Koh Chang Bridge – Be Careful What You Wish For
Do you remember the story of the boy who cried wolf? Well I do so I’ll forgive you for not believing what I’m about to write.
You see last April 1st in a practical joke we announced plans to build a bridge from the mainland to Koh Chang. But they weren’t true. I made it up totally just for a bit of fun. Or at least that’s what I thought at the time.
But now it seems that reality is catching up with fantasy.
The Koh Chang Hotel and Business Group held a meeting on the 12th of September. This group of local (Thai) businessmen and counsellors took a vote at this meeting that agreed in principle to the construction of a bridge from Koh Chang to the mainland. The Gamnan (kinda like the mayor) of Koh Chang Mr. Wanrung submitted the proposal. He said that he had expected there to be a bridge to the mainland by the time he’d reached thirty years old but now he was nearly fifty and one still didn’t exist.
Now the simple fact that local businesses vote to say that they want a bridge doesn’t mean that it’s going to happen straight away. It is a major capital project and a huge undertaking. But it is certainly a sign of intent and maybe indicates that it is now a topic of discussion and that it might really happen in the not so distant future.
It is certainly feasible. The distance to cover is around 8km but the sea is less than ten metres deep all the way across. And Thailand does seem to love a major public works project. After all local officials are given supervision of huge amounts of money and they seem to enjoy this for some strange reason.
So what would that mean for Koh Chang?
Well from a selfish point of view Island residents will be far more connected to the mainland. We will be able to come and go from the island in the evening. We’ll also be able to get to places without the sometimes hideous delays involved in catching the
rust buckets ferries.
Koh Chang could expect a lot more tourism as it becomes easier to get over to the island, particularly for Bangkok and other Thai residents to drive down in their cars. In the past on holiday weekends they have sometimes had to wait for many hours to get to the island by ferry. This deterrent would be removed.
But a bridge would put major stress on Koh Chang’s infrastructure. There is still only really one road remember and even that still doesn’t go all the way around the island.
Remember also that Koh Chang is a Marine National Park. There is supposed to be a priority placed on ecology and the environment. There must be some concern that we would go the same way as places like Phuket and Samui. Whilst I’m sure the National Park would leap to charge everyone the park entry fee as they leave the bridge that doesn’t mean that this would actually help preserve the island’s beautiful ecology.
You could expect a large increase in land and property prices both on the island and also on the nearby mainland. You’d also expect an increase in crime as eager thieves become able to vacate the island with their spoils. There would be the added safety of being able to leave the island quickly in a medical emergency. In fact all of the pros and cons stretch further than the bridge would.
But a bridge would also take away that certain something that you get from living on an island. Islands are just different to ther places. A marriage to the mainland would take something special away from Koh Chang that it could never get back.
There was a meeting yesterday between Koh Chang businesses and Trat government officials at Ban Phu Resort on the mainland.
Topics for discussion were plans to complete the road round Koh Chang and plans to build a bridge to the mainland.
The verdict seems to be that they favour the idea of doing one or the other but they aren’t sure which. The (very good) idea of actually asking people came up. So they decided to give out a questionnaire to actually ask the people of Koh Chang what they thought. And there will be, drum roll, 400 questionnaires circulated to canvas opinion.
If anyone is lucky enough to receive one then please share and we’ll get it translated.
What do you think about these plans?
Please leave a comment below and share your thoughts.