Stickman Readers' Submissions September 17th, 2003

Bar Scene Tourism And Environmentalism – Strange Bed Fellows?

Bar Scene Tourist & Environmentalism – Strange Bed Fellows?

By Lutz

Last year I travelled to Koh Chang Island and I noticed the environmental cost of the tourism explosion Thailand has seen. Everywhere you go there is construction, the run off alone from the construction site silt for example, has already severely impacted the coral, and marine eco-systems on the island. Without my having to go on and on, we all can form a mental picture of the results of plain good modern tourism in its neat promoted package. Tourism however is socially acceptable and fashionable, so the destruction is simply tolerated, and we just look the other way since it is after all for the greater good?, or is it???

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Lets just for fun compare the bar scene tourist, to the regular tourist from an environmental, and sustainability perspective. Please do not take this as my being in favor of the bar scene, or as the promotion of it. I simply wish to do a comparison from a different perspective, between the "bar scene tourist" and the "family tourist".

The bar scene tourist travels to specific well defined locations within Thailand and SE Asia. The bar scene tourist stays within this small microcosm in areas like Patong, Sukhumvit, and Pattaya. All these areas have already been developed so the environmental impact is minimal, and well localised. As far as the effect on the local population is concerned they bring in money, they drink, and they screw. If the woman they are with is there by her own choice, I am not going to pass judgement. Yes the bar scene tourist may travel outside of the area, but for how often and with how much impact? Yes the irresponsible bar scene tourists can spread HIV, but given the exercise of a very basic level of responsibility on the part of the customer, and the part of the girl, this is entirely preventable.

Now lets take a look at the so called "legitimate tourist" the type the current administration seems to be trying to push. This type of tourist increasingly wants to travel to new and less discovered and more remote locations, so it is not surprising that these are exactly the locations being promoted by the Thai Tourism Authority and others. This results in what I call "Tourism Sprawl", this effect is like a cancer spreading in some of the most pristine areas of Thailand, and SE Asia. Yes it is true Thailand has done a good job setting aside areas to protect the environment, but what about the land which is private like on Koh Chang Island? What about the affect of this tourism on what is called a national park, look at Koh Samet (hardly a sierra club nature sanctuary) in fact to me is was a joke to call this island a national park, and to charge for it, give me a break!!! Since environmental laws are so lax in Thailand and SE Asia this tourist for example spreads hepatitis, and viral gastroenteritis and other diseases due to untreated sewage going you no where, that is everywhere you can run a pipe to! While these diseases do not have HIV's high mortality, the fact they will infect large numbers of Thai, and non Thai people, may make this a mute point. Then there are all the extra cancers due to a "potpourri" of toxic chemicals which will now be in the ground water, and all around the local people and their foods, homes etc. like solvents, insecticides, wood preservatives, oils, etc. The sheer ignorance to the hazard chemicals pose amazes me in SE Asia. This attitude towards chemicals and pollution in SE Asia of reminds me of a life magazine clipping, the one from the 1950's showing children running through the DDT cloud, right behind the spray truck. The truck has a sign reading "DDT Deadly to Bug's but Harmless to Man" MMMMmmm we know better now, those kids probably died from liver cancer not so long ago.

CBD bangkok

If what I read about present government trends towards the bar scene continues, and the "Family Tourist" replaces the bar scene tourist, what will happened in the long run? I have one sincere hope on this subject which is that someone in the kingdom will bring this issue up to both Thai, and non Thai environmental groups. Then write some letters to the papers, or do whatever to get a dialog going about the fact that if tourism is allowed unchecked, and uncontrolled you "kill the goose, that lays the golden eggs". Granted the goose may die after your term in office is over.

Take a look at Honolulu in Hawaii, it has become too over developed for even the Japanese tourist, who in increasing numbers can be found in the other Hawaiian islands. Now Maui will be finished in a few more years at current rates and trends. This is in the United States, a country with much more strict laws protecting the environment. Now imagine the same tourism forces being allowed to spread like cancer, un-checked by the existence of any realistic environmental laws.

Helping protect the environment may be just one of many ways for our readers to "give back" in SE Asia. There are so many other ways, and quite frankly it sometimes creates "strange bed fellows" in this example the bar scene tourist, and the environmentalist. Who would have ever thought there could be common ground here???

Ref. my previous letter I do not want to push any agenda, moral point of view, religion etc. I However do think most people will have a better and more happy life if they give back a little to SE Asia. There is so much we can do, and so much we can learn while we do this to enrich ourselves. Where do I start if I want to give back? The answer is simple where you see a need or a problem "JUST DO IT". My feeling is one starting point may be to help in areas where Thai people understand, and are able to see the help as being help, then we can educate them on the other issues. I do not advocate interfering in the affairs of the Kingdom, instead I advocate educating its people based on our mistakes, and lesson learned when possible, or just simply stated, lending a hand once in a while, or try to make your little slice of the kingdom a slightly better place than when you found it, even when seen from the perspective of the local Thai person.

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Stickman says:

Whoa, I never thought about it all from this angle.

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