how green & natural Kata  Beach looked in 1980s

What did Kata Beach look like before the arrival of mass tourism?

Here we show Kata at the very beginning of the tourism era, with the first photos dating from the early and mid1980s.  International tourists had just begun to discover Phuket's beaches, and the 1980s saw a boom in international flights.  Here we see a beach that has a few hotels, and very few people.  

The first shot of a virtually deserted Kata Beach was shot in the early1980s.  The photographer was on this beach in 1982, but can't be sure of the exact year of this image. The second image on Kata's dateline was shot about 1988 when The Boathouse can be seen in construction – behind the white umbrellas.  The large roof after that is a private house that still stands today, virtually unused. There are a couple of small bungalows beyond, in the place of today's Kata Beach Resort.  These early shots were taken in the high season, yet there are very few, or no people on the beach.

Club Med, the first major hotel on Kata Beach was built by architect Mom Tri Devakul, who also built the Phuket Yacht Club Hotel, Le Meridien and The Boathouse in the same, early period.  The fact that he could buy 70% of Kata's beach land for a single resort is testament to the changes that have taken place.  Today the prices of beachfront land on Phuket are astronomical, even by global standards.  Club Med's control of 900 metres of land is the principal reason that Kata today still looks green, for without this hotel blocking commercial shop-house development, Kata would most likely have gone the way of Patong Beach , with an ugly concrete jungle glaring over the beach. 

Not all of Kata fared as well as the beachfront.  Look over the trees, beyond Club Med, and you'll find a real tragedy of development.  This once-green and beautiful little valley supported rice fields for hundreds of years, with small village houses hidden in forest around the edges.  We see the beautiful, green rice fields in one high view shot from the old communications tower of Club Med in 1989.

As the photos show, this lush green heart of old Kata was destroyed without a thought to the future, with no concern about maintaining a balance between the environment and urbanization.  No consideration was given to the kind of urban environment future generations of local kids would have to grow up in. No parks and no green areas.  No thought, no plans, no controls; only greed for quick profits had a say in the complete transformation of Kata that we seen in the photos here. 

see more old photos of Phuket and its beaches

In addition to Kata beach, we have old photos of several beaches and other places on this island that illustrate how thoroughly it has been transformed by the rapid rush into mass tourism.

by John Everingham