The Last Resort- 2014
Updated: Jan 4
"Call some place paradise, kiss it goodby" The Last Resort, The Eagles
Paradise: tropical beach, azure seas, flour white sand, palm trees sway, coral reefs, cool drinks, fresh bbq seafood, a massage/spa, infinity pool etc.... In many ways, Thailand is that very definition.
The land of a million smiles remains a special place in our heart, a place we keep returning. We first arrived in 1987 during a one-year honeymoon, and wrote extensively about our beach adventures which you can find by clicking on the Thailand link above.
Since those halcyon days, we have returned many times, initially to beloved Koh Samui, which sadly was despoiled, (realistically, it was well on its way in '87!). To depart Koh Maak, we boarded an overloaded high-speed boat which pulled right ontp the beach in front of the resort; of course it was running behind (Get there early, might be late!). A perfect day for a sea cruise, clear and calm as we skimmed south on the Andaman Sea to Koh Lipe.
A few more days on a tropical beach to soothe the nerves before Malaysia. Lipe fit the bill, as it promised picture postcard tropical scenes; you know, the one that causes everyone freezing half to death back in Canada to turn green with envy.
We'd also heard it was overrun with westerners aka "farangs," expensive beach bungalows, and restaurants, not surprising given the remarkable popularity of Thailand amongst travellers, despite guns, grenades, protesters and mayhem in Bangkok in 2014. Three nights in Lipe- an island transformed from an isolated sea gypsy fishing village to cheap wood beach shacks to an international hang out in only 10 years. With the advent of cheap flights, online photos, bloggers, tweets, influencials, Facebook, YouTube and especially InstaGram.
It had become a relatively simple matter to fly direct to nearby Phuket from Europe, and immediately hop aboard on high speed boat to any one of the magnificent Thai Islands; no more slow ferries for this crowd.
The islands along both coasts have become overrun with tourists, which includes us. Check out two photos here of Koh Phi Phi, near Phuket, made popular by the movie "The Beach;" we called "Gilligan's Island" when we visited in the '80s).
Tourism isn't always kind to the environment.
On so it goes... It is too easy to grouse about the loss of paradise, how wicked travellers have ruined the planet (usually written by those who are part of the problem, not the solution). Milton was complaining about it in the 17th century! As the world keeps getting smaller, travellers have become more adventurous, off-the-beaten track places become well worn. At Lipe, we check into Blue Tribes Resort on Pattaya, the main beach. The Italian owner must have mentioned he was an anthropologist at least ten times (we stopped caring after the yjotf one). Not a great listener (no surprise there- a disturbing occurrence amongst many folks we encounter). Didn't bother send staff to clean the room during our three night stay. Got into a scuffle with rowdy Lithuanians one night. Seemed to enjoy cocktails at all hours of the day, with his bandaged appendage from the brawl. Didn't include breakfast... standard in this part of the world (but did note that "our prices are democratic"... whatever that means!)
Despite these grievances, the beach immediately outside the bungalow's' front door is boggling; the very essence of that aforementioned postcard: powder/flour white sand, blinding in the mid-day sun even with sunglasses, a riot of green and blue sea, as if an enormous multi-coloured swimming pool. Crabs nipping at our legs as we negotiate the reef directly in front of our resort. Thai longtail boats piloted by fierce sea gypsies, apparently coping with the stresses and strains of the farang invasion of their once-idyllic burg. Over to "Walking Street," a common theme in Thai resorts, a concrete lane running up the middle of the island, (I like Tom Waits name for it: "the main stem"), catering to our every whim. A plethora of dining options, shopping, massage, manicures, grocery stores. Everything hauled over from the mainland 50 kms away.
Incredibly resourceful, these Thais. A little too much for us, things are overpriced during the high season. Swedes again, prosperous as they congregate in Thailand in the winter of 2014, amongst the Russians. Despite the unstable political climate garnering worldwide headlines, Thailand remains in the midst of a tourist boom. The islands offer resorts for every taste, from uninhabited atolls to huge international playgrounds.
The last word goes to Claude Levi-Strauss from his seminal travelogue "Triste Tropiques," one the greatest travel books of all time: "The first thing we see as we travel round the world is our own filth, thrown into the face of mankind." Indeed.