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Fah Thai Magazine Sep/Oct 2017

"FAH THAI" is the in-flight magazine of Bangkok Airways Public Company Limited and is edited and published by MPMI Group Ltd.

SAMUI REMINISCING Top

SAMUI REMINISCING Top Right Boats unload fruits in the early dawn against a backdrop of lushness. Bottom Left When not harvesting fruits, islanders take time to watch buffaloes have a go at each other. Bottom Right Samui’s alfresco stadium guarantees the best seats in the house! bananas of every kind, pineapples, a variety of mandarin as big as an orange with a thick, golden green rind, melons, sugarcane and any number of fruit for which there is no word in our language, although the mango and papaya have found their way to Europe.” Gasser continues describing their idyllic time and says: “As we (sit) over a glass of mekon {sic}(rice whiskey) on the evening of our first day there, the scenery of the island is more beautiful and varied than anything we have seen in this country so far.” It was during this time Koh Samui saw the start of the project to build the island’s first road. “Social changes came quickly to Samui,” Dr. Suwit pointed out. He started treating sick foreigners. People were at their most casual, in beachwear or scantily attired. “So I had a policy. No shoes, no shirt, no service,” he laughed. He also had different rates for Thais and foreigners. “Locals who tilled the land or lived in Samui paid less than those on vacation,” he explained. Imagine then, there Across the seas to other parts of Thailand, stories circulated that on an island called Samui, money can be made on coconuts that numbered in the thousands… Photo Rene Burri/ Magnum Photos Photo Rene Burri/ Magnum Photos were no credit cards yet, he said with amusement. Not much cash either, as locals gave Dr. Suwit bananas as payment. People also slept at the clinic to keep company for relatives infirmed for longer periods. Meanwhile, the Du Atlantis writer describes the aesthetically pleasing features of the Samui folks. “The people are more friendly, intelligent and quite definitely more agreeable to the eye than the inhabitants of the mainland.” And finding Samui a better option than going further south, the magazine crew decided to spend the rest of their time there. The Swiss magazine also photographed daily life, such as monkeys going about their business of climbing coconut trees to gather the fruits for their owners. Today, people still gratefully sip its heaven-sent taste upon arrival, although the fruits are fewer in number with less help from monkeys. Coconuts are less relied on as a major industry these days as well as tourism has taken over; now reflected in the increased commercial activity in Chaweng and other popular beach areas. Also, the durian fruit also came into the picture and is one of the leading fruits the island has to offer. Gradually, more roads literally lead to and around Samui and the backpackers community from Europe arrived. By the mid 1970s, Samui become a blended community of residents who provided needed amenities to the constant flow of visitors. Dr. Suwit saw how the late 1980s and early 90s saw the building of more infrastructures with hotels and luxury holiday villas rising up and reaching out to high-end tourists. Churning along the waters was a regular ferry service that made Koh Samui an even more accessible getaway. Then came the airport further connecting the island to Thailand and other destinations. Thus the quiet and sleepy island blossomed to one of the most popular destinations in all of Southeast Asia. But Dr. Suwit points out that nature has been neglected, that bringing in more money for development does not take care of the erosion of soil, he says. At the moment, the infrastructure can’t handle the increased use among vehicles and motorists. Water becomes more scarce as hotel properties build more pool villas. Much of the tropical charm that first attracted tourists to its calm shores some 40 years ago remains, but there is a cautionary tale that without curbing growth, the soul of Samui may also erode. Dr. Suwit notes these issues are gradually being addressed. Luckily, hoteliers and tourism industry groups with similar concerns have joined forces to ensure Samui’s future lies in protected beauty and tranquillity. 56

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