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Kamala beach yesterday, and a vendor makes a sale: just what has changed?

What Tourists Will Find in High Season

Sunday, August 31, 2014
PHUKET: They're back. Or perhaps they never really went away . . . signs that beach vendors and sunbed operators are merely waiting for everything to return to ''normal'' in just a few weeks were evident at a couple of Phuket beaches yesterday.

While having lunch in a vaguely legal restaurant under canvas at Kamala beach, Phuketwan watched a vendor approach a couple of tourists lying on the sand nearby - and make a sale.

Further north at Surin beach a little earlier, we noted neat mats in rows, with small stools alongside them, placed under the trees. Isn't this exactly how the whole sunbeds and umbrellas thing started, way back in the days of the dinosaurs?

The trouble is, of course, that dinosaurs still walk the earth in human form today, obsessed with money and the strange notion that anything can be bought on Phuket, Thailand. And maybe they're right.

At Kamala, with local businesses engaged in a court battle over their disputed rights to be on the beach, it's no surprise to spot a vendor. We had the sense that if we'd shouted ''Coconut Juice!'' we would have been instantly surrounded by competing locals.

At Surin, the shock comes in a walk along the foreshore, where demolitions are already being made among the second row of beach clubs and restaurants. At Zazada, perhaps the largest and most solidly constructed beach club, a bar in one corner has already been flattened.

It's a sad sight. Surin has been one of Phuket's most appealing beaches, in daylight and darkness. Soon the darkness will be black, and bleak.

Tourists who return to Phuket this high season will find a pile of rubble where there favorite restaurant once stood. Seeking out a sunbed is likely to become the new holiday reality challenge.

While the vistas of the Andaman Sea at Surin and the other cleared beaches are simply stunning, some clever improvisation will be necessary by resort managements for the high season to keep their guests happy.

The land of smiles may experience a few grumpy visitors this high season.

We envisage crafty resorts offering picnic hampers, more shuttles to the beach and even butler service. It should become possible to have feasts delivered with a simple telephone call.

The franchises for convenience stores near beaches must be shooting up in value.

Just how the shock of the clearances on Phuket's west coast beaches impacts on the holiday island's reputation remains to be seen, but the wrecking of the second row of beach clubs and restaurants at Surin will inevitably leave the back of the beach looking like a demolition site.

Clearing it and growing trees is a five-year recovery project. Some of the ugly and dangerous wooden stakes from the now-failed attempts to privatise the beach still protrude from the sand.

There are just eight-and-a-half weeks to November 1 and the start of the high season.

The military and local authorities still have a lot of work to do at Surin. Chances of an unexpected compromise appear to have passed.

A deadline for the complete clearance of Surin beach has been set: the end of September. That means the Royal Thai Navy will need to have a permanent presence on Phuket's west coast beaches soon.

Tourists who come back to Phuket will be looking for answers to two key questions: where has my sunbed gone? Where can I buy a coconut?

Meanwhile, it's a sure bet that vendors will be mounting more serious attempts to retake the beaches.


Comments have been disabled for this article.


Was with Missus on Patong beach yesterday, with our own deck chairs and F & B. Folding table and parasol are already on the shopping list. Tourists looked at us, as we would be Aliens and of course with envy. Asking where we got the chairs from... from a large super market in Chalong. But this is not a solution to keep the masses happy - a solution must be found for high season. Still badly surprised that paragliding and jet ski operators do business as before. Why aren't they kicked out ?

Posted by Resident on August 31, 2014 09:57

Editor Comment:

Please send us a selfie next time of you and the deck chairs at the beach.


Hmmm- has the Editor become a 'Doom-sayer'? There's going to be some people on the beaches who just don't get the message and try to push the envelope.

Kamala officialdom is well known for a Nelsonian eye and deep pockets when it suits but an off the cuff inspection may curb it. Long term effectiveness will speak volumes over short term action - the key is to keep the momentum up for an extended period.

Maybe follow your own advice to others and phone the hotline to report the abuse.

