Illusion – “A deceptive appearance or impression” (https://en.oxforddictionaries.com)
The internet is a remarkable thing. It allows for the marketing of products and services in a way that was previously not possible. Elaborate websites can now be set up using a multitude of visual media to entice potential customers to purchase products and services. Those who market Phuket have made full use of these tools to entice tourists. Most, if not all of these websites, and those of the providers who make money from marketing Phuket as a tourist destination, emphasize the natural beauty of Phuket and in particular the beaches.
The website www.phuket.com (by www.hotels.com) describes Karon Beach as follows: “Karon features the third longest beach on Phuket Island. Located on the west coast, between Patong to the north and Kata (with which it shares a common municipality) to the south, Karon Beach is the second favourite holiday destination in Phuket. The beach itself has excellent snorkelling (and even diving) spots at its southern end and is wide enough for beachgoers to never feel crowded.” The picture on the website is that of a pristine beach with lovely blue water – paradise for a tourist! The marketing pictures usually look something like this.
The company ‘true-beachfront’ (http://true-beachfront.com) describes Karon Beach in these glowing terms, “With 3,500 metres of the finest sand and clearest water imaginable, Karon Beach is one of Phuket’s tropical classics, and one of the trio that helped make Phuket so famous starting in the 1980s. Its immediate neighbours, Patong on the north, and Kata to the south, were the others in this first-famous group of Andaman beaches.” They go on to say, “Karon is another of the string of beautiful beaches that made the world first look at Phuket Island back in the 1970s.” and, “The water washing all beaches in this part of Phuket wells up from the depths of the adjacent Andaman Sea and is delightfully clear. Even when big storms wash mud and debris into the ocean, or human pollutants reach the beaches, the Andaman soon cleanses them thoroughly. Karon, like all famous Phuket beaches with true beachfront hotels, is exceptionally lucky to have this natural source of perfect water and the cleansing service that comes with every tide. Here is the major reason the beaches along Thailand’s Andaman coast and islands are the best in the country, out-sparkling those in the shallower Gulf of Thailand in the country’s east. And Karon Beach is one of the finest among that elite.” (emphasis added)
There are even beautiful Youtube videos promoting the beauty of this beach. This video was made in March 2016.
There are many more such websites and Youtube marketing videos but I think you get the point
It is really not hard to see why those in far away colder climates (like the many, many Russian tourists in ours and surrounding hotels), or those that are in need of a good holiday, are drawn to Karon Beach. The thought of a lovely holiday on a warm pristine beach – “one of the finest among that elite” – is enough to get most of us reaching for our credit cards.
But there does also need to be some fairness. During our time in Thailand someone (if we could remember who told us we would gladly give them the credit) said, “Most people work 11 months of the year to spend 1 month here”. I somehow think that is true. The cost to have a holiday in Thailand is not insubstantial, even in the low season. If people are going to work hard for 11 months of the year to spend a month in Phuket, then what they see in the marketing material (or the elaborate websites or the beautiful Youtube videos) should be what they get, or at least something close to it. I fully understand that the pictures and videos where taken under ideal conditions at the height of summer and we are visiting in the low season and that we need to make some allowance for that.
And now to reality. Our first walk on Karon beach was a real eye-opener and nothing has changed in the week that we have been here. This is what the beach really looks like. We see no evidence of the “cleansing service that comes with every tide”.
The litter and debris is not restricted to an isolated area but is scattered along the entire beach – all 3,500 meters. We occasionally see someone (we presume from one of the hotels) try and clean up a small area but in no time at all the litter and debris are back. Margaret went to talk to one of the ladies from our hotel to find out why the beach is so dirty. Her reply was that the tourists are responsible and they try and clean their area twice a week. It may be that the tourists are responsible for the litter and debris but if you are going to attract the tourists who behave like this, you have a responsibility to clean up after them. If you don’t want to clean up after them impose some form of penalty to discourage them from littering.
The tourists have their towels in between all the litter and are doing their best to just ignore it. The reality is certainly a far cry from what they have been sold. I somehow wonder if they feel cheated, I know I do. My last visit to Phuket – Kata beach – was 10 years ago and the beaches most certainly didn’t look like this then.
We have only taken pictures of Karon Beach but Kata Beach is no better – in fact it may be worse. We took a walk down to Kata Beach one morning but forgot to take a camera. Kata Beach too is covered with litter and debris and bears no resemblance to the marketing pictures.
And so it seems to me that what is presented – and I am pretty sure that this applies to all 3 main beaches in Phuket – is no more than an illusion.