PHUKET: The recent expansion of the poh thong (pink bus) public transport service to the people of Koh Sireh is not only great news for some of the poorest residents of Phuket Town, but also gives long-suffering tourists an overdue, low-cost travel option.
The latest route’s eastern terminus at Laem Tukkae will be a blessing for many, from the poor sea gypsy community there to the guests at the upscale Westin Siray Bay resort who want to explore the city’s many interesting sites in an authentic and comfortable way.
Until the new service was launched by the Phuket Provincial Administration Organization (OrBorJor) earlier this month, guests at the resort seeking a way into town were forced to pay a “standard fare” of 300 baht (approx US$10.00) for the five-minute trip, with popular destinations such as Bangkok Hospital Phuket, Big C and Tesco Lotus even higher at 400 baht, or 600 baht by van.
Now those wanting to reach these destinations – or just about anywhere else in Phuket Town – will be able do so for 20 baht.
To the best of the Phuket Gazette‘s collective knowledge, this marks the first time guests at a seaside resort hotel in Phuket have been given access to the kind of safe, efficient, reasonably-priced travel options available to people in virtually every other part of the Kingdom outside of Phuket.
Best of all, our visitors will be able to explore the entire town and all of its interesting sites at their leisure, without being continually hounded to buy overpriced jewelry, wooden elephants, massages and trinkets – or being overcharged for rides to ripoff tourist attractions where foreigners are charged 10 times the amount Thais pay.
But while the pink buses are proving to be a big hit with local residents and gaining recognition nationally, after winning an award for “Local Innovation” from the Prime Minister’s Office last year, only a small minority of the passengers who currently use them are foreigners.
The OrBorJor has done a good job of making the service more accessible to foreigners, such as by posting English-language information at bus stops.
Unfortunately, the zig-zagging routes are notoriously difficult to remember. Even lifelong Thai residents of the town, including many senior citizens who would otherwise stand to benefit a great deal from the service, find it nearly impossible to figure out how to get from A to B easily if it involves a transfer.
The Gazette would like to encourage its readers to familiarize themselves with the routes, to begin using the service, and to recommend it to others.
Who knows? Some day we might even see the friendly pink vehicles transporting satisfied tourists around Patong, or between that town and Karon.
Then again, perhaps not – but certainly everyone has a right to dream of the days when Phuket’s tuk-tuk and black taxi gangs are finally off the streets.
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