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I often take a trip across the water to Koh Phangan and no matter how many times I go, it always feels like a holiday to me and I’ve never quite been able to figure out what it was about our neighboring island that can make me feel so much more at peace there. That was until my last trip to Phangan, I had been reading a thread going around amongst Samui residents about a popular Condo which had used its advertising to block a beautiful beach view somewhere in the North of Samui. Thanks to the power of social networks and some active members of the community, the Condo agreed to lower their billboards as much as possible to improve the view for residents and tourists. Whilst I was really encouraged by the effect that a few simple photos on facebook could have on improving our local environment, it made me realize that the biggest difference for me between Samui and our northern neighbour is the extent of advertising. You don’t have to live here very long before you just block it out but a trip off Samui can remind you how extreme it has become here. Unlicensed billboards lay in all manner of disrepair and neglect, scarring the otherwise beautiful landscape. Noise pollution from trucks blaring out when the next fight is or the sounds of gunshots (as if that would make me want to use their firing range!) and driving at a walking pace making the traffic situation even worse. Sometimes I would like to find out who is responsible for those trucks and sit outside their home with a megaphone repeating the same garbage all day. But this letter is not intended as a rant or a moan. That post by a conscious member of our community managed to improve one company’s advertising ethics in less than 24 hours and I wonder how many other people in our community would like to be a part of a positive change.
Samui has been developing quickly and mindlessly for decades and I hope this letter will help to galvanize a movement for conscious development here. The only thing that we have to do is decide by ourselves which companies seem to care about Samui and its communities and which are here to simply make as much money as they possibly can. Which companies organize trips to help out in the schools and orphanages and which companies ruin the island with noise pollution and insensitive advertising schemes. Which businesses take part in local beach cleans and which couldn’t care less. If you don’t like the way a company is advertising here, make sure you don’t give them a single baht. Because I truly believe that if the residents of Samui stand up and say no to businesses which have no concern for protecting or improving our beautiful island, we could see a really positive change here within a short time period.
So I hope you will consider this idea and share it with others who call Samui home. Remember we have the luxury of choice here. There are plenty of bars, restaurants, spas and services on Samui which do not conduct marketing or business in a harmful manner, let’s give them the praise, recognition (and baht) they deserve!