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Like a rolling stone (2 decades and counting). My home, Phuket.

Bill Barnett

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by Bill Barnett from c9hotelworks.com

Driving down a seemingly endless winding road on the warm tropical island of Phuket, I glance up and see a sign indicating a left turn, shouting out in big bold letters ‘Welcome to Days of Future Past.’ Reading between the lines, let me state that we have landed headfirst like crash test dummies into the uncertain days of 2021.

I’ve managed to pass the last 2 decades (20 years or thereabout) in Phuket. In a life spent more outside my own country of birth than inside, my nomadic travels and work have cut a rather expansive swarth all over Asia, the Pacific and far, far beyond. Countries lived in once I start counting, well let’s say I run out of fingers on both hands while reciting the roll call.

Despite the seemingly endless list, what defined the revolving trip before landing here could best be summed up in the words of Bob Dylan “how does it feel? To be on your own, with no direction home. A complete unknown, like a rolling stone.” I never really managed to stick anywhere for so long, except right here on a small island in Thailand.

So how does it feel? After all this time and despite the bad, sad craziness of 2020, I have to say my heart remains full of love for this place we call Phuket, which has become my own home town. The gap time, the fringes at the end of a year, and beginning of a new journey are always a fine time to reflect. And this I shall do, so bear with me.

Covid-19 in some way has learnings and out of the worst of times, can come green shoots, so here are mine. When I look at Phuket, it’s not with rose-colored shades and I certainly see the litter by the roadside, cracked and peeling paint, and the painful price of a taxi, if only you can find one. Yes, it can be chaotic, funky and frustrating at the worst of times.

But looking past the frayed ends what comes home to roost is the absolute sense of community the pandemic has created from physical lockdowns to emotional rollercoasters. I can look back at the amazing generosity of locals and expats to feed the poor during the closures, or those amazing people who give of themselves to worthy causes from educating Burmese kids, to small informal schools or saving dogs, cats, elephants, and just random acts of kindness at the worst of times.

While most tropical islands tout their natural attractions, what makes Phuket special is the people, the spirit and most importantly how it keeps moving ahead with its own flaws and imperfections. I’m not a big believer in religion, what we have today is pretty much it, and those pictures of saints in the sky are way too vanilla for me. I’d never get into heaven in a black t-shirt. In a life marred by some good and other very, very bad decisions, the only way forward has had a hell of a lot of bumps in the road. But what a ride.

And as I hit my turn signal to indicate a left turn into 2021, my thoughts arrive at the simple conclusion there is no better place to be than Phuket. We all need a little adrenalin in our lives, it’s the best reminder that we are alive and Covid-19 has and continues to provide just that. It’s the unknown. Our only way forward is with faith, community and belief that this too, as in all things, will also pass.

I’m looking forward to seeing Phuket on the other side of this debacle and believe its best days are yet to come. Tourism will return. I believe this island sandbox remains a place of magic, promise and generous souls. So how does it feel, you might ask? It feels just fine. Thank you Phuket for bringing me home.

 

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29 Comments

29 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Happy Times

    Monday, January 4, 2021 at 2:42 pm

    very nice article. A god read. Thank you. I also agree tourism will return. “Rome wasnt built in a day”. It wil be a little bit longer, but I feel it will return.
    Cheers Bill

    • Avatar

      BC

      Tuesday, January 5, 2021 at 5:37 pm

      I think commenter TS might have said it best, and still with a sense of decency and respect, to his credit. Does a realtor perhaps have some skin in the game to promote Phuket to the levels that he did? You betcha. Are parts of Phuket still lovely after all of these years, especially with the drastic Covid-caused reduction in tourists over the last 10 months? Absolutely. But when tourism comes back, and it will most likely come roaring back, and when the newer massive hotel and condo projects are complete and when the existing rooms are even 80% occupied, the sheer numbers of bodies and cars and mini vans roaming the island will threaten to bury that loveliness and ‘warm people’ under an avalanche of steel, shopping malls, gridlock, and noise. Naiharn, as TS mentioned, was an amazing tranquil unspoiled spot. Now Rawai and Naiharn are in danger of becoming suburban zones with more shops and houses and mini Tesco Lotuses than green spaces and peacefulness. Whatever floats ones boat, but the days of Phuket being a “small enchanting tropical island” are long gone.

