Seven years ago I visited the island of Koh Phi Phi, which is probably the most popular and well-known island in Thailand. I went during peak season so there were hoards of tourists on the beach and it pretty much ruined the mood. I remember going into the water and thinking, “Is the water really warm because it’s hot out or is everyone around me taking a piss?” Talk about one of the downsides of mass tourism… and there are so much more! Learn about the obvious ones I witnessed and how to avoid crowds and reduce your impact when traveling.
I want to start by saying I hate crowds. I think a beach ambiance is completely lost when you see a bunch of plus sized men in speedos laying on the beach with a severe case of sunburn everywhere. In Thailand and especially with travelers across the world, everyone is trying to find the best new thing, something hidden, a place that has been undiscovered but technology has made it hard to keep anything a secret. I have noticed that the original intent for many events and places has been skewed due to popularity among the masses.
Can you guess what people are taking a picture of above? If you guessed the Mona Lisa you are right. The painting itself I don’t think is very striking and it only garnered fame because it was stolen. If it were not for this high-profile robbery the Mona Lisa would not garnish as much fame as it does today. If you go to visit you will be welcomed by hundreds of other people pushing their way to the front of the pack to get their photo for Facebook.
Another example of the downsides of mass tourism is Cuba. As someone who runs many trips to Cuba I get many travelers who want to go before it changes. The only thing that is changing is the flood of American tourists going to this country and complaining about the plumbing. Thousands of Americans getting off a cruise ship and going into a country where the average salary is $20 a month is going to create scams and touts and this is what’s going to change the most about Cuba.
The Full-Moon party on Koh Phangan used to be a fun party but over the last couple years has turned into complete debauchery in a bad way. Dozens of people have died, girls have been raped and most have to make a visit to the overpriced Thai health clinics on the island, either for a tetanus shot from all the glass that they stepped on while dancing on the beach, dehydration or alcohol poisoning.
Are the full moon parties still fun? Yes, as long as you don’t drink 3 magic mushroom shakes along with 5 buckets of alcohol and you wear shoes. Is Cuba an incredible country to visit? Definitely. Is Koh Phi Phi one of the most beautiful beaches in the world? It sure is.
I guess we have to grow to accept that with technology nothing will remain undiscovered forever and when something is considered unique and fun it quickly becomes popular, mainstream and not so much fun. These are the unfortunate downsides of mass tourism. No destination, party or festival will remain rare as so many are constantly searching for the next new undiscovered experience and place and then write a blog about it. Drawing on this it seems the influx of people will be a necessary evil for all of eternity! Welcome to the 21st century and the age of information.