Posted by Mister Ree on August 31, 2014 10:22

Editor Comment:

What ''abuse?'' Using appropriate language is not one of your skills.

All councils are ineffective at beach control, which is why we've suggested that beaches need to be under the management of the Royal Thai Navy.


For many years 'vendors' did illigally occupy beaches with assistents of very corrupt people. Using public land, not pay taxes, vendors not living even officially in Phuket! Correct me if i am wrong.
Solution: After 100% public beaches clearing--> 1: Give out limited chair/umbrella consessions (30 metres in lenght with written down the number of chairs. 2: Only give this to people who live officially on Phuket ( house registration), and after paying for a 'beach license' and pay tax! No more free rides by 'influential' people. No more space for local Obor Tor people to continue in their corruption. They proved to be not being good government servants.
All this has to be realized and controlled by a special body of the Royal navy! For all phuket beaches!

Posted by Kurt on August 31, 2014 10:38

Editor Comment:

Thailand wants beaches cleared of all commerce, maintained properly for future generations, Kurt. The sunbeds have gone, hopefully forever.


Ed Wishful thinking that the sunbeds are gone forever as nothing has really changed on a permanent basses only temporarily while the military is in charge. When I see the police actually stopping commerce on the beach (Daily) then I will believe some real change has occurred so far I have seen the same things your article has seen in Kata beach as well. We even have some daily massage beds back on the beach but removed nightly. I fear there will be a stampede back towards the old ways as soon as the Army leaves power.

Posted by mike on August 31, 2014 11:08


Thanks for your comment, editor. However, a fact is that holiday visitors at Phuket beaches without shade facilities face skin problems, short term ( being 'fried') and long time( develop skin cancer). The sun during Phuket high season is simply to strong. Even sunlotion factor 50 gives not enough protection. To create official paid legal facilities you whipe out the illigal busineses ( these are now just waiting for their come back!) Who prevent them to return as a answer on tourists who want a char and umbrella? Who is going to maintain and keep established the present new situation? So far no body. Right?

Posted by Kurt on August 31, 2014 11:11

Editor Comment:

We think Phuketwan's solution will eventually be adopted: the Royal Thai Navy. This is not a new idea. We've been saying that only the Navy can save Phuket's beaches for years.


Mr Editor, with respect what Thailand wants with her beaches, to keep that wanted status quo it needs daily presents at all beaches of a Navy personal and a non corrupted police officer(!), from sunrise till sunset.

Posted by Kurt on August 31, 2014 11:18

Editor Comment:

Yes. The Navy has between 70,000 and 100,000 personnel. Nearly all of them are noble and worthy.


What a great shame Bimi, Rimi and Catch will be missed,they really added value to the beach scene in Surin and were run properly.Couldn't they be expanded for the greater good but given the responsibility for keeping Surin beach and surrounds tidy,and provide audited accounts so that a real percentage of the profits go to providing services for the community such as a water treatment plant. This concession could fund public toilets and showers and publis amenities and keep local jobs.
A compromise seems to have been made in Kata with Club Med surely we could have one for a win win in Surin.

On another note your arcticle mentions " Vaguely legal" what does this actually mean.

Posted by Brian on August 31, 2014 11:42

Editor Comment:

The businesses under tents on the Kamala foreshore are awaiting a court decision, we were told.

There is no comparison between the Club Med contract and the Surin businesses. One is legal, and sadly, the other isn't.


Perfect analysis !

Posted by Andrea on August 31, 2014 12:03


When you see the numbers of tourists go down we'll talk. The beaches seem devastated by another tsunami.

Posted by augusto on August 31, 2014 12:40


Because the Hotel meridien does not allow access to the beach? It is private or public?

Posted by gianni on August 31, 2014 12:44

Editor Comment:

All beaches are public but the private resorts along Phuket's shorefronts have become gatekeepers.


