Text page

Idle banter

Idle banter forum

Changing Thailand:Paradise Lost.

Posted by SBE on 26/6/2011 at 20:04

Did you know that fifty years go Pattaya had a wide beach and that there will be no natural beach left at all soon due to sand erosion. It used to be 35 meters wide and is now 3 meters wide and disappearing at a rate of 2 meters a year.

To remedy this a totally artificial beach is being built for Pattaya's tourists.


According to that report, the reason for the erosion is climate change and building concrete structures along the beach which prevent natural sand deposition.

The problem is not limited to Thailand. A few years ago the hut I was in on the island of Siladen near Bunaken (Indonesia) got literally swept away one night by the sea.

I'd been going to that island for 5 or 6 years and the first time I went there was a fairly wide beach in front of that resort. The last time I was there there wasn't enough room to put a sun lounger on it at low tide.

The owner told me it was the third time her front row bungalows had been destroyed that year so she was going to build a concrete seawall like the expensive dive resort next door had done.

I haven't been back since but I phoned to enquire about rates this year when I was in Indonesia. They now charge 135 euros a night.... up from $15 a night because they've now built an upmarket concrete resort with A/C, the whole bit, and have got a bloody great wall between them and the sea now. Copying what the expensive dive resort next door has done. Scientists may know that building sea walls only exacerbates the problem of sand erosion and will make the beach disappear altogether even quicker but they don't.

I also went back one of my favourite beaches on Ko Phayam last trip. I'd stayed there the previous year and often walked to this beach before then. The beach is a bit out of the way and used to be only accessible on foot or by boat. Motorbike access is now possible because they built a new dirt road to it about two years ago.

The resort has changed a lot over the years. Although it's a lovely beach, the resort there was for years almost abandoned. Last year I noticed they'd done a lot of renovation work and that it was open again so I stayed there a couple of weeks.

This year the change is far more noticeable. The new resort markets itself as an "ecological resort" and has chopped down large swathes of rainforest to build lots of new upmarket concrete bungalows, built to cater for ecologically minded guests who can't possibly do without A/C, hot water showers etc.in the middle of nowhere.

I ordered lunch and sat there thinking thank god I stayed here last year, before all these new "improvements" had happened. Chatted with the manager and asked why there were workers busy building a new concrete sea wall on the beach in front of the resort ...Because they were having problems with rising sea levels and flooding he said. The new owner wanted to protect his investment.

I wonder how much beach will be left in 10 years time and how the investment will be doing then.

#1 SBE has been a member since 14/4/2008. Location: Global Village. Posts: 2,055

Posted by caseyprich on 26/6/2011 at 21:03

However - one reasons people go to these places is because they've heard about how people have been going there for 10 years and how awesome it is. So, having gotten there first you got the most authentic natural experience but in a way that helps to create the flood of people who will eventually travel there.

The same thing happens for beaches in West Michigan (Lake Michigan). We went to a place called Rosy Mound with nothing but a long trail through the sand dunes for years. However, eventually the Department of Natural Resources decided that the only way to preserve the dune was to build a boardwalk through it so that more visitors could come to the beach but wouldn't bust their own trails through the fragile eco-system. Haven't seen a coyote there since, but plenty of families on a Sunday afternoon.

As for rising sea levels . . . well that's nobodies fault, and everyone's. (Let's just keep our mouths shut about Laos before the Mekong gets all damned up and the lumber companies are through with it).

#2 caseyprich has been a member since 3/3/2010. Location: China. Posts: 1,281

Posted by exacto on 26/6/2011 at 23:23

It definitely feels like in Thailand, they realize that people seem to like visiting a particular beach, so they chop down all the trees, knock down the rustic bungalows, and put up a concrete 3-storey hotel complex. I remember when there was one boat a day to Ko Chang, no road, and the only places to stay were bamboo huts right on the beach. Been there lately? Going back to a place you visited before might spoil the memory.

But a big chunk of that vanishing paradise is economic development too, and the well-heeled Thais who are now the majority of visitors to these beaches want something a bit more substantial than the bamboo huts we want.

There is a positive side to that economic development too. Back in the 80's when I started visiting Thailand, nearly everyone was plain poor, worked every day, and couldn't even dream of good health care or their own motor vehicle, much less a beach getaway. Now at least folks have enough money to have choices.

As for the disappearing beaches, I've been to quite a few former Greek port cities in what is modern-day Turkey that are now many km from the water. I think the disappearing beach has always happened. It is just tough to swallow when it is your favorite beach.

