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Special Report: Phi Phi cries for help

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Special Report: Phi Phi cries for help | The Thaiger

SPECIAL REPORT

PHUKET: Officials are pleading for help in tackling the array of environmental disasters that plague the tourist-popular Phi Phi archipelago – especially its largest island, Phi Phi Don.

Considering the more than 1,000 visitors that arrive on the island daily – a number that does not include the uncounted number of tourists who arrive directly on the beaches by way of the hundreds of speedboats and yachts – it becomes clear that Phi Phi is under an enormous amount of unsustainable pressure, Ao Nang Administration Organization (OrBorTor) President Pankum Kittithonkun told the Phuket Gazette.

RUBBISH

Phi Phi produces an average of 25 tonnes of trash a day. That numbers jumps to about 40 tonnes during the high season, Mr Pankum explained.

The abundance of rubbish is to the point that even Wikitravel makes mention of it: “Unfortunately, there is still plenty of rubbish on the beaches.”

“Tourists must help us create and maintain a pristine island environment. There is too much rubbish for us to manage – making it necessary for tourists to help out by taking their trash off the island when they leave,” Mr Pankum said last week.

“I have already asked tour operators to educate their guests, but nothing changes. Tourists continue to leave their trash on the island.”

All tourists arriving on the island pay a 20-baht fee at Ton Sai Pier to assist in “keeping Koh Phi Phi clean”, according to a posted sign. Though there is often skepticism about where the money goes due to the amount of rubbish found scattered across the island, Mr Pankum confirmed that the entire fee is used for waste management.

“As soon as we arrive on the island, we have to pay a 20-baht entrance fee. Nevertheless, the streets and the beaches are extremely dirty. There is not even one public bin anywhere in the center of town!” a concerned person, who declined to be named, wrote to the Gazette.

“Moreover, some hotels do not hesitate to dump their own trash in areas where [trash] collection is not done, creating… mounds of decomposing bags under the sun.”

The fee at Ton Sai Pier was introduced in December 2012. A year later, the Ao Nang OrBorTor had collected 8 million baht.

“We collect up to 20,000 baht a day from tourists at the pier. The money is then used to pay a private company to haul the rubbish from the island to the mainland in Krabi to be disposed of,” Mr Pankum said.

The boat takes about 25 tonnes of trash from the island daily, weather permitting. Ao Nang OrBorTor pays 600,000 baht per month for the service. During the high season, an Ao Nang OrBorTor boat is used to help transport the overflow of rubbish.

“The OrBorTor has collected 6mn baht so far this year, but we’ve paid more than 16mn baht for waste management for Phi Phi and Ao Nang,” Mr Pankum said. “There is a problem with tour speedboat operators dropping tourists off on the beach instead of bringing them to the pier to pay the 20 baht fee.”
The largest producers of rubbish, however, are not the tourists, they are the businesses on the
island – especially hotels and restaurants.

To encourage businesses to be more proactive in recycling and minimizing the amount of waste they produce, the Ao Nang OrBorTor is considering implementing special rates for trash collection at hotels and restaurants.

“We are thinking of collecting fees based on the weight of the trash we have to remove from the island for them. The more they produce, the more they will pay,” Mr Pankum said.

WASTEWATER

In Ao Nang, on mainland Krabi, there is a wastewater treatment plant that is able to handle about 3,000 cubic meters of wastewater per day – not nearly enough, according to Mr Pankum.

However, the situation on Phi Phi Don is even worse, he noted.

“We have no wastewater management plant there. Our only hope is that hotels, restaurants and other businesses act responsibly – but I have no faith in them,” Mr Pankum told the Gazette.

“They of course have to treat their own wastewater before releasing it into the sea, but they very well could just be turning the devices on before officers arrive to check them.”

Mr Pankum has denied that brown water recently seen in Loh Dahlum Bay, the second main bay on Phi Phi Don, was wastewater.

“The brown water seen during the [southwest] monsoon season is only a plankton bloom,” Mr Pankum said.

The off-brown water visible in photos of Loh Dahlum Bay is similar to that seen at Patong Beach in August last year (story here).

Dr Pornsri Suthanaruk, director of the Phuket Environmental Office Region 15, explained at the time that excessive amounts of nutrients in the form of nitrogen and phosphorus likely fed plankton growth in the bay, which was further catalyzed by days of bright sunshine.

Mr Pankum was unable to confirm the origins of the nutrients in Loh Dahlum Bay. However, he noted that officers from the Krabi Environmental Office had come to check the water quality about four months ago, and that everything tested had fallen within acceptable levels.

