• Sunday, March 18, 2007

    The pain of development...

    Many years ago I was having a pint with a friend and his step-father. The step-father was giving a sermon on the ills of the tourist industry and its effects on different parts of the world, whilst reminiscing about a journey he'd made as a young lad through Spain.

    The trip was in the fifties at a time when Spain was still very much a country of quaint hamlets and peasant farmers full of hospitality. Comparing it to Spain as it had become by the early nineties he was full of sadness for the "terrible" development that had taken place.

    At the time I could understand but it's only recently that I've begun to appreciate fully what he meant. In the early nineties I discovered paradise, well as close as I ever thought I'd get to it anyway; and actually I didn't discover it as that had been done many centuries before.

    My paradise was Koh Samet. It was quiet, traffic free, free from pollution and all the noise and vulgarity you normally associate with tourist spots. The beaches were of spotlessly clean white sand and the sea crystal clear, warm and full of life. Accommodation was relaxed, cheap and generally of the bamboo hut variety.

    I've just returned from a yet another weekend on Koh Samet. Now when I visit I feel nothing but sadness seeing how it has developed in the last few years at break neck speed. Every beach is developed, piles of rubbish are dotted all over, the sea is alive to the sound of jet skis and speedboats and the beaches infested with discos that churn out deafening music until the wee small hours (really sounding old now).

    The best beach was always the one at the southern most tip of the island, I forget its name. Being the most narrow part of the island you could wake up in your beach-side bamboo hut to the sun rising and a five minute stroll in the evening would see you immersed in water watching the same sun disappearing over the horizon. The beach was the best I'd ever seen and with water to match. Whenever I spoke of Koh Samet, and that beach in particular, to others I found myself running short of superlatives, it really was something else. That same beach is now home to a five star resort that charges up to 60,000 baht per night! And they've put a swimming pool on the beach!! I'm equally short of superlatives in my description, but could probably muster a few expletives.It's nothing unusual and the development is actually par for the course and a natural progression. It's just sad when you know what it used to be like. I have some very fond memories of Koh Samet, and had some great times there. For someone going there now for the first time then maybe they see it as their paradise and their ideal beach location.

    This trip was OK. We paid more than normal and stayed in one of the better resorts which doesn't have loud music and jet skis and, despite it's luxury, has been developed sympathetically with the surrounding environment. But, whilst lay in bed last night watching satellite TV in air-conditioned comfort, sipping cold beer from the fridge by the side of the bed with the wife reclining on the balcony outside I couldn't help think of when I'd first stayed on this particular beach before, fourteen years ago.

    Then the room was made of bamboo, had a small fan just about tethered to the side of the room that offered limited protection from the heat, and electricity was only for part of the evening. Over the mite-infested bed hung a torn mosquito net and beer needed to be drunk quickly before it reached room temperature. I spent a week there with my girlfriend of the time and did nothing but read, swim, work up a sweat in bed, smoke, drink and sleep - and not necessarily in that order. Happy Days!!

    The pain of development...

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    2 Comments:

    Anonymous lillian said...

    sigh... it is hard to see the change like that... btw.. I have to add http to my link.. then it works.. I think

    8:15 am  
    Blogger Life Out East said...

    It's very sad. Glad you have the link sorted.

    10:00 am  

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