World Hum Travel Article on Koh Phangan, Thailand
I stumbled across this wonderful article on World Hum recently and wanted to share it with you. It describes a journey to the once pristine island of Koh Phangan in Thailand; how it was in 1994 and then again in 2006.
It’s a great travel story that manages to capture the raw disappointment a traveller feels when they return to a place they’ve held dear for many years only to find it’s been engulfed by mass tourism and globalisation.
It’s a sad realisation that, with all the best intentions in the world, the travellers who regale stories of these beautiful, genteel places that are the makings of dreams and memories are the very people who instigate their fall from grace.
People like me, who desperately want their favourite destinations never to change but just can’t help blabbing about them at every opportunity, encouraging others to go see for themselves. To go and enjoy the differences in culture and discover what it’s like to live without all the trimmings of a developed world. To enjoy the nights in a beach hut without a fan or electricity, the days of lolling around on the snow-white sandy beaches because there’s nothing else to do but watch the sun rise and fall. To see it is to believe it.
But unfortunately, because of traveller’s enthusiasm to share these hidden gems, mass tourism kicks in; every body wants to know what’s going on; your secret spot becomes the place to be for all gap-year students and backpackers; airports and landing strips are built on islands barely big enough to house them and the package tours start; the once unsullied landscapes become magnets for global giants and soon there’s a Starbucks, 7Eleven or flamin’ McDonalds on every street corner.
Where is the line? How do you stop the places that are less travelled becoming over-trampled? When will the franchise leaders, not content with the billions already lining their pockets, realise that maybe some places don’t really need their services? When there is nowhere else to go?
Apart from spreading the word about ecotourism, what else could travellers do to avoid the inevitable pitfalls of mass tourism? Have you been anywhere that is now drowning in plastic cutlery and big yellow Ms?