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Hundreds of tourists are bringing their own umbrellas to Phuket beaches

Beaches Being Killed by Uncaring Decisions

Monday, February 23, 2015
PHUKET: We marvelled at the umbrella salesman strolling along Phuket's Kata beach at the weekend, looking for business. And at the large numbers of tourists who prefer to bring their own shelter from the sun. And their own beach chairs.

Phuket authorities continue to struggle to understand beach culture and have little hope of striking the balance they seek in foolishly allowing private enterprise back on the beaches, a survey by Phuketwan reporters has found.

Nai Harn beach on Phuket's southern coast may have recently been voted the third best beach in Asia by readers of TripAdvisor. But destruction of the beach environment goes on rapidly now and the more popular the beach becomes, the greater the speed of the destruction.

Our conclusion: Unless Governor Nisit Jansomwong has a magic wand, his plan to ban all beach chairs and provide an umbrella zone of 10 percent of Phuket's beaches is doomed to fail. What's more, it is likely to cost Phuket plenty of tourists who prefer freedom to regimentation.

The Phuketwan weekend survey took in Ya Nui, Nai Harn, Kata Noi, Kata and Karon beaches.

At all of those beaches, the tourists' byo umbrellas were evident in substantial numbers and scattered all over the sands. This is because, as everyone with an understanding of beach culture knows, people want freedom of choice.

They don't want to be parked by officials at the back of the beach, leaving them to hot-foot it scores of metres before they reach the water's edge. They don't want to be right alongside the Russian couple, playing music too loudly through their boom box.

That's the beauty of the best beaches in Australia and the US - the freedom to find your own stretch of territory on the sand.

Neat rows of umbrellas at the back of the sand could once be found at some Phuket beaches. But that was before the beaches became so popular that one line of umbrellas was no longer enough.

Governor Nisit is now trying to restore commercialism at Phuket's beaches without understanding the degree of difficulty. The tourists will fight for their own stretch of sand.

And they will want to keep bringing their own beach chairs.

At the same time, the umbrella and mat hirers will be trying to expand their territory beyond the 10 percent. Why? because that's how Phuket beach vendors have been trained to think for the past 30 years.

In trying to tame both the tourists and the umbrella hirers, Governor Nisit is taking on far more than Phuket authorities have ever been able to manage.

Until Phuket has an independent Phuket Beach Authority with enforcement provided by the Royal Thai Navy, Governor Nisit and his successors will dream on.

While people may delight in having Nai Harn declared the third best beach in Asia, a close inspection shows that erosion is rapidly destroying the back of the beach. Motorcycles and pickups are parked on the grassy glade that makes the foreshore such a pleasant place.

Increasing popularity means speedier erosion and the more rapid loss of the parkland. Two children were digging a huge hole in the glade area.

There was no sign of any kind of beach warden. No enforcement of standards, not even Phuket standards let alone international standards.

What Phuket has now must be protected.

In paying attention only to the commercial aspects of the beaches, Governor Nisit, like his predecessors, is ignoring what Phuket's beaches really need: proper protection and enforcement.

Protection and enforcement can only come if the island's authorities care. If they cared, commerce would still be banned. Regulations would be enforced.

An independent Phuket Beach Authority and the Royal Thai Navy would be in action.

We see no signs of that yet.


Comments have been disabled for this article.


A good article, just putting the finger on the wound! But I think Phuket authorities (who?) are not struggling to understand beach culture. They just like to 'preserve' and get back their past 'money flow' from the beaches, and are trying all kind of tactics to realize that. Thai themselves hate rules/laws and are known for many times not enforcing them. So it doesn't make sense that they try to put tourists in 'beach boxes' while there is no proper beach cleaning like on European and Australian beaches. No rubbush bins at beaches every 50 meters. No beach clean machines. Not taking care of erosion processes. Proper beach protection and enforcement need authorities to enforce laws! What is going on now is no law enforcement, it are 'local' rule implementations! There are laws regarding use of jet skies, not one is enforced until now. Why is that?

Posted by Kurt on February 23, 2015 09:33


Nai Harn Beach umbrella zone10%? The beach vendors already occupy 80%. And everyone looks away until the season is over. I never have seen the beach been so dirty and poorly organised as now.