In a nut shell, Its so good to see the beaches and land given back to the people of Thailand to enjoy. Greed as been the main problem in Phuket for a long time.Well done the army

Posted by Dobby on August 31, 2014 13:00


Dear Editor,
I am a Thai just returned from my studies in the UK where we enjoy a free press. Firstly may I say that you stance on the treatement of refugees is admirable. Your treatment by certain factions is neither fare nor just, but you have the humility to acknowledge that the vast majority of the organization behind your accusers are fare and just people, indeed you advocate their involvement in the policing of the beaches. Its admirable.

Perhaps what seems a little contardictory is the apparent moral stance of your publication on its continued choice of Sponsors for the website. Surely now that you have accepted the fact that your head line sponsors operate illegally it would be morally corrupt for you to continue to sport their insignia. I am quite sure there are many sponsors not currently under investigation or breaking the law who will back your excellent news coverage.
We Thai's would have another role model of intergrity, and you could continue to crusade for a moral society with the same honor that you fight for the less advanatged. Thank you for providing such an excellent forum.

Posted by Somsax on August 31, 2014 13:42

Editor Comment:

As you probably know, Somsax, if news outlets were held morally accountable for the deeds of their advertisers, the New York Times and every other worthy publication in the world would have folded long ago. I remember speaking out in the early 1980s against the newspaper I was on at the time continuing to carry cigarette advertising. I was told that unless cigarette advertising was made illegal, there was no case to stop carrying the advertising. None of our current advertisers has committed any crime and we appreciate their loyalty, and their understanding that there are times when we have to accurately report issues that are against our own best interests. We follow a code of ethics that require us to ignore self-interest. Our advertisers have no influence on our editorial policy. That's how it should be in all news organisations. But we would certainly welcome more sponsors. Good luck with your studies. I should point out that the word in this case is ''fair.'' The other ''fare'' applies to taxis and bus rides.


Would it really hurt if some tourists decided to holiday elsewhere this high season? We live on a small island, where the infrastructure simply cannot cope with the numbers we have now.

Posted by agogohome on August 31, 2014 14:31


@ Kurt - you are completely right. I think many residents on Phuket will agree with you, when they feel the economic impact of no available beach chairs with sun protecting umbrellas.

Posted by Sherlock on August 31, 2014 14:43


Don't worry, Catch will be back (if it has to go away from Surin). They are looking at three other locations.

Posted by Phuketandsee on August 31, 2014 14:46


In respect of sunbeds etc,and in more broad context:
Happiness doesn't come from getting exactly what you want

Posted by Sue on August 31, 2014 15:22


"Fare is Not Fair"
The wrong type of fair how ironic, maybe under the new regime in Phuket we will get to know "fair" and think less of "fare".
Thank you for correcting my grammar and your explanatons.

Posted by Somsax on August 31, 2014 15:34


Just visited Patong beach. It looks like a war zone. Concrete blocs, torn sandbags and debris everywhere. Visible bunker style walls in front of the resorts and wood pegs from abandoned stalls half buried in the sand.

The limited space under the trees are mainly occupied with parked jet-skies and vendors. Who can expect tourists to relax in such a place?

Possible this is good for retired people with oversea income, because now they can get everything CHEAP CHEAP, but for the great majority of the working residents on Phukets west coast it will be a financial disaster, with a lot of bankrupts and unemployment as the ugly followers.

Posted by Sherlock on August 31, 2014 17:34


Yes - they are back. Was in Patong today. Motocycle taxis sat under beach umbrellas on the side walk. Massage ladies setting up shop by putting mats under every available tree. Lines of tuk-tuks parked up almost the whole length of beach road (even on red/white areas). The laws are useless if they are not policed and enforced.

