|It is over a thousand miles from northern Laos to the islands of southern Thailand but probably about forty years in tourism terms. It is like travelling from Havana in Cuba to Key West, Florida. Laos will never be able to handle the volumes that pass through Thailand and never want to because they can see the impact that mass tourism had had on their neighbour, swamping their culture and towns and countryside to earn the tourist dollar. It must of course be acknowledged that a land-locked country like Laos is not going to be renowned for fine beaches and some may be offput by its communistic politics though this hardly impinges on the average visitor.
But having said this, somehow Thailand has upped their game over the years to manage the hordes efficiently with expanded transportation by land, sea and air, by continuing to offer a wide range of accommodation and eating options to suit all pockets and generally with a high level of warm service despite the often boorish treatment they get in return from some of their guests especially the younger ones.
It was interesting to note on our return to the resort of Khao Lak up towards the border with southern Myanmar that there was a complete absence of Swedish tourists, interesting because it is the site of the worst loss of life in the tsunami in 2003/4, mainly affecting Swedes so perhaps as a nation they feel it would show a lack of respect to return to the site of such devastation.
A word of warning based on a personal experience there. If you are approached on the beach by a stranger carrying a portable chess set asking if you want a game, you can be sure he is going to be a better player than you are. Result: Switzerland: 3, UK 0.
Finally we crossed over from the Andaman sea to the South China Sea to meet up with our youngest who had failed to point out that our arrival coincided with a full moon which on Ko Phangan means the world famous monthly Full Moon Party, not an event designed to appeal to the maturer generations. Consequently I can say with some certainty that we were the only passengers on the ferry from Ko Samui over the age of 19 not sporting gangrenous-looking whole-arm tattoos, a bald pate and/or ponytail, skimpy tank tops, grubby faded T-shirts, cut-off jeans and nose rings, weighed down by a huge well-used rucksacks. Mind you some did take pity and offer up their seats in sympathy.
We expect to be the only people at breakfast as the gyrating, mind-blowing, ear-blasting shindig down the road will only just have burnt itself out.
Glad I kept the free airline ear-plugs.