Michaela Merz

My favourite beach

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt is a lagoon with fine sand and high palm trees, on both sides limited by small hills. It is not a lonely natural paradise but a very populated and lively area, where there is always something going on. The beach was full with small wooden barracks, which housed small shops, restaurants, bars and beauty salons. I loved to sit in one of these bars, feet in the sand. I had my favourite masseuse, where I could enjoy a Thai massage in the shadow with view at the sea and the setting sun. It was funny to meet the little elephant and to feed him. He would show his thankfulness with his trunk, which he put around my neck, and with a wet kiss on my cheek.

This year I was very much looking forward to all that. The year had been busy and one could forget and leave behind everything. I was very much surprised when I stood at my beach and along the entire bay – which is about 5 to 7 kilometres – I only saw a natural paradise. There was not a single building on the beach. Just sea, and palm trees. The beach seemed deserted and almost sad. The usual hype, music and the happy screams of playing children were no longer there. The picture was obviously more beautiful but it seemed spooky and sterile. I asked myself where all the families were, who had lived there and had made a living there.

It took two days until I found someone who could tell me the story. In October all barracks had received an ultimate letter that they had one month to leave. Nobody left. Where to? That was their existence. After six weeks 200 soldiers with rifles and heavy equipment came. The people had 20 minutes to leave and then the demolition of the illegal, for years tolerated buildings began. Possible that they did not pay taxes, possible that hygiene and environmental provisions were not observed. In the past I had only thought little about these things.

When I arrived not even the debris was to be seen. Everything had been tidied up and on the beach signs in Thai only that the erection of all buildings and also of deck chairs was forbidden.

When I stroll along the long beach today, I think of all the nice people I met there in the past, of their stories and fates and I miss them and the liveliness which has been lost there very much.

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