  2. Avatar

    Kim

    Monday, January 4, 2021 at 3:48 pm

    It’s not only the painful price of a taxi. There is a reason why the common Thai does generally not go to Phuket. FnB and hotels are way overpriced and while the western tourists may not care about costs during their holidays, this is unfortunately what feeds the local greed, Thai and foreigners alike. If the business owners would make an effort to root out the local mafia and corruption and make Phuket a safe place with competitive and fair prices, I’m sure Phuket would once again be a nice place to go for holiday and also reside.

    • Avatar

      Tim Houston

      Monday, January 4, 2021 at 4:39 pm

      I will never understand people ranting about prices in Phuket, yes it’s slightly more expensive than some shit holes in Thailand, and it’s better that way. Keep the cheap charlies away.
      Anyways it’s the same in every countries, Monaco isn’t as cheap as Calais beach.

      • Avatar

        preesy chepuce

        Monday, January 4, 2021 at 5:26 pm

        Phuket is a long way from Monaco, in every sense…

        The high prices don’t reflect higher standards, for either Cheap Charlies, or Well-heeled Wallies… without the sunshine, it’s Blackpool.

      • Avatar

        Kim

        Monday, January 4, 2021 at 5:32 pm

        By your comments, its evident that there is a plethora of facts you dont understand. You must be a deranged foreign business worker who thinks Fhuket is comparable with Monaco. Now go back to your bar in patong.

      • Avatar

        Alte Ledertasche

        Monday, January 4, 2021 at 9:22 pm

        Phuket is even more expensive than Marbella for examole if you count all expenses like schooling, healthinsurance etc. and it not provides even half the ligestyle quality.

        By the way I am talking about a budget of 8K US per month.

        Looking for some short distance destination it is even nore expensive than KL which is a developed city with proper bars and restaurants and first class shopping compared to shithole Phuket, better than stinky Bangkok though.

        • Avatar

          barry

          Monday, January 4, 2021 at 9:46 pm

          Try Fukuoka. It’s got nice weather, great food, a more relaxed, international vibe, great onsens, surfing in Miyagi, in winter you can shinkansen to snow country for some Jappowder, and you plane hop to Okinawa for some tropical weekends, and you can also easily shinkansen to Tokyo for even more shoppy shopping…
          Easy peasy. With 8K a month you’ll be golden

  3. Avatar

    Delroy Barnett

    Monday, January 4, 2021 at 3:53 pm

    Driving down a seemingly endless winding road on the warm tropical island of Jamaica, I glance up and see a sign indicating a left turn, shouting out in big bold letters ‘Wah Gwaan Jamaica’ Reading between the lines, let me state that we have landed headfirst like crash test dummies into the uncertain days of 2021.

    I’ve managed to pass the last 2 decades (20 years or thereabout) in Jamaica. In a life spent more outside my own country of birth than inside, my nomadic travels and work have cut a rather expansive swarth all over Asia, the Pacific and far, far beyond. Countries lived in once I start counting, well let’s say I run out of fingers on both hands while reciting the roll call.

    Despite the seemingly endless list, what defined the revolving trip before landing here could best be summed up in the words of Bob Dylan “how does it feel? To be on your own, with no direction home. A complete unknown, like a rolling stone.” I never really managed to stick anywhere for so long, except right here on an island in the Carribean.

    So how does it feel? After all this time and despite the bad, sad craziness of 2020, I have to say my heart remains full of love for this place we call Jamaica, which has become my own home town. The gap time, the fringes at the end of a year, and beginning of a new journey are always a fine time to reflect. And this I shall do, so bear with me.

    Covid-19 in some way has learnings and out of the worst of times, can come green shoots, so here are mine. When I look at Jamaica, it’s not with red, yellow and green shades and I certainly see the litter by the roadside, cracked and peeling paint, and the painful price of a taxi, if only you can find one. Yes, it can be chaotic, funky and frustrating at the worst of times.

    But looking past the frayed ends what comes home to roost is the absolute sense of community the pandemic has created from physical lockdowns to emotional rollercoasters. I can look back at the amazing generosity of locals and expats to feed the poor during the closures, or those amazing people who give of themselves to worthy causes from educating kids from the garrisons, to small informal schools or saving dogs, cats, manatees, and just random acts of kindness at the worst of times.

