In September 2018, I had the pleasure of joining a Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) fam trip to the southern province of Surat Thani, the four-day itinerary of which included visits to two national parks – Mu Ko Ang Thong National Park and Khao Sok National Park. It was the latest in a series of media fam trips hosted by the national tourist office in support of its Amazing Thailand ‘Open to the New Shades’ communication concept launched in visitor source markets around the world.
The two national parks, as I was to discover, were abundant in picturesque beauty and dramatic landscapes. And to my great pleasure, devoid of any plastic bags, drinking water bottles and the like that was anywhere it shouldn’t be… such as floating half-submerged off a beach or simply just lying on the beach, having been casually discarded by its user. What trash I did come across was exactly where it should be, in trash bins provided precisely for the very purpose.
The ban on single-use plastics appeared to be working, at least in the parts of the Mu Ko Ang Thong and Khao Sok national parks that we visited. And that is an encouraging notion. On previous occasions during my 20 plus years in Thailand that I’d visited the spectacular islands and waters of southern Thailand I had at times spotted errant trash – not to any great extent but still trash – floating or lying around. But, I’m glad to say, not this time.
Ironically, it was not until well into day three of our trip that it suddenly occurred to me I hadn’t seen the odd plastic bag or bottle. Contemplating this at the time, on a longtail boat skimming between islands it so happens, I recalled a quote I’d read from the TAT’s press statement in which it had stressed how the importance of protecting Thailand’s landscape and environment could not be understated.