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Koh Samui (Maenam Beach) or Koh Chang??

  • chrisa77

    Joined Travelfish
    23rd August, 2007
    Posts: 16

    Hi,
    My husband and I are visiting over Christmas and have had a hell of a time securing accommodations. We finally did manage to narrow it down to two places that have vacancy -- one on Koh Samui (maenam beach) and one on Koh Chang.

    I know it all comes down to personal preference, but what would you choose if it was your first trip to Thailand and you were looking for a relaxing and authentic (ha!) experience? We're both 30, like to party a little and like to relax a lot. Love the beach and love to eat.

    Thanks,
    Christina

    #1 Posted: 29/8/2007 - 22:54

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  • somtam2000

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    Hi Christina,

    It probably comes down to where on Ko Chang you're considering. I like Maenam a lot -- the beach is long and the water very calm. There's not a lot in the way of nightlife -- think low key bungalow bars and beach bonfires rather than nightclubs -- that said, Ko Pha Ngan -- Thailand's party island -- is just a short boat trip away.

    #2 Posted: 30/8/2007 - 05:42

  • swag

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    Hi christina, we stayed on koh chang march this year.klong prao were we stayed is more like maenam on samui great beach beach bars seafood bbqs.if you wanted things more lively you would be better at white sands beach for upmarket or kai bae for lively backpacker scene.
    regards
    swag

    #3 Posted: 30/8/2007 - 07:03

  • khunwilko

    Joined Travelfish
    27th January, 2007
    Posts: 560

    Make sure there is a beach!

    Koh Chang - A Paradise Lost…


    It is unfortunate that many travelers to Thailand are rather uncritical about their environment and the effect tourism is having on the islands of the Kingdom. Koh Chang is a terrible example of unregulated tourist development gone mad.

    I first went to Koh Chang in 2003 and was rather disturbed by what I found and what has happened in the subsequent years I find deeply disturbing.

    Koh Chang is the second largest island in Thailand. And now with the sudden post-tsunami unpopularity of the west coast (i.e. Phuket) there is an ever increasing number of western tourists heading for this island...here is my polemic on why this is not so good....

    I've been to Koh Chang many times over the past few years, largely because it's near to where I live, and every time a friend comes to stay this is the most convenient "paradise island” to take them to... My brother even got married there in March 2005.
    So what’s wrong with this slice of “bounty” advert?

    (Deep breath)

    Koh Chang is a tragedy....it’s being badly developed, it’s overpriced and it's going down hill at a rate of knots......

    Why? The land for development was all bought up by bigwig friends of the "great and powerful" and now anyone who wants to set up a business there has to pay through the nose for it. All the hotels are overpriced even when you compare with Phuket and Samui. The insensitive despoiling of the island had started before the Tsunami as the island had been ear-marked for development by releasing the flat coastal land a few years before. Whether it ever appeared for sale on the open market I don’t know. In the post tsunami era the island’s desecration has continued with increased vigour as developers realised the new potential.

    Almost all the west coast is now covered with awful self-contained resorts, built with no thought for the environment, conservation or island infrastructure. They are for the most part badly designed and ill finished. Appearance is all, the places are little more than decorated concrete sheds. Health and safety is simply not addressed - some of the pool designs look positively lethal. Slippery tiles adorn pool-side and bathroom alike. The building never stops; frequently you can find your room is on a building site. It is unlikely the hotel will warn you of this. This is now greatly restricting the amount of beach that is accessible to the public; it can only be a matter of time before all the good sandy beaches become resort owned or dominated sea fronts.

    If you're coming from Europe or the States you'll find that the cost of living and rooms is cheap but not compared to elsewhere in Thailand. You'll love the sunsets and the white sand, you won't wonder where all the sewage is going and what happened to the mangroves or the fishing industry that gets smaller catches every year, or the fishing villages being turned into souvenir arcades-com-hotels.

    The centre of Koh Chang is a national park , but unlike all of Thailand's other National Parks, apart from the odd waterfall, no-one is allowed inside, you can get a guide who will take you in but strictly speaking that's against the law. There is virtually no effort made to set up a good system of eco-tourism in the park as you might find in Australia.

    There is only one road around KC and it doesn't go all the way round, it's a horse-shoe affair. There is a motorbike track that connects the two ends but it's not for the faint of heart! The main road is barely more than single track (asphalted) but cannot cope with the ever increasing load of traffic pouring onto the island.

    As KC is the second biggest island in Thailand, walking around it in a day is not an option. KC is also very mountainous and the roads are very windy and hilly and the resorts can be a long way from any shops, night-life etc, the baht taxi service (song taew) is very patchy and any where you want to go is further than you want to walk, so it’s really essential to hire a motorbike or car; these are about 50% to 100 % more than on the mainland. It might even be worth hiring a vehicle on the mainland and driving there (Pattaya is about a 4 ½ hour drive to the KC ferries - fare approximately 350 baht).
    The main town, if you could call it that is White Sands a long strip of hotels, resorts and motley bars about 3 km long. The building over the last 3 years has completely filled the space between hills and shore. If you arrive on foot with no hotel booked a baht taxi will take you from the ferry to Whitesands and drop you there. (So long as he has a full load at the ferry or he'll want you to foot the extra money before he sets off.) You will then have to find somewhere to stay this is impossible on foot and with luggage so book in advance at least for the first night. Then get some wheels, car/Jeep or motorbike and look around the next day for a place you like.
    There is no airport on KC itself, if you go by plane you'll land at Trat airport which is on the mainland quite near to the ferries to KC. Get a taxi to the ferry - only a few baht. There are several ferries across, the crossing takes 45 to 90 min, depending on which ferry you take. On one ferry I paid 30 e/w for me and my car, on another I paid 360 baht for my car an five people return.

