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Island View: Treacherous Thais? I don’t think so.

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PHUKET: Thailand is to Asia what Vegas is to America, or at least it’s thought to be. The sin-capital of Asia where ‘anything goes’, or at least that’s what I was told.

When I first decided to visit Phuket, it set off alarm bells for everyone around me. I received calls from friends and family members who I hadn’t heard from in years. My Facebook profile became cluttered with over-the-top articles on everyday calamities tourists face in Thailand, which also included ‘meeting’ women who I’ll eventually discover are not really women. Drugs were to be slipped into my pocket and I was going to go to jail for a very long time. My friends started teasing me with chants of ‘massage, massage, massage’, every time they met me.

I didn’t know what to make of all this and, with the same stigma on every travel website, I began to seriously question my own decision. Hundreds of people could not all be wrong, could they?

Then I landed here. With an overwhelming sense of apprehension, bags clutched to my body, I looked at every local as if they were out to get me, ready to prove everyone who warned me right. I was pleasantly surprised at how wrong they were.

The Thais smiled their warmest smiles at me and welcomed me everywhere I went. They were more than happy to guide me in the right direction or offer me a ride to my destination if I looked lost.
I rented a bike and began to discover the island myself. The crisp morning air always put me in a good mood. I rode to beaches, national parks, road-side cafes and the like, always greeted by the most pleasant staff and hospitable locals, not to mention the breathtaking scenery.

Yes, I was asked by beautiful women if I wanted a massage more times than I can remember. And yes, many vendors offered me ‘special prices’ for a variety of items in the market. But if I didn’t want a massage, I politely refused. If I thought something was overpriced, I bargained.

So yes, hundreds of people can be wrong about Thailand, and they’re definitely wrong about Phuket. You are free to get what you want out of it, but you can always move away from what you don’t. It’s that simple, really.

— Mark Patterson

 

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