Phuket has a few potentially enjoyable roads and a number of interesting places to visit, all on an island about 50 km long and 20 km wide. However, particularly in the southern half of the island, roads are congested with ill disciplined traffic. They are poorly designed, and poorly maintained compared to roads in other provinces (for various administrative and political reasons). For the most part getting around is a battle, not a joy.
Early morning, however, provides an opportunity to enjoy a ride in cool fresh air, with little traffic. Sometimes I like to do just that. This is a trip that I started before dawn recently. Covering a loop of less than 50 km (30 miles) in three or four hours, it included a variety of roads, and some interesting sights.
To illustrate this report I have mostly used pictures taken at the time, but the first few of the Patong Hill Road were taken at another time, during the day.
The first part of the trip, was just a couple of km through town, and then several of dual carriageway. Boring stuff, but by day you always have to keep your wits about you in the traffic. It was easy going early in the morning.
The road over Patong Hill, one of Phuket’s busiest roads, is more interesting. In about 2.5 km (1.5 miles) it rises from about 15 metres (50 feet) to I guess 100 metres (330 feet), then falls to about sea level. It has a number of tricky corners. Add in some heavy traffic with crazy drivers, and you get over a thousand accidents a year, or about 3 per day.
When it rains after a dry spell, on some of the steep sections it gets hilarious. Impatient drivers in overpowered cars often lose traction and land up spinning their wheels, going nowhere.
Patong Hill starts with moderate slope increasing to a steep pitch around a 140º bend
From there it is a gentle slope on a short straight and for the first part of a 160º bend. Toward the end of the bend it gets into a fairly steep incline. Large vehicles often break down here; buses with inexperienced drivers stall, and trucks shed insecure loads. Concrete mixers frequently spill some of their contents, so it is quite bumpy in parts.
Leaving that section, the road goes around a sharply rising 80º bend, which is quite challenging.
There is a Chinese Temple at the highest point. The deity that it houses likes drivers to toot three times as they pass by, so it is a noisy place. He also likes movies and brawn. If prayers are answered supplicants pay for a movie to be shown by the roadside in the evening, or make an offering of a pig’s head.
From the top the road falls away sharply over a blind brow, and into a tricky blind 70º bend, a bit like The Corkscrew at Laguna Seca.
The road continues down steeply through a series of gentle bends, into a sort of a big dipper, where sink holes occasionally open up after heavy rain!
Soi San Sabai in Patong, is a busy thoroughfare on privately owned land. In the early hours of the morning it would have been chocker with motorcycles parked 2 deep, each paying 20 baht to be there. At 5.15 there were just a few left and night owls were making their way back to their digs before dawn broke.
To be continued, if anybody is interested..... If you prefer Nantucket, Empty Sea may oblige