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Published: August 8th 2007
Room With A View Flashpackers Paradise
& only £20 a night more than a Travelodge on the M62!
Before zipping off to Ko Tao the Keepers decided to try out one night at one of the many posh gaffs which have infested the island over the last few years. 15 years ago the closest to a 5 star resort here would have been somewhere like JR Bungalows in Chaweng 'cos they had HOT WATER!!. So with a purely socially scientific objective it had been deemed to assess the progress of the luxury end of the market since those early days.
As many of these establishments seem to suffer from Corporate Sameness, we decided to try something that would, if nothing else, have an island feel, eventually opting for The Imperial Boat House at Choeng Mon.
We had had (sic?) a wander through the gardens last year & were very impressed with the place. The main bulk of the accommodation being thirty nine 40ft wooden rice barges set in beautifully landscaped gardens, a ship shaped swimming pool with a dozen or so cannons lining either side, squirting water across the pool. Picture postcard stuff.
Inside the boat suite was even more impressive.
Top deck being the vast lounge, tastefully furnished, rosewood panelling, air-con, cable tv, all mod-cons, even two free pairs of slippers! Down below via the spiral staircase there's a dressing room/study - a very plush bedroom ( with a 6ft bed adorned with flowers), a bathroom with a bath big enough for 4 full size humans & of course HOT WATER!!
The three of us settled in, took a wander down past the pool to the beach bar, scored a couple of beers & chillaxed in the 40 degree sun for a couple of hours. I think it was around this time that it started to sink in that something was missing.
They had personnel but no personality. Guests but no "real" people There is of course the standard international quota of overweight businessmen with their orange faced bored wives in tow. Rude arrogance from our finger clicking portly companion inmates inducing plastic smiles from the staff. I've seen this breed before. The ones who, if they can be arsed to write a review or leave a comment in the guestbook, bleat on & on about the lack of toilet paper. Or -
Yo Ho Ho
& a bottle of Samsong. . . .
better still - bring their own & have to suffer the indignance of calling for help as they wade around in their own shit because the " Please do not flush paper in the toilet" sign doesn't apply to them.
I used to get the idea that all this big business was a good thing for the economy of the island. This - I have since discovered is not the case.
We took a taxi into Chaweng in the evening to the Boat House's sister resort at Chaweng. The idea being to display ourselves on their beach webcam while back home in the cold place, the child of my keepers was to log onto said cam & have a video conference call.
Our taxi man used to run his own travel agency office there, making a comfortable living from the farangs renting bikes & jeeps, selling bus/boat/train/plane tickets, organising boat trips, currency exchange, blah blah blah. Once the luxury resorts started to appear it seemed things were going to get better. More people, bigger wallets, a sunny future.
Keeping prices (&local businesses) down. . .
Big Resort PLC can change money, sort tickets, rent car from reception. Eventually, small businessman has to close office & drive taxi. Big Reort PLC have Free Transfer from/to boat/airport, with minibus driver being paid 200baht a day. Slump in taxi trade. B.R. PLC have flash A La Carte restaurant which feed farang the same shite they get at home for twenty times the cost of a top local Pad Thai. Local eateries suffer.
But what about other big guns like Tesco's? Surely that must benefit the local economy? Providing jobs & cheap consumables etc. . . Not the case. The once thriving community of small merchants & shops have been put out of business, a majority of those chasing the few underpaid jobs available at B.R. PLC working for the people who shut them down.
Taxi man used an analogy that I can relate to quite well.
Once we were monkeys. If we were hungry we could take bananas from the trees. Now those bananas are locked in a box & we must perform tricks to the keyholder in order to eat.
So. Lesson learned. From this day on, our relationship with Global Corp Inc is over. We shall endeavour to support local businesses wherever possible to try & maintain the livelihoods of real people.
Tomorrow - Ko Tao. Into the deep.
Mr M :-
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