    While most tropical islands tout their natural attractions, what makes Jamaica special is the people, the spirit and most importantly how it keeps moving ahead with its own flaws and imperfections.
    I’m not a big believer in religion, what we have today is pretty much it, and those pictures of saints in the sky are way too vanilla for me.I’d never get into heaven in a black t-shirt. In a life marred by some good and other very, very bad decisions, the only way forward has had a hell of a lot of bumps in the road. But what a ride.

    And as I hit my turn signal to indicate a left turn into 2021, my thoughts arrive at the simple conclusion there is no better place to be than Jamaica.
    We all need a little adrenalin in our lives, it’s the best reminder that we are alive and Covid-19 has and continues to provide just that. It’s the unknown.Our only way forward is with faith, community and belief that this too, as in all things, will also pass.

    I’m looking forward to seeing Jamaica on the other side of this debacle and believe its best days are yet to come. Tourism will return. I believe this island sandbox remains a place of magic, promise and generous souls.So how does it feel, you might ask? It feels just fine. Thank you Jamaica for bringing me home.

    • Avatar

      barry

      Tuesday, January 5, 2021 at 10:30 am

      One size fits all, isn’t it…

      • Avatar

        Issan John

        Tuesday, January 5, 2021 at 12:41 pm

        Summed up for me by the line

        “… in this place we call Phuket …”

        Well, that has been its name for a couple of hundred years so it would be a bit odd to call it anything else …

  4. Avatar

    Guillermo Baranetto

    Monday, January 4, 2021 at 4:11 pm

    Driving down a seemingly endless winding road on the warm island of Ibiza, I glance up and see a sign indicating a left turn, shouting out in big bold letters ‘What Happens in Ibiza Stays in Ibiza’ Reading between the lines, let me state that we have landed headfirst like crash test dummies into the uncertain days of 2021.

    I’ve managed to pass the last 2 decades (20 years or thereabout) in Ibiza. In a life spent more outside my own country of birth than inside, my nomadic travels and work have cut a rather expansive swarth all over Asia, the Pacific and far, far beyond. Countries lived in once I start counting, well let’s say I run out of fingers on both hands while reciting the roll call.

    Despite the seemingly endless list, what defined the revolving trip before landing here could best be summed up in the words of Bob Dylan “how does it feel? To be on your own, with no direction home. A complete unknown, like a rolling stone.” I never really managed to stick anywhere for so long, except right here on an island in the Mediterranean.

    So how does it feel? After all this time and despite the bad, sad craziness of 2020, I have to say my heart remains full of love for this place we call Ibiza, which has become my own home town. The gap time, the fringes at the end of a year, and beginning of a new journey are always a fine time to reflect. And this I shall do, so bear with me.

    Covid-19 in some way has learnings and out of the worst of times, can come green shoots, so here are mine. When I look at Ibiza, it’s not with Ibicenco-white shades and I certainly see the litter by the roadside, cracked and peeling paint, and the painful price of a taxi, if only you can find one. Yes, it can be chaotic, funky and frustrating at the worst of times.

    But looking past the frayed ends what comes home to roost is the absolute sense of community the pandemic has created from physical lockdowns to emotional rollercoasters. I can look back at the amazing generosity of locals and expats to feed the poor during the closures, or those amazing people who give of themselves to worthy causes from educating migrant kids, to small informal schools or saving dogs, cats, patches of posidonia seagrass, and just random acts of kindness at the worst of times.

    While most Balearic islands tout their natural attractions, what makes Ibiza special is the people, the spirit and most importantly how it keeps moving ahead with its own flaws and imperfections.

    I’m not a big believer in religion, what we have today is pretty much it, and those pictures of saints in the sky are way too vanilla for me.I’d never get into heaven in a black t-shirt. In a life marred by some good and other very, very bad decisions, the only way forward has had a hell of a lot of bumps in the road. But what a ride.

    And as I hit my turn signal to indicate a left turn into 2021, my thoughts arrive at the simple conclusion there is no better place to be than Ibiza.
    We all need a little adrenalin in our lives, it’s the best reminder that we are alive and Covid-19 has and continues to provide just that. It’s the unknown.Our only way forward is with faith, community and belief that this too, as in all things, will also pass.

