The Proliferation of Dive Shops
Because of Khaolak's proximity to the Similan Islands, one of the world's best diving locations, it is not surprising that more and more dive shops are springing up. At one time Sea Dragon were the only dive shop in town. On my last trip I noticed that the huge place in the picture had suddenly sprung up.
It won't be long until it is like Patong with hundreds of places offering diving. My divemaster friends tell me that the Similans are getting more and more crowded. No surprise really as they are so beautiful. The same will happen there as happened at Phi Phi. I'm glad I got the chance to go when the islands were relatively quiet.
Destruction of the environment
"Lotus restaurant, Bang Niang beach, January 2002"
I was so glad to have 'discovered' Khaolak in early 2002. After being shocked at how development had ruined other places I'd been to in Thailand here was a place that was still relatively unspoilt.
This little restaurant quickly became one of my favourites. Not only were the people working there wonderfully friendly and the food good but the setting was perfect.
It was a classic Thai style rustic building and stood on stilts at the back over a magnificent pond. The pond was covered in waterlilies (note how I am using the past tense), teeming with fish and attracted a variety of local birdlife.
Sitting on the verandah looking out over this perfect scenery was wonderful.
Returning to Khaolak just 11 months later I was keen to visit my friends again at the restaurant.
This was the scene that greeted me when I arrived. The ground next to the restaurant had started to be dug up ready for new buildings.
"The death of the pond and everything in it"
As a result of the construction this is the new view from the back of the restaurant. Nice, eh?
Within about 6 months this area will be full of new bungalows.
"The end approaches"
This is the view from the back of the restaurant. As you can see, the pond is being filled in and the ground level raised.
The waterlilies have died.
"The last vestiges of life"
A few small fish survive the onslaught but not for long.
"Close to the end"
Some local Thais have seen what is happening and arrive at the pond with fishing nets to collect the remaining fish to eat or sell.
I was due to leave Khaolak the following day but by now there will be no evidence that a beautiful pond ever existed at this spot.
This sequence of events saddened me more than anything has saddened me in years. The worst thing is that nobody seemed bothered. Even the owners of the restaurant, who should be the most sad, could only think of the revenue they would earn from the construction of bungalows on this land.
I understand their view to some extent. They don't have a lot of money and money is everything to them. The thing is though, once an environment is destroyed, it's gone for good.
Since 1987 when I first visited Thailand I have seen this type of thing in many places and sooner or later there won't be anywhere left that hasn't been ruined by greed.
"The destruction is complete"
This was the scene when I returned in November 2003. The lovely restaurant with a thatched roof had been pulled down and replaced by an ugly concrete building with a corrugated roof. Bungalows have been built at the back and there is no sign now that there was ever a beautiful pond there.
"This is progress for you"
The restaurant owners are ecstatic as they now have bungalows they can rent out. Next to the bungalows a huge, ugly building is currently being put up. Compare this picture with the one at the top of the page and tell me what you prefer.
All this has happened in just 2 years. I was fortunate (is that the word?) to have visited this location 4 times in 2 years and I saw the gradual transformation. People arriving for the first time now will have no idea how beautiful it used to be.