I wanted to record some of my thoughts on one of the ways people choose to have a Thai holiday – the resort experience.
The reason this has come about is that on the way to Patong the other day Kaun suggested we call into Le Meridien Phuket Beach Resort so that we could check out their beach and I had the opportunity to enter a whole world separate from Phuket.
Le Meridien was the first 5 star resort to open in Phuket and is located just before you take the final hill into Patong on the West coast of Phuket.
From the moment we entered the forty acre Meridien estate via the security gates I was interested to observe how cut off I felt from the “outside” world. It was this contrast that has given rise to this blog entry.
I have signed up for a resort holiday a couple of times. I think my first was in Bali where I got a special deal at a resort in the Nusa Dua area. This is an exclusive 5 star hotel area with security on the entrances and beach to stop locals from cluttering up the Bali experience for rich foreigners. It is a beautiful location and meticulously maintained but a total Disneyland type environment. You could be in a tropical hotel anywhere in the world.
I had that same sort of feeling at La Meridien. It was a lovely setting right on its own private beach with a huge pool and all the cafes, bars and restaurants that one would expect from this type of facility.
For the traveller looking for a tropical experience with all the comforts of home what a wonderful place to stay. Rooms started at around $200 a night for garden view through to $800 for a deluxe suite.
In my mind the downside is that the people who stay here are unlikely to get any experience of the real Thai life outside the compound. I am not suggesting this is a bad thing. It’s all a matter of choice and that is to be defended in every avenue of life.
Outside is often ugly, noisy, dirty and slightly uncomfortable and that isn’t what most people want on a holiday but all those things are part of what Thailand really is. It definitely isn’t all palm trees and golden sands with neat streets and disciplined traffic; and in the case of streets and traffic NEVER neat or disciplined.
What you do is get on the outside the resort is to meet Thais in all sorts of situations from cutting you off in traffic to the wonderful smiles and warm greetings so often the case everywhere you go. The little ugly shops and restaurants are also Thai family bases. Food is prepared and eaten with anyone who happens to be around, kids run around or do their homework, the family cat is chased off a chair so you can sit down, 20 people have died on the Thai TV soapie during the space of one lunch!
Motorbikes go past with people on the phone or loaded up with the entire family. Street vendors honk horns as they pass in case you are feel a bit hungry and need a top up or you suddenly have the urge to buy anything from a dress to a straw broom. It is often chaos with a slight feel of a post disaster movie but this is what it is – always vibrant and changing.
The tourists in Le Meridian see none of this other than travelling to and from the airport and on tour. In my opinion they leave the same people as they arrived with a suntan and probably slightly more overweight. If you engage with the real Thailand I believe you can not help but be engaged and for better or worse you will leave with a broader range of new experiences and outlook on life. Isn’t that what we really want if we have a desire to continue to grow and develop as a person?