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  1. #1

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    dirtydog's Avatar
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    Koh Samet goes upmarket

    By Peter Janssen, dpa

    Koh Samet, Thailand (dpa) - One wonders where backpackers travelling on the proverbial shoestring stay nowadays in Thailand.

    Two decades ago, backpackers infested the kingdom's islands from Phi Phi to Phuket and Samui to Chang. Today, you'd be hard pressed to find a bamboo beach bungalow with a thatched roof, renting for 100 to 200 baht (2.66 to 5.33 dollars) a night at any of these now respectable "beach resorts."

    Thailand's latest island destination trying to make the metamorphosis from backpackers' paradise to swanky resort is Samet, only 150 kilometres east of Bangkok. But Samet faces some obstacles on the road upmarket.

    On November 1, the deluxe 40-villa Paradee Resort, situated on the secluded southern tip of Samet, will officially open its Moroccan- style doors to the "public" with room rates ranging from 13,500 baht (365 dollars) to 80,000 baht (2,160 dollars), well beyond the price range of most tourists, backpackers or otherwise.

    The Paradee is one of five properties in the Samed Resorts Group, that also operates Sae Kaew Resort, Ao Phrao Resort, Le Vimarn and the recently purchased Sunset Resort, all on the island.

    These resorts are already among Samet's nicest and priciest, although more affordable than the Paradee, which is being billed as a "couples resort," or "No Children, Please".

    Paradee and Samed Resort Group's other properties have arguably benefited from the 2004 tsunami, which forced tour operators to find new destinations for European tourists keen on visiting Thailand, but now more mindful of the water.

    "Since 2004, with the focus of tour operators switching a little away from Phuket, to places like Hua Hin, Samui and Samet, the interest is definitely more," said Bert van Walbeek, managing director of The Winning Edge company that has acted as a management consultant for the Paradee Resort.

    Paradee, which had its soft opening several months ago, is already claiming a 50 per cent occupancy rate. The resort has already attracted some very upmarket clients such as Thai Princess Sirivanvari Mahidol, the daughter of Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, who spent two nights at the resort in September.

    "Suddenly we had an invasion of officials here," recalled Walbeek of the royal visit, adding, "I think it created some awareness."

    Samet, although it boasts some of the whitest beaches in Thailand and remarkably clean water, has never been a prime tourist destination.

    The island, ostensibly a national marine park, has for decades served as a weekend getaway for Thais and foreigners of the less well-heeled variety in search of a quick retreat from Bangkok, minus the sexual sleaze of Pattaya, Thailand's first beach resort, pioneered by the US military during the Vietnam War years, situated only 90 kilometres south-east of Bangkok.

    Samet is only accessible by boat from Ban Phe, a fishing village in Rayong Province. One of the oddities tourists face when visiting Samet is an admission fee amounting to 40 baht (1.06 dollars) for Thais and 400 baht (10.60 dollars) for foreigners, half price for children.

    The money, in theory, goes to the Forestry Department to help preserve the environment of the forest that covers the island and the surrounding waters.

    Samet begs the description of national park. There are an estimated 4,000 registered residents on the seven kilometre island, and the most visible wildlife is a nasty breed of mosquito that leaves you with bloody welts as souvenirs a good week after your visit.

    Samet also has a severe trash problem, with stacks of debris visible on most beaches, except the most exclusive ones such as Ao Prao Bay and Kia Na Nok Bay, the latter is where the Paradee is situated.

    Most Samet hoteliers are justly annoyed with the Forestry Department for doing nothing to keep the island clean, as they seem keen enough on collecting admission fees from tourists.

    Samet also has no paved roads, except for short stretches built by the resorts themselves. But hoteliers are of two minds about demanding proper roads on the island.

    "We want to keep the road like this. If the roads are better people will drive faster and cause more accidents," said Narathip Settakarn, manager of Jep's Bungalows, one of the first backpacker hangouts on Samet that has been operating for more than 20 years.

    While Jep's Bungalows has raised its rates from 200 baht (5.33 dollars) a night for a bamboo hut with a candle 20 years ago to 1,500 baht (40 dollars) a night now for a room with air conditioning, satellite TV and phone, the management has no intention of going much further upmarket.

    "Jep's Bungalows started out with backpackers so we can't think of throwing out our old customers. But the backpackers have gotten wealthier so we can charge a bit more," said Narathip.


    bangkok post

  2. #2
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    well this upmarket drive is fine and dandy with the dumb 1st time to the los "too-lists"

    13,500 baht (365 dollars) to 80,000 baht (2,160 dollars), is also well beyond the price range i am willing to fork out

    365 baht to 2160 baht I could consider - if said numbers are u.s. dollars well, tat, whoever runs tat and all the get rich quick wishfull resort owners can go get stuffed as far as I'm concerned

  3. #3
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    Dougal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by in4zip
    the get rich quick wishfull resort owners can go get stuffed as far as I'm concerned
    Why should they stay poor just to suit you?
    Lord, deliver us from e-mail.

  4. #4
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    Only went there once, in 1981. I remember Samet having the most vicious biting sand-flies in the world. Couldn't stay on the beach for more than ten minutes. Is it still like that?
    Phuket - Veni Vidi Veni

  5. #5
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    The beginning of the end, I think. Ko Chang has already lost its repeat budget customers. These are the travellers who made the Thai tourist industry what it is today. Just because some westerners have more money than they did and come back shouldn't be an excuse to price all the other first time budget travellers out of the market. It is a sad development and incredibly short-sighted.
    The truth is out there, but then I'm stuck in here.

