Koh Chang; low-level development, steep mountains protect a natural island

The best possible beach hotel deals in Koh Chang come from Direct Bookings:

We display hotels that guarantee, in writing, to discount the lowest rates found on-line for guests who book direct. This cuts out middlemen, saves money for the guest and hotel – and we take no commission. See our GUARANTEE list on this page, then contact hotels via the e-mail box on each hotel page.
We also sell DISCOUNT HOTEL VOUCHERS for some hotels – the very cheapest rooms available – but they are limited.

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In the 1980s Bangkok students and foreign backpackers discovered the isolated beaches of Koh Chang. At the time there were only a few specks of habitation on the island; a small local community at the top end facing the mainland and two fishing villages in the deep south. People moved about by boat, and there were only a few tracks rather than real roads on the island. Most islands in the Gulf of Thailand were being invaded by land-hungry farmers at the time, intent of turning natural forest into rubber plantation. But Koh Chang's mountains were generally too steep for agriculture, and only small portions of its forest came under the axe.
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Geography, in effect, kept Koh Chang in a relatively natural, undeveloped state. It's something that, in today's age of mass tourism, enhances its value enormously. The backdrop to every beach is a steep mountain clothed in lush, natural rainforest – a rarity in Thai beach destinations. In its competition for sunlight that forest also lunges far out over the sand, providing delightfully attractive beach scenery and lots of natural shade.
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The little flat land on the island is precious. The only significant patch of it on the west side, behind Klong Prao Beach, is only now growing to become the island's major urban centre, fuelled entirely by tourism. This is just one of three small, tourism-generated commercial and urban areas on the island, with the biggest being behind Sai Khao Beach in the northwest, and beyond at Klong Son. Outside the resort hotels, these represent the only real 'development' on Koh Chang.

The south end of the island below central Kai Bae Beach has no urban development save the original fishing villages built on stilts over the water.
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Compared to the many other Thai islands that have become beach destinations, Koh Chang is certainly among the least developed and most natural. Most competitors for this title are smaller islands like Koh Kood, or several tiny ones off off the Andaman coast, like Koh Phayam, Koh Ngai and ultra remote Koh Bulon in the Trang Islands.
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NOTE that this site offers many other info pages about Koh Chang, and all other beach destinations in Thailand. Some of these might prove helpful:

Koh Chang's sandy beaches; nice, but not enough for the hotels & resorts

The beaches on Koh Chang are limited by the rugged geography and stony shores, and just can't satisfy the human demand for idyllic, sandy beach. Virtually every patch of beachfront land with fine sand in front is already occupied by a resort or bungalows – or is in the hands of a developer or speculator waiting for the right time to build or sell. The demand for beachfront land on Koh Chang shot up wildly after 2004 when then Prime Minister Taksin Shinawattra declared that Koh Chang would become Thailand's next beach jewel, with special attention from the government.
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Today we find many bungalow resorts built over rocky shores, headlands and cliffs, and even into muddy mangrove forests. Most of the up-market resorts in the 3- and 4-star range have secured sandy beach, while a large portion of the remaining backpacker bungalows face pebbles or rocks. Often it was a case of the former, wealthier resorts buying out the original budget bungalows that had been established way back in the 1980s. This redevelopment of the old by the new continues, and is moving Koh Chang towards a more boutique, family and even 4-star island.
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Note that our maps display both sand and pebble beach in the same yellow. Thus, if you want a sandy beach by your accommodation, check the photos in the gallery of each hotel or resort, for our editor photos show virtually every beachfront accommodation on the island, and the photos always show the beach in front, or shoreline, clearly.
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For a more detailed look at all beaches here see our comparison of Koh Chang's Beaches .

environment & development problems mar Koh Chang's look of paradise

Environmentally, Koh Chang is better off than virtually all other places in Thailand. But unfortunately, the wisdom of the people here has little to do with it – it's largely the result of the tiny population on a large, rugged island.

A look at the stewardship of the island by its new breed of inhabitants, the resort developers, managers and workers, quickly shows that there is not a lot to be cheerful about. The same sets of bad environmental habits and development mistakes that have wreaked havoc on other beach destinations in Thailand have been imported to Koh Chang. But with such a big, natural world outside, ever swallowing up black water and pollution, many of Koh Chang's problems are hardly visible, or as yet, have not caused serious damage. But a keen eye soon finds a whole slew of man-made assaults on the island's natural environment.
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Perhaps the most dangerous trend for the future of this island's beaches is the manner in which the developers display an almost total disregard for the law, and build just about anything they want right into public territory. Not that the structures themselves are necessarily bad. Note the interesting rock wall built out from Bai Lan Bay; it's executed in natural materials, is well designed and quite attractive. And visitors like walking out on it. The trouble is that such constructions are illegal. If one developer can break the law with such blatant, public flair, won't the rest do so, too?
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In fact, many others have also done just that. All across the island we see walls and various concrete structures extended out over the beach – all public land – and sometimes right into the water. The laws are not being enforced here at all. All manner of construction rubble can be seen discarded onto the beach or into the water. Drains pour black water across the sand into the ocean close to where guests swim. Beyond the beach the island is strewn with all manner of rubbish, tossed away in the thoughtless manner that occurs all across Thailand.
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Thailand has a whole array of rubbish, pollution and environment problems. Koh Chang has a mini version of the very same things. Being a natural tropical island – even one that government and business leaders want to sell to the world as an 'unspoiled tropical paradise' – has done little to save Koh Chang from the onslaught of Thailand's nation-wide disregard for their environment.
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by John Everingham

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