PHUKET: BEYOND RECOGNITION – After 36 years of living on the holiday island of Phuket, Thailand I think I am fairly well positioned to make an education opinion of how things have changed, the state of Phuket in 2013 and the foreign expatriates living here.
When I arrived on Phuket in 1977 there was little in the way of roads and indeed traffic; just 36 years later and its getting to the point that you can barely travel anywhere.
Yesterday I was forced into visiting Central Festival to acquire a new bank card and the journey was little more than a jungle full of cars, trucks, buses, minivans and of course the hordes of motorbikes; mostly occupied with three or more people none of whom were wearing helmets.
Do I care? No not really for I have come to accept that this is their way of life and who am I to condone years of indoctrination?
As I sat in the cues of never ending traffic my mind wondered back to a time where most of this would have been jungle. Phuket back then was a lush and tropical jungle – today it is little more than a pauper’s version of Singapore.
Yes the Thai officials, from time to time, bleat on about how Phuket will become the next Singapore but what they fail to realise is that Singapore was driven by desire, a collective good and with vision whereas the authorities on Phuket are driven by greed and power.
There was a time I could jump on a motorbike, travel from Rawai to Tesco Lotus on the bypass road, Central Festival in 15 minutes. Yesterday’s journey took me 1 hour and 20 minutes and nearly 1 hour and 30 minutes to return – yes it was almost grid-locked of which most of it is being caused by the new underpass being built by Italian-Thai.
They call this progress but all I see is the destruction of the natural habitat and the devastation has been going on for years.
Going back nearly 30 years there wasn’t much in the way of development, Phuket, for those who remember, really was an outstanding tropical paradise where it was safe, clean, green and peaceful.
Today, in the pursuit of progress, that has all but vanished and in return we have continuous road construction of which most is sub-standard; therefore requiring almost immediate repairs as soon as they are built – yes that wonderful new road or intersection that was designed to relieve congestion has never worked for they are constantly under repair that simply causes even more congestion.
Due to the growing number of buildings that appear to sprout like mushrooms in the night Phuket has experienced a vast explosion in the population. The police often beg central government to provide more police officers and each time the request is made it is summarily denied due to the ‘official’ population figures – something that most would agree is significantly higher than the official figures.
Again the lack of authority planning has lead to an unplanned growth of the populace and in return authority services remain woefully inadequate.
With uncontrolled grow there is always unmanageable resources – water is a problem, electricity is becoming a growing problem and social elements, such as crime, continues to grow.
I read an article the other day on meebal.com regarding the couple who wrote about their holiday experience in Phuket. I have to admit the lady in question was pretty forthright and damning of what she had to say but I couldn’t bring it upon myself to condemn her comments.
I read with interest the comments of what can only be presumed as being by mainly foreign expats – they were indeed for the most part condemning and vile. I could only conclude that most of them had only just managed to drag themselves out of their beds after pushing aside their latest conquest from one of the thousands of prostitution bars that litter this once stunning island.
Yes, most likely still suffering from a hangover they read the article with bleary eyes and took offense at the truth and therefore decided in an almost drunken stupor to attack another person’s views.
I suspect my article will get the same type of abuse but frankly I’m past caring what any of the drunken degenerates that see themselves as expats have to say – it’s pretty difficult these days to find an expat sober enough and long enough, to have an educated conversation that doesn’t wholly consists of four letter words and providing a graphic description of how the would like to mount the young lady serving their next beer.
Not all expats are the same and it would be foolish to tar everyone with the same brush but as Phuket has developed over the years it has gone from a haven of tropical beauty to a place that is renowned for cheap beer and bars overflowing with prostitutes that allow for easy and affordable sex. Yes, Phuket really has, in the mainstream, become a drunken whorehouse
There are still pockets of stunning natural beauty but I’ve been here long enough to know that a thing of beauty is a joy forever; until a Thai decides a nice new resort of bar complex will make him a tidy sum of money – and it’s irrelevant whether he owns the land or not for there are always ways to circumnavigate the law providing the envelopes are well endowed.
The argument I suspect from the expat community here will be one of ‘Why don’t you f*** off back to where you come from.’ Or maybe ‘Another whining old fart that wants to change Phuket’s wonderful lifestyle.’
Of course many of these people haven’t been here for more than five minutes and so really, in defence of their ignorance, they simply do not know any better.
For those of us who do remember what Phuket used to be like, before the thousands of bars, restaurants, massage shops, beauty salons and of course resorts, we remember a time where it was still possible to have a few cold ones and find company for the night if sought.
However those were also the days where it wasn’t all money driven and where you could find a place of solitude with a good book and yes a cold beer.
For those who did admonish the lady I suspect you really don’t know Phuket yourselves – I suspect you never knew a more gentler pace of life where coconut trees and rainforest was in abundance.
Yes it could have been argued that the lady should have undertaken a little research but that simply takes most of the adventure out of a holiday – well at least for some.
The Thais themselves take a lot of flak from the expats – it appears nothing is quite to their liking and yes for their part they have done a lot of damage to the island. However, the Thais are driven by money and therefore the fault is ours.
We came here with money to the likes they had never seen and we made it look easy to obtain. In return it was we who turned the Thais into the greedy and selfish people they are often labeled as today – I can assure you that it wasn’t like that when I first arrived.
Phuket has so many problems that it is almost impossible to list them all. Yes we all want change but nobody ever really bothers to explore the issues as to why we need change – in other words why can we not look back and learn from our past mistakes instead of blindly rushing into the future only to announce that ‘this is progress.’
At the end of the day most expats are in the fortunate position that they can simply pack up and leave but unfortunately few of the indigenous population are afforded that luxury.
Instead, if it does indeed collapse, then these are the people who will be left to pick up the pieces. I can assure you that I know of many Phuket born Thais that feel like their island has been taken away from them and whilst they do not despise the westerner they do hold them, in most part, responsible for Phuket’s current position.
What Phuket needs is change and it is of course easy for westerners to simply shrug off any responsibility with the rhetoric that the Thais don’t listen or that westerners are irrelevant / second class citizens in the eyes of the Thais.
Again if you bothered to actually sit down with any Thai you will find that their hopes and dreams are similar to yours and that they too would like to stop the ravishing of uncontrolled development.
Yes, despite your rhetoric that the Thais are stupid and dumb, this is simply not the case and that in most cases these people have a far greater grasp on reality that most western expats.
Feel free to leave your comments, even the vile ones, for this is one expat that will not bite your bait but will simply watch you while you get drunk pawing the next poor 18 year old with your lewd and unwanted advance.