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Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Don't get too blasé visiting Koh Samui!

Last month I finished with some comments on how blasé we come about living on a tropical island and those comments related at that time about our surroundings and life style. At the beginning of this month I was reminded that one can come a little to blasé about other aspects of life here – simple things like crossing the road! Without going into detail I was hit by a motorbike and spent some time in hospital, X-Rays, MRI, 72 stitches in head and leg, multiple abrasions, hairline fracture of the C3 vertebrae. Luckily nothing life threatening but it could have been a lot worse. I did manage to get out of hospital in time to watch the Rugby at the weekend though! The point of this is not to look for sympathy (little of that I got here from my wife suggesting that after eight years it was time I had a Samui Tattoo to my golfing buddies saying this might help me to keep my head still when I tee off!) but to make the point of how important it is to have Accident Insurance here. I have lived here for eight years now and in that time have had the odd scrape none of which involved overnight stays in hospital and consequently quite affordable. This time however, with follow up out-patient treatment the bill is going to be near to Baht 100,000. Even if you can afford it that is a healthy amount to take out of your bank account and if the damage had been greater that sum could easily have tripled or quadrupled. I had insurance so everything was covered but please take this as a warning that one second you can be happily going about your business and the next lying in the road wondering what happened!

Although the political situation here is still a little unsettled the government has given further assurances that last years proposed changed to the Foreign Business Act will not be implemented. See the articles below. This is a least some positive news in a somewhat turbulent world economic climate. The economic and social problems in Europe at least and the UK in particular are making more and more people consider life overseas and Thailand for many is an attractive prospect. The life style and relative low cost of living being the main factors. Where in Thailand depends on individual preferences. Phuket, Koh Samui, Hua Hin, Bangkok, Pattaya, Chiang Mai or some remote village in Issan. There are many choices of location and in each many choices of property from relatively cheap condominiums to high end multi million dollar villas. The market here is still pretty slow, certainly not dead, but not what one would call exciting. Consequently there are quite a number of good deals around if you are thinking of buying and with the emergence of financing and in some cases title insurance these can be vary attractive. For some people concerned about visas, you have a choice of a retirement visa or membership of the Thailand Elite scheme. This is not for everyone as it is not cheap but a Five Year multiple entry visa renewable for life plus other benefits is certainly worth looking at. Contact me for further information if you are interested.

Another snippet of good news is that the Squirrels appear to be back. I have not seen any for at least four years and their demise was blamed on the itinerant work force that caught them to supplement their diet so removing part of the natural food chain which reportedly led to the uncontrolled outbreak of the Coconut Palm Beetle which devastated so many of the Coconut Palms. Just recently I saw two playing in the trees behind my office so hopefully they are here to stay.

Some of the articles reprinted from The Samui Express are from May during which time their web site was down pending the re-launch of their new web site.
“For most of us the purpose of traveling to a developing country is to get the frisson of authenticity that we can’t get at home, and it annoys us no end when locals don’t play their roles correctly. Last week at my friend’s wedding in Koh Samui I had to listen to a long diatribe by a very nice Australian lady involved in the arts who was furious that Westerners were apparently forcing Thai people to live Western life-styles rather than leaving them to enjoy their own culture. In Koh Samui, I guess, there are too many refrigerators and motorcycles and not enough buffalo carts. I was going to argue that the Thai might themselves prefer the modern urban conveniences, and were perhaps indifferent about helping us foreigners achieve our much-desired authenticity, but I didn’t want to be thought a cold-blooded imperialist by the many nice people at the wedding.”
This is from a Financial Blog by Michael Pettis.

It rather puts into perspective the problems of the effect of tourism on indigenous people and the effect this has on their life style. It reflects also the common complaint we hear in Samui that Samui has become too modern and commercialised and it is not what it used to be! I find this something of a cynical approach – keep it as it was, let the local people live without clean water and electricity, telephones, television, the internet etc. so we can come and look at them living in poverty! Things change and it is the very people who spout this nonsense that have instigated the change simply by coming here. It is impossible for cultures to mix without some effect. The evolution of society is natural and it is natural for those that do not have to aspire to a better life. And why not! The evolution of society on Koh Samui may not be perfect but which of us can look back at our homeland and say that is any better. Would Koh Samui now have four modern hospitals without the advent of tourism? And before anyone says that they are mainly for the tourists, I suggest you visit them and see that a very large percentage of visitors are local Thai people. The roads are not great, we know that, but at least there are roads now instead of slogging along jungle paths to get from Chaweng to Lamai. No, Samui is not what it was and in ten years it will not be what it is now. It is only the people who were here years ago and remember it as it was who seem to have this chip on their shoulder. Most new visitors see it as it is now and can still see its charm and beauty. It is impossible to visit somewhere without leaving your footprint in some fashion and you cannot deny the right of the local people to want a better standard of living.

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