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|Karin Kloosterman||June 4th 2012|
Even Green Prophets need to get out of the Middle East once and a while. Although you can find the world’s most perfect sand and beaches on the Mediterranean Sea, the Red Sea in Sinai, or pristine beaches in the Gulf, sometimes we just want something a little different. This February we took one of our beach holidays to Thailand for a month. As best as we could we looked around for resorts that catered to the green traveler and found a few that fit our fancy. We’ve already featured our slow boat ride from Bangkok, and the luxurious hotels on Koh Kamui like Zazen. After leaving Samui, we decided to go to the quieter island of Koh Phangan. Note to readers: Phangan is only quiet a week before or after a full moon party. So plan a trip around the full moon if you want to avoid the crowds. My parents love to party so they took off to the full moon while we chilled back at the resort.
Getting to Green Papaya is a bit of adventure. And that’s what makes it extra fun. Once you are there, tucked away on a secluded beach, you can be almost sure that most full moon partiers won’t find you except for the occasional one that gets shipwrecked or lost. After an hour drive from Hadran Beach (Full Moon Party Headquarters) we wound up a dirt road to be greeted by the Green Papaya sign. Since traveling to Thailand, I’d be promising my mom an Avatar experience, sites with lush green vegetation, overgrown flowers, butterflies galore, and Green Papaya helped me fulfill the promise.
Run by a Thai-French couple, green consciousness is built into the woodwork and personality of Green Papaya on Haad Salad Beach. Looking for green travel or not, you may not notice the difference. But my interview with owner Mr. We, helped me see some of the features that he chose to build into Green Papaya for the sake of sustainability. Traveling to his resort is worth it just to meet this character. Zen-like and smiley, Me We is the last person you’d expect when you think business and resort owner. This is probably while the staff on board are happy to work for him. They keep it real. No fake smiles or extra kapunka’s that aren’t deserved.
Now onto the green aspects of Green Papaya. If you want to stay at Green Papaya, it is advised to book well ahead especially during high season, Christmas time and two weeks after, and the Spring Break zone. Returning customers, many Scandanavians, book early and request “their” rooms. Some even staking out the walkway with their native flags. Obviously they are very passionate about their resort.
We stayed at a large family villa in the back of the resort. Not beachfront real estate, but cozy and private. My father who loves western style ranches says it was one of the nicest places he’d been to. The expansive open-air patio connected the two large rooms, tastefully decorated with Thai hardwood, and clean linens. A large outdoor shower and bath makes family clean up time for toddlers really fun. But it could just as romantic for couples sharing the space.
Now here’s Mr. We’s green version of his story as told to Green Prophet. Mr. We’s father lived in the jungle in Chumphon near the Burmese border. Come summer time Mr. We would head up to Northern Thailand and the jungle where his father worked on a rubber and fruit plantation, and it would became his playground. He never ever lived in a home with cinder blocks or concrete like the ones found in Bangkok. So when he decided to build a resort he knew it had to include aspects of what he loved from jungle life. His partner and wife Elodie from France, he says, helped him connect even more to the natural environment and for his green principles to grow stronger. These are values they transmit to their two daughters aged 12 and 9.
Green Features Checklist at Green Papaya beach resort:
Water heated by solar thermal units. Fresh water collected from shallow wells, a costlier and more ecologically friendly way of trapping water, says Mr. We. They don’t use a gas guzzling automated pump for water. They use a gravity system, one which is less energy intensive.
Pest control: Mr. We brings in biological control and green solutions from Koh Samui to protect against cockroaches and mosquitoes. Both kinds of insects are rampant everywhere in Thailand. Fish in the ponds and pools are put in place to eat mosquito larvae. They use natural syrup to trap insects, not sprays.
Mr. We invested in wood and costlier shingles (most roofs on the island have tin plating) to make the rooms more insulated which is better for air conditioning costs, and use. Also he has increased the slopes on the buildings’ roofs to reduce thermal radiation into the rooms. A special system for helping him control power consumption at the resort not only saves energy, but money in his pocket also, says Mr. We.
Green Papaya is a lovely lost paradise surrounded by other low-key places to hang out – places within walking distance. Not far up the road are yoga retreats, a reggae village, and some good honest to goodness eats. It has been open 10 years and peaks from December to March. The resort includes 20 rooms, and 22 units.
The rooms are spick and span clean, modern, and spacious. The gardens surrounding the rooms and villas are a delight. You can get there from a main ferry pier by taxi for about $10 (always haggle in Thailand!), and once you do rent a car or moped for getting around. The fisherman’s village at the top of the island is a great treat, as are elephant rides, snorkeling or diving adventures nearby.
Mr. We says he has made it purposefully difficult for travelers to get to Green Papaya, and he is trying with all his might to cool the island off a bit from its brazen party image: “The people who really want to come will come,” is his motto for running the resort. He eschews resort owners who give out beers for favorable reviews on Trip Advisor and hopes to make anyone who’s stay doesn’t meet their expectations that much better the second time around. But honestly, our stay at Green Papaya was absolutely perfect. We’d go back, especially for the flowers, the butterflies, the Japanese-style dining boat, and Mr. We.
Karin Kloosterman writes for the Green Prophet, from where this article is adapted.