Ok, so this title sounds a little bit dramatic. But if our first week and a half in Koh Phagnan was magical – then the second part of our trip can only be described as a little less than. We moved to Haad Salad beach for the last five days of our trip. The day we moved from Thong Nai Pan it was pouring with rain from a typhoon in Taiwan, but other than the fact that we couldn’t swim we were largely unaffected. But the beach wasn’t as nice and the staff weren’t as friendly. The shop sold stale bread and out of date milk which didn’t get us off on the right foot.
And then came Lincoln’s ear infection. He started to complain of a sore ear and fast became more and more distressed. The kids getting unwell while travelling is probably what scared me the most about taking this trip. What if they got sick and I didn’t know what was wrong, couldn’t find a doctor or couldn’t get the right medication. Fortunately most ear infections are easily treated (except for Russ’) and I am travelling with (perhaps) the largest first aid kit ever. At Koh Phagnan hospital his infection was quickly diagnosed and prescribed antibiotics.
When the rain cleared, everything looked a bit brighter. Rubbish that littered the beach, that washed down from the streets was quickly cleaned up and it soon looked like it had never been there. We swam again (Linc with his head out of the water), played on the beach and it felt like the fun had returned.
That was until the water turned green. I work in an industry thats main aim is to improve runoff from farms and land into waterways to prevent exactly this from happening. And although I’m not a scientist – you don’t need to be to know a green algae like substance covering the whole bay is not a good thing.
So we were out of the water again. I wouldn’t let the kids swim (although others swam happily) and I started to look at everything a bit negatively. This continued the next morning as we awoke to find the green gone (hooray) but hundreds – perhaps thousands of small dead fish washed up on the beach.
Again I kept the kids out of the water. Why did no one seem to care that there were thousands of dead fish washed up on the shore, that a day before that the ocean was green and a day before that there was rubbish all over the beach? And this is something that I have struggled with (at times) throughout our travels. I look at things through the only lens I have. My own. I am definitely more understanding, more patient and less judgemental than I was before we started out on this trip. But on this day as I looked at the glistening water, the sunshine and then at the dead fish that littered the shoreline it all came rushing back and I felt annoyed. I felt annoyed that the environment isn’t a priority anywhere in the world, I felt annoyed that no one seemed to care and I felt annoyed that as a traveller I contribute to the problem.
Throughout our travels we have seen environmental disasters – big and small. In Hoi An we saw whole resorts crumbling into the ocean (although some people we spoke to believed in Chinese conspiracy theories), we saw boat drivers bumping over coral reefs in Malaysia, tourists chasing turtles, we helped clean up an oil spill, we experienced pollution in Bangkok, traffic choking the streets in Hanoi and now a fish kill in Thailand.
By the time we left Koh Phagnan – I couldn’t wait to get off the island. Although I feared the trip back to Bangkok, this time we were breaking it up – there would be no overnight train for me!