The ferry arrived at the port of Suratthani, on the mainland, and Ben disembarked. He made his way to the meeting point for the minibus to Penang, sat down on the sidewalk, near the fruit market, and waited. He noticed that there were a couple of other passengers already there; he’d seen them on the ferry during the passage from Koh Phangan. They acknowledged one another with brief smiles and settled into the wait.
It was 1994, a couple of years before Alex Garland published his insightful novel on South-East Asian Ga-Ga-Land, “The Beach” — which poignantly captured the madness that sometimes comes with the desperate need for escape, community, and happiness.
“Don’t spoil the vibe for the rest of us. Be happy, or else!”
Ben had seen how this tyrannical ex-pat feel-good culture without conscience was all-pervasive on Koh Phangan. With the advent of the Full Moon parties and the latest recession in the West, which brought hordes of disenfranchised youngsters looking for a cheap escape to paradise, Haadrin had quickly become the Techno Capital of South-East Asia, overflowing with Ecstasy, LSD, weed and copious amounts of water — interestingly, hardly any of them drank alcohol.
It was one long, psychedelic party!
Many of these people sojourned in Haadrin for months at a time, and the place was changing rapidly, much to the curious mixture of fascination and dismay of the village elders. It was their children’s hunger for the new and their eagerness for Western cash that boosted the momentum for change and which planted the seeds of a huge generational and cultural gap. Only a few short years before, Haadrin had been just another small fishing village. Now, it was fast becoming a major tourist trap and the younger generation was all too keen to learn how to master it.
Thailand was a gateway to the Far-East, a jump point that allowed easy acclimation to the more exotic and less Westernised regions beyond. It was also a comfortable disembarkation point for those who were at the close of their travels in the East or India and about to return to the West. Some of the youngsters were hanging out there, after having worked in places like Japan and Hong Kong, and were living well on very little money…