Sunday, 20 January 2013

End of an Era

It was always going to happen. Well ever since Santhiya was finished in 2006. That was the second hotel on Thong Nai Pan Noi. When it was discovered that Santhiya was filling its expensive rooms and pool villas the writing was on the wall for the budget backpacker places in Thong Nai Pan Noi.

It should be considered a good thing that the urge to ‘up-grade’ Tapan Noi bungalows was resisted until 2013. They haven’t been upgraded yet, but they have been shut down; meaning that there aren’t any bungalows for less than 1,000 Thai Baht a night left on the beachfront. That is a bit sad.

Tapan Noi or Baan Tapan Noi attracted lots of people, including many loyal customers who came back year after year. The bungalows on the rocks were simple wooden structures. The ones at the back didn’t have a bathroom. None had air-con. Instead they had a lot of character. The bungalow on the headline point was a gem – with lots of pointed plants outside and access to two beaches. Another bungalow had a bedroom and an entrance area big enough to install a basic kitchen. There were also a couple of bigger bungalows directly on the sand that were highly coveted and usually only let by the month.

The people running Tapan Noi are a friendly bunch. They got to know their long-stay customers and were always ready for a joke and a smile.

The northern end of the beach was ideal – it was free of the nasty early morning drone coming from the Jungle Bar and Hideaway Bar. Instead there was the relaxed I Sea Bar for a drink. Until 2011 there was the excellent Krua Tapan restaurant to enjoy authentic Thai food as well as the Tapan Noi restaurant.

Now that idyllic set up has gone. The Tapan Noi restaurant is still there as is the I Sea Bar but the cheap bungalows – the life blood of that part of the beach – have been taken out of the equation.

At the moment they are just standing there rotting. No doubt in the low season they will be pulled down and will be slowly replaced with air-con bungalows that will make their way onto the Thong Tapan website. It makes business sense I suppose but in terms of culture and pluralism the beach is a poorer place for their closure.

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