  6. #6
    Rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb
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    ^^^
    But why should a resort owner accept 200 Bt a night when he knows he can upgrade and charge 500 Bt a night?
    Business is business after all.
    Phuket - Veni Vidi Veni

  7. #7
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    I wasn't really whinging about that, it's more that the budget places are being replaced by really expensive ones that price budget travellers out altogether. This is what is happening in Ko Chang and if it happens on Ko Samet then unless you are prepared to pay up to 3000 a night, you won't have anywhere to stay.

    It's one thing to double or triple your prices, it's quite another if you do it without spending one baht on improving the toilet, the decor, the sanitation, the drainage and anything else. That is what is crap about the whole thing.
    The truth is out there, but then I'm stuck in here.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dougal View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by in4zip
    the get rich quick wishfull resort owners can go get stuffed as far as I'm concerned
    Why should they stay poor just to suit you?
    suit me? couldn't give a fuck Dougal, if they got rich but it's not going to
    happen with my money though I'm quite ok if they get rich with your money

  9. #9
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    Dougal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wallace
    It's one thing to double or triple your prices, it's quite another if you do it without spending one baht on improving the toilet, the decor, the sanitation, the drainage and anything else. That is what is crap about the whole thing.
    But do you know this to be the case.

    In the OP the one comparison quoted between then and now is

    Quote "While Jep's Bungalows has raised its rates from 200 baht (5.33 dollars) a night for a bamboo hut with a candle 20 years ago to 1,500 baht (40 dollars) a night now for a room with air conditioning, satellite TV and phone, the management has no intention of going much further upmarket."

    That does not seem unreasonable to me. What it boils down to is that Thailand is changing and while it's holiday reputation may have started out as a cheap and cheerful backpacker haven, it is now moving onward and upward - of course what 'upward' means is another subject altogether.
    Lord, deliver us from e-mail.

  10. #10
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    I fucking hate the beach anyway, so they can charge what they want as far as I'm concerned.

  11. #11
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    Never liked Koh Samet that much. Development will go on until the investors and politicians are up to their necks in shit and pollution, and have to do something to breathe. But by then all the islands will look crap anyway.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sir Burr View Post
    Only went there once, in 1981. I remember Samet having the most vicious biting sand-flies in the world. Couldn't stay on the beach for more than ten minutes. Is it still like that?
    I hope not , will be there in 10 days

  13. #13
    Thailand Expat reinvented's Avatar
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    as a taiwanese friend of mine quoted

    samed

    5 star prices for hardware

    still
    3 star for service and facility software

    loved samed, spent my honeymoon there, even spread my fathers ashes there

    rapidly, going off the revisit list
    we won it at wemberlee
    we on it in gay paree...

  14. #14
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    Over the years I've visited Samet dozens of times, over one period in the mid 90s staying on the island at least twice a month. It has always been a family favourite and the place where we have had some of our happiest holidays.

    So I have a great fondness for Samet.

    My last visit was this Christmas, staying at Samet Villa (Bht4200 per night) compared with teh Bht350 /per night we paid the first time we visited.

    But its not the price that has changed the most, it is the general environment on the island.

    The beaches are now croweded in a way they never were, the sex tourists are veturing beyond Wong Duen and the back packers are being moved out by Scandanavian families. As too are Thais who can no longer afford the prices or are just not welcome when there are high spending foreigners about.

    So our last visit was of mixed feelings. The accommodation is more up to date, but not necessarily better. The encroachment onto beaches (and the 'illegal privitization' of public beaches by the likes of the Paradee resort are all spelling and end to what was very unique and very special about Samet.

    As I said, we have visited dozens of times. Sadly I don't expect to visit dozens more times.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by brodie View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Sir Burr View Post
    Only went there once, in 1981. I remember Samet having the most vicious biting sand-flies in the world. Couldn't stay on the beach for more than ten minutes. Is it still like that?
    I hope not , will be there in 10 days
    Bitten to bloody buggery a year or so ago. Came out in hundreds of huge hives.

    One of the reasons why I won't be going back.

    Another was the dirty arabs with their entourage of 200 baht skanks and hookah pipes acting like they were in a harem instead of in a beach restaurant full of families. Fukin disgusting lowlifes.

  16. #16
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    I enjoyed my trip there about 7 weeks ago.... Didn't get bitten by any sand flies.... Didn't get bothered by other holidaymakers....

    It beats a weekend in Skegness....

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by rawlins View Post
    I

    It beats a weekend in Skegness....
    Dunno about that! - did a 3 week spell in Skeggy on beach defence work( shifting tons of sand and shingle from one end of the beach to the other) a PR thing from my employers at the time - CAT

    Pissed as a rat most nights and the barmaid at the "Duke of Somewhere" had the most magnificient chest muscles and for a gin and tonic at closing time would expose them and hang a car key ring on her organ stop type nipples from whoever was the lucky man that night!
    As I was driving a BL Allegro at the time I had no chance !
    One day had to drive the boss back from a heavy buisness lunch in his Jag XJ 1- something ( im not into cars)- told me to bring the car back in the morning !

    My turn now!!!

    Was like having a w*nk on a water bed but good fun and all a part of lifes rich pattern .

    Skegness has fond memories for me !

  18. #18
    Thailand Expat reinvented's Avatar
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    spent a fortnight at skeggy butlins at the age of 16, more sex than my first week in bangers

    fond memories indeed
    we won it at wemberlee
    we on it in gay paree...

  19. #19
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    Last time I went, admittedly on Valentines Day, the cheapest place found was 600 baht for a dark room at the far end of the resort with a free tree inside.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Itchy View Post
    ...and the back packers are being moved out by Scandanavian families.
    Sounds good, it's about time.

  21. #21
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    going upmarket is not a bad thing, you need to upgrade your facilities if you want people to stay for 4000 THB because this is what they will expect for that kind of price,

    Only in Europe big cities you could get away with high prices and poor facilities like in Paris, Roma, and Barcelona

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