20 years I came to Koh Samet, a small Island 220km east of Bangkok. It was a tranquil backpacking haven with paradise beaches, no infrastructure, hardly any ‘proper’ tourists and a National Park. There were no roads and nothing not made out of wood. Money changing was only done on the mainland 10 Kms, or 60 minutes away by boat.
I ate simple Thai food in the same place I stayed, hung out with the same small group of people that rented the huts next to me and by 11pm we were all fast asleep as electricity was a bit hit and miss. I had a great time as far as I remember.
Today I came back. I arrived by speedboat in 15 minutes. It was only possible to book accommodation on the mainland jetty pier so there was no shopping around for the best deal this time. As the bouncing boat turned the corner to the approach of the Island I couldn’t believe my eyes. The 2km beach was rammed packed from one end to the other. As we landed on the beach I could see families of Koreans, Russians, Chinese and even Thai tourists. The beach was covered with restaurants all made of concrete and glass. Jet Skis’ polluted my ears and The Gulf Of Thailand simultaneously along with the seemingly endless speedboats arriving bringing yet more and more tourists to this small Island not more than 5 miles by 2.
We headed up the main street to be greeted by a 200 baht ‘entry fee’ to the National Park, which now has 2 7/11’s opposite each other (24 hours), endless ATMs, even more restaurants, 3 whore bars, 8 massage parlours, countless nightclubs and more flashing lights than a Christmas Tree. But there was plenty of them too on the beach in a country that does not even celebrate the holiday.
I’m staying in a AC room with hot shower and TV and if I need a motorcycle to get around the newly completed ring road there are roughly 10,000 to choose from.
I didn’t expect it to stay the same. This last year has taught me nothing ever does, but I didn’t expect this either. This is tourism gone mad in the search of the mighty $. I could have stayed in Pattaya and seen this.
I have a feeling the same will have happened to the rest of Thailand, as it is in India. I’m not going to find myself or peace of mind here.
Looks like I might be heading to Cambodia and then the open Coastal roads of Vietnam much sooner than I think.
But I’m still clean in a country where there are more things than ever to lead me off the straight and narrow and I’m proud of that. I’m doing well. Whenever I find myself drifting off to the awful events of recent times I engage myself in conversation with the closest English speaking person I can find.
I shall keep following my path, wherever that may take me. I have no timetable and unlimited funds so there is no rush to get where I am going. Whereever that is. All that matters is that I keep putting one foot in front of the other and that I live day by day, with only the most basic of plans that may change at any time.
I’m cool with that. Rome wasn’t built in a day after all and compared to where I was a week ago, this will do just fine.