I have seen this movie before. It had Leonardo Decaprio as the lead role. It is about a traveler who shows up in Thailand, and on Khao San road is so inspired by the ledged of paradise that he embarks on a journey to find it. Oh Khao San road I was told about Ton Sai from an Irishman named Joe. And here I am. We went to the lagoon again today, and this time we swam all the way to the other side. Sarah and I found a cave, and an underwater tunnel to it. We swan in and found ourselves in a cavern that was really deep, and glowed with the light that made its way through the tunnel. It is paradise, but much like in “The Beach” it has its problems. They just take a while to make themselves apparent. Nothing quite so drastic as furious dope smugglers, but there are issues.
The difference between the lives of the Thai people here is staggering. Those who have been able to find jobs in the bars and restaurants on these islands live a life of luxury compared to those who do the laundry for 40 baht a kilo and the long boat drivers who sit around playing cards on the beach waiting and haggling for passengers. A careless 100 baht ($3) tip is close to the total days wages of some people.
This area was hit hard by the Tsunami, and the effects are still evident everywhere. A good fourth of the beach is still in shambles, and a Swedish company has purchased it (in conjunction with the Thai mafia) and plans on building a large resort right next to the backpacker bungalows. This will change the feel of the beach completely and drive prices up for those who are simply looking for a simple place.
Already, the season is getting better and we had our first full day of sun, and with it an influx of hundreds. The beach at Ton Sai is all tired climbers, taking a day off to lounge around and re-charge. The beach at Rai-Lay is full of people from all nationalities, but most speak English. Families, couples, the rich, the middle class, those getting away for a few days. On Pranang beach, the most beautiful and remote of the beaches, you will find those who are beautiful, fat, opulent, sullen, sunburned, in Speedos, and topless. (Silly French.) There are vendors on the beach, and rarely do you get an uninterrupted five minuets before a young child cheerfully swings into view, pulling a bucket full of ice cold drinks behind him that must weigh half as much as he does. “60 baht, you want Chang? Or you want Singha? 60 baht – 60 baht!” Undeterred by our assurances that we are fine, and enjoying our water, he sits down next to us and rests in the shade. He starts to put the cold cans on our necks to entice us further, but finally gives up and shakes his head as he walks off. The backpacker group isn’t really his target audience.
On this beach is a resort that is patrolled by police guard, and the rates are published between $1200 – $6000 USD. That is 198,000 baht. My hut costs 200 baht a night. Crazy.
Anyway, I have started to plan out my escape from paradise, and escape it is. The magnetic force of this place is strange. I will travel to Bangkok then up the western coast, stopping to see some sights along the way and make my way to Chang-mai, then to Laos for a few weeks before I head to South Korea.
The pictures are from last night when Ivana fire danced on the beach on her last night on Ton Sai for the season.