“Koh Bulone is Thailand’s last true island!” thundered the Senior, with his mouth full, shaking a crab leg at some imaginary doubting Thomas. On the table in our seaside kiosk, the remains of the crabs boiled that night in a cauldron had formed a small mountain. Looking back, I think we were truly happy: three brothers in delight, cracking crabs open like there was no tomorrow, sucking and lapping at the juicy meat, our faces smeared with it up to our ears, singing praise to Koh Bulone.
Our master, Jack Patora (photo)– a retired Swedish diver who came here 11 years ago to live his life just like he wanted –, knew, or claimed to know, Koh Bulone and Thailand down to the last pebble. A piece of old plank, bearing the artistic and quite rightful engraving “Kahuna”, hung in front of his bungalow in Panka Bay, where we were his neighbors for about two months. Considering that Thailand has about 2.775 km of beaches, over 500 large and small islands and 24 national marine parks, only an enlightened, all-knowing despot personality like Jack’s could make such a claim. But I quote him without hesitation! Thailand has countless heavenly beaches on famous destinations such as Phuket, Phi Phi, Samui or Chang, which draw most of the over 15 million tourists visiting it each year. But it’s precisely because of this success that almost all of them are facing issues such as crowds, unchecked development, pollution, untrustworthy tour operators… Of course, I can’t be objective, but to me none of them hold a candle to to Koh Bulone where there is no electricity, hot water or cars. Late in the evening, people turn on the generators for a few hours. You can cross the whole island on foot in 15 minutes. The only means of transportation on land are a few salengs and scooters. Roads are more like paved alleys, measuring half a meter in width and a few meters in length.
For tourists, tiny Bulone Lae (one of the 51 islands in the Tarutao National Marine Park) is a two-faced Ianus: one is the opulent one, with blinding white beaches, while the other is cheap, dark, rocky. Most tourists spend their days on the white beach. For a few decades now, the two luxury resorts on the island – Bulone and Pansand – have been sharing the glittering sand and the wealthy farangs (as the Thai call foreigners) willing to pay for rooms starting at 30 euros a night. Less than three kilometers away, on the island’s opposite side (and face), there are the locals’ houses and a few more modest resorts, offering services for half or even a quarter of the price. This is also where you will find a black beach, born of the eruption of the nearby volcano a few decades ago. At low tide, the sea bottom, laid bare for almost one kilometer, looks like a moonscape – a field of black rock as far as the eye can see, getting hot during the day.
When the ocean spills back over the hot rock, the shallow water reaches temperatures of almost 40°C. In some parts, there are no rocks at all, and the sea bottom is black and flat, like the bottom of a shallow pool filled with lukewarm water. Following Jack’s advice, in the long hours spend on this beach I begun, playing at the begining, together with Adina Branciulescu to compose this collection of personal superlatives: best places, experiences, offers, people, hotels, restaurants, etc we seen in Thailand. The result was a book – Thailand with a baby stroller and other selected stories.