I thought that as we’d been on the island for over 10 years it’d be good to start a monthly feature where I sit back in my armchair, flick through a tattered photo album and ramble on to anyone within earshot about how things have changed for the worse.
However, as that doesn’t make for a good web based experience, I’ll be trawling my hard drive for photos and then taking the same view today. ( And of course rambling on about how things have changed -for the worse. ) I’ll try to keep a 10 year or so gap between the photos.
Quite a few photos from the early years of our time here have disappeared due to various hard drive crashes, lack of back-ups and other balls ups – some technical, many human. Also, like many people I tended to take photos of beaches and sunsets. And to be honest they don’t really change much over the years.
First one I’ve chosen is the site of what was going to be our original bungalows on Koh Chang. We rented this land in Bailan for 30,000 Baht / year and had a plan to build a few bungalows and coffeeshop / internet cafe there. Those were the days when an internet cafe was a viable business. However, we ended up buying our current place by the river instead – and scrapped those plans. Now it’s a builders’ merchant.
Another place we looked at renting was a small coffeeshop at the north end of Klong Prao beach. it looked like an area that may well get much busier. By the time we’d got round to discarding the idea of renting it, the area was being redeveloped. It’s now home to VJ Plaza. The coffeeshop was just off the road at the rear of what is now Siam Commercial Bank.
Finally, this was the bungalow we first stayed in when we came to Koh Chang , initially for a holiday from Bangkok in August 2003 – at KB Resort in Kai Bae. Back then it was a small, laid back family run place. From memory, this room was 400 Baht / night. It’s a bit more expensive now and has a new hotel block which caters mainly to Russian visitors. But it’s surprising how little the old bungalows have changed.
Some places haven’t really changed over the years. For example, Baan Kwan Chang elephant camp in Klong Son. 10 years ago the camp had six elephants, now there are ten. Apart from that things are pretty much the same up there. Looking at these photos I had to double check to see which I took recently and which almost a decade ago.
Kai Bae was the first place we stayed when we came to Koh Chang. I had more interesting photos than this, but looks like they have mostly been lost in hard drive crashes over the years. This is the view from outside KB Resort looking towards the small harbour, which was used by fishermen and is now used for Kai Bae Hut’s speedboats. nearby I remember the area that is now Nang Nual Resort was home to more fishermen and an ice factory. The ice was used to chill the fisherman’s catch, but in the days before 7-elevens it was a good place to buy ice cheaply.
KP Huts has been around for 20 years. Originally set up by a local guy who worked in the National Park. He sold his vast plot of land to people from Bangkok who despite having the ideal spot for a luxury resort have continued to run it as a basic bungalow resort. Half the huts still don’t have en-suite bathrooms and all are wooden. Over the years the beachfront huts have all been rebuilt. The bungalows at the rear were put up around 10 years ago and apart from having the roofs changed, are still pretty much the same.
One of the places we used to go to walk the dog when he was young was the beach in Klong Son. Back then it was totally deserted, with just the remains of an old bungalow resort , Premwadee Resort, at the far north end of the beach. The area behind the beach was mostly mangrove swamp which flooded in the rainy season.
The land was then sold to a housing developer from Pattaya and is now the site of the Siam Royal View development. As the houses are set back from the beach, the view hasn’t changed too much, the only noticeable difference is that many of the coconut palms have gone. The large mangrove swamp is now a par 3 pitch & putt course.
How has Koh Chang changed overall?
Google Earth gives you the ability to not only see the current satellite photos of pretty much any location worldwide but also those from the past. Although they don’t go too far back, 2000 is pretty much the earliest. But for tourist areas, which have a habit of developing quickly, that is enough to see the changes.
I found a few comparisons on Koh Chang, not as many as I’d hoped as , for some reason, Google still uses images from 2006 for all the west coast beach areas of the island i.e. the areas that have changed the most.
But here are a few comparisons.
The first time I went kayaking around the south east of the island, I remember seeing a community of fishermen living on ramshackle stilt houses in a bay in the south east of the island. There were quite a few homes, some were large structures. Some connected to the land and others were entirely in the sea. Nearby on the land is a small National Park office. The stilt houses have virtually all gone. I think about 3-4 years ago. I’m not sure if they were destroyed in a storm or the fishermen forced to move on. The National Park office still remains in the area.
Another comparison in the south east of the island, which for some reason has good images taken 10 years or more apart. In the past Long Beach was totally deserted – no road access. The road was built in 2002 -03. Since then someone has been busy clearing land & removing hillsides.
Google says the older image is from 2003, but that can’t be the case as I remember driving along the road there to the tip of Koh Chang in 2003. That was in an old Nissan Sunny, nowadays you need a pick up truck – you wouldn’t take a car along the ‘road’.
Some places don’t change, tourism didn’t affect Laem Ngop village on the mainland, the closest village to the island, at all by the looks of things.
Likewise, on the east coast of Koh Chang, Dan Mai, the island’s administrative centre, hasn’t really changed over the years. The pier in the top left of the old photo is outside a small Chinese shrine. Funds are being raised to rebuild it.
Koh Chang’s largest housing development is Siam Royal View, set in Klong Son Bay. The area that is now occupied by luxury villas was once mainly mangrove swamp. There was an old bungalow resort ‘Premwadee Resort’ on the beach – the bungalows are visible at the north end of the beach in the early satellite photo.
This is the best example I can find of large scale changes during the past decade or so. When Google sends their satellites over the island again, there should be some good comparisons from west coast beach areas.