In any case, paradise is still there, it has just moved and changed a bit. I still think that guest house in Sangkhom District, Nong Khai Province is worth the flight from Utah to visit.

My go-to beach used to be a section of squeeky-clean white sand on the southern end of Samet Island. You could catch the sunrise in the morning and then cross the narrow neck of land for daily sunsets too. There was one modest bungalow operation with a good restaurant and a little tiki hut beach bar. They sold out a few years back and the new company put in luxury villas in the $200 a night range. It was like a death in the family. Maybe we are just getting old?

#3 exacto has been a member since 12/2/2006. Location: United States. Posts: 2,816

Posted by busylizzy on 27/6/2011 at 04:47

Maybe we are just getting old?

I was on a small island in Fiji 3 years ago when I cyclone hit. We were staying in a concrete-style room that stepped out on to the sand, and the high-tide mark was maybe 20m from the room.

Once the storm hit, the beach literally disappeared in front of us over a couple of hours. The waves were lapping at the bottom step. By the time we could finally leave the island, the bottom step was 3 feet from the sand below. It was fascinating to watch. Probably not so fascinating for the resort manager to watch his beach eroding, although he said he had seen this before, and the beach would naturally be built up again over the next couple of months.[/fred]

Tuvalu is an island (and a country) that is rapidly disappearing also.

"As islands submerge, seabed rights could be lost, valuable and culturally important territorial fishing grounds could pass in to international waters, and, in the most extreme case - say if Tuvalu is submerged and evacuated - there is the prospect of the legal extinction of an entire country.

If Tuvalu is no longer above sea level, and "no island, no claim" is invoked, Tuvalu could face not only losing its fishing grounds, but cease to exist as a state, thus losing its seat in the United Nations and having its citizens become, literally, stateless."

#4 busylizzy has been a member since 31/12/2007. Location: New Zealand. Posts: 2,152

Posted by Thomas922 on 27/6/2011 at 06:24

I feel you big time. I remember a few years ago going up to Bophut on Samui. It was the quietest village around as little as 10 years ago. A few Euro visitors at certain times o the year but mostly hippies and artists and some local families. Once you hit the water and turn left past a few eateries there was a beach on the right that rented jet skis and all and wind surfing. The beach had potential, it just needed a little cleaning up. But the view was nice and it was a lazy place. I went back and could hardley recognize Bophut at all. Everywhere I looked was a new building or underconstruction. When i turned left down that local street I wondered where the locals were. Further down I saw 40 or 50 Farang sitting on the Thai pillows (at the end of the road where you have to turn left again, you can't go straight) on the beach. At the roads end there was a wall or trees or something blocking my view, I can't remember. So I got off my moto and went onto the beach to walk another 20 or 30 meters. I looked to the sea and looked left and saw that a new resort had been built...so fast. The beach was dirty. Not just needing a little cleaning but just filthy. I asked a Thai lady about the new resort and why all the trash, as she threw down hers on the ground. Her response was something like "Thai people want money too, just like you (Farang). Whith so many empty rooms at other places and a dirty beach, how much money will you make? Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

#5 Thomas922 has been a member since 1/7/2007. Location: United States. Posts: 352

Posted by MADMAC on 27/6/2011 at 08:57

Nothing stays static in the world. 30,000 years ago New Guinea and Australia were connected physically. The world changes, and faster than a lot of people would prefer.

Of course we tend to look to the past nostaligically, but as Exacto rightly points out, Thailand has changed very much the better for Thais. When my wife was born, her village had no paved roads, no electricity, no public water, no public sewage, no public healthcare and the school was open air... Now they have all of those things and a decent school for their kids. Tourism (with it's negative environmental impact) played a big part in generating the revenues to build those things.

#6 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by SBE on 27/6/2011 at 13:53

A dirty artificial beach covered in ugly concrete is not most people's idea of an idyllic tropical beach. Once over-development reaches a certain point, tourists will stop wanting to go there. Unbridled greed and no foresight will kill the goose that lays the golden eggs for Thai people MM.

Ao Kiu Na Nok used to by favourite spot on Ko Samet too Exacto. For a couple of years the beach there was like a building site, covered in bags of cement and loads of gigantic tree trunks, legally logged of course...or possibly not.

Once the Paradee resort was built they blocked public access to "their" beach.

