The touts missed a trick that morning as I dodged them all the way to the bus station courtesy of another pick up, and found myself a ticket for the regular local bus to Phuket (foo-get). It arrived full however and shy of standing for 3 hours I opted for the next one, mysteriously receiving part of the small fare back into the bargain. Very refreshing honesty after feeling like I had been on a perpetual tourist treadmill. Though Phuket had that reputation par excellence, I wanted to see it as a "been there, done that" tick off the list, it was also a manageable distance on the way back up to Bangkok. It had to be said that with northern Thailand now resigned to the same bin as Laos and Cambodia, Siam would likely have little more to offer me wherever I went now it seemed. The south had beautiful scenery and beaches but not much else. And so arrived Phuket Town to prove the point. With very little architecture of note beyond a few small Sino-Portugese clocktowers and the "Phuket Museum" suspiciously being part of a hotel, the town proved thoroughly underwhelming, a real sliced white bread of a place. The vague notables were actually the same as any other Thai town, the prolific demonstration of the national flag, always complimented by the yellow banner of the royal dynasty, and there were the usual portraits of the king, always annotated underneath with Long Live The King in English. The world's longest reigning monarch has been on the throne for 60 years here and is still revered almost as a deity, to the extent that any sign of disrespect even such as defacing money is punishable. A Swedish guy had recently defaced one of the street portraits and received a long custodial sentence, the idiot. And the Thai government has only just dropped plans to sue Google over YouTube depictions of the king in an "unflattering light".
It was the first place in Thailand I had found motorbike taxis, wearing uniform red vests, or rather they found me. Walking around town they were a constant annoyance on every corner it seemed, and such was their persistence it was inevitable that sooner or late I would lose it. One guy determined to find me a "young lady", promo leaflet in hand was succinctly dealt with, suffice to say.