Unimaginable, new reality: clean, vendor-free Phuket beaches


A reliable “witness” the Danish Hotel Manager, Michael Gaarde-Nielsen at Centara Grand Beach Resort Phuket on Karon beach, had already informed ScandAsia earlier in the year that all of the tourist island’s beaches, including Karon, were completely cleared from sunbeds, umbrellas and vendors.

This just had to be witnessed; something that had seemed up until recently almost impossible to imagine ever to be seen again had now become reality! And not just making the beaches tidier and some sort of control on how much one can be allowed to place on a public beach, controlling and limiting any buildings close to the beach etc. No, now everything had been cleared.

Surin beach, had seen so many complaints in the local media about the uncontrolled activities that had grown out of proportions, to the extent that the entire beach was occupied: beach clubs, buildings and sunbeds all the way down to the shoreline.

An early November confirmed the new situation: below the tiny road along the beach separating the sandy area from the land it was all gone – except the trees and a few removable massage beds! Completely cleared. Catch Beach Club were busy finalising the new area for their former platform with bar and DJ booth on the beach, now above the road instead. Guests were lying down on the sand under the shade of trees.

Large signs put up announced that buildings would be teared down on four beaches, and including a time table for realising this.

And over at Kamala beach, the mecca for Swedes and other Scandinavians hotel manager Johan Magnusson at Sunprime, Tour operator Ving’s adult hotel, along with the adjacent Sunwing family hotel) was busy addressing the situation and keep his guests happy.

As he brought ScandAsia down to the beach he immediately got into conversation on the beach topic with some of the hotel’s guest from Sweden, just as the high-season weather had finally returned to the island after a couple of very rainy months.

Johan said that since it had become clear earlier in the year that the sunbeds and the umbrellas.

“The owner or myself did not receive any specific instructions or notifications regarding the stricter implementation of the already existing Beach rules and regulations. Big noticeboards with info text in Thai was posted by the government, on several places near and along the beach, in order to inform (everyone) people and businesses,” Johan told ScandAsia.

Sunprime/Sunwing, being beachfront, are also more fortunate than other resorts in Kamala, that are not situated on the beach, and had set up own beach clubs.

“Several hotels had to remove and close down their beach clubs. Sunwing Kamala Beach didn’t use to have any sunbeds on the beach at all. Sunwing guests either stayed around the many pools or rented sunbeds from the local vendors on the beach. Sunprime Kamala Beach used to have a few big double Sunbeds (only five in the low season and fifteen in the high season), in front of the hotel. Most Sunprime guests however, also used to stay around the pools or rented sunbeds from the locals on the beach.”

No operators are allowed to offer sunbeds and umbrellas on the beach anymore.

“We have received quite a few mails and phone calls from overseas guests enquiring about the beach situation. Some are worried not only for the sunbeds but also that all restaurants, long-tail boats and shops will also be gone.”

“It is yet still to early to fully say something about the guests’ overall reactions and response regarding the new situation. We’re only in the very beginning of the high season and so far seeing mixed comments; where many think the beaches look serene, relaxed and beautiful, with a pristine and cool atmosphere. Others are more negative, missing the possibility to have a sunbed and especially the shadow and protection from the sun that a parasol gives.”

Upon this visit Sunprime was about to get fully booked and Johan and his team were in the final stages of their efforts to provide enough sunbeds for all its guests. Thankfully, this beachfront resort have large premises and with lots of gardens with lawns next to the pool areas.

“Of course both hotels now can see an increased demand for sunbeds around our pool areas. To cope with the situation extra sunbeds are added, not only around the pools but also on grass areas that have never been used before.”

The resort also has a rule that its guests cannot pre-occupy sunbeds before 9.30 am, while having breakfast, so that everyone can have a fair chance at the most popular spots.

As for the beach Johan also added: “Together with the other members in the Kamala Green Club regular beach cleaning are carried out and will continue. To support the new situation on the beach ten new big garbage bins will be added along the beach, sponsored and monitored by this club.”

Will some kind of organised sunbed/parasol rentals be allowed where badly needed, as on Karon beach? Will the current new situation remain? That is another story that only the future can tell…

About Joakim Persson

Freelance business and lifestyle photojournalist

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