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Confessions of a package tour snob

By Emma Walters - posted Wednesday, 2 July 2008

In planning a trip to the beaches of Thailand, someone suggested I consider a package holiday.

“I would never go on a package tour,” I snorted. “No way!”

The idea of a package holiday (to anywhere) evoked for me confused images of live sheep being transported on a cruise liner to the Middle East for slaughter, while drunkenly bleating out a rowdy chorus of Chisel’s Khe Sanh all the way from Perth to Abu Dhabi … I clearly had a deep and irrational aversion to the whole idea.


More simply put: I’m a package tour snob.

So I headed off on my “independent” holiday and found myself at a popular holiday destination, high on a headland above Long Beach on Koh Phi Phi, Thailand.

I was staying at a difficult to access resort. This “resort” was definitely of the budget variety, with bungalows starting at about 700 bhat ($23) a night. To get there, guests had to climb up a steep headland via about 200 large rusting iron stairs. The climbing was no easy task in the 35C heat and humidity of a Thailand heading into the wet season.

Thankfully, my luggage was transported up the near vertical cliff face by an ancient and creaky, squeaky pulley system. If it didn’t look so dangerous, I would have gladly jumped on for the ride to the top. But seeing the departing guests’ luggage hurtling down to the bottom on what looked like an out of control rail car on the Blue Mountains Scenic Railway rather put me off that idea.

The bags got up the cliff face quickly and sweat-free - I did not.

But the effort was worth it.


From the top, the view was an advertiser’s wet dream: a perfect stretch of white sand and sterling clear blue sea, framed by massive craggy limestone headlands.

There were at least two dozen speedboats and ferries in the bay, and half as many longtails, the locals' large wooden outriggers decked out with colourful paint and huge bright ribbons tied the bow.

The cheerfulness of the longtails diminished a touch when they started up their motors. The boats are powered by noisy and exposed engines - sounding like an old VW beetle without a muffler - all the while spewing large amounts of black smoke. I wondered if the boat operators will someday have to buy carbon offsets for that stuff?

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About the Author

Emma Walters works at the Research Institute for Asia and the Pacific at the University of Sydney. Previously, she worked for five years at the International Federation of Journalists Asia-Pacific Office, based in Sydney. A committed internationalist and trade unionist, she has travelled extensively over the past decade throughout many countries in the Asia-Pacific region for both work and pleasure.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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