As part of the Koh Chang Guide’s 10th birthday celebrations we thought that we’d give you a brief history of Koh Chang. This article provides a selective timeline of Koh Chang’s transformation from a sleepy backwater into one of the jewels in Thailand’s tourist crown.
30 Years Ago
Koh Chang is an isolated and almost forgotten island in the far south-eastern province of Trat. There are no roads to speak of and the few local residents live a peaceful life of fruit and rubber farming and fishing. Imagine this rural idyll as a bit like the Garden of Eden with some som tam and rice whisky thrown in.
25 Years Ago
Koh Chang cannot stay immune forever and the island catches the fast-spreading virus known as backpacking. Drawn to Koh Chang’s fantastic beaches and rain forest a new breed of independent traveller begins to find their way onto the island. They demand that the unsuspecting locals build them bamboo huts on the beach and erect hammocks in which they laze and smoke local herbs, listening to “Legend” by Bob Marley, over and over and over and over again.
20 Years Ago
Recognising that these strange invaders are a good source of revenue local residents build lots more beach huts and add a few restaurants and bars. The only ferry to the beaches stops at White Sand Beach Resort on White Sand Beach. In spite of their stated desire to keep Koh Chang as an unspoilt gem, everyone who visits the island tells ten of their friends how good it is. These friends then visit and tell ten of their friends. The tourist race is on!
13 Years Ago
The first road over the steep and scary hill between Klong Son Village and White Sand Beach is built. This coincides with the start of the island’s first car ferry service. These improvements in infrastructure open up the beaches of Koh Chang’s West coast to big trucks (at least the ones that make it over the scary hill) and as a result there is a construction boom of resort building and tourist development increases dramatically. The hardcore backpackers shake their heads and move on to work their magic on another unspoilt wilderness.
January 1st 2002
Visitors to Koh Chang finally get a travel guide as the first issue of the catchily titled “Koh Chang, Trat and the Eastern Islands” guidebook is published. Somehow shaking off the lethargy of island life the publishers just about manage to cobble together something that looks like a magazine.
March 31st 2003
The first flight from Bangkok arrives at the new Trat Airport, located 17km from the Koh Chang Ferry pier. Built by Bangkok Airways this airport allows tourists to fly down directly from Bangkok, opening the island up to package tourism. Koh Chang starts to see a different type of visitor as wheeled suitcases and Gucci shades replace un-ironed clothes and dreadlocks. Beach huts go through a metamorphosis and are transformed, like grubs to butterflies, into gleaming new luxury tourist resorts. Often the names are given a makeover as well; the unassuming K.C. Resort broadens into the majestic K.C. Grande Resort, Mac Bungalow becomes Mac Resort Hotel. The island’s sign manufacturers rejoice.
June 2nd 2003
Koh Chang’s first Post Office opens in White Sand Beach. It is given its own post code, 23170 and letters now arrive direct to the island – at least most of the time.
Koh Chang’s first international chain convenience store opens. All of the little “mom and pop” stores on the island make a great fuss about how unfair the new competition is, then they drop all of their prices by 50% and still make a healthy profit. Plastic usage rises dramatically as every purchase seems to arrive with two plastic bags accompanied by a plastic spoon (also in a plastic bag) and several plastic straws (also supplied in handy plastic bags). Still we mustn’t complain, the earth gets warmer and the sun shines on Koh Chang.
A catastrophic tsunami sweeps across the Indian Ocean causing devastation and destroying tourism to Thailand’s west coast. Tour companies frantically relocate holidaymakers elsewhere and Koh Chang enjoys a tourist boom the like of which it has never seen before. Ironically this catastrophe becomes one of the major factors in the growth of Koh Chang as a tourist destination.
August 24th 2007
The administrative status of Koh Chang is changed to reflect its increasing population and importance (and wealth). Whilst previously it was only a lowly sub-district of Trat province Koh Chang is granted full district, or Amphur, Status.
The rural idyll has now fully transformed into an “International Travel Destination”.
It is a warm and lovely day in paradise. The sun rises, shines on Koh Chang and then drops into the sea in a sunset of jaw-dropping magnificence. You read this guide whilst sipping a cocktail beside the beach. All is well.