Ko Chang's slightly smaller southern neighbour is a real touristic island. In fact it's the only touristic destination in remote Ranong province. Apart from agriculture (rubber and cashew nuts) as the main economic factor there is a large number of tourist resorts on the island. The whole atmosphere is businesslike, prices are double, triple or higher than on the mainland. One get's the impression to be merely a walking wallet. The Siamese smile changes into a smart business grin.
In A Beach Bar
At the time when a region is changing towards tourism there is always a wave of land speculation. Investors from outside (mainly the Bangkok elites) buy land for cheap from the farmers who yet don't realize what's going on. Many of the simple local people don't even realize that they sell their land, being deceived by wrong promises and bogus. Sometimes they sign the contracts with a thumbnail print, because they can not write their names. As a next step the investor either builts a resort himself or he resells or rents the land for a high price to another investor. That's an explanation for the high price levels in trourist areas. Not seldom are the owners or operators of the tourist resorts in debt and have to pay interest to a bank. At the end the guests are expected to pay the final bill. And the operators are under pressure to make business. That of course spoils the atmosphere of the tropical 'paradise'.
Some Westerners live here for long and are involved in business as well. Some even try to find a job here, due to the high and ever rising unemployment rate in western countries. Funny to see that nowadays Westerners migrate into developing countries to make money on the lowest level - in the past it was almost exclusively the contrary.
The Grand Beach Ao Yai
Ao Yai, one of the western beaches, seen from the veranda of one of the resorts. It's cut off the common infrastructure and makes visitors somewhat dependent on the high-prized resort restaurants. Image by Asienreisender, 2012
Although there are no longer distances here and the island would be perfect for riding bicyles, most tourists rent a motorbike at one of the many shops who offer them. Tourists contribute a significant part of the island's traffic. Although they have all day time, they seem to be always in a hurry. Decorated with absurd tatoos and equiped with dark sunglasses they disturb the islands former virgin charme, although exactly that was originally a reason to come here. Not very communicative either (everybody nowadays is a single unit, avoiding contact except via computer - 'homo homini lupus est', the credo of (neo-)liberalism, but there are hundreds of friends on facebook...), the atmosphere is not very pleasant. And that's so even in the low tourist season - how might it be in the main season from November to February? I guess prices will skyrocket and there will be much noisy party activity here.
Did you know, that in Thailand every year alone around 290 Brits are dying due to accidents (mostly self-inflicted motorbike accidents) and overindulging alcohol and other drugs? (according to Stacey Dooley, 'Thailand Tourism and the Truth', a BBC documentary). Not to mention the many other Westerners who come here to make a fool out of themselves.
Of course, also the locals use motorbikes, not bicycles. The kids and youngsters drive much to fast. Yes, kids. In Thailand are not seldom eight year old boys driving a motorbike, on the back there might be their six years old brother. Better to take care here yourself, because they simply can't.
Not to forget: there are masses of dogs on Ko Phayam, not few are troublemakers. They annoy hikers and guests in many places. Frequently they appear in larger packs and howl, bark, growl and fight each other around the resort bungalows. Many of them are strayers and look very sick (rabies, scabies and more diseases they carry).