Lorenzo's gaze scans the profile of Patong from north to south. He's absolutely right, this beach is gorgeous. Especially now, when the sun is about to dive among the distant waves and a golden dust has settled on the leaves of the thick vegetation that swells the hills at both ends of the bay. Everything else reflects the same shiny hue: the clouds, the Arab and Indian tourists that awkwardly hang from the para-sails, and the jet-skis that break through the froth of the waves like a horde of fat insect-like robots.
Somewhere near the northern end of the beach though, one can spot, beyond the typically Asian enormous tangle of electric wires, a white patch among the glittering green of the plants. It's one of the new development projects that are claiming the coastal land between Patong and Kamala beach.
The next morning we rent a scooter and we follow the ups and downs of the road that runs along the western side of the island, from Patong down to Nai han. Then we cut westward, until we reach Phuket town, where we we will spend the rest of the afternoon sipping mango shakes, strolling around the colonial district and pampering ourselves with an aromatic-oil massage.
On our way back, probably inspired by the memory of yesterday's sunset, we take a detour to Kamala. The village and the beach resemble the ones that we have visited during the day. Kamala welcomes its visitors with a few hotels and some cheaper guest houses, a bunch of restaurant and a line of bars with loud music and girls in tight tops and miniskirts tirelessly yelling at whoever happens to pass by.
The cheerful and relaxed atmosphere fades when the scooter heads southward through the curves of the narrow road that runs along the shore. The beam of light is swallowed up by the tropical vegetation and the darkness ahead, while the music and the noises are overcome by the vigorous sounds of the jungle and the sea. The environment takes up a ghost-like air and at the edge of the streets some strange figures start to appear. The white veil that wraps them up is neither a shroud nor ectoplasm matter, but just a thin layer of mortar powder. Dozens of men and women, sometimes only children, with small but strong bodies, busy themselves up and down the paths, pushing wheelbarrows or carrying buckets, boxes and tools.
Soon we come across the first of a long sequence of resorts which, like many huge fans of cement, cover the hillside at various angles for hundreds meters, maybe kilometres, from Kamala beach down south. Presented with such an astonishing scene, Lorenzo is reminded of a sadly famous stretch of the Sardinian coast, as it appears to the visitors approaching it on a boat.
Although the style of the buildings is not always bad, the greed with which they are eating up every inch of the vegetation is merciless. Our scooter keeps going, the workers hastily move about with heavy buckets hanging from poles balanced on their shoulders, while a never ending sequence of grotesque names unfolds in front of us, something like “The Plantation”, “Green Oasis”, “Blue Lagoon” or some such creative ideas.
I remember a comment of Javier, a Spanish friend of mine, about Yangshuo, a nice touristy town in the South of China: “Oye, se lo han cargado bastante el sitio ese!” Every language has its own clever expressions: powerful shots of a deadly clarity. You cannot translate a sentence like this, it would be like designing a cheap compact car only to stick the brand “Ferrari” on it. Some wicked form of linguistic blasphemy.
As I'm borrowing Javier's words, I also have to use his language when I tell you that this stretch of coast se lo han cargado!
© 2009 Fabio Pulito