Posted by Mr Man on August 31, 2014 17:41


Ditto war zone on Lay Pang debris of every kind strewn about and that's after the big rubble was dumped in a local wetland on Pasak Soi 4. That beach will be a hazard to barefoot beach-goers for years

Posted by The Night Mare on August 31, 2014 19:27


Well well, sunbeds and umbrellas are gone, and so are many many Tourists. My tickets for this winterholiday are allready booked, Dubai, Phuket and Singapore, so I can't exclude Phuket this time. But if it is as discribed, we will not return to Thailand, and I consider myself as "high end" spending a lot of Money, but I guess people like me are welcome elswhere, with a chance of sunbed and shade on a beach somewhere nice. Wait for the "high season" after this one, 2014/2015.
On the other hand, resorts will gain profit, since they offer bed and shade at the poolside, how much of that profit is of gain for Thailand and stay there?

Posted by Swede from Malmo on August 31, 2014 20:10


@Swede from Malmo

"high end" spending


If you are on "high end spending" why do you come to Phuket, not other places in Thailand..?
Phuket as per now is mainly a playground for "affordable comfort" lovers, a.k.a. plumbers on holiday, and their numbers is a problem.
Surely, high-end and luxury establishments exists, but general environment is as described.

What is your definition of high end holiday in Thailand? Average spending per head per day is ca.100EUR, so for a couple 200EUR/day. High-end would be 3X or above of that, or at least 2X.
For that budget , unless it is peak season, you can get to some better managed places in Thailand, while Phuket is improving a mess that has been created during last twenty or thirty years.

Posted by Sue on August 31, 2014 20:27


Sue, I did not realise Phuket was full of plumbers. I think when you overheard " I've come to lay some pipe" they were not talking about a construction job. In any case, your demand for such a trades person would be rare. I'm assuming the odd electrician may be useful to you, the occasional power board, double adaptor and circuit breakers to protect against overheating.

Posted by Manowar on August 31, 2014 23:45


As a farong tourist I cannot stay out in the Thai Hot Sun for more than 10 minutes.There is not enough shade on the beaches so we will be like prisoners in our hotels I may go to Malasia instead.

Posted by Anonymous on September 1, 2014 00:50


vorrei chiedere all'editor se ?? possibile per il turista piantare ombrellone in spiaggia.forse ?? vietato?gradito commento

I would ask the editor if ?? possible for the tourist to plant umbrella in spiaggia.forse ?? Banned? welcome comment

Posted by renzo on September 1, 2014 04:33


As Kamala residents we are highly concerned how the beach regulations could be controlled over long time. While walking at the beach nearly every day we realize that the beach vendors just lie in wait for the big come back. We saw the first pail of sunbeds and small tables back in ,waiting, position at the beach, 2 jet skies are parked under the trees. More and more small vendors preparing a logistic chain to serve food and drinks to the tourists. The beach looks often shameful because collecting of dirt ad debris is not well organized. Another problem are the stray dogs left unattended by previous vendors at the beach. I just get bitten by one of them yesterday on a beach walk leaving a torn trouser and laughing vendors behind. Would be great to see obor door or soi dog in action here. Talking to the police pointing on the possible dangers for kids playing around was just wasting time ... but giving them some amusement.

Posted by kamala_resident on September 1, 2014 04:54


@Swede from Malmo, You now it and a now it and every body now Swedish people don't`spend money they go to Swedish restrung (Ricos) and eat Swedish meatballs, and have a nice trip to Dubai.

Posted by Bjorn Ronningrn on September 1, 2014 05:03


@Anonymous, God ide and go to Malaysia then you can bye a burka, that`s be good for you.

Posted by Bjorn Ronningen on September 1, 2014 05:09



... at least here it was reported here some time that party of ca.30 pax from Australia came for a wedding party, of groom being a plumber, and most of huts guests plumbers too - it was reported in relation to some partying misfortune they fallen into.
Then again some kind of similar news - and again - a guest of Phuket appeared to be a plumber - and again from Australia.
And then another news - and again - a plumber on holiday, and again from 6th continent.

Then you start to understand why some tourists stop, even in groups ,by some construction sites and with a great interest watch Burmese guest workers field operations at site - because they compare to their procedures at the same field and the same work back home.

