Is Traveling Good for the World?
This is a question I often toy with in my head whilst I’m exploring new places. Especially in traveling to cheaper places like Southeast Asia. How does our behavior and the money we spend effect the host country? Never more have I contemplated this issue more than the morning after the Full Moon Party in Ko Phangan, an island of Thailand.
If you’ve never heard of the Full Moon Party in Thailand do some research because I’ve done my fair share of partying all over the world and this event blows everything else I’ve seen out of the water. Picture a wide stretch of secluded beach surrounded by jungle mountains on a remote island in the Gulf of Thailand. Now add about 30,000 twenty something year olds, house music that bumps across the entire island, buckets full of hard alcohol (literally), readily available drugs, and everyone with a “this will be the greatest party on earth mindset”. The beach is lined with small bamboo stands selling “buckets” which cost next to nothing and contain a fifth of hard alcohol, a can of redbull and a can of soda. You pour it all in the bucket and suck them down from long straws with your friends. The stands all have really common, traditional western names on them like “Alex” or “Chris”. The idea is that when you are quite inebriated and you see some funny Thai family selling booze out of a stand with your name on it you will almost always go to that stand rather than the numerous others selling the same products. Just when everyone’s booze consumption is at an all time high they bring out activities such as massive flaming jump ropes and extremely sketchy fireworks that often explode far to close to the wild dancing masses. One of the craziest parts is that so many people have completely passed out it literally looks like the Battle of Normandy, with bodies strewn face down all along the beach and people just dancing right on top of them. As the sun rises the music continues to bump and everyone who is still conscious have no intention of letting up. Hazy memories of bleary-eyed dancing with Israeli girls is all you (or me) really recall from the last few hours as you trek back to your bungalow in bare feet, as someone most definitely stole your sandals at some point during the party. As you lie in bed with bleeding feet, your heartbeat continues to bump to the bass of the music that will seemingly never end until you eventually pass out.
In the late afternoon when everyone on the island arises once again, they’ve set up restaurant lounges near the beach where they serve American food and play American TV shows such as Friends and The Simpsons so hungover people can just lay there all day. In no way is this a cultural experience nor a reflection of Thai culture, but it is a really good time!! But how does this effect those living on the island who are not interested in monumental debauchery every night? Thai culture is one of the most peaceful, kind and conservative I’ve come across so what impression are we giving the Thai’s when we come to their land just for cheap thrills? Clearly we are pumping loads of cash into their economy, but is the sacrifice worth the reward? Give me some feedback, what do you think?