Happy August guys!
Is it just me or has this year gone crazy fast? It’s now been fifteen months of me sharing blog posts with you all, and for twelve of those I have been lucky enough to be a part of the team at New Heaven Reef Conservation Program (NHRCP). Time really does seem to fly here. But hey, they do say time flies while you’re having fun!
To celebrate 1 year of blog posts from NHRCP lets do something a little different and skew from discussing underwater shenanigans. Let’s talk about travel… Well, specifically travelling the Gulf of Thailand. This small pocket of the world is incredibly popular for tourism. My little island of Koh Tao for example has up to 1,000,000 visitors per year (reminder: Koh Tao is tiny, comprising of only nineteen square kilometres, most of which is uninhabitable due to steep hills and general inaccessibility). Since being here, I have come to notice that most travellers I meet seem to have the intention of doing it in as much of an environmentally conscious way as possible, but meet barriers when it comes to crunch time, and many of these goals seem to shoot out the window. I have been lucky enough to visit three of the Gulfs most popular tourists destinations; Koh Tao, Koh Samui and Koh Phangan and so want to share some tips with you about travelling around this area while minimising your environmental footprint.
I can’t help but notice that drinking water seems to be the largest hurdle that tourists don’t often seem to get around. I mean, if you can’t drink tap water what other options are there than drinking 1.5L bottled water from 7-11?! Well, I have some great news for you. Other options certainly do exist, and are also much more affordable. I assure you that locals do not pay 30 baht (about $1.45) for 1.5L of drinkable water. 7-11 water is a rip off. I personally pay 25 baht ($1) for 25L of drinkable water, I have been drinking it for about one and a half years in total and have never fallen ill due to it.
There is no need to fall victim to elevated water prices
and here are a few ways to get around it,
" lets talk travel "
Australians spend more than half a billion dollars a year on bottled water. Australia produced 582.9 million litres of bottled water in 2009-10. A plastic bag can kill numerous animals because they take so long to disintegrate.
100,000 marine creatures a year die from plastic entanglement and these are the ones found.
ONE Ask your accommodation if they provide drinking water. Much accommodation will provide filtered drinking water, some will offer it without you even having to ask! What they will have are large 25L bottles (same as what I purchase) that come from a water filtering facility on the island (all three islands have these facilities), and even the places that don’t offer it for free as part of the accommodation will nearly always be happy to let you use it, perhaps at a small price (still heavily discounted from what you’d pay at 7-11).
TWO Get a 25L bottle of water from the source. On Koh Tao the water facility is called Green Fresh. They charge 150 baht for the first bottle and then 25 baht for each refill. If you happen to be close to these facilities, easy peasy. If you are staying a bit further away and can’t carry home 25L of water (understandable, it’s heavy), you should be able to request your accommodation to order extra water for you, or they may just let you grab them of theirs as their orders are delivered.
THREE If neither of these are working for you do not fret! There are still options. Something that I have been using while on the road (where lugging 25L bottles isn’t a realistic option), or am simply too lazy to grab another Green Fresh bottle from my land lady, is the LifeStraw. This brand is legendary, it allows me to drink what would otherwise be non-drinkable water (not including salt water). They have quite a few products and each varies in exactly what they can filter, but I highly recommend checking out their website to learn more. I assure you, you’ll spend less on the LifeStraw bottle than you would overall on single use disposable bottles while travelling.
FOUR If for some reason you can’t access or apply any of these to your travel plans, then please only purchase 6L single use bottles from the local supermarket or 7-11. While there is of course some waste involved here, if you refill your daily drink bottle from one of these, you will overall be reducing your plastic footprint by a considerable amount.
Secondly, let’s talk about food time (my favourite three times of the day)! If you haven’t already gotten around tropical fruits, I beg you to try them. You’ll fall in love and won’t turn back! Snacking on (relatively) local fruits instead of wrapped and most likely imported snacks says to the environment ‘Hey, I love you!’ as opposed to ‘Nah, get fucked’ (eek sorry, I swear). I also promise your body will thank you for it.
The other food thing I want to mention is (*Cue the Vegan bringing up Veganism*) the choices we make at each meal. There are some types of food that simply have a higher cost to our environment than others, generally speaking these high cost foods involve animal products. Please think about this when you travel (and in day to day life too).
Additionally, I can’t help but mention some of the horrifying stories and rumours I’ve heard about the human slave trade in the Thai fishing industry, I won’t say much more and I obviously can’t speak from experience as I have never been on a Thai fishing vessel. However I’ll leave that thought in your mind, encourage you to check it out online, and also encourage you to stop eating seafood (in general, not just during travel).
Thirdly, and this one is dead easy. Please don’t accept straws and plastic bags. If you need bags for grocery shopping, bring some with you. Simple as that. To say ‘No’ in Thai you need to sound out our English word ‘my’. If you don’t want a bag or straw you can point to one and say ‘my’. I’ve spent so many hours thinking about the amount of damn straws and (especially) plastic bags I see on the beaches and during dives, it’s depressing as hell and doesn’t break down properly so will essentially hang out in our oceans forever L .
Fourthly, for the smokers out there. Stop dropping your cigarette butts everywhere. I promise everyone else strongly dislikes it and will find you incredibly annoying for polluting their holiday paradise.
Fifthly, if you are trying out some of these tips and request assistance from a Thai local, such as asking for water or saying no to a plastic bag; smile while you do it. I truly believe people underestimate the distance a smile can take you in this world, especially here in Thailand. It is the ‘land of smiles’ after all, I promise one can take you a long way.
I really hope that you take some of these pointers on board for your next trip. I’ve mentioned that all these options will be available on the Thai Gulf islands, but honestly they’ll probably work on most tropical getaways around Asia. I have bought 25L refillable water bottles from small supermarkets in Bali in the past, and promised to bring it back when I was done and they were totally cool with it.
I hope you feel super inspired for your next ocean-friendly holiday & remember to bring your Akua swimmers with you too!
Elle Haksin xxx