If you had to describe Karon in 2 words then ‘Russian Costa’ comes to mind. This place is as touristy and trashy as any big holiday resort on one of the Costas in Spain – the only difference is that most of the tourists here are Russian. Prices for food and drink are sky high compared to other places we have come across so far in our travels – this probably explains the lack of Brit tourists who have clearly been and gone, in search of a better deal. To us, the place is pretty soul-less and has no charm or culture to it whatsoever and most people (especially taxi / tuk tuk drivers) are on the make. It’s a man made resort, no old town, no church, no gardens etc. This is not a place we have any desire to visit again however we are also glad we came just to reinforce our desire to seek out more beautiful and authentic towns on our trip.
Thinking back, we decided on Karon as we wanted to visit Phuket and Patong so we could see what they were about. Patongs ‘over the top’ night life and Phucket’s beaches were the main draws. We didn’t however want to stay in either Phuket or Patong. Karon had a nice beach and was said to be fairly couple and family oriented and was only 8km down the beach so we decided to stay in a budget guesthouse ‘The Karon Sunshine’ which was right in the middle of Karon and was central to everything. At £25 per night room only it was what we call ‘cheap and cheerful’.
On our 1st night in Karon, we encountered the ‘Phuket Taxi Mafia’! None of the taxis are metered and every taxi rank shows the same prices from A to B. The only issue is that the prices are astronomical and the taxi drivers are not keen to negotiate. They reportedly only need one fare per day to survive so they are pretty arrogant about whether they take your fare or not. To put things into context, we were £10+ for a 6 mile trip. The taxis here are 10 times the price of other taxis in Thailand and they are on a par with some major european cities (even though some of their vehicles are pretty old and running costs must be a fraction). Anyhow, we agreed the rate and we were taken to Patong.
Having researched Patong over the internet, we had built up a picture of it being an ‘anything goes’ kind of town. It probably is but when we took an evening stroll down Bangla Road, it wasn’t as lunatic as we had hoped it would be! There were a lot more couples and families walking the street than we would have imagined – probably all out doing the same as us, just taking a look! There wasn’t hoards of young lads roaming from one bar to another, drinking masses and causing issues. Yes, you did get approached constantly to see if you wanted to see a ping pong show but if you said no, they just left you alone. We didn’t even get propositioned by a gorgeous lady boy or Thai girl. We like ‘people watching’ so we took a couple of bar stools at the front of a bar and sat there drinking Chang Beer for a couple of hours watching all the sights (mainly old men with young Thai girls) and hosts trying to beat the customers at connect 5 or hammer the nail!
Back to Karon later that evening after another expensive cab ride, and we realise that our guesthouse is smack in the middle of Bar Street and that the pubs are blasting out their music well into the early hours. We can sleep through anything so it’s not an issue. Only when we rise at 8am to try and find some breakfast (our guesthouse doesnt do breakfast!) we find most places shut as clearly they have just closed a few hours earlier.
The sun is shining and after breakfast we decided to try and negotiate with another taxi driver to take us the 9km to The Big Buddah. We can see it perched on top of a nearby hill from where we stand but the taxi guy swears blind its a big trip and he wants at least £25 return! To Be Continued…………