Who remembers when the southern beaches of Thailand were sandy castaway shores, devoid of civilisation? Nope, me neither. While tourism is obviously good for the local economy, how many of these potential visitors will actually realise that most of the beaches they see in the advertising look nothing like that in real life?
In my travels around South East Asia, I always look forward to returning to Phuket and Krabi in particular to enjoy a few days relaxing on the sand. I am not one for sunbathing usually, but the tropical ambiance of southern Thailand really makes me forget my troubles and just go with the flow. Before I began travelling, people told me that shimmering turquoise water and golden sands would be waiting for me at these Thai beaches.
In reality, as I found out to my cost years later, you will be very lucky to enjoy Thai beaches without the crowds. The water may be turquoise (and warm), but you have to share it with hundreds of other revellers, many of whom are usually drunk in my experience, and to make matters worse, it is not the Thai longboats that dot the shore, but ugly motorised speed boats that take these intrepid revellers island-hopping.
Finding a spot on the beach – especially as a solo traveller – can be a somewhat haphazard affair. Especially in Phuket, I found that it is near impossible to spend any quality time enjoying the views, and most of the beaches are not full of golden sand anyway; dead leaves, pebbles, and of course litter are such a curse in southern Thailand that I wonder why the authorities haven’t tried to do more about it by now.
That said, don’t be put off by coming to the beaches of Thailand. Some of them are closely related to what the advertising claimed. In particular, Bamboo Island near Krabi springs to mind. I find that western Thai beaches (Phuket, Koh Lanta, Krabi, Koh Phi Phi) are more crowded than their eastern counterparts (Koh Samui, Koh Kood), and the eastern beaches are perhaps slightly more highbrow in the type of visitor using them – although this doesn’t mean any less visitors!