The sad stories of Phuket, Haad Rin, Koh Samui and Pattaya in Thailand, Vietnam’s still beautiful, but increasingly polluted Halong Bay, and the ancestral land lost to Burma’s Bagan residents have entered traveller folklore, and many consider them too far “gone” to be saved from the concrete blocks, mounting piles of waste and international hotel chains that scar them. However, there are many beaches and places across Asia that remain free of overdevelopment – in some cases of any development. The general consensus is that preventing similar catastrophes in these regions is both easier and more economically viable than attempting to reverse the damage already done in the most overdeveloped regions
- so supporting them now will contribute to their protection.
What you can do
In Thailand, it’s surprising how close to the tourist trail many still-lovely beaches actually are
. Even islands such as Koh Phi Phi and Koh Samet still have their wilder sides – it just means travelling further from the boat docks to find them. Avoid the huge resorts and all-inclusive breaks too, and stay in locally owned accommodation
. This makes sense for both the environment and for the local economy – and your beach experience will be so much more authentically Thai.
If you’re visiting Halong Bay, choose an operator with a responsible tourism policy
. Ask about their methods of disposing of trash and wastewater, and whether they invest in any local clean up initiatives. Find out if the staff are local – many of the fishing communities around the bay are no longer able to fish – as the sealife is dying, and the waters polluted – so employment in tourism is a way of sustaining their floating communities. And, don’t just stay on your ship
. Find a tour which visits local communities, and which allows you the chance to interact with the people and spend money by buying refreshments or crafts.
If you visit Burma, hire a local guide, and ask them to take you to the hidden corners of Bagan
– it’s a vast site, and tourists huddle in the same spots. Support local vendors, visit the markets, and get on your bike to explore more of the region and its culture. Ensure you book a locally-owned hotel or guesthouse, and avoid the 5-star behemoths at all costs. You can also stay in New Bagan, rather than Old Bagan.
You can read more about overdevelopment and it’s implications in our Thailand