In the last several days, I have done some extensive research in an effort to identify the most the eco-friendly beach destination in Thailand. To be honest with you, it is a lot easier for me to rattle off a list of beach destinations/island resorts which are not very eco-friendly. See below..
Pattaya - Truly an Abomination!
Located about 90 minutes east of Bangkok is Pattaya, Thailand’s internationally renowned sex tourist mecca–beach town. Located on the mainland, Pattaya leads the pack of those beach destinations where development, human greed and the excesses of tourism have had a severe negative ecological impact. No other beach destination in Thailand comes close to the ugliness and urban blight which is Pattaya. Believe it or not, before the Vietnam War, Pattaya was a sleepy fishy village with lush green vegetation and sparkling white sand beaches. Not anymore!
Phuket and Koh Samui - Paradise no more!
Below Pattaya on my list (quite a step down) are Thailand’s two most popular island resorts – Phuket and Koh Samui. Both places have international airports to receive tourists all over the world; while the airport in Koh Samui is like an island boutique, Phuket’s airport is a modern gleaming affair. Both islands are abundant in natural beauty with a mountainous interior and gleaming white sand beaches, however both Samui and Phuket have suffered from the excesses of development and tourism leaving behind a severely degraded environment.
Phi Phi Island - Paradise Ruined!
Located in Southern Thailand’s Krabi Province, Phi Phi Islands – an area known for its raw physical beauty - is just another example of Paradise getting trashed by excessive development and too many tourists. Admittedly, I have never been there.
Koh Chang - Going the way of Phuket and Samui
Of all the island resorts, Koh Chang is the place I know best, having been there four times. My last visit was in November 2006. An extremely lush and mountainous island, Koh Chang is rapidly changing (and not for the good) as there are still plans to make it the next Phuket. Climbing the slopes of the jungle clad mountain slopes are many new bungalow operations and along the west coast, the land is being cleared to accommodate a variety of upscale (and opulent) albeit expensive beach resorts. If an international airport ever happens here, it will be the coup-de-grace.
In Koh Chang, proper sewage treatment facilities are lacking, and in some places near the beach you can smell the raw sewage as it trickles into the sea. If you don’t believe me, go to Magic Resort – small budget bungalow operation on Klong Phrao Beach – and take a whiff of the raw sewage on the southern perimeter of the property. Sort of reminds of the smell on the far side of Aloha Beach Resort, a first class hotel located on Lamai Beach in Koh Samui. In Thailand, only a handful of hotels in the resort areas have their own sewage treatment plant.
Koh Lanta and Koh Jam/Koh Pu - Not ruined yet, best of the lot
Ko Lanta and the relatively obscure island of Ko Pu/Ko Jum, both located in Krabi Province seem to be holding up all right from an ecological perspective. Based on my visit there in 2005, the tourism growth had not completely swallowed Koh Lanta, and Koh Jum/Koh Pu - the Island with the split personality - seems to be comparatively pristine.
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Coming up, my nomination for the most eco-friendly beach destination in Thailand. Stay tuned!