    I’m looking forward to seeing Ibiza on the other side of this debacle and believe its best days are yet to come. Tourism will return. I believe this island sandbox remains a place of magic, promise and generous souls.So how does it feel, you might ask? It feels just fine. Thank you Ibiza for bringing me home.

    • Avatar

      Alte Ledertasche

      Monday, January 4, 2021 at 9:25 pm

      Yes Ibiza is definitely a nice place. Sa Trinxa is a classic.

    • Avatar

      Albert Zweistein

      Tuesday, January 5, 2021 at 5:47 am

      Spending winter in Ibiza ? I don’t want to think about it. By october it’s deserted.

      • Avatar

        barry

        Tuesday, January 5, 2021 at 10:29 am

        Winter’s really the best time, along with autumn and spring. No crowds, usually good weather. But the best place to stay is really Formentera.

  5. Avatar

    Frédéric C

    Monday, January 4, 2021 at 4:29 pm

    Dear B.Barnett and everyone,
    As a large part of expatriate in Thailand, I experience the same feelings, that there is no better place to make it home. I believe that Phuket will survive and take a new path in the future.Thank you for putting words in the face of so much emotion and challenge. So hold on and Best wishes for 2021.

  6. Avatar

    Mark Davies

    Monday, January 4, 2021 at 4:43 pm

    I’m a big fan of Phuket and they should now use this time as an opportunity to clean & fix the place up (especially the roads & sidewalks) and the Patong beachfront promenade.

  7. Avatar

    Issan John

    Monday, January 4, 2021 at 7:04 pm

    Once was enough.

  8. Avatar

    James Pate

    Monday, January 4, 2021 at 8:10 pm

    Phuket used to be somewhat more fun 25 years ago. Yeah, I was somewhat more fun 25 years ago, too. Phuket is just not for me. For those who like it, go ahead. No one is stopping you. I’ll take a pass. And no, it’s not about the money. I just don’t like the place. To each, his own.

    • Avatar

      TS

      Tuesday, January 5, 2021 at 9:23 am

      It’s a good thing to love your home of twenty years. Everyone should be so lucky to love where they live. Mr. Barnett, you’re a realtor/deveoper correct?
      I was there as a backpacker fourty five years ago. Stayed in a hut on totally undeveloped Naiharn beach and continued non backing visits there through the late 70s to mid 90s as the island developed. The visits were fun but I’d been to much better beach destinations in Mexico and Central/South America. Last visited in 2017 taking a speedboat over from Krabi with the family for a planned three day stay on Phuket. The rip-offs started as soon as our feet left the pier at Chalong. Finally rented a car-much cheaper than local transportation. Driving around the island here and there almost everywhere was shabby and congested, merchants? meh. roads were crap condition. Except for the entrance ways to the very high end luxe resorts looked nice. We’d seen enough and cut our visit short by a day and headed back to Krabi and the islands.
      True, living there is a very different experience with the sense of community spirit and all i guess. We have that up in our NE Thai home town as well. A beach fix is a morning’s flight away. Happy for you and best of luck but that will be our last Phuket visit. We won’t be missed and visa versa.

  9. Avatar

    Ian

    Monday, January 4, 2021 at 10:39 pm

    I’ve never been and seriously I don’t think I ever will I wantvthecreal Thailand it a place described as Blackpool with sun it sounds so grose I think maybe I’m on a rd to nowhere sounds about right

  10. Avatar

    barry

    Tuesday, January 5, 2021 at 10:23 am

    Phuket reminds me of some areas of Bali, especially Rawai / Chalong that feel a little like Sanur for instance.

    If you avoid Patong, Kamala and other west side resort towns, it’s not a bad place to stay.
    Food is ok, lots of supermarkets (Tesco, Makro, Village Market…) and possible to score pretty much anything food-wise, good size, nice views in the hills and some ok beaches like Karon/Kata, surfing off-season.

    Many people around me with kids settle either in Bali or Phuket, for the international schools + beach/island lifestyle. Phuket definitely has the upper hand in terms of amenities, food choice and average living standards, but I still prefer Bali in terms of atmosphere and sceneries (if you avoid Kuta and other dumps).

