Set in the middle of the Gulf of Thailand, there lived a little, relatively untouched, island named Koh Phangan. Many have flocked to this island for the past 20 years to celebrate the Full Moon with dancing and partying on the southern tip- Haad Rin Beach. Five years ago, pre-tsunami, I came here to see what it was all about. I found myself entranced with this small find, that was a 'diamond in the rough'. The Drop In Hotel had recently opened and roads were being built to connect travelers from the north to the south ends of the island. There were several scuba shops, a small supermarket, and some cute handmade jewelry shops. Every couple of stores there was a small traditional Thai bar or delicious Thai restaurant with someone there to greet you with a smile and a 'sawadeeh ka'. Before entering you needed to take your shoes off, as a sign of respect, and most seating were cushions on the floor.
Flash forward to 2009, where we could only find 2 decent Thai restaurants. Most restaurants were Thai, Italian, and Mexican, all in one! Most menus were 30+ pages and obviously trying to appeal to the masses that show up for the Full Moon Party- approx 10,000-20,000 every month. Long gone are the traditional style seating and the long-standing tradition of taking your shoes off before entering a shop. Now it's western seating for all and even toilet paper in the bathrooms! It seems the locals smiles are long gone, having to cater to a demanding crowd of 20- somethings who come to their beach and basically trash it 1x/month. As my husband commented "It's the Cancun of Thailand".
In another 5 years there will be a KFC and a Starbucks on every corner. And although I understand and accept this modern and cultural change, I will still keep asking myself Where Did My Haad Rin Go?