Discovering Krabi

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Flag of Thailand  , Krabi,
Thursday, May 5, 2011

With Khun Anat, who later became Thai Minsiter of Agriculture, our heads rotated in circles as we stared at the swirls of rust and yellow pigment on a 600 foot vertical cliff in front of us.  In 1985 there was nothing at all on RaileiBeach, Krabi.  A few weeks later I went with some friends and slept on the deserted beach, catching crabs and fish to cook over a fire. Even back then, we didn’t think it would last, but reveled in having a natural wonder all to ourselves.  Today hotel rooms go for up to US$2,000 a night.
Land was on sale for next to nothing, and we decided yes it was worth owning some.  Twenty years later our 17 acres are worth about US$20 million, but alas we don't own it anymore.  We did a small sub-division and sold off 30 half-acre lots to our friends and their friends.  We built a nice wooden clubhouse with a clay-colored tile roof in what is now a widely copied ASEAN style.  And we set up Railei Beach Club.  Not only the value of the land grew and grew.  So did the trees, not just coconuts but real forest trees and  pine-like casuarinas.  I have a bias against casuarina because they grow too much.  They are an invasive species that can easily take over a beach. I much prefer the sea umbrella tree and the one with fragrant powder puff blossoms.
Chang Tai and his band of carpenters built the clubhouse and the first houses there and, being from Thailand’s dry Isan region, they ate any monitor lizards they could find.  But after they left, the wildlife came back and flourished.  Gibbons, macaque, and langur (or leaf) monkeys, sun bear, and over 100 species of birds thrived in a low density tourist development where the little village kids no longer shot at them with sling shots.  The birds and animals are all still there and prove to me that eco-tourism can indeed help protect a natural environment. 


Many things were learned from this epic project.

Control the clearing. When clearing the land of scrub, watch the workers every minute.  If you want to save the beautiful trees and plants, do it yourself.  If I left the workers, they would burn everything and the fires would scorch or even kill the big trees.  Best to have a crew of 5-10, set down rules like carting all the scrub far away to be burned.  And watch them every minute.
Low density doesn’t pay .Low density doesn’t pay but do it.  If you want to maximize revenue from a beautiful piece of land, build as much as you can on it.  BUT If you want the maximize all the good things in life – like trees, wildlife, and the luxury of open space, keep the density low. Half-acre lot provide privacy and preserve the surrounding nature.  And don’t allow the houses to take up anymore than 18% or less of that half-acre or some people will replace nature with bricks and mortar, a poor trade.

If you find something beautiful, hold on.It’s not just the $20 million we lost by developing this gem of a property, it’s also the chance to do your own creative thing to carefully preserve, enhance, and share it with others.
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christian.kell on

I love to read your blog! I'm happy I came across it. keep up your great work!
Greetings from Germany,

Monica Eskridge on

We named our daughter, Riley, after Railei. Thanks for introducing us all to the most beautiful place on earth.

Gerald on

Hi Dick if you are still there - call Helga on 0870935677
She stays in Krabi town Saturday 7th night
Gerald (ffrom Vienna)

tom & Bev on

always glad to receive your blog - any chance you will visit NH this year?

Miyo Moriuchi on

Hi Dick,
Ah...what virgin Reilai looked like...thank you for sharing. I enjoyed Marcia's place about 5 times in 2005-06-happy thoughts.
Spring is in full force here in Philly. Azalea, wisteria, iris and the trees with new, just-so green leaves.
Best to you!

Marcia Brewster on

Well, ours was one of the first houses built at Railei, at about the same time that Matthew and Marshall were born (August 1986). Uncle Dick had to lend us the money for the plot and to build the house, since we had just bought a house in NY. I did not get to see it for the next two years as I was confined to Hastings on Hudson with a full time job at the UN and twin babies. But when I saw this place first hand in 1988, tears came to my eyes. It really is the most beautiful place on earth. And Baan Marcia is not much different now than it was then, although there have been quite a few home improvements.
Thanks to Dick, Solly and Khun Anat for their foresight. Hope to get there later in the year, Marcia

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