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“How Can You Possibly Recommend Patong?”…

“Wendy, when you mention “night life” in Pattaya and Patong, what exactly are you referring to? Admittedly, it’s been 20 years since I visited these cities, but what they were most famous for was sex tourism. It wasn’t a pleasant atmosphere for women who were not in the ‘trade.’ Are you being honest about what it’s like to be there, or are you glossing over it?”

–Shannon S., United States

Asia Correspondent Wendy Justice responds:

“To judge Patong solely on its ‘night life’ is like judging all of Las Vegas by its strip of casinos, San Francisco by the Mission District, or New Orleans by Bourbon Street.
Yes, there is a strip of bars, nightclubs, and ‘girlie bars’ in Patong, as well as a scattering of similar ‘night life’ elsewhere in town.

“However, when I wrote about Phuket for the Overseas Retirement Letter,
I wrote about the entire island province…and there is much more to Phuket Island than nightlife.

“In Patong, there really has been an influx of younger families with children moving in, and it’s slowly changing the ambiance of the town. Besides the infamous nightlife, there’s a fabulous beach, the Jungceylon Mall, and parts of town well removed from Bangla Street.

“That isn’t meant to downplay the fact that yes, there is certainly a seedy part of town that, as a female, I would want to avoid. It’s also worth mentioning that sex tourism is alive and well throughout the world and certainly has a visible presence in many parts of Thailand, including Patong.

“I’ve never been to Pattaya and have never written about it, in part because of its reputation of being little more than a place for sex tourists and ‘sexpats.’ The attraction with Phuket, though, is that there is a lot more to it than Bangla Street. During our stay there, we noticed lots of couples, baby carriages, foreign teenagers who were obviously not tourists, and lots of ‘regular folks.’

“I think as Patong continues to develop–and attracts an ever-growing contingent of foreign retirees and expatriates–the trend will be that we’ll see more Jungceylon Malls and fewer nightclubs and bars.

“In any case, if the night life is something that you want to avoid, you can live just a few minutes north or south of Patong and have a peaceful home that feels far removed from the Patong parties.”

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