Saturday, September 1, 2012

Adventure in Phuket – Bus Between Patong and Phuket Town

OK, OK, so it is not a BIG adventure, but it is a good way to spend a couple of hours on a rainy day and it will not cost you an arm and a leg.  And you will get to see some of the scenery between Patong Beach and Phuket Town as well as a good overview of parts of Phuket Town.

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Just head on down to Beach Road and you will see the bus coming on a semi-regular schedule (after all this is Thailand and the buses run on Thai’ time like everything else.).
Buses to Phuket Town from Patong Beach
"Bas Stop" at the southern end of Patong Beach

Phuket Local BusYou can’t miss the bus, it is big and blue and has Patong – Phuket written across the wind shield.

The actual start of the bus route is at the south end of Beach Road where you will see several sitting waiting their turn to make the journey over the mountain.

The trip to Phuket Town will take about 30 to 45 minutes depending on traffic and weather conditions, plus how many stops the bus makes along the way.   If you have been close to one of the stops along the way as you have walked on beach road, you have heard the driver yelling out the window that the bus was heading to Phuket Town.

Patong BeachThese are now your big luxury buses that you may have experienced before, heck these are not even buses like you might ride in most major cities around the world.  These are quaint, almost cute buses that you have probably seen in old movies; one of my friends did comment that he has been riding the same bus back and forth for over 23 years.

I saw the same bus displayed in the Tin Mining Museum as an antique.  As you can see in the pictures there is no air conditioning in the buses, only some small fans in the ceiling if you are lucky with all the windows open, just like cars from my childhood.
Phuket Local Bus - inside

Once the bus begins its run to Phuket Town, it slowly crawls along Beach Road, stopping occasionally to pick up passengers that have flagged it down, or at proscribed ‘bus’ stops.  At the far north end of Beach Road, the bus make the turn and heads toward the three way intersection to travel over the ‘mountains’ to Phuket Town, be prepared for sudden stops along the way as many drivers seem to have trouble seeing the bus coming right at them and turn in front of the bus.  At the three-way intersection at the base of the mountains, near the Temple, a pickup truck did just that in front of the bus I was on, but our driver skillfully avoided hitting it and we proceeded merrily on our way at a snails pace up and over the mountains.
Patong Beach RoadAt the bottom of the mountains we enter the Kathu area and pass the one of the go-cart tracks on our right and the beautiful offices of Easy Day Thailand on the left (notice our luxury van parked in front).   If you get off at the stop just past the office with the Caltex Gas station  across the road on your right you can walk up to the Kathu Market for some real Thai Style food shopping and then just cross the road to stand in front of the station to wait for the return bus to Patong.  But remember the market does not get into full swing until around 5 – 5:30 pm and the last bus heads back over the mountains from Phuket Town at 6 pm and you don’t want to miss that last bus because it gets expensive in a taxi or tuk-tuk and it is a long walk back over the mountains.

Phuket TownThe bus makes a right turn at the intersection and heads through several smaller towns, by the Damn and then stops at the Central Festival Shopping Mall (another great place to spend a rainy day and it rivals JungCeylon in size and number of stores).  Once past Central Festival, the bus makes its way through the narrow, crowded streets of Phuket Town, stopping along the way to discharge passengers.  It passes Chinatown, one of the older parts of Phuket Town into the center of Old Phuket Town, which is the last stop.  Notice your surroundings, the return bus leaves from the ‘Family Mart’ across and up the street from where you get off.

The lady on my bus that collected the fare, all of 25 baht per person is extremely helpful and will be happy to help you find places in Phuket Town, she has a map that shows the actual bus route through town and knows where most things are in town.  She speaks good English and is very pleasant and more than willing to help you out, even pointing out specific stops along the way if you have asked her to.

Once off the bus, I suggest you wonder about to see the sights in town, it is quite different then Patong and has multiple shopping areas within walking distance, if you like walking in the rain or heat depending on the conditions.  There are also a number of local taxi’s and tuk-tuks available at a price to take you to specific locations for the right price (negotiate).  But be sure you are aware of how to get back to this spot to catch the bus back to Patong, and as I mentioned it leaves at 6 pm, so if you don’t want to be stuck in Phuket Town or spend 400 to 500 baht to take a taxi back to Patong, don’t miss that last bus.

Please be aware that Phuket Town can be very confusing once you start wondering about, I know I always get lost there, regardless of how many time I go.  After a few minutes it is evident that many of the streets and areas look similar, even if the are not and although there are some signs in English, don’t count on it.  But as I said, this is a mini-adventure and you are on vacation after all and here to experience all that Phuket has to offer.


The return trip on the bus retraces the same route back over the mountains, if you sit next to the window, don’t look down while traversing the mountain curves unless you like getting a bit scared.  Once back in Patong the bus makes its way along Rat-u-tit Road (Second Road) making several stops along the was, one right in front of JungCeylon, for those passengers wishing to stop there.  Once past JungCeylon the bus returns to its original starting point at the south end of Beach Road.

All in all, it is a good way to spend a lazy afternoon seeing parts of Phuket you may not have had the opportunity to visit as a tourist.  You will notice that there are many locals and long time expat residence that use the bus, which tells you a little about it.

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