“If you see any brown water, please let me know and I’ll call the officer so they can check the water quality again,” Mr Pankum said.

A budget of 371mn baht was requested in 2012 by the Ao Nang OrBorTor for a wastewater plant on Phi Phi Don. However, the local government was not able to set aside the necessary 37.1mn baht from its own budget for the project to be approved.

“I couldn’t provide the money necessary from our side, so the project failed,” admitted Mr Pankum.

“All I can do at this point is have officers regularly check on restaurants and hotels to ensure that they are treating their wastewater.”

STRUGGLING FOR SOLUTIONS

“Year after year, Phi Phi Island is losing its beauty. Without more responsible and strict management of the environment, Thailand will lose one of its most beautiful places,” the concerned visitor wrote to the Gazette.

After being notified of the current situation, Capt Bancha Daowsook, commander of the Royal Thai Marine Corps based in Krabi, vowed to help the Ao Nang OrBorTor.

“I took up my position on October 1. I have yet to receive any complaints about Phi Phi being dirty. However, I will look into it, and if the Ao Nang OrBorTor needs any help, I will support them,” said Capt Bancha.

The fundamental issue is that the budget allocated for Ao Nang and Phi Phi is based on its registered population, not on the number of people it plays host to every year, Mr Pankum said.

Ao Nang and Phi Phi share the same budget, which is managed by the Ao Nang OrBorTor.

“Phi Phi’s slice of the budget is based on a few thousand people, but the island takes care of the whole world,” Mr Pankum said.

“I don’t know what to do. People from everywhere come to our home, but some of them don’t care what condition they leave it in. The 20 baht per person really isn’t enough for us to manage the waste of the entire island.

“I can only do my best to ensure the island suffers as little as possible and survives as long as possible.”

— Chutharat Plerin



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Food Scene

Thong Dee, the Kathu Brasserie loved by foodies and Phuket locals

The Thaiger

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Thong Dee, the Kathu Brasserie loved by foodies and Phuket locals | The Thaiger

The Thaiger was invited to a special ‘taster’ at one of our favourite restaurants on the island of Phuket, Thong Dee. As usual, the food spoke for itself – no fuss, classy, so so tasty, eclectic. The Thaiger was a guest of the hosts Patrik and Ponchan for the evening.

Thong Dee – The Kathu Brasserie, located in Kathu in a quiet soi less than 15 min drive from Patong or Phuket Town has become a popular go-to foodie destination, away from the hustle and bustle of Phuket. The atmosphere at Thong Dee is certainly friendly and relaxed but also chic and stylish. The restaurant offers open-air dining where locals and visitors comfortably sit and watch the tiny world of Kathu go by.

The restaurant is currently ranked #1 on TripAdvisor (April 2019), undoubtedly a favourite for foodies looking for quality in a breezy brasserie which doesn’t burn their wallets. But the journey to finding this perfect balance was certainly not a smooth one.

Established on the 25th December 2010, married couple Patrik Lundgren, from Sweden, and Phonchan Chiarram, originally from the Buriram province, opened “Thong Dee Restaurant & Bar”, literally meaning “Good Gold” in Thai, a colloquial expression that better translates as “Good Quality”.

Thong Dee began as only a dream for the two. Phonchan already owned her own bar at only 21 and Patrik always considered himself a devout foodie. He was the one to make the bold decision to become restaurateurs. With the help of Patrik’s mother, the couple, with their love for F&B and strong entrepreneurial spirit, made that dream into reality.

“I consider myself a genuine foodie and always had a huge passion for food. I rather have a big bill from a fabulous restaurant then a trendy nightclub” – Patrik

Phonchan never had any formal training as a Chef but with Patrik’s belief in her skills and Patrik’s mother’s training, Phonchan started in her own restaurant as the cook. Here she not only had the opportunity to develop her delicious family recipes but began experimenting with Western and European cuisine.

The menu opened with 80 % percent Thai food until Patrik realised it was an already over-saturated market. “We had to be different from that “green curry” you can eat anywhere in Phuket”. Over the next 6 years the restaurant went through huge changes, both in layout and in menu.

Through the first stages, they enlisted the talents of André, a young chef who worked in France & Scandinavia at Michelin fine dining establishments, most notably, at Restaurant Kiin Kiin in Copenhagen. It was from him that Phonchan learned the fundamentals of fine dining, such as mise en place and creating stocks and sauces.

He also taught me about the art of plating and classic dishes from French cuisine as well as fusion creations” – Phonchan

In 2016 they partnered up with an experienced Irish chef, from whom they learned about the strict operations of running a restaurant and creating a positive flow in the kitchen.