Posted by Sue on September 1, 2014 06:17


"We envisage crafty resorts offering picnic hampers, more shuttles to the beach and even butler service. It should become possible to have feasts delivered with a simple telephone call"

How is that not simply a business activity (value added by the resort) operating on the beach. Exactly the same as if the same items were ordered and paid for to a vendor.

Posted by LivinLOS on September 1, 2014 06:23

Editor Comment:

The beach is public. Bringing your own is vastly different to the sands being appropriated for private profit.


@Manowar - Thanks to you and a mouthful of morning tea I just ruined a perfectly good keyboard...

Posted by gforcejunkyphuket on September 1, 2014 06:28


Few resorts on Phuket can handle their number of guests around the pool at once... but that's going to be a more common occurrence as that's where the sun beds will be. It's going to be interesting times (and very noisy) around those pools!

Posted by Duncan on September 1, 2014 09:35


Disappointing to see the sun beds off the beach. Each year I would look forward to sitting on the beach on a sunbed in the shade of an Umbrella. I booked a holiday for late October, I wish I could go elsewhere. Now it'll just be an hour max in the hot sun (Western people get burnt too easily). Editor please feel free to squabble over incorrect use of my words/grammer and anything else that'll make you feel like a tough man.

Posted by Asquith on September 1, 2014 16:37


"We envisage crafty resorts offering picnic" but the normal little beach vendors are banned. I thought all Business is banned from the beaches?!?

Posted by Dominik on September 1, 2014 16:47

Editor Comment:

Yes, but you can bring your own.


Some lazy construction workers leave nails sticking out of wood in the west too, but in Thailand its crazy/lazy. The wife stepped on a nail in the back yard of a neighbor's house in Phuket- it's just sheer laziness/apathy (willful or otherwise), just like cleaning up a Phuket beach 90% and then proceeding on to the next beach, leaving a few hazards behind for good measure. Mind you, I often get 90% finished a job and shut down too, sometimes permanently.


the glass house

Posted by farang888 on September 1, 2014 22:22


If things backslide a little here in the next several months or so, troglodytes, dinosaurs and doomsayers will crawl out of the woodwork with some degree of vigor..and even now they may commiserate over such things as a slightly higher price to get from the airport to Big C with the new metered taxis..

Posted by farang888 on September 1, 2014 22:27


I come to Phuket since aprox. 20 years every year. So I could see the metamorphosis of the earlier open beaches to the latest situation. I agree there must be more beaches in an untouched and quiet mode (for example Laemsing beach would be a candidate) but for the white skinned tourist (as i am) a well served beach with chairs and umbrella is a must to survive some hours at the sea. Due to the actual situation my fall holiday's this year will take place in Florida, hoping to get a better situation (for me) next spring. And I'm sorry, i am no plumber ;o]

Posted by fred on September 2, 2014 17:02


can we expect no jetski and taxis with meter and fare prices (same Bangkok)

Posted by Anonymous on September 8, 2014 18:36

Editor Comment:



The Sand is Tan. The Sea is Blue. But Where on The Beaches Can I Have a Poo???

Posted by Mr Wolf on September 8, 2014 22:37


I have no problem with taking down corruption and restoring the beauty of Phuket wich we visit familywise since 15 years,but reducing it to the stoneage will be an economic disaster,we will be back twice a year,we know where to go,whe rent a car and are mobile,but if tourism will be the same i guess not

Posted by Khun Philippe on September 11, 2014 21:37


When are the Army coming to Bang Niang in Khao Lak to repair the beach. The hotels have built on the beach and now the beach are gone. You cant walk there any more.

Posted by Rorschach on November 29, 2014 11:47



To my knowledge what happened at Bang Niang beach in Khao Lak, is a result of strong erosion by waves in low season .
Then municipality decided to put concrete sea wall there.

Yes, it's not possible to stroll there anymore...
I discovered that walking from KhukKhak beach to BangNiang, had virtually to almost swim around to pass concrete and steel structure; had to take a taxi to go back.

Posted by Sue on November 29, 2014 15:10

Wednesday July 17, 2024
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa


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