You'd hardly believe it today, but Patong was once the island's most remote beach, completely cut off by the surrounding mountains and only accessible by boat. Today it's a thriving, thronged, beach-resort community frequented by both Bangkokians, down for a weekend of fun in the sun, and international visitors. Patong is a great place for new visitors to Thailand looking for a nice beach with characteristic Thai experiences, like muay thai (Thai boxing), street shopping, and authentic Thai food, as well as familiar facilities, like Starbucks, sushi bars, and chain hotels.
The beachfront has long been a congested mishmash of high-end hotels and restaurants, patrolled by hawkers and beach vendors. The sidewalk is clearer since the Thai army intervened to try and force out the overabundance of illegal businesses; however, things are still not perfect. You can stroll along several miles of boutiques, western restaurants and bars, ice-cream parlors, and upscale nightlife venues, interspersed with traditional Thai market stalls selling food, cheap T-shirts, and knockoff goods. The lively nightlife scene remains a big draw for many tourists, but the sheer variety of restaurants, hotels, and entertainment on offer ensures Patong's popularity with a wide variety of visitors.