Opinions from other travellers have become too important to people. Word of mouth recommendations have always been an integral part of the backpacking experience but since the ubiquity of the internet, corporations have taken it upon themselves to encourage comments which they collect and publish along with advertising and hotel booking engines. Comments are free content and create a successful business. Why? Because people want to know about a place before they go. They want to book in advance. They want to know where to eat. They want to know what activities they should be trying.
Perhaps I am old fashioned, but this obsession with researching everything at home and booking everything before leaving is taking the adventure out of travelling. Finding a cheap bungalow on a gorgeous beach is more special if it is unexpected. Indeed, it is bad value to book budget accommodation online, as you cannot negotiate a price. Try explaining to Agoda that you plan to stay for a week and would like a discount.
The advice invariably falls on deaf ears. People always book in advance, fearing everywhere will be fully booked. Let me state this simply – except for New Year’s Eve there are always vacancies at any hotel or bungalow resort in Mae Haad.
To return to the topic at hand, I thought I would survey some of the opinions about Mae Haad found on the various review sites. I won’t bother quoting directly as information about name and place of reviewer is generally ignored by the reader anyway.
Most people find Mae Haad beach something special. While most think the sand fine, a few consider it coarse-grained.
It is nearly 50-50 between those who believe the local businesses are doing a good job cleaning the beach and those who thought the beach is dirty. Most agree that Koh Ma Island is full of rubbish. Since the closure of Koh Ma Dive Resort the small island has become a dumping ground for trash. Moreover, the sea washes up rubbish on the island. I t can only be hoped that the right eyes read these comments and feel compelled to do something about the discarded atmosphere of Koh Ma.
It is an easy 80% of people who positively rate snorkelling at Koh Ma. Comments are more about the caveat of the tidal variations. In the lower tidal months from May to October you have to negotiate rocks to get to the best snorkelling. It is signposted and not really a problem. The lower tidal months affect all the west coast beaches in Koh Phangan.
On the same topic, most people comment on the good visibility under the water. However, under windy conditions the visibility can quickly deteriorate as the sea gets churned up.
It is not a bad idea to dip into reviews about accommodation on the internet, and to check the date. More recent comments have greater relevance. If criticism of surly service, unclean sheets or poor value keeps appearing in a reviews it is worth taking note. We also review every hotel and resort in Mae Haad and give Trip Advisor and Agoda ratings.
However reviews of accommodation like of restaurants are perhaps the most subjective. Many people just looking for a clean bed and a fan at a cheap price don’t expect much. Others pay lots of money and expect a ‘5 star’ experience like in a European hotel. Moreover, staff can change quickly in Thailand where lots of places use cheap migrant labour.
One man’s superlative Thai food is another man’s inedible trash. If you are staying in Mae Haad you might as well try a few places for dinner. The change of scenery and the small variations in menus keep a holiday interesting. Ma Haad is a small area and easy to get around on foot. There is enough light coming from the various places along the beach to make it fine to see where you are going.
Naturally, the more expensive resorts charge more for the same food as you can get in the small local restaurants in the village. Moreover, beachfront restaurants generally charge a bit more than inland places.
As stated at the beginning of this post, put a little adventure into your holiday with a bit of spontaneity. Take a chance with a room or a meal. The money to do so is normally not a lot. Saying that, Mae Haad is currently the 8th best attraction according to Trip Advisor. It is worth teasing out themes in reviews as they often hold valuable information about a place or activity.