I've been coming to Chaweng beach for about ten years. I remember well the impression I got the first time I got here: a beautiful bay with white sand, clear water and tropical vegetation. Lively at night: a few pubs with live music and screens for sport events, a couple of discos where you could spot a certain number of hookers but also a lot of "normal" customers, including Thais, and a few bars. The general atmosphere was still very simple, in line with the rural origins of the country: a lot of street food stalls, mototaxis that could take you anywhere for a small fee, songthaews - something in between a taxi and a bus - authentic local markets, nice people, some funny odd ones, smiles, coziness. I liked it a lot. I'm neither the no-electricity-faraway-island type of tourist nor the luxury resort one. Koh Samui was just the right mix.
Development was inevitable, still it was acceptable, up to a certain extent, but it soon got out of control. The beach now is extremely crowded, even in the low season, and most of it has been hijacked by the greedy owners of bars that all look the same: international cocktails, triangular cushions and loud music. The sand and the sea are much more polluted than they used to be. The stalls and the local markets have disappeared, as well as many small shops, replaced by restaurants that copy one another's menu and serve pseudo-Thai food at Japanese prices. A huge shopping mall will open soon. Pubs and discos are full of prostitutes and silly tourists eager to pay for the vices of those shallow materialists (hold your outraged comments until you read the second cynical post that I'm about to publish, the one on the myth of the poor thai country girls enslaved and exploited by old disgusting western men - update: here is the post).
People seem to be having fun and like the way the place have been turned into. I know what fun is, believe me, it probably is the only thing I really know something about. I have a bachelor degree and a doctorate in fun science. I always have fun, even when anyone else is bored or suffering. I've come to learn that fun is a matter of attitude and atmosphere, not of structures, shine or money. Actually, when the atmosphere is authentic, the mood is good, the mind is curious, the prices are low one cannot possibly not have fun. I mean in a GENUINE way. Everything the new Samui has to offer is just crap for losers, people who turn to prearranged packages to make up for their serious lack of creativity and curiosity. I still have fun in Samui, of course, but as I said earlier this is a sort of genetic mark for me.
There is a further significant detail to point out: the number of Thai visitors has dropped over the years, while the one of European tourists - the lousy version, those with tattoos and piercings, ridiculous swimsuits, expensive shades, shaved eyebrows and chests - has rocketed up. People who seem to have fallen in love with this sophisticated version of Samui: it probably reminds them of Ibiza and Riccione.
Samui is falling down the abyss of standardization. I already miss Bangkok, the most modern place in the country, yet paradoxically the one where you are still able to experience every aspect of true Thainess.