If you’ve ever been lucky enough to take in the beautiful Thai beaches found in the southern province of Phuket, you probably also know that those same sandy beaches have long been plagued with one thing: tourist traps.
Walking along the boardwalks and crowded streets, everything from Tuk Tuk rides and beachwear to fresh fruit and toys are constantly pushed on you by overzealous vendors, to the point where it’s almost essential to learn the Thai word for “no thank you.” (While not the official translation, “Mai ow Krup” for guys and “Mai ow Kah” for the gals seems to work fairly well.)
But all that quietly changed in July, when the Thai government had all the hawkers, movers and shakers literally swept off the beaches by military personnel — to the point where as of this week, not even a sole umbrella and lounge chair for rent remained. The move was apparently months in the making — and part of a broader move to clean up the illegal mafia dealings taking place on the island — but had the added side effect of restoring the beach to a pristine paradise.
— Lana Willocks (@LanaPhuket) July 11, 2014
— Mister Chang (@MeiyangChang) October 6, 2014
— Chutima Sidasathian (@OiChutima) August 24, 2014
Some tourists, notably Australians who head to the island for cheap luxury, are notably upset about the move, telling reporters new measures and beefed up security adds an air of tension to an otherwise restful vacation. According to locals, many people are also now understandably without jobs and are appealing the move. Still, you have to ask–what’s better for tourism? The photos snapped from visitors above? Or the beaches before: