Marymount - International School Rome
Marymount - International School Rome
Marymount - International School Rome
Acorn P H1 - 700 x 180

Will Koh Samed go the same way as Phuket?

This small paradise island 40 minutes by boat off the sheltered coastline of eastern Thailand in the lagoon-like Gulf of Thailand, is doomed for the same fate as the island of Phuket, wildly popular before it was struck by the killer wave of 26 December.

It is shielded from the furies of the Indian Ocean by the long finger of land stretching from Thailand to Singapore that acts like a protective arm.

The visitors wake up of a morning to find the tide in, with waves breaking against the steps of the wooden guesthouses and bungalows hidden beneath the palms which fringe the shores of Koh Samed, indented by coves and bays.

The so-called Wongduern resort, a perfect horseshoe of a bay, brackets an unpolluted inlet of limpid water, with its gentle swell and darting shoals of exotic fish. Its hinterland is smothered in luxuriant jungle and the furnace of the sun bakes the holidaymakers by day. By 18.00 the tide is out and heavy bamboo chairs and tables are pulled out onto the firm, wet sand, turning the half-moon shaped beach into a nightly row of bars and impromptu restaurants - offering fish caught only hours beforehand.

As yet, there is no harbour or jetty and tourists disembark from the boats on to flat-bottomed lighters. A room in a guesthouse can cost as little as 10 per night per person.

"I bet that in five years this place will be another Phuket, lamented Yan, a trim, 50-year old from Loughborough in Yorkshire, northern England.

He had been wandering around for a year after leaving for only a three-week holiday to Australia to see friends. Why was he still around? Yan described the hugely depressing way of life in Loughborough, typified by high unemployment, the dole, the life-saving pubs and cirrhosis of the liver.

"I was in Phuket two months ago. A friend from Loughborough had been going to the place for five years in a row. When he first went he used to walk from his hotel straight down to the beach. Now he had to pass two new intervening hotels on the way. Twenty years ago, as this writer knows, there was nothing but nature in Phuket. Today, apparently, there are main roads, street-lighting, game parks, aquatic parks - the lot.

Now official figures indicate that some 60 per cent of tourists booked into Phuket have switched to northern Thailand around Chiang Mai instead.

The telltale symptoms of development have surfaced in Wongduern as well. One of the bars blares out hip-hop and rap into the small hours of the tropical night. Another advertised a TV replay of a British soccer match at 03.00.

Flashy, fast launches with outboard motors, and high-powered Yamaha water-scooters with handlebars zoom and roar and drone across the bay infringing the otherwise perfect peace by day. They plan colonies of new brick bungalows on the headlands. The beach, still only a narrow strip in the afternoon, is full already and then crammed to capacity by injections of Russian day-trippers from popular Pataya on the mainland, once chiefly renowned as a mecca for European gays and paedophiles.

And today there is another kind of menace, of a psychological kind, hanging over Koh Samed. Because its dreamy setting is so reminiscent of so many other get-away haunts in south east Asia, especially Sri Lanka, hit by the walls of sea over Christmas, few people here can ever quite get away from talking about a Phuket preying on their minds. It comes up at night as regularly as a backing beat.

Overheard one night:

If you had to run for it, just where would you go, trapped in this place?"

Id go for the headland over there!"

"Thats ten minutes away. Youd never make it."

Another volunteered:

Id have my last pint of ale!"

With this waitress of ours here, youd never get it mate!"

Yan was no exception. Born in England of Polish parents, his father had fought with Polish forces in the Normandy landings in world war two, before spending the rest of his life in the coalfields of Yorkshire.

"I had this friend from Loughborough. He was lying on one of the beaches of Phuket when the wave came in. It lifted him into the sky and hurled him forward. He thought he was a goner when he saw the bloody great wall of a hotel looking up before him. He thought he was going to be dashed to pieces. Then you know what happened? The water was so forceful it knocked the wall to smithereens in front of his eyes and Nick - that was his name - went sailing right over the top of it. How do I know? I bumped into him one night in Bangkok. He was still full of cuts and bruises of course, but otherwise, he was as right as rain."

AUR Summer 24 - 724 x 450
AUR Summer 24 - 1920 x 190
AUR Summer 24 - 1920 x 190
AUR Summer 24 - 1920 x 190
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