I am doing some consultancy work for the Thai tourist board and tied my visit with that of Bob who is staying off Phuket and Grania and Polly who are further down the coast at a elite training camp for athletes. Bob kindly invited us all to spend the day with him.
His resort is typical of many that you will find the world over, being a island the resort they want to keep you there spending your money. Thus it has a full range of activities, 3 pools, a beach and two restaurants. The clientele seemed to be mainly young Australian. It was not really Bob’s cup of green tea but he seems settled enough in his accommodation. Daffers would not go over board with the food. It’s disguised mass catering with an irritant of not being able to provide everything on the menu. I fancied a whole sea bass a dish which the Thais cook well in ginger but they only had a fillet.
One of the problems that Thailand has to confront is sex tourism. Polly said hat in reading the trip advisor comments one tourist criticised the cost of the ferry to the mainland. He was on honeymoon and said it was cheaper to stay in Pattong (the red light area) than take the ferry back. Aye, aye said Bob I wonder how hard he tried. I made the point that the sexploitation of what is a poor country was rather sickening. Bob needless to say took the contrarian view saying these women however young are experienced in their wiles in catching a man, marrying him, getting a UK passport and then divorcing him. Serves him right, I said. And her, replied Bob!
For dinner a buffet of Chinese,Thai and Polynesian food was served. It was a themed night. Initially a vocalist backed by a group sung popular country rock music of the seventies like the Eagles, which seemed to go down well with the Aussies. Then there was a show of Polynesian dancing culminating with a fire dance. It’s easy to knock this as naff but on balmy night downing Pina Coladas there are worse places to be.
Polly and Grania had cycled round the island. Grania was touched by the poverty of the place. She fed a couple of ginger cats that have befriended her and I hoped with such copious amounts of food some of the excess could be distributed to the poor. At least the resort provides work for many. They certainly try hard but service is slow, cuisine average and Bob who still likes to dress for dinner was appalled to see diners in loose singlets and shorts. Looking around and seeing so many young diners on their mobiles texting away and tattoos you could have transferred the group into any restaurant chain or bar in the world. I felt strongly that Thailand should maintain it’s cultural heritage and traditions but they clearly want to cater for mass tourism – or their perception of it. It’s not unlike those resorts like Torremolinos that spring up in Spain in the sixties for Brits who felt uneasy away from their own culture of pubs, boozing and tea-like-mother-makes-it. Unlike say Dubai there is not the wealth to pour into the infrastructure. Polly has just visited Qatar and said the high temperatures of which many were critical for the World Cup, is not such a problem as no one goes anywhere exposed to the heat, and if they do go on foot it’s in an air conditioned walkway . There is so much wealth that it’s not unusual to win a four by four in a supermarket promotional competition. Thailand cannot compete with them and in my view should promote the serenity that accompanies their Buddhist culture, its natural beauty, the genuine friendliness of the Thai to promote its tourism.