Traveling solo gives a person a lot of time to observe and reflect. You have more time to people watch since you aren’t engaged in a debate with your travel buddy about who more closely resembles a lobster today.
Enough has been written about the gorgeous sunsets, crystal clear waters, etc. Here are a couple of photos to spark your travel bug, then I’ll tell you some of the stuff you won’t read on LonelyPlanet. Knowing virtually nothing about Thailand before I left and having barely enough time to convert some currency and pack a backpack, I came up with 3 theories during my short visit. As I said, I don’t really know anything about Thailand yet and didn’t find background information to back up these theories so feel free to pose your own theories in the comments below (or facts if you have them).
1. Thai spirituality is evident in the driving
It was not clear which side of the road you are supposed to drive on (legally left) as the inclination is to drive right down that yellow line, swerving occasionally to miss the brave moped, as if a double line were simply an invitation. I have read that Thailand is a spiritual country, and I found myself wondering if the daring driving was a reflection of deep Faith – kind of like all the Catholics in Rome?
2. Krabi tourism industry has figured out that northern Europe is one of their key demographics and is noticeably catering to the crowd.
I can’t find any official documentation on this, but I think its interesting how people from various countries gravitate towards certain vacation spots. I’m sure flight schedule and tourism marketing has something to do with this, but it is also a chicken and the egg question. You would think the flight schedules get adjusted for demand. Where does the localized demand come from? For example, when I was in Miami, I observed a very international crowd but specifically met quite a few backpackers from Australia, New Zealand, Italy and Switzerland. In the Pacific Northwest, I frequently overhear German tourists (I think it’s the weather and maybe the beer). I have never met so many Swedish people as I did in Thailand and read that some other resort areas like Koh Lanta are predominately visited by Swedes. In Krabi, I also met or over heard quite a few Polish, Russian, and German tourists.
For example, there were a number of of Italian restaurants, but the kind I’ve only seen in Germany (hard to explain unless you have been there, but definitely not “Olive Garden” interpretation of Italian food”). I suspect they are there to please the northern European crowd, because goin out for Italian is very popular there and I didn’t bump into any Italians.
My favorite adaptation was the very German starter salad of shredded carrots and cabbage and cucumber salad with a dill dressing at the restaurant Carnivore. They also had an extensive European beer list and the 4 tables around me were all speaking German so I guess they had their target market all figured out, huh?
Now the chicken and the egg. Were these adaptations implemented to attract European visitors or to please the existing crowd?
I saw one t-shirt with an Australian flag, but didn’t hear anyone conversing in English the whole weekend, which is either refreshing or isolating depending on your level of extraversion, I suppose.
3. Shuttle times, opening hours, speed limits and even prices were posted mostly for show, without any particularly functional purpose.
As long as you can have a sense of humor, perhaps a sense of adventure and can not be in a big hurry, it’s all good. Back to Krabi being a popular destination for Singaporeans and northern Europeans – maybe they come here not just for the sunsets but to get away from all the rules?
But things are changing fast in this area. Regular visitors lament how prices have tripled in just the last 4 years. There was a fair amount of construction in progress, so 4 years from now it could be a completely different place, for better or worse. Travel sites like LonelyPlanet or Tripadvisor recommend Ao Nang/Krabi as less busy than Phuket. I don’t have a stand point from which to compare, but Ao Nang was already quite crowded, the small airport run well over capacity and scenic islands at risk of being destroyed by crowds and pollution. Since growth and development seem inevitable, I just hope it is done with sustainability in mind.