• Monday, September 18, 2006

    Extortion in Paradise

    Just returned from a weekend soaking up the sun on Samet (also written Samed) Island. It's a small island off the coast of Thailand's eastern seaboard in Rayong, out towards Cambodia in teh Gulf of Thailand.

    I first visited the island nearly 15 years ago when it was nothing more than a collection of scruffy bamboo huts with occasional electricity and prestine beaches looking out to clear waters. The inevetible rise of tourism in Thailand and Samet's close proximity have meant that the idyllic paradise of a decade and a half ago has now become a tourist mecca. Big business has moved in and those two other evils of beach tourism: jet-skis and motorbike hire.

    Samet is a national park but it is now filthy when once it was beautiful. The last time a went, earlier in the year, it cost 200baht for foreigners to enter the island, with Thais paying 20 baht. This has now changed, foreigners have to pay a hefty 400baht for the privilege of spending money on the island. As someone who lives in this country and contributes quite a lot of money to the local economy on a daily basis I feel that it is nothing short of theft to then charge vastly more than a Thai for what amounts to nothing.

    The staff running the restuarants and accommodation are complacent, knowing that they will get guests whatever. We stayed at the pricey (by local standards) SilverSand Resort where three of our group got food poisoning. Whilst eating we had to endure the regular sound of puppies squeeling as a result of being kicked or stamped on my the staff - followed by laughter from their colleagues and some Thai guests. At one point a waiter grabbed two puppies and bashed their faces together to encourage them to fight one another. Several Thai families found this ever so entertaining - peace loving Thai buddhists for you I guess.

    Despite the nice accommodation I really would avoid this place at all costs until it changes it's attitude.

    The rest of the resort seemed ok. The beach was good, if a little crowded with the biggest bunch of Americans I've seen in one place for a long time. The water was it's usual excellent blend of blue/green, the only negative being that it was slightly murky from a storm.

    I will post some pics later but blogger doesn't seem to be playing ball at the moment.

    Extortion in Paradise

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