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Koh Bulon & the new decade

I am sure that these days many people are saying that the year 2020 is the year of the future. This might sound about right to those of us who when growing up watched all those sci-fi films, read the novels and played the games that were more often than not, set at some point in the 2020's. In some cases, these fictions depicted technologies that were so far from what we had in our lives that a great deal of “suspension of disbelief” was required. And yet here we are on the cusp of this new decade and with so many new technologies already affecting our lives, that a lot of us can’t even fully grasp how much the world has changed, never mind being able to keep up to date. Machines replacing humans in the workplace is already becoming an issue with the advent of self-driving vehicles and production factory robots. Another example is the lovely invention that is the drone, an automated machine of war and the ethical questions that they pose.

However here on Koh Bulon all that stuff seems so far away. In fact, if you somehow just woke up here after being unconsciously transported from somewhere else, you would probably believe that you were back sometime in the 1990s if it wasn’t for the presence of Wi-Fi and your own smartphone. It is the beginning of the season and the weather is still clinging to that monsoon atmosphere. For the most part it’s blazing hot sunshine in the day and then then thunder storms in the night that light up the sky and shake the house. These night time rain storms are an experience in themselves. The rain hammers down on the earth flushing all the water from the jungle run-off down through our little river, waking all the frogs and so when the rain has slowed to a trickle you can hear the call of these frogs from your bed.

There are visitors here already but somehow this Island always manages to seem so quiet. Often there are times during the day when all you can hear is the sounds of the birds and insects, the soft whoosh of the sea and maybe the odd long-tail boat engine in the distance. Sometimes you will see a Horn-bill bird come to eat fruit from one of the various trees here on our grounds. It is this tranquil nature that keeps us island people in our little paradise so disconnected from the woes of the world, yet if we look at Koh Bulon as simply a human settlement then we can begin to see many things that represent the rest of the world but on a miniature scale, the microcosm within the macrocosm.

Some of the issues include the key factors for operating a human settlement such as water systems, power generation, food and waste disposal. How do we handle these things here on koh Bulon? These are important questions and I understand that living on the mainland its easy to forget how a human settlement runs. I mean, water is just there. It flows from taps. We don't need to think about it. The electricity also, we just pay the bill and its there. In day to day life its not something that we would necessarily consider and so we may end up taking them for granted and forgetting that the infrastructure needed to run a human settlement with that level of modern comfort is actually quite complex and requires a lot of work and many hands to work it. And so out there in the real world we have entities such as public services and utility companies to handle the bulk of this work so that our human settlements can be of comfort and ease.

Koh bulon is a bit different in this sense. We do not have any utility companies here. All of the infrastructure is maintained independently by the people of our community. We are off the grid so to speak. When the island was settled all those decades ago the people came and dug wells for water. Set up generators for power and set up large barrels for storing rain and well water. To this day the entire island is operating on this basic infrastructure. In some cases the diesel generators have gotten bigger or we've got our hands on some solar cells and more wells have been dug. In terms of infrastructure and community everything is more or less the same as it was when initially settled and so this is why this place is so special to so many people. We close for half the year and in this time the place becomes a truly silent island giving the nature a chance at recovery. As no matter what, people’s activities and tourism always have effects on the ecosystem. It is this recovery time that allows koh bulon's ecosystem to stay in a good condition.

And so this is how we are a microcosm within the macrocosm. How do we optimize our infrastructures and activities so that not only are they not detrimental to the ecosystem, but actually make it thrive as a byproduct of our existence? That is the true question that we need to think about and it is the same for us as it is for all of the world. One main thing is the reef. I see many people walking on the coral at low tide. This may not seem too damaging but if you imagine people walking through a field of grass. Eventually a path will be worn into the place where the people walk.

I understand that part of the attraction is to view the coral but a few people have said to me "Oh I love koh bulon so much, it’s so wonderful that it hasn't been destroyed by mass tourism." Now it is on this point that I ask the reader to bear with me for a moment. Ok so people in general want to be in a true paradise such as this place and as so many other places were before they succumbed to over development and mass influx of tourists. However there is an interesting thing here. Most people will become saddened at seeing a paradise get destroyed like that. However everyone of course wants to see and be in such a place, and so this is the very reason that so many places over the world have become ruined in this manner. And so is it selfishness? I don't think it is exactly. Remember that if tourists stopped coming here we would simultaneously lose our livelihoods so my meaning is not to speak ill of tourism, of course. I just think that it’s an interesting thing to consider. As it ties into the climate change issues of today since now many people are considering and in some cases demanding more green policies. However to this day most of our world’s infrastructural systems are running in ways that many people consider detrimental to the environment. But can you really opt out of using the benefits of these systems? It’s a very difficult thing to do because opting out means relinquishing your use of electricity, information technology, heating and plumbing and water systems and so effectively opting out of the human settlement and the benefits from the works of humanity.

The answer for most people is a definite no, unless we are able to go back to a hunter gatherer type lifestyle. But another thing that I cannot see being the answer is to demand that other people sort the problem for us, neither is it to stop our activities and use of energy. And so perhaps the answer lies within what we do with our own homes and how we conduct ourselves during our activities. We must look at the small scale first. Look at our own homes and analyze the infrastructural systems needed to keep it running with its current level of comfort. We must ask ourselves, "Is there another way that I can keep the same level of comfort for my home but with use of better systems?" Then it comes down to working out how you can implement them, should you find some solution.

So coming back to tourism in general. I think that most people are well capable of taking care of the places that they visit, as we have seen from most of our guests. It is a new world and with new attitudes after all. It is just a matter of knowledge of the place. And some understanding of what we can do to benefit the ecosystem while we are in these places. We will be increasingly looking into things that we can implement to try and improve the situation here. After all, we here on this island are mostly stuck in the 1990s and so we have a good chance to learn from previous places.

But as I said before, life on Koh Bulon can seem so out of the way of everything. The nature here is so beautiful and the lifestyle is so easy going that it’s sometimes hard to really care about anything beyond our small shores. I think our guests feel this also. I have seen so many people arrive on their first day and they still hold the cares of the world with them. They are stressed and tired from the travel. By their 3rd day at the latest, they have undergone a change already and they seem to be a bit lighter. Like they have released some load that they were carrying without realizing it. Without trying to sound like a mystic, it’s as if they have received some kind of healing of the soul. I guess what this island has to offer is like a break from it all. Whatever it is that goes on in the rest of the world.

So for anyone reading that is also planning to visit us here soon. If you take even one day to turn off all your devices, unplug from the machine and just soak in the pure peacefulness of this island you will feel better for it. There will be plenty of chances to upload photos to your IG account to make your holiday look amazing so don’t fret about missing photo ops.

Is it better for other people to think that you had a good looking holiday or is it better for you to enjoy your holiday for your own self?

Thanks for reading

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