Enjoy luxury in the dramatic setting of Koh Chang
By Ben Hopkins from Bangkok Trader magazine
As our speed boat pulls away from the pier my guide and host, Roland Steiner, points to land and explains “From here you can see why they call this Island Koh Chang, the shape is like an elephant.”
The contours of Koh Chang, or in English, Elephant Island, do indeed resemble a giant elephant semi submerged in the Gulf of Thailand, some five hours southeast of Bangkok and about thirty minutes from the Cambodian border. As we trace the Island’s coast line my focus is continuously drawn into an interior that could have been lifted from the stage set of Jurassic Park.
The Island, considered to be one of the most ecologically un-spoilt in Southeast Asia is one of nature’s masterpieces. “With this project it’s important we follow the laws which protect this Island’s ecology” Roland observes.
The Siam Royal View project is the brainchild of property developer Roland Steiner. About thee years ago, whilst looking for a plot of land to build his own property on, the Swiss entrepreneur happened upon a neck of peninsular at the north west corner of Koh Chang.
“When I found this area, I realized the potential for developing condominiums, villas and a world class marina.”
The Siam Royal View development covers 260 rai of land and encapsulates a narrow strip of forested peninsular, a long stretch of white sand beach, a small mangrove forest and a river inlet ideal for developing a marina. After having spent two years dredged the canal and installing the projects bowel system the development, though far from complete, is beginning to make tangible the artists rendition.
Cruising past a thickly forested stretch of peninsular Roland points to the hilltop “Up there will be five of our most exclusive properties, the residents will have a view of the sea from both sides, this is something very special, only a few properties in the world offer this.”
Naturally, such rare exclusivity doesn’t come cheap.
“These cost up to $2,000,000.”
Any dreams of life on paradise are quickly extinguished but as we steer the speed boat between the tip of peninsular and the small islet of Koh Chang Noi, or Baby Elephant Island – Roland is keen to assure me Siam Royal View reaches out to broad swathe of people from different countries and income brackets.
“Our condominiums start at 3,500,000 baht while our two bedroom villas start at 5,000,000 baht. We’ve already sold a lot of properties; people are beginning to realize the potential for making money through property in this region.” Indeed, those who purchased a beachfront plot on Siam Royal View about 1.5 years ago have seen their investment double. When you consider that an equivalent property on Phuket would cost around ten times as much, it’s easy to see why these villas and condominiums are being sold before they’re even constructed.
“The people buying the properties come from all over the world – US, Israel, Europe, Australia – they come from all different walks of life and are looking to invest and to simply enjoy a more relaxed lifestyle” Roland explains. “Basically, that’s what drew me to Thailand in the first place. I enjoy coming to work dressed in shorts, life is more relaxed out here than back home.”
From the tip of the peninsular we steer our boat left towards the wide bay. Behind a line of palms trees the mustard and tangerine hues of Siam Royal View Villas draw closer. Attractive as they are my attention is once again drawn in by a green and mountainous interior animated by cascading waterfalls, barking deer and stump tailed macaws. To allow developer’s free reign over one of Southeast Asia’s most ecologically rich island’s would be akin to inviting an elephant for tea in a china shop. When I put this to Roland he agrees, before explaining the laws that have been imposed to protect the Island from man’s bludgeoning.
A few years ago the Thai government realized the importance of saving Koh Chang from the fate suffered by a few of Thailand’s most popular Islands. Government officials and environmentalists put their heads together to set in laws that should assure that the Koh Chang will forever pulsate under natures pulse.
Roland takes his hand off the wheel and points to the craggy mountains ahead “Every thing you see inland is completely untouched, eighty percent of this island is protected by conservation laws and will remain so. When we developed this project there were many laws we had to follow.”
By law, all beach front villas have to sit behind the line of palm trees 20 meters in from the beach, any villas over one story have to sit 50meters in, while nothing can be built over three stories high (or higher than a coconut tree). When a tree needed to be removed it would be replanted elsewhere, and to enhance the greenery 2,000 trees are being imported.
The sun is reaching its scorching nadir as we reach the river inlet and steer our way toward the fishermen’s houses where the marina will be built. Roland points to a small mangrove forest, home to a myriad of strange amphibious creatures. “That too is protected” Roland asserts.
A group of young Thai boys, the sons of the migrant workers from Isaan burst out laughing and dive into the water when they see our sun toasted expressions appear like beetroots. “We have a nursery and learning activities for the workers children who stay here for months on end, I think they enjoy it here.”
A few brightly painted fishermen’s houses sitting on stilts mark the location where the marina will be built (is under construction). “This will be a world class marina with 75 wet berths.” One of the fishermen, a burly guy with a wide smile greets Roland from the balcony of his house. “The fishermen are very happy with the package we gave them, his house will become a marina restaurant and bar.”
Over the past few years things have changed dramatically on Koh Chang. A government drive to promote tourism on the Island has resulted in high end hotels appearing like mushrooms almost overnight, and tourism experiencing a sharp upturn. It appears that the vast majority of Islanders have benefited from the changes. Roland points out, however, that there are a few who may not be enjoying the boom.
“Not so long ago, before tourism became popular, the favorite children would inherit the fertile land for growing fruit and other food. The un-favored would get the beaches where nothing grows. Today they’re the ones getting rich and driving their Mercedes around.”
As we do a u-turn the young kids are still splashing around in the water, laughing at us strange farangs sitting atop a speed boat like royalty.
Siam Royal View is a Swiss company but it’s over Thai beer that I toast the true success of Koh Chang, a success that lies within the wild forested mountains of its interior and the romance of the wide open sea. From Siam Royal View, you can experience the best of both these worlds.