“He also taught me a lot form the European and English kitchen, such as the Sunday roasts, chicken liver parfait and desserts” – Phonchan.

The couple found their groove through their own culinary explorations, research and development combined with the knowledge of experienced chefs.

“…almost all of the dishes on our menu are different from how I learned from the start, both in Thai cuisine and European. I discovered in the world of cooking, all dishes can be made from the chef’s own interpretation.” – Phonchan

Patrik describes the cuisine at Thong Dee in detail as – European with French, English & Swedish influences in addition to authentic Thai dishes with premium main ingredients.

You will find Patrik at the front of house being the charismatic host, paying close attention to detail and customers’ every need. Thong Dee’s client’s range from local expat families and friends looking for a taste of home, and tourists looking for finer Thai food and good wines to match. Thong Dee has also become a favourite spot for local F&B industry management staff.

People flock from around the Island and even globally to experience Phonchan’s signature Thai duck dishes, even stews and Swedish meatballs. The also offer ever-changing weekly specials. Their Sunday Roast is also a drawcard, that attracts playful groups and families looking for a wide variety of succulent roast meats.

In the future, Thong Dee are considering to expand into Phuket Town, where the offering will be much more focused on classic European Brasserie cuisine, with starters, salads and steaks and a high value wine list and of course, the same friendly service in a stylish and relaxed atmosphere.

Thong Dee, the Kathu Brasserie loved by foodies and Phuket locals | News by The Thaiger Thong Dee, the Kathu Brasserie loved by foodies and Phuket locals | News by The Thaiger Thong Dee, the Kathu Brasserie loved by foodies and Phuket locals | News by The Thaiger Thong Dee, the Kathu Brasserie loved by foodies and Phuket locals | News by The Thaiger Thong Dee, the Kathu Brasserie loved by foodies and Phuket locals | News by The Thaiger Thong Dee, the Kathu Brasserie loved by foodies and Phuket locals | News by The Thaiger

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Phuket

Australian snorkeller collects trash at Kalim beach everyday

The Thaiger

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Australian snorkeller collects trash at Kalim beach everyday | The Thaiger

PHOTOS: Patong Surf Life Saving

An Australian man has been seen collecting trash in the waters just off Kalim beach in Patong every day over the past month.

The Patong Surf Life Saving team report that they have seen the foreign man, an Australian national, collecting trash near the shoreline at Kalim Beach every day.

Every morning he heads off from his nearby accommodation nearby to go snorkelling along the shoreline collecting trash.

He has been doing this as his daily routine for the last month.

Two days ago an eight year old Phuket boy was rewarded after setting an excellent example for the rest of the Patong community by cleaning rubbish out of the Pak Bang Canal running through Patong.

Three cheers to Patong’s trash heroes!!

Read more about the eight year old’s great work HERE.

Australian snorkeller collects trash at Kalim beach everyday | News by The Thaiger Australian snorkeller collects trash at Kalim beach everyday | News by The Thaiger Australian snorkeller collects trash at Kalim beach everyday | News by The Thaiger Australian snorkeller collects trash at Kalim beach everyday | News by The Thaiger

 

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Krabi

Maya Bay’s extended closure “vital to conserve the ecology”

The Thaiger

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Maya Bay’s extended closure “vital to conserve the ecology” | The Thaiger

Worapot Lomlim, chief of the Hat Nopparatthara-Phi-Phi Islands national park has confirmed that he might keep Maya Bay closed for up to five years to allow the current recovery to continue.

The Department of National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation has agreed to extend the closure of Ao Maya, or Maya Bay, located on one of the Phi Phi islands between Krabi and Phuket, for another six month period after an initial 10 month closure to allow nature to regenerate the ecosystem.

The Chief reports that the local ecological systems of Maya Bay, degraded by years of accelerating tourist traffic, has steadily improved during the current closure. Up to 5,000 tourists a day were visiting Maya Bay at its peak before authorities weighed up the pressures of the conservationists and tour operators and decided it was best to close the popular tourist attraction for an extended period

He cited the frequent sightings of blacktip reef sharks near the beach and the gradual growth of some 23,000 corals farmed at a coral centre in Trang province, which were planted in the Bay with the help of volunteer divers.

After the next six-month extended closure, Khon Worapot indicated that the department will consider extending the closure for an even longer period, up to 4-5 years, to allow full rehabilitation of the environment and the ecological system.

Maya Bay was closed to all tourist access on June 1, 2018.

Maya Bay's extended closure

Up to 5,000 tourists a day were visiting the Bay at its peak

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