Making friends with local people
I am not the usual tourist who spends entire days on the beach. I prefer to spend time with local people and try to find out about their lives and understand what makes them tick.
On my first visit to Khao Lak I stayed close to this restaurant and would just sit down there to talk to the owners and staff. Thais are very relaxed this way and don't mind at all. In fact, they seem to really enjoy it.
When I returned to Khao Lak I wasn't staying close but made a point of going back and I feel that I have made some real friends.
The young looking girls on the left are Burmese. They work very long hours every day and do not get a day off. Although they get food at the restaurant they do not earn very much at all and most of what they do earn is sent back to their families in Burma. Despite this they always seems very happy and made me feel very welcome. They are also not quite as young as they look! Bo, on the left, is about 22 and her younger sister, Kimo (3rd from left), is 18 despite looking about 13!
Besides meeting my friends from the restaurant again this was also a chance to reunite with my friends from Germany. I am at the back with Claudia.
More 'Development' in Khaolak
In 2 years I visited Khaolak 4 times. During that period I saw an amazing change, not for the better in my opinion.
This travelogue is just to show what is happening/has happened. In 2 years it has gone from being an idyllic retreat to somewhere I won't hurry back to now.
Building work, as shown here, is going on everywhere
Piles of red earth where the ground has been dug up for building work are everywhere.
This is where the lovely little Dragon Bar used to be. Sometime during 2003 it was demolished to make way for new buildings.
Bang Niang Beach, just north of Khaolak, is seeing the worst of the development. It was so quiet 2 years ago but now resembles a massive building site.
Cheap labour, probably from nearby Myanmar, has been contracted to do the building work and small shanty towns have sprung up to accommodate them.
Another view of the labourer's accommodation. The whole area is a complete mess.
From this position on the beach road it used to be possible to look out over a lovely field. It is now a building site full of concrete and raging fires to burn the debris. When this has all finished there will be shops, bars, restaurants. I have no doubt that in a few years time it will be no different to Chaweng Beach on Koh Samui or maybe even as bad as Patong.
Two years ago when I walked from the main road in Bang Niang to the beach there was hardly anything. Now, there are buildings all the way down and construction going on where there isn't actually a building at the moment.
I have revisited places in the past, such as Pattaya and Koh Samui, but the time between visits has been quite long and I haven't been able to recognise anything because the changes were so extensive. My visits to the Khaolak area have been in quite close succession and the last visit has always been fresh enough in my mind to realise what has changed. I can understand why though I have been unable to recognise other places in the past because it doesn't take long for the landscape to change beyond all recognition.