Posted by steve on February 23, 2015 09:39


Why all this fuss over beach chairs, in Sydney, all we did was scoop out a hollow in the sand, and this provides a perfect backrest, lay on a mat, and you have comfort for free.

Posted by digger on February 23, 2015 10:12


@ Steve: You are very right! I agree.
I am puzzled how they can call Naiharn Beach third best beach in Asia. Nothing is clean, nothing is well organized, 'erosion promotion' by the way cars are parked ( see photo's PW). Behind the sand area there are a few shower stands, never connected? Why? That are all matters the Governor should look after, not or a tourist brings his own chair and sit 'out of the box'. It is amazing that important and relevant beacg area matters are completely 'overseen'.

Posted by Kurt on February 23, 2015 11:17


after the beaches the governor will start with the golf courts !!!public land and for everybody and asked overturned prices for bad quality golf courses prices from 100 too 200 euro most expensive in the world for bad courses is raping tourist and t.a.t sponsor for this high society milonairs !!!!!

Posted by donaldo on February 23, 2015 11:25

Editor Comment:

You are way out of line, donaldo. There are no golf courses on public land. Please do some research or don't bother with ridiculous comments.


Great article, and I believe every tourist and foreigner will be in agreement with its content.

The issue is that people clearly don't agree: as Kurt quite rightly says, the beaches are just a source of income that needs to be maximised today. There is little thought for tomorrow or future generations.

I guess the only answer is education, but who is listening ?

Such a sad state of affairs.

Posted by Amazing Thailand on February 23, 2015 12:21


As I've said many times, tourists should be free to put their own umbrellas and chairs wherever they want. Efforts need to be placed on keeping illegal vendors away... all day, every day, at every beach. Thai officials should provide the trash bins, and hire some of the newly unemployed beach bums of keeping them clean and orderly...THAT is what tourists want.

Posted by Ed Sanders on February 23, 2015 12:32


On all the beaches you mention there are trees which provide shade. Let the beach be natural and if people want to sit/lie in the shade they can do so under the trees. This is done very well at Nai Harn beach and I rate that beach the best in Phuket, 1. It is natural. 2. Shallow reefs. 3 Very clean. 4. The Thai beach (there are two one for foreigners and one for Thais although both can swap most stick to one or the other) I prefer as the Thais are quiet and polite. Kata beach is not full of people taking videos, selfies can't people just relax and enjoy nature or are they so insecure they have to make a selfie and post it to Facebook etc. So sad, relax and enjoy nature.

Posted by Feisty Farang on February 23, 2015 12:59


"In paying attention only to the commercial aspects of the beaches, Governor Nisit, like his predecessors, is ignoring what Phuket's beaches really need: proper protection and enforcement."

Perfect. "Thainess"?

Posted by Duncan on February 23, 2015 13:22


Was the couple that played loud music, really Russian? Did you ask? Was there in fact a couple that played loud music, or is this just randomly pointing fingers to a nation?

Posted by Carl on February 23, 2015 14:13


I guess it is beneath the governor or the government's contempt to go ask a few farangs what they actually want? Maybe a few of the hoteliers, some overseas travel agents & even some tourists as they come thru the airport? All of them would provide clear insight.There are plenty of very capable people in this country it's time a few of them took control of this shambles.Or does venality always win out in Phuket....

Posted by another_overseas_scot on February 23, 2015 15:35


Best Beach in Asia! Not in the world.
Best Beach for make money.
Really, only in Thailand alone, there are hundreds beaches are more better than in Phuket. But they are so far away from my home.

Posted by steve on February 23, 2015 15:53


Phuket beaches its new fame will be the beached whale of Asia.

Posted by slickmelb on February 23, 2015 17:41


R.i.P. Phuket as a quality tourist destination, welcome low quality tourists from, Russia, China, Arabic and other tourists coming here for just look and walking in the middle of the street as the Chinese do.
I soon leave Phuket and find a place with tourists as we had in Phuket before.......

Posted by expat scandinavian on February 23, 2015 18:21


I have been here for many years.It used to be so pleasant to go walk or run in the morning on the beach in the fresh air...Now, you have to walk or run thru all the cigarette smoke...does every eastern european smoke?

Posted by Anonymous on February 23, 2015 21:18


I agree. I used to enjoy a smoke and coffee on the beach in the morning fresh air but it's now impossible because of all those runners and walkers flicking up sand, talking loudly and interrupting my view.

