Cleaning up Thailand

On our previous visit to Koh Adang, Tony came across a beautiful stretch of white-sand beach while water-hiking. (Clearly, he was ignoring rule No. 2 in our last post.) He couldn’t wait to go back and show me his discovery. Twenty minutes of walking and twenty five minutes of swimming took us to what he had perceived as paradise. As we climbed out of the water onto the beach, we found ourselves standing on a once stunning stretch of white-powder sand covered in garbage. How could this be?

Well, out here on the islands, trash is either burnt or gathered up on boats and transported to the mainland. Sometimes, when the waves get a little cranky, these garbage bags find their way back into the sea and eventually onto the shore. On other occasions, locals taking a shortcut just dump bags of trash directly into the ocean. You would think the park staff would clean up these trash spills immediately. But as we mentioned before, the workers in Koh Tarutao National Park are extremely lazy. Of course – why keep the garbage off the beaches when you can sit under a tree and play cards with your friends. Exactly what are park entry fees for?

At first, we sat helplessly staring at the devastated stretch of beach. I wanted to leave, but Tony just stood there shaking his head.

“Can’t they leave anything alone? Do they have to destroy everything?” he yelled. He flopped down on the sand and eyed the filth. Suddenly, he jumped up and announced, “I’m going to clean it all up.”

He picked up a plastic bag half buried in the sand and started stuffing trash into it. I walked down the beach and started cleaning up from that end. There we were in the midday sun picking up trash – not really the best way to enjoy Thailand. We found everything from lighters, rice bags and pieces of fishing line to apple cores, light bulbs and Styrofoam cups. Amazingly, the clean-up didn’t take long.

After only an hour, we had removed all of the garbage and moved it to the back away from the surf. The beach looked fantastic. Unfortunately, we simply didn’t have the ability to swim back out carrying several large bags of trash. Theoretically, the park staff will discover the trash while patrolling the beaches and permanently remove it. Theoretically.

But if Thais don’t feel they need to clean up the coastline, maybe it’s time for us visitors to grab a bag and start cleaning it up for ourselves. If you decide to clean up a stretch of beach, let us know about it here.

4 responses to “Cleaning up Thailand”

  1. avatar carrieannmarco says:

    I swear I have done it! I have a friend, named June, from Japan. We made it a rule that whenever we went surfing in Japan, we would clean the beach. We did this to give back to the beach that gave us all the wonderful waves to ride. Plus, Marco and I took some garbage back with us from Phi Phi Lay and another smaller island. One Thai man who lived on the island paid me in peanuts! Thank you, thank you thank you for doing that. Marco and I would have joined you. I think just about all of your blog readers would have as well. xoxo

  2. avatar Thailand says:

    Clean beaches in Thailand is everyones responsibility. When we travel to other countries being mindful of our impact is important. Sometimes we have to be mindful for others who are not.

    • avatar Tony says:

      Very true Thailand. It’s everyone’s responsibility. But in this particular case, it was very evident from what we found on the beach that this trash was dumped by a local. Visitors to Thailand must be aware of their impact, but Thais must also understand that cleaning up Thailand is not only for the benefit of outsiders. It is mostly for the benefit of Thais who will continue to live here long after we leave.

  3. avatar Kasper - Denmark says:

    The MAJORITY of “lost trash” seen everywhere in Thailand, is clearly not from tourists hands.. Take a stroll on any beach around Rayong, or sail out from Trat through the mangroves, and you will see so much garbage, it will make you squirm. Most of this garbage material I have been filming and photographing now for years, is not something that originates from a person arriving to Thailand with a suitcase. Toiurists dont bring shrimpfishing bulps, flourecent light tubes, huge plastic cans, or even the tons and tons of endless plastic bags. I love Thai’s, (for better and for worse), but WHAT is up with all those damn plastic bags. There is no doubt in my mind, that the trash-situation is a problem that needs solved by educating the Thais of the importance, and to to stop littering NOW, and start cleaning NOW, and announce severe punishment for seadumping trash. I never understood why nothing is being done about the obvious destruction of one of the most beautiful countries in the world.. humans are peculiar.

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