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Whenever we travel from our home in Chalong to Patong, we currently have two choices:

1) a long drive up Chaofa West Road (currently experiencing a year-long road-widening project which is no fun riding through on a motorbike) to Central and then west through Kathu and over a mountainous switchback road (competing with half-asleep coach bus drivers and crazed tuk-tuk drivers) up-and-over into Patong; or

2) a long drive west over two mountains (which are lower than the one west of Kathu) into the Kata/Karon area and then north up the coast (another mountain road but hugging the slope rather than switchbacking up it) into Patong (this is the more scenic and enjoyable of the two routes).

Luckily, we don't often have a desire to go into Patong.  This is partly because of the travel difficulties (made even more fun by the constant threat of tropical downpours during the May thru October monsoon season) but also because Patong is the most touristy part of the island — much higher prices than everywhere else, more people (particularly farangs), the worse traffic in Thailand outside of Bangkok, and many other negatives).  About the only good reason we have for going there is to see one or another of Tim's friends who can't get out to Chalong.  Sometimes, we're in the mood to partake of the nightlife there or visit a favorite restaurant but that's becoming more and more rare as we discover interesting places closer to home.

However, we'll be having to make the trip very often when I begin my TEFL course at the end of next month — twice a day, four days a week.

So it's with some interest that I read the following article detailing plans for a more direct Chalong-Patong route.  At first thought, I recognized how convenient it would make travel across the island.  However, the more I think about it the more I don't like the plan.  I doubt that it will ease the congestion within Patong itself or along the Chaofa West Road.  The construction project and access will destroy a lot of pristine forest and pastureland.  Soon after completion, the road will be lined with the numerous noodle stands, motorbike repair shops, secondhand furniture stores, etc. that dominate every other main road on Phuket.  It will open up the interior of the island to even more construction of multi-million-baht homes, condos, and resorts continuing (what I consider to be) the out-of-control building boom that currently exists here.

I think I'd rather have the "inconvenience" of a circuitous route than risk destroying a healthy chunk of nature.  Progress is not necessarily a good thing and if planners don't take into consideration some of the consequences then the "tropical idyll" that makes the island so attractive to tourists and expats (without whom the economy would have to rely on the diminishing rubber industry) wil disappear under concrete.

Anyway, enough of my commentary.  Here's the article announcing the road project plans, courtesy of Phuket Gazette (July 19, 2006):

Gov backs Chalong-Patong highway

PHUKET CITY: Governor Udomsak Uswarangkura has thrown his weight behind a proposal to build a 206-million-baht six-lane highway linking Patong with Chalong.

At a meeting held today at the Royal Phuket City Hotel, Governor Udomsak explained that the highway would be 4.5 kilometers long and would follow the route of the current two-lane road leading to Wat Luang Phu Supha in Chalong, extending on from there to meet 50 Pi Rd in Patong.

That road is due to be extended anyway, in order to reach the site of the planned Klong Kata reservoir.

The Governor said that he had already approved spending by the Department of Rural Roads (DRR) to extend the road to the Klong Kata site, but that he would like to see the road pushed all the way through to Patong.

“We could start building the road next year and it could be ready for use in 2008.  It would bring economic benefits to Phuket,” Gov Udomsa k said.

However, he added, if the road is to be built, Tambon Chalong and Patong Municipality would also need to contribute large amounts of money.  This is by no means guaranteed.

Patong Municipality was no represented at the meeting, but Jaroen Thewabutr, village chief of Moo 6, Chalong, said that villagers did not agree with the route recommended by the DRR.

Three routes have been proposed, with the DRR favoring Route 3, the northernmost.

K. Jaroen said villagers favor the more southerly Route 2 because it will take noisy traffic away from Wat Luang Phu Supa; because the road will not be so steep; because it will be less likely to damage the Klong Kata dam; and because it will not require 23 local people to give up farmland, which would be the case with Route 3.

The Governor said that he would call another meeting of all parties concerned to see if agreement could be reached.

Brought to you by:
The Phuket Gazette
16:57 local time (GMT +7)

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It will be interesting to see how long it takes for this project to actually happen.  Once the governor throws his support behind something, work usually begins very quickly despite any "reasonable" objections (witness the recent Bypass Road project).  Stay tuned...