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To burn or not to burn – sunbathing in the tropics

Sure, a dose of vitamin D is good for you, even essential, but this whole sunbathing thing – lying in the sun on a beach or pool-side reclining chair for hours covered in oil – we thought was a late 20th century phenomena. Apart from the obvious risks of skin cancer long term exposure to the sun isn’t good for you is it? Bear in mind Thailand and Malaysia’s beaches lie very close to the equator – the sun is nearly directly overhead at mid-day and very strong regardless of actual temperatures or what the weather’s doing. It’s the sun that burns not the heat.

Frying tonight
Frying tonight

Ok – sunbathers are grown adults so it’s up to them and of course they’re not doing anyone any harm – we’re just curious really! What’s the fun in it? You lie there slowly cooking, oiled up and greasy all over, brushing off the encroaching sand on your sticky towel, waving off the sand-flies so that…? So that ideally you can go back to Monchengladbach or Milton Keynes with a healthy looking, glowing tan saying ‘hey look at me I’ve been somewhere hot and sunny for my hols’? (You’re not going to see many Aussies sunbathing are you – they know better.) Ok fair enough if that’s a priority except that for every sexy looking tan we’ve seen on a tourist there’s another one round the corner with horrible and painful looking red blotches and peeling skin.

Ah - some shade!
Ah – some shade!

Now ironically for the locals brown leathery skin means one thing – you’re a poor farmer and for them looking like a rude peasant is to be avoided at all costs! So the locals wrap up when outside, even if it’s 35 in the shade, wear t-shirts and shorts for swimming, (and that’s not only for modesty’s sake), and spend fortunes on dubious whitening creams and products.

Khmer cover up - long sleeves, hat and scarf even though it's 35 in the shade
Khmer cover up – long sleeves, hat and scarf even though it’s 35 in the shade

We do offer plenty of beach and island extensions but generally on our regular tours coastal visits involve activities such as snorkeling or boat trips rather than sun-bathing but both of which obviously provide opportunities to get sun tanned, and or, seriously burnt! Lying on your front with a thin film of water covering your back above a coral reef is perfect for either. To our minds a compromise between local and tourist solutions being optimal. Covering up when snorkelling is the best way to avoid getting sun burnt and reduces the need for sun cream which damages the marine environment and coral reefs. (The amount of cream you may be coated in might seem unimportant but imagine the litres that end up over the fragile reefs at popular snorkeling spots such as the Perhentians or Trang’s islands.)  Without resorting to the elbow length gloves of a Vietnamese motorcyclist or the balaclava of a Thai farm worker a t-shirt’s generally acceptable to most and whilst we wouldn’t suggest snorkeling in a pair of jeans either the loose, thin cotton trousers known as ‘Thai fisherman’s pants’ are perfect for swimming and cover up a lot of bare skin.

Snorkelling on the Perhentians; looks wonderful but easy to get burnt
Snorkelling on the Perhentians; looks wonderful but easy to get burnt

We’ll leave you with a link to some ‘reef-safe, biodegradable sun block’ which sounds good so….happy snorkelling, sunbathing, swimming.