14 Dec 2009 (The Scotsman)
(A similar story also appeared in The DailyMail, The Sun and on the BBC News website)
The perfect white sands and clear blue waters show an idyllic image of a tropical beach. The only sign that all is not quite as it seems is the range of mountains on the horizon.
Tourists to the Koh Chang, a large island in the Pacific Ocean off south west Thailand, are being shown the enticing pictures suggesting they are of Kai Bae beach. ( Ian – Geography obviously isnt a strong point of most Scots )
However, the hills in the distance are in Harris in the Outer Hebrides, and the beach is actually in Berneray, off North Uist.
The Thai government is marketing the area as a premier tourist destination â€“ now seemingly with the help of the Hebridean landscape.
But British writer Ian McNamara, who runs a small guesthouse on Koh Chang island, wrote about it on his tourist guide blog at www.iamkohchang.com.
Mr McNamara said the tourist centre at the Koh Chang Marine National Park has signboards displaying information about the different areas of the island, for example Kai Bae Beach.
He said:”I loved the photo of the pure white sand and those rolling hills in the distance. And that’s a bit odd, because last time I looked there weren’t any offshore mountain ranges visible from Kai Bae beach â€“ only sea. “Pedantic nit-pickers may point out that there aren’t actually any mountain ranges visible offshore from Kai Bae beach.
“But it is still a nice photo. And so what if the beach in the photo is really located on the isle of Berneray in Scotland?
“Turns out there is an obvious explanation. Rather than send someone with a camera down to Kai Bae, the National Park decided to promote a beach on Koh Chang using a photo taken from the internet.
“In this case a picture of the Harris Hills as seen from a beach on the Isle of Berneray in Scotland.”
The Hebridean photograph was taken by John Kirriemuir four years ago and the Thai authorities have taken it from the www.isleofberneray.com website.
Mr Kirremuir said he had forgotten he had taken the picture and was bemused at its reappearance on the other side of the world. He added: “True, there are some similarities â€“ great sand, unpolluted sea. But also some differences. If you swam off both beaches, you would very quickly realise what one of them is.”
A VisitScotland spokeswoman said:
“They do say imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, so although the use of the photo of a beach on the Isle of Berneray to represent a Thai beach is somewhat misleading, I’m sure it is a compliment in disguise.
The Thailand Tourist board said it was unsure why the photograph was used.