Having Fun with New Friends on a Thai Island Paradise

It’s Tuesday afternoon and my husband and I are sitting with a beer in our hands watching sports on TV. It’s hot outside, the sunshine is dazzling, but we’re kept cool by perfectly chilled beers and whirring wall fans, so much so I’m considering ordering a hot lunch.

Enjoying the game along with us is a group of expats that meet here regularly for happy hour, or more accurately, many happy hours. Between the company, the cricket, and the cold ones, I could be sitting in any bar in any beachside town in America…but I’m not. I’m in Peppers Sports Bar in Bangtao, on the West coast of Phuket, Thailand.

Bangtao is about 30 minutes’ drive north of the tourist and nightlife haven of Patong, and 25 minutes south of the international airport. Within 10 minutes, I could be waist deep in the ocean at the nearby spectacular beach, or watching a live Muay Thai Boxing match, but for now I’m happy at the bar…

You won’t miss the comforts of home here…nor will you miss the prices. That cold beer and dinner won’t run you much more than $7.50. However, if you’re feeling less beer and more bellini, stroll on over to the Siam Supper Club just a few yards away for a fancy cocktail and a grass-fed steak. Whatever your mood or budget, you can find a home away from home here.

Whether you’re after international grocery stores, championship golf courses, movie theaters, or international restaurants, you can find them here, or at most a short drive away—no more than 20 minutes.

Bangtao is a perfect blend of laidback beach and higher-end luxury living, but at affordable prices. For $650 you can rent a one bedroom, fully-furnished apartment with views of the shared pool. Take a short stroll out your new front door and you could be chilling to reggae, with sand between your toes, at the Red Sun Bar with Nestie, the adorable owner who makes you feel like her best friend. Or head for Banyan Tree’s championship golf course to play a few holes…or listen to live music at the quirky Boat Avenue Container Mall…or take a yoga class there instead…

For me, this town is a dreamy mix of having it all and getting away from it all. Drive south and you can party in Patong until the sun comes up, or 15 minutes to the north is Nai Yang, where you could bliss out on a near-deserted beach and enjoy a massage in the shade of the Pandan trees. But right now, in Bangtao, watching cricket with a bunch of new friends in a nice bar feels like the perfect place to be.

Image: ©iStock.com/dima266f

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