How Timeshares led to a Crazy Night Out in Phuket

Carrie and I hate the tourist scene. Plain and simple. So, upon arriving in Patong, the tourist mecca of Phuket, we quickly logged onto Couchsurfing to find a local to give us the real scoop on the town, the party scene and the best boat tours. After exchanging a few emails and a phone call, we met up with Tut (actual name has been changed to not get him fired by accident): an expatriate living and working in Patong.

 

The limestone crags of Phang Nga Bay, Thailand, by sunset
The limestone crags of Phang Nga Bay, Thailand, by sunset

What’s the Catch?

Everything seemed normal at first: introductions were exchanged and small talk followed. However, as soon as we brought up the subject of tours Tut reached into his fannie pack and pulled out a brochure. The pitch: eat a free breakfast on the beach, attended a 90 minute presentation at a luxury hotel, say no thanks, get a voucher for a free dinner or boat tour.

Carrie, Tut and me in Patong, Phuket
Carrie, Tut and me in Patong, Phuket

Intrigued, our next stop with Tut was a tour booking stall where he helped us sort through our options before making plans to meet up again later for a night on the town. By the time we met back up, Carrie and I had decided on our tours, neither of which were available as the free one from Tut, and chosen the gourmet dinner as our prize.

However, a night on the town was no longer in the cards as our host was too tired. He gave us some info and told us to wait for a car to pick us up the next morning in front of a ritzy hotel. We had to lie and say it was ours, as opposed to the cheapo one we were really in.

After our horrific experience at the Overstay, this encounter with Tut really frustrated us. Did he ever intend to show us around? Does he get commission off of the tours we booked? Everything also seemed to go against the principals of Couchsurfing: it’s not supposed to be used to make money! Still wanted the free dinner so the next morning we hopped in the car and headed to what we thought was a luxury hotel.

 

Oh No! It’s a Timeshare Presentation in Phuket

The full implications of what we agreed to quickly became clear when we got out of the car at a condo community and met Doug, an obese 50-something Englishman with a mole on his face and beady eyes who made inappropriate comments. We were promptly whisked off to a barely-air conditioned room nearly a mile from the beach for a gross breakfast and the beginnings of his sales pitch. The product? Timeshares!

Hotel row in Patong, Phuket
Hotel row in Patong, Phuket

Doug’s presentation started out with a series of questions about our income, jobs, relationship history, trip habits, hotel costs and more: all of which we had to lie about. Tut had prepped us for some of these questions in advance, as backpackers are not ideal time share customers. I did my best, responding with what I though were expensive prices for luxury vacation packages, hotels in England and week-long resort stays. All Doug could do was say, “what are you guys, backpackers?”

Never having attended a timeshare presentation before, Carrie and I were fascinated and kept asking questions and imagining the possibilities. A week vacation in a luxury hotel for only $150? None of the blackout dates and rules of a normal timeshare company? Half price airfare? Only a $200 annual fee? As frequent travelers, how could we resist!

Finally, after nearly two hours of conversation the other shoe dropped: a mere $16,500 initiation fee was required that very day. No time to think. Even waiting an hour would up the price to $24,500. We laughed to ourselves and said we had to think about it…much to the irritation of Doug’s boss. However, Doug was very nice and risked his job by giving us his cell phone number and telling us if we got back to him by the end of the day with a yes he could smooth it over with his boss, who owed him a big favor. What a nice guy!

 

No Thanks to Timeshares, but Can We Have Our Vouchers?

After receiving the voucher for our free dinner, we jumped back into the car to return to Patong to meet the bus for our first boat tour. Of course, we were late…but more on that later.

Thailand restaurant
These are the types of local Thai eateries that we try to dine at to keep costs down…and the type we had to eat at instead of having a romantic dinner

The epilogue to the timeshare saga came two nights later when we tried to redeem our dinner voucher and hit a snag: no one in Patong had ever heard of the restaurant. We walked around, asked tons of people, called Tut but only got voicemail and went even went to Tut’s office in hopes it would be open at 9pm. It wasn’t.

As we continued to search a downpour began and we finally resigned to eating a bland dinner on the street under umbrellas instead of the romantic one we had envisioned. Convinced that Tut and the time share company had screwed us over, we called him one more time and were met with tons of apologies and an instant response.

It turned out the receptionist who gave us the voucher thought we were staying in a different town: hence the restaurant mix up. Tut quickly fixed the problem and told us to go have our dinner and meet up later for our nightlife tour.

 

Instead We Got an Epic Phuket Night Out!

A club on Bangla Road in Patong, Phuket
A club on Bangla Road in Patong, Phuket

Already full from earlier, we instead met up with Tut, used the entire value of the voucher on a small pizza and some drinks at an Italian restaurant and headed out to Bangla road to party. The rest of the night was spent dancing our feet off at five different clubs, all of which he knew the bouncers of and got us into for free.

We were out until nearly 4am, but spent most of our time at Hollywood Disco making friends with everyone around us. So despite a rocky start we ashamedly admit that we were completely wrong about Tut and and wound up having one of our most fun and memorable nights of the trip so far.