The news coming out about Koh Tao this week has been pretty hard to digest for me. A place that holds an idyllic memory of my younger days as a ‘traveller’ around Thailand is now being dubbed ‘Death Island’. The island in the Koh Samui group that was once a quiet tropical get away and divers paradise has now seen seven foreigners die in mysterious circumstances over the last three years.
The latest batch of reports have really brought home to me how much Thailand has changed. I suppose I have been in a state of semi denial since about 2008-2009 when the real changes start to hit home. At the start of the century it was hard not to fall in love with Thailand, the ‘golden years’ of the 80’s and 90’s had gone but the place was still great fun, with unbeatable night time atmosphere and incredible value for money.
I stayed in a basic bungalow for 50 baht a night on Kao Tao, at that time that was less than a quid (£1). I found a lovely spot and watched the sea swell over the turquoise bay, snorkelling and fishing during the day and enjoying a beer or five in the evening. I struggled to spend 500 baht a day! I hope things improve for Koh Tao, it’s a beautiful island.
I suppose a lot of people’s lives changed after 2008. But it’s been tough to take in Thailand.
Those days couldn’t last and we’re lucky that the change was gradual. As we watched the pound slide from seventy bahts to forty we’ve had plenty of time to adjust. There has been endless visa crackdowns, corruption and difficulty in doing business coupled with a change in attitudes to the ‘Farang’.
Of course I still love Thailand but the cost of living has always been hugely important as it gave you the freedom to do pretty much what you wanted. Now, Bangkok can be as expensive as any capital city in the world and the tourist areas of Thailand – including the old ‘travellers’ places just aren’t that cheap anymore.
It’s not all bad news though. I visited Koh Tao in 2000 and then again 2004 for a longer spell. I also visited Khon Kaen that year for the first time. One has changed dramatically, the later not so much. Khon Kaen living, even to the most nostalgic of expats has probably got BETTER. We will expand on those details in KKT fear not!
More people have come to Isaan since those days when the whitey was a rarity. But it’s a big country and can absorb more expats. Isaan will welcome the money that’s for sure and it’ll be a while before the Chinese and Russian move in – they tend to need their own language menus !
In the news this week:
The bad press I was talking about with the mesage: don’t visit Ko Tao
The Daily Mail take on the recent death in Koh Tao: Belgian woman found dead on Ko Tao recently. If you’re in Thailand this will be blocked.
Nearby Koh Samui had some shocking news of it’s own after a woman’s body is dug up on a Ko Samui beach in front a crowd of shocked onlookers.
From the Bangkok Post some of the buildings with observation decks in Bangkok are highlighted.