Strange, I thought all beaches in Thailand were public and that Ko Samet was a National Park. What are the National Park fees for on Ko Samet?

#7 SBE has been a member since 14/4/2008. Location: Global Village. Posts: 2,055

Posted by MADMAC on 27/6/2011 at 16:15

How long have you been coming to Thailand? It is not a nation of laws. It never was. You should know that. It is a collosal waste of time discussing things like beach access in legal terms. Did you know that prostitution is against the law in Thailand?

Tourists come to Thailand for a lot of reasons. Those who go to Pattaya don't go for the beach.

Maybe unbridled development will eventually damage their tourist industry - or maybe not. Tons keep going to Koh Samui even though people say "it's been ruined". But only the Thai's are going to change that. For now, they are making good money off of it. I just stayed at a five star hotel with an infinity pool and a privae beach and it was nice, very nice. The beach was in Pattaya and it was clean (the hotel staff clean it daily), the sand was nice, the infinity pool was great (my daugher loved it) and that was constructed with unbridled development.

I'm not going to label it one way or another, but Thailand is what it is. It's not suddenly going to become Europe and pass (and enforce) laws that would suit a European mind set. Furthermore, we would be remiss if we didn't mention the great benefits that have come to Thais from "unbridled development". They've gone from terrible, poverty stricken villages to places that are habitable in the very short space of 30 years.

#8 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by eastwest on 27/6/2011 at 19:44

While I understand the sentiment of the "good old days" when everything was better, which is in most cases true where it concerns Thai or SEA beaches, I always have that feeling that too many people see these countries as their playground and not as the way it should be seen: a developing country.

If you're so unhappy "vote" with your feet and don't return. The "They ruin their country" comments I find a complete waste of time.

Keep the locals poor, only $5 bungalows and you'll happily exploit that and have a nice and easy budget holiday. Very egoistic isn't it?

Truth is that the backpacking hardly improves (local) peoples lives. It's the rich obnoxious american/european/japanese, that spends a monthly backpackers budget in 1 day, that increases the economy. No wonder they are more accommodating to that sot of traveller.

Yes, it's sad and not perfect but it's called development. Every country went/goes through it.

#9 eastwest has been a member since 17/12/2009. Posts: 778

Posted by MADMAC on 27/6/2011 at 20:51

How did my grandfather refer to the misery of the Great Depression and the slaughter of WW II? "The good ol' days".

#10 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by eastwest on 28/6/2011 at 09:28

In 50 years (I might be still around) we'll refer to now as the good old days when the beaches were properly covered in concrete and rubbish. I'm sure that by that time they will have invented something far more horrible.

#11 eastwest has been a member since 17/12/2009. Posts: 778

Posted by paulosilva8200 on 18/1/2012 at 09:31

well, to be honest, it all fails in thailand, the point is not if they build a wall to protect the investment, the point is this is wrong see the link http://www.google.co.uk/imgres?q=bali+interior+thai+houses+design&um=1&hl=en&sa=N&biw=1311&bih=605&tbm=isch&tbnid=EUo6akEAflAVcM:&imgrefurl=http://interior-homedesign.com/interior-design-w-retreat-spa-in-bali&docid=xfwlmYp2CDRjJM&imgurl=http://interior-homedesign.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/Casa-de-la-Flora-Luxury-Resort-Offers-The-Perfect-Holiday-In-Phuket-Thailand-2.jpg&w=600&h=337&ei=49sWT6rYHMzNrQfl2LxK&zoom=1&iact=hc&vpx=156&vpy=287&dur=751&hovh=168&hovw=300&tx=165&ty=97&sig=110678388523381872166&page=1&tbnh=98&tbnw=175&start=0&ndsp=18&ved=1t:429,r:6,s:0 thai goverment should be a bit more like malaysia, you can buid a wall, but not on the beach, they should give 30 meters in size to allowed to build, people should not own land on the beach, in this days you see private resorts, when all beaches it should not be privatised or even build on the beach, in koh samui in the fisherman village, we found it very nice and clean on the main road, once we got into the beach was 2 trees and loads on 2 floors high restaurants 3 meters away from the water taking the beauty away from thailand, all roads to towns should have resorts only in the other side of the road, so people could see the beack like in pipi island, that shows that thai people dont understand what tourists want, they think that sun and a bit of water should be enough, i live in dubai when its hot all year, all buildings have pool on the roof, why should i spend money going holidays when i can have more space in my pool,thai people care abou the money, they sell everything on the beach, every 5 seconds you see a person trying to sell you something, and then they take monkeys from their habitat and carring them like babies so tourist can pay 200TB for 1 picture, i think its sick, i think its the last time i am going to thailand, malaysia is much better and more organised, thai people they even not nice any more even when europe gave 1 billion dollar after the sunami, they still act like we just a ATM machine for them. thai goverment, should learn how to build a country in years instead of being a joke, at leat for me they are a joke. now for tourist that go there got jookers and to get drunk driving bikes like there is no law, so they can come home and say that thailand rules sucked, well, we should be the example how to bewave, grow up piss heads, and thailand, be smart you stupid people