    • Avatar

      Alte Ledertasche

      Tuesday, January 5, 2021 at 12:04 pm

      Schooling is one of the main reasons we will leave Thailand. International schools are overpriced and education not of suitable quality. You get better value in southern Spain for example despite the fact that there the governmental education is better than an international school in Thailand anyway.

      • Avatar

        Issan John

        Tuesday, January 5, 2021 at 12:30 pm

        So why are you still here, supposedly waiting for the school year to finish?

        It’s like Toby A moving to Cambodia because he’d had enough of the “corruption” and the “dictatorship” in Thailand!

        • Avatar

          Alte Ledertasche

          Tuesday, January 5, 2021 at 1:56 pm

          Its about finishing primary school. For thats OK, for secondary defintely not.

      • Avatar

        barry

        Tuesday, January 5, 2021 at 12:42 pm

        I understand. In this case, Singapore would be your best bet in Asia. With 8K USD a month that should be fine.

        Otherwise Japan, but most good international schools are in areas that don’t offer a great quality of life, such as Tokyo, or Kyoto (great for a few day’s holiday, but really not a fantastic place to live imo).

        My sister loved Singapore, and her daughter was in a good international school there. Not my cup of tea, but if education’s the key, it’s probably your best bet in Asia.

        But if you’re not set on Asia per se, I’d choose New Zealand, by far.

        Otherwise Canada? BC’s nice, a little pricey but good quality of life, awesome education, if you don’t mind the cold that is.

        Southern Spain (or Cyprus, Malta) will not live up to your shopping and food requirements – nice for a couple of months but forget settling there.

        • Avatar

          Alte Ledertasche

          Tuesday, January 5, 2021 at 2:19 pm

          I agree with Singapore. Its also a nice place to live and its OK on 8K US. We used to travel there 3-4 times a year. KL with Mm2H is also an option.

          But our target is Spain, Marbella, Malaga or Alicante. We were thinking about Ibiza but there is not much choice regarding international schools.

    • Avatar

      phuket resident

      Tuesday, January 5, 2021 at 10:55 pm

      Bali is not bali its australia

  11. Avatar

    Tony

    Wednesday, January 6, 2021 at 11:00 am

    My first trip to Thailand was 2006 Mia Khao area Marriot Hotel. I loved it and came back every year but 2007 for 2-3 months. I met a Thai lady on her birthday March 03 2019 who is now my wife. For 10 years I worked 9 months and came to stay with my now wife 3 months. Many times renting a house for 2 months after visiting her family in northern Thailand. I have travel east to west north to south and observed especially in the north poor air quality year around. Too much burning off fields with little effort to mitigate. And the garbage/ plastic problem all ten years with no change but the change of more. I tell my wife it’s the World Capitol of plastic. It doesn’t have to be that way. When renting in Nai Yang Phuket airport town which is supported maybe 80% with international tourism me and my wife took walks at night and to and from the 3 times week outdoor market. I told my wife if Nai Yang would get it’s citizens to clean it up and make it pristine (and yes it can be done just watch a documentary about Japan and I challenge you to see any garbage/plastics in the roadway or anywhere as the film moves from place to place) Nai Yang would become the go to location in Thailand for Farangs by word of mouth.
    I challenge you Mr Bennett who loves Phuket Island so much to use your love and influence to clean up Phuket Island and make it the Shining City on the Hill. What better time during this stoppage and reset of international travel (so to eliminate any blame to the outsiders) to do this and experiment to see if the Thai people have it in them! The Phuket Thais could start an example and precedent. If you get something going I’d love to help as I am retired in Khok Kloi a very close neighbor to Phuket.
    The only negative I see is the tourism in Phuket increases the population by leaps and bounds. On the other side being positive increase in individual and community pride, economy equating to a better more healthy family life and an example that the rest of the Kingdomcan emulate!
    Just Imagine? What If?
    As we say in USA “Get er done”

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Bill Barnett has over 30 years of experience in the Asian hospitality and property markets. He is considered to be a leading authority on real estate trends across Asia, and has sat at almost every seat around the hospitality and real estate table. Bill promotes industry insight through regular conference speaking engagements and is continually gathering market intelligence. Over the past few years he has released four books on Asian property topics.

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