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January 13, 2005

Ton Sai

I attempted to volunteer at the morgue for a second day but there wasn't enough to do, so I left after two hours. This was no bad thing since the experience was truly depressing, and I didn't feel like I was helping that much.

I made my way to Ton Sai, a small village that is only accessible by long-tail boat. The beach-front here was damaged by the big wave but nobody was lost to the sea. Like most people, I have come to Ton Sai to rock-climb and to help the locals deal with the aftermath if I can. Few have stayed in the area since the tsunami, so the businesses here have lost most of their customers. What is a greater concern for the locals is that many have canceled their plans to come here. The result is that the next year is going to be a difficult one. With damages to repair and the high season cut short, there is no doubt that some of the businesses will not survive.

The truth is that there is no reason to cancel plans to come to Ton Sai (and many other places, but I will only talk about what I experienced first-hand). Those who only have the media as a source of information might get the impression that all of SE Asia was wiped out. While the devastation in some areas is staggering, it does not mean that every region mentioned by the media is like a war zone. Like I said, a few businesses in Ton Sai were damaged, some even destroyed, but the Thais are resilient and they could be back on their feet swiftly. The only problem is that there are not enough customers to help them fund their recovery.

Currently, it is said to be impossible to find accomodation on Ko Samui or any of the Gulf/Eastern beaches of Thailand. So many would-be visitors to places like Ton Sai are sunning themselves on the beaches that the tsunami could not reach. While I don't blame those who witnessed the tsunami first-hand for leaving the area, I am saddened that many other tourists are turning their back to the Thais who have had the misfortune of being on Nature's path.

Some argue that it is not right to be a tourist at the site of a disaster. For one thing, there is disaster and there is DISASTER. I can't talk about Sumatra or Sri Lanka, or even Ko Phi Phi, because I have no idea what things are like there. But in relatively lightly hit areas, like Ton Sai, I think it's a question of attitude. For example, although there are many vacancies around town, high-season rates still apply. Bargaining for a lower rate on the basis that there are no visitors amounts to taking advantage of the situation; I don't think that's right. However, being understanding that things aren't running very smoothly and still paying full price with a smile is a real help to the locals.

Posted by piegu on January 13, 2005 12:28 AM
Category: Thailand

Hi Olivier: interesting blog. The visit to the Morgue must have been gruesome. Look forward to seeing you back in Oliver St!

Posted by: Rory on January 15, 2005 02:11 PM
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