the putrid scent.
I am not particularly fond of touts, either. I have never been to a ''ping pong'' show and doubt I will ever go, but there are dozens of people promoting it. I tire of the massage parlor gauntlets, the time-share touts, the taxis and the tuk-tuks.
If I need one of these, I will get one. I don't like the crowded sidewalks filled with various fake brand sellers. Sidewalks become so narrow that in some places there is only enough room for one person.
It's the same with the beaches. At high tide on Patong Beach, you literally cannot walk on the beach, as the sun loungers are right up to the water, and the jet ski vendors or para-sailing launch pads are yelling at you.
It is remarkable that it is deemed a public beach at all.
Next year, I think I will go to Kop, Cambodia or Cancun, Mexico or Golfito, Costa Rica. Maybe I will be disappointed there as well.
And I will be watching Phuket, through Phuketwan and other outlets to see if things have improved. I earnestly and sincerely wish you the best of luck.