#12 paulosilva8200 has been a member since 18/1/2012. Posts: 2

Posted by MADMAC on 18/1/2012 at 09:59

"thai goverment, should learn how to build a country in years instead of being a joke"

This kind of statement ignores the enormous progress Thailand has made for the quality of life of its people since WW II. 50 years ago almost no villages in Thailand had running water, paved roads, a public health system, decent schools, public electricity. Now almost all villages have these things. they have built quite a lot. Nobody wants to give the government credit for that, instead seeing the areas where "progress" has fallen short.

#13 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by tezza on 18/3/2012 at 05:21

Seems to me we have 2 issues here:

WORLD WARMING which is a given. Sure you can have a roof full of solar panels like me, walk or cycle instead of driving, and when driving try to beat 40 mpg all of which I do because I'm a nut cast - but that's just gonna SLOW sea level increase and other warming problems, not stop them.

THE GROWING ASIAN MIDDLE-CLASSES. Tourist places in LOS, Malaysia and Indo are awash with the growing band of middle income locals. If just 5% of Indonesians are in this income band that's still 12 million people who want to holiday in some style. And what's 5% of 1.2 billion? Because the Chinese are certainly starting to hit SE Asian holiday spots in big numbers.
Thing about the middle income group is they are going to demand a lot better than some basic backpacker joint.

That's life. Can't stop these things - although moaning about them may be cathartic.

#14 tezza has been a member since 13/4/2006. Posts: 1,358

Posted by MADMAC on 18/3/2012 at 22:07

May I suggest:


#15 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by paulosilva8200 on 19/3/2012 at 00:41

50 years ago, portugal was very poor too, still they not build hotels 2 meters away from the water, thats selfish way to think, its all good to think, yes i own this land, i want closer to the hotel so i can make more money, and the turists thinking, great i want a room closed to the water, the only way to stop that is to the goverment not allowing this things to happen, turist would be HAPPY BY CROSSING THE ROAD TO THE OTHER SIDE, the last movie of jonny depp shows that, money sacrifices the view for all people, all countries should be able to have all beaches in view from turists, sometimes you dont even know that there is a beach bewing the road, and you can access it because all resorts have the right for that matters, i love koh tao in thailand, its private and they rent rooms there, its beutifull with no change. well done, i see here some comments a bit stupid, we talking about nature and beutty, nothing to agreed and nothing to do with 20 years ago if they where poor or not, its ireelevante this comments, think, have some coffee ,reflet, then you can talk.

#16 paulosilva8200 has been a member since 18/1/2012. Posts: 2

Posted by MADMAC on 19/3/2012 at 07:13

So you think the government should dictate how people can develop their own property? That's OK, if you are willing to bear the cost. Because when you empower government to dictate in terms of thing you think are OK, you empower it to do things you don't think are OK as well. Portugal, as a result of many factors, has become quite expensive. A very good friend of mine is Portuguese and (and her parents) complain all the time about too much government regulation in Portugal now and how the cost of living has risen so steeply and government debt has become non-sustainable.

Secondly, Thailand is not a place where government generally is looked to to solve societal and collective issues. That's a very western centric viewpoint. Even when laws are passed here, their enforcement is often quite casual. Prostitution is illegal in Thailand. It's just not that kind of place, and frankly as someone who lives here, I'm grateful for that.

There are no easy answers to these kinds of problems. If I were the one who had purchased the land, and then someone else, with no economic stake in the investment, says I can no longer build on my property - who is going to compensate me for the radical loss in value my property just took? Do you want to pay more taxes to compensate the people who just took financial losses due to your new law?

#17 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Please login to add your reply

You need to be a Travelfish member to be able to add a post to the forum. After logging in you'll be returned to this page automatically to add your post. Not a member? Join up here.