    Now you may think I hate the place, well I don't, I just get very disappointed in the direction the powers-that-be have taken KC, it's lack of infrastructure and any forward planning will mean that sooner rather than later this place will become a collection of overpriced resorts and nothing else.

    Where to stay? - Klong Prao Beach is probably as good as it gets, there are about 4 resorts there actually with beach frontage, The Paradise is all nicely built new bungalows, Coconut and Royal Coconut are next to that and Klong Prao resort has a long beach front and good pool beside the sea.
    However, the last time I stayed at Klong Prao Resort in last August (2005) the place was a building site. They didn't tell me until the day I arrived even though I was a regular guest there. If you do book in advance you must ask about this sort of thing because you will very likely not be told by the staff. Building also precedes a hike in prices. I used to pay 1800 baht to stay there. That time I paid 1750, a discount of 50 baht (just over a dollar) because it was the wet season and there was building going on! I was told the new price is 3500 baht and that was what they would still charge whilst the building was continuing. In fact as of Feb 2007 you should be able to get a room for about 2800 baht.

    Wherever you decide to stay - CHECK BEFORE YOU GO ABOUT BUILDING WORK.....ESPECIALLY IN THE WET SEASON!

    The problem with Koh Chang is that it is changing and changing rapidly for the worse. Hotels are constantly building and encroaching on the environment. Prices are rising and beach access is getting more and more taken over by private resorts. The days of a hut on the beach for 200 baht are in fact, virtually gone. The scuba divers are going further and further a field in search of clear water and fish, and don’t be kidded that so long as the hotel claims to be by the sea that it has a beach! (v. Ramayana!!)

    Untrammelled development is occurring all over the islands of Thailand and visitors to the country should be aware of the unsympathetic, unregulated development that is taking place here. It is happening everywhere; Samui has suffered in particular at the hands of unscrupulous “developers” and the same thing is happening on Koh Chang and it is now beginning to spread to the rest of the islands in the archipelago.

    However, I think that Koh Chang is unique in regards to this as it is not only the second largest island in Thailand. (Phuket is the largest but connected to the mainland by road) but the most recently developed. Even as you lie on the beach, an opportunity is being missed here to avoid all the mistakes made on the other “paradise” islands.
    Anyone will tell you that their favourite island has changed beyond recognition, but Koh Chang still in my opinion has a chance of changing its ways especially if people are made aware of the situation before they go. Business interests on the island will react to market forces, there is little hope for swift and effective government intervention, as this is almost without precedent in Thailand. During a 2 week stay it is unlikely that the average visitor will become aware of the larger issues surrounding the conservation and development of the island, so I would hope that some at least will think before they go, and ask questions like...

    • Where does the sewerage go?
    • Where are the mangroves?
    • What happened to the local agricultural industries?
    • What do the fishermen do now?
    • Where are all the fish?
    • Where does the water come from and where does it go?
    • What is the sea water quality on my beach?
    • How is the coral?
    • Who is looking after the marine and forest nature reserves?
    • Why is there no satisfactory public access?
    • Who owns the land?

    It is quite possible that in the future Thailand could run out of islands to develop and lose one of its main attractions as a tourist destination. All this will be achieved with your money…you are paying for the development on these islands; it is your money that makes these short term goals achievable.


    PPS - If you want up to date local info on KC, try this site: IamKohChang.com
    a good site for info on Koh Chang and sounds like an interesting place to stay too!

    PPS – I cannot recommend the Ramayana and Boutique resorts!

    #4 Posted: 30/8/2007 - 14:19

  • khunwilko

    Joined Travelfish
    27th January, 2007
    Posts: 560

    BTW - Samui has already gone that way but has a vastly superior infrastructure - which is STILL lamentably insufficient....

    #5 Posted: 30/8/2007 - 14:21

  • Tilapia

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    Maenam is nice, as Somtam mentioned, and there's a really nice view from there across to Koh Phangan. When I was there it wasn't much of a crazy party spot, but there was lots of beach life at night which was great.

    It may not make any difference to you, but Koh Chang is close enough to reach (or go back to Bangkok from) in less than a day. You can leave Bangkok in the morning and be swinging in your hammock at sunset. The trip to Koh Samui is much longer unless you fly.

    I've gotta ask ... what do you mean by authentic? If you want to be near villages of fishing families and farmers, lots of nature, quiet stretches of beach, friendly locals, and not much in the way of western facilities (but everything you need including the party favours), then I'd avoid both Samui and Chang and go to Koh Jum. Especially if it was my first time in the country. I'd want to see the places that haven't yet (quite) fallen to the wrecking ball, but that may in the not-too-distant future.

    #6 Posted: 30/8/2007 - 23:59

  • chrisa77

    Joined Travelfish
    23rd August, 2007
    Posts: 16

    Wow, thanks everyone for your honest replies!
    Somtam -- bungalow bars and beach bonfires sound right up our alley. And we had thought about a trip to Pha Ngan if we felt like a party night. :)

    Knunwilko -- what a good read. Very interesting (and unfortunate.)

    Tilapia -- when I said authentic, I guess I actually meant low-key and not too developed. I've read about some of the sprawling resorts that have little character and sound like they could be anywhere in the world. If I wanted that, I'd go to Disneyworld! lol.

    What we've found is a small resort with a handful of rustic bungalows. Right now I'm leaning toward Samui....

    #7 Posted: 31/8/2007 - 00:44

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