Saturday, December 3, 2011

Build and they will come

Koh payam is waiting in dread and anticipation for a big mainstream tourist boom to happen. A short gangly bar tender behind a wooden bamboo and drift wood bar brought it up in the first five minuets of conversation today. Locals fear the power grid will open the gates. His tangled hair is knotted on top of his head, he wears a red, yellow and green zip up hoodie and tattered cut off jeans. His eyes are slightly bloodshot from last nights drink and the mornings smoke remedy. The roofs is thatched and tribute paintings and prints of Bob Marley hang in every direction. I've encountered bars like this across southern Thailand, this one is called Rasta Baby. I'm not sure how I feel about them. For the most part there is a tired sound track and while the drift wood is authentic the rasta colors ring like a false gimmick. I'm sure there are moments of music and celebration which make these lost reggae bars come to life, but in the light of day the bar just makes me pine for islanders instead of Thais and friends instead of fat Germans in speedos.

Before my conversation with the Thai want-to-be rasta I already felt and saw the vibrations of development everywhere. There are several concrete midrange resorts under construction on the beach where I'm staying. For this island the age of the bamboo hut for 6 dollars a night is being threatened. Though its not here yet the residuals from boom time interest gives this place a build and they will come attitude. For now the resorts are half full at best and I chose a clean, well constructed wooden bungalow with a tiled bathroom and soft bed for $13 over the molding bamboo options. Maybe I'm one of those flash packers they have been waiting for, because yesterdays I stopped into one of the new midrange places and enjoyed some wifi, a clean delicious meal, and beer was still just $1.50. I sat down at a similar place weeks ago in Railey and got up and left after a glance at the prices. For now Koh Payam is a bargain and on the cusp of the main stream.

Today I kayaked a beautiful stretch of relatively untouched rock coast where rainforest meets the sea. I watched sea eagles soar over head and swoop down to catch their lunch. I could see small schools of reef fish along the rocks. The rain came down and the waves and current were at my back and life felt very right. I fear more development on my own island of Abaco I fear for Koh Payam. How far will she be stretched? It seems the Thais are aware of the value of theae natural resources and they have wide expanses of national parka. But on islands like Koh Payam with wide white beaches and little regulation it is possible to be gobbled whole by the beast of burden, the tourist dollar.

Amanda Mar
Koh Payam, Ranong Province, Thailand

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