PHUKET: Even with stormy weather, Phuket will seem like paradise for visitors from other provinces who have arrived on the island for the Phuket Games 2012.
They are bound to enjoy themselves in the beach holiday haven . . . until they have to buy food or want to make a short trip.
Then the reality will sink home: Phuket is rapidly becoming too expensive for the average Thai as a place to visit. For some, it's even becoming too expensive as a place to live.
Just how far Phuket's cost of living has moved away from the rest of Thailand was confirmed last week when Vice Governor Somkiet Sangkaosutthirak tried to figure why Phuket's prices were so high.
''I am not sure I understand,'' he said. ''Phuket's basic cost of living is 30 to 40 percent higher than other parts of Thailand. It's possible to explain 10 percent of that extra cost by the higher rents.
''The rest? I can't understand that.''
Perhaps the vice governor should look at the greed factor. Although food for sale in other southern provinces has to be trucked in, just as food is transported to Phuket, only on Phuket have the margins been magnified beyond acceptance.
The children who are frolicking on the beaches of Phuket should enjoy the experience because on present trends, by the time they are grown adults, the beaches of Phuket are likely to be too expensive for Thais to enjoy.
At present, a bowl of noodles that costs 25 or 30 baht in most of Thailand will cost 50 to 70 baht on Phuket, with higher prices in western Phuket than eastern Phuket.
Those who dare to set foot in a tuk-tuk or a taxi and expect to pay what they pay back home will return to their provinces with nightmare tales of rip-off Phuket.
There is no point in maintaining the illusion that west coast Phuket will stay a place for Thais to enjoy a holiday for much longer.
When Vice Governor Somkiet met at the Office of Commercial Affairs in Phuket City last week, he was seeking 16 grocery outlets across Phuket to be part of a scheme to keep the prices of 20 basic food items affordable.
In Kathu, the district with Patong at its heart, not one single grocer came forward to be part of the scheme. And that's with each shop being given a grant of 9000 baht a month to keep prices low.
Vice Governor Somkiet admitted that some retailers figure tourist places can be more expensive, so they boost the prices. International visitors play their part, by generally having the money to pay more.
By the time that tourists realise that prices on Phuket's west coast are higher than those on the east coast of Phuket, and much higher than those elsewhere in Thailand, it's too late. The cycle of the rip-off continues.
Vice Governor Somkiet had a sentence for the rip-off merchants: ''Please don't do it.''
We wish the vice governor a large audience of honest traders, but we suspect not many are listening out there.
Phuket is becoming more international and those who cash in on this trend will eventually turn people away, even those who currently are content to pay Thailand's highest prices.
As for public transport, where the rip-offs are massive . . . in Europe recently, we met a Thai named Tep Muimai,42. Originally from Bangkok, Khun Tep has been living in Hamburg, Germany, for the past 15 years.
He returned to Thailand for a break late last year, and decided to check out Phuket for the first time because so many Germans were regular visitors.
''Without realising, I got into a tuk-tuk and went on a short trip,'' he said. ''When the driver asked me for 500 baht, I almost fell over.
''I am used to the high cost of living in Europe, but that was ridiculous. I even went into a dive shop, and asked whether I was being ripped off. The people just shrugged their shoulders and said: 'It's normal.'
''I will be going back to visit Thailand. But Phuket? Never again.'' There will be hundreds of Thai visitors coming to the same conclusion on Phuket this week.
Those who imagine reactions will be different are living in a fool's paradise.