Posted by Manowar on February 24, 2015 03:31


A good article but after watching the interviews and comments over past months 'the damage has already been done' with many of the older / long time tourists who have visited the island for many years... moving on after this, their last holiday here.

Posted by DG on February 24, 2015 04:44


@ Steve: You writhing,
I am puzzled how they can call Naiharn Beach third best beach in Asia, I think they mean in Rawai not Asia :)

Posted by Bjorn Ronningen on February 24, 2015 05:20

Editor Comment:

On the right day, Nai Harn is a great beach.


Is there any, any, even a small, chance that Phuket authorities consider 1 moment to ask the users ( tourists) of the beaches what they want. In hotels, on passenger cruise liners, people can fill out comment slips. All the funny things happening at Phuket beaches now is just going over the head of the users,...the tourists, who actually bring the money in!

Posted by Kurt on February 24, 2015 08:29


The majority of the Phuket beach users are very much against having jet sky business 'among' them at the Phuket west coast beaches. It are 'swimmers beaches' afterall. Phuket is a island, water around it. Why is it so difficult for the Phuket authorities to 'order/rule' a special jet sky area at east coast of Phuket for the illegal use of jet skies? Thai law is clear, users of jet skies must be trained/have a license. Phuket authorities violating thai laws.

Posted by Kurt on February 24, 2015 08:44

Editor Comment:

There would be very little interest in a special jet-ski zone off the east coast. Most of the business is obtained through touts who walk Patong beach and the foreshore.


I do not understand why the army has not come back to the beaches to restore them to the condition our prime minister stipulated when he was leading the army.
The local officials in Phuket are in effect disobeying the prime minister and sadly appear to be getting away with it.

Posted by Paul on February 24, 2015 09:51


I don't understand why some readers want their own chairs when veterans can make sorts of cushions with the sand to sit, and can be helped to stand up. Instead of destroying the views and the spririt of the beach with their chairs. Nai Harn was beautiful without chairs on 23 feb when I visited. If chairs were allowed again the private businesses would again permanently occupy the sand with their plastic chairs that ruin the landscape. But they would not pre-empt the sand with towels : this is why towels, and not private chairs, are welcome. Phuket beaches must continue to pioneer a smart management of the increasing number of tourists by strictly enforcing the ban on chairs on the sand.

Posted by no-chairs-please-thank-you on February 24, 2015 10:33

Editor Comment:

The hired umbrellas are what destroys the vista. Chairs and personal umbrellas are much lower.


Seems many readers here are not as adventurious as one would expect. If you explore some of the lesser known parts of the island, you will discover some real gems of beautiful beaches which still have that 'Robinson Crusoe' look.

Posted by reader on February 24, 2015 19:55


Just got back from my usual 3 weeks holiday. Sixth visit in six years. These are my observations:

Surin Beach is better, on balance. Still can't fathom why you can hire a mat and umbrella but no sunbed but this is countered with no jetskis, speed boats etc.

Patong Beach is a mess and nothing much has been achieved except the removal of some illegal strutures and creation of some areas of beach which few people use. There are more jetskis than ever and ironically the vendors sit on plastic chairs under umbrellas in the umbrella designated areas. Its bonkers. There is also a bigger "turf war" than ever going on with the umbrella vendors coming out on top. Because you choose to rent in "their area" they regard you as their customers and always asking if they can fetch you a drink. The poor ladies who trail up and down the length of the beach (including the non designated areas that have a few tourists dotted around)with buckets have little chance and will struggle to survive. The umbrella vendors made a point of asking you if you wanted a drink just as the ladies were approaching. I made a point of saying no sometimes and it was clear they did not like it.

Probably my last visit.

Posted by Richard on February 24, 2015 23:24



would you mind to share at least one spot that you have in mind? in regard of swimming beached not just picturesque waterfront of the East coast.

My favorites are sections of Naithon incl Banana beach, but 1. pollution of the sea by sewage 2. too much garbage on the sand now 3.occasionally too idiotic tuk tuk, to large extent depreciate the positive part

Posted by Sue on February 25, 2015 00:25


When do the Phuket authorities realise that Phuket is part of Thailand. Thai law is applicable here as it is in the rest of the Kingdom.

Posted by Hans on March 1, 2015 19:32

Tuesday February 7, 2023
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa


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