Samui Wining & Dining
From scary to serene, beach life through the ages.

From scary to serene, beach life through the ages.

Every year, millions of people will visit a beach for a day, a week, a month or in some lucky cases, longer still. The average visitor will aim for a journey to the beach that’s less than 3,000 miles; some will venture a lot further, though. Whatever, the beachside rituals will be more or less the same: lying out on a towel and reading, of course swimming, watching children play with buckets and spades, then maybe a sunset drink and dinner at a table within sight of the ocean. These rituals are shared across dozens of cultures, and take place on thousands of coasts across the world. Their deeper hallmarks are relaxation and a cessation of anything that even faintly looks like work. It’s time instead to breathe in that sea air and to contemplate life on a greater scale. There’s a feel of arrival that’s way beyond the geographical. There’s something special about the sea that you don’t seem to find with rivers, lakes or mountains. When it comes to holidays, the sea always wins out. The sea, it appears, radiates calm and a sense of peacefulness that’s virtually irresistible – at least to today’s holidaymakers.


Go back a few hundred years, however, and to people back then, the sea was a very different place. Where the land ran out and the water began, so did trouble. Foreign invaders arrived by sea to create havoc whenever they could. Diseases arrived with ships – the greatest being the Black Death. And for those setting out to sea in order to fish, it was never sure if they would make it back. The deeps were filled with monsters, and the edges of medieval maps marked with them. Ports were the only refuge, and would welcome in the ships, home after storms and maritime havoc.


The coasts were to be avoided, and if they happened to be beautiful, nobody noticed. They weren’t even depicted much in art – the countryside was more suited. From the earliest days right up till the 18th century, people wanted to be inland and safe. Then something happened that changed all of that, a makeover so fast and so complete that what went before and what came after seemed to be the complete opposite.


Much of it was down to the Industrial Revolution. The European elites felt the need to find peacefulness away from the teeming cities. They chose the sea. It was said that just being here was good for the health, and soon they were flocking to the new seaside towns in droves. They’d bathe in the sea for health; some would even drink seawater every day, as it was touted as being good for you.From scary to serene, beach life through the ages. Meanwhile romance writers did what by today’s terms would be a stunning PR turnaround for the sea. Instead of being a chancy, malevolent place, it became somewhere where you could transform yourself and let yourself soak up nature. The sea found its way into paintings, novels, poems and music.


The elites of Europe were happy enough with all of this, but soon found themselves sharing deckchairs with the up-and-coming middle classes. With the coming of steam trains, a day at the coast became everyone’s idea of relaxation. More and more people joined in the fun. A ticket to ride was within most people’s pockets.


For the original coastal villages, all of this meant new-found wealth and just as importantly, an easier way to earn their livings. Tiny communities now burgeoned; some became enormous and sometimes even the most obscure places could become household names. The person who once had gone fishing could now afford to cook the fish and serve it up in his or her restaurant or better still, hotel.


Entire countries began to count tourism as a major source of income. The start-up formula was simple: sand, sea and sun. If you had a coast that was half-way decent and a period of dependable hot weather, you could expect to do well. You’d literally be providing your guests with holidays and happiness.


Beachside communities re-invented themselves or simply appeared in places where there had been none before. You can see this on Samui. The island was a major producer of coconuts, and still is to this day. But alongside that and agriculture,From scary to serene, beach life through the ages. the last decades have witnessed a massive uptick in tourist arrivals. From a handful in the early 1970s to millions these days, tourism is clearly the major industry here on the island today. Have you been down to Fisherman’s Village? The eponymous fisherman has long gone, and the road is lined with restaurants and bars. Fishing still goes on, however, and if you go to Nathon or Hua Thanon you’ll see boats setting out across the water every day. But generally for the island, life has changed enormously, and there’s an ever-increasing focus on beachside living.


Surprisingly, the same holds good for the entire world. It’s estimated that 50% of the world’s population live within 60 kilometres of the sea. And the number is going up, steadily. Beachside living isn’t about any particular place; it’s a state of mind that’s continually evolving. Even if most of the world’s beaches are under ecological threat, forcing governments to millions of dollars on sustaining them, the drift towards the shore seems unstoppable.


The seaside is all about enjoying the moment and finding a carefree approach to life. Ever since its beauty found its way into popular psyche, beaches have become synonymous with health, fun and relaxation. And even if water levels rise during the next hundred years, it’s certain that the sea will still keep on charming us, and we’ll always be making plans for our next beach holiday and the chance to gaze out once more towards those blue horizons.




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