Than Sadet has changed a lot over the last few years. It used to be one of the most inaccessible and beautiful beaches on Koh Phangan. It is still a stunning small beach but this historical beach is no longer an obscure spot for hippies to hang out.
The road to Than Sadet is off the main road running from Baan Tai to Thong Nai Pan. It used to be a notoriously dangerous track not recommended to anyone who was not massively experienced in a 4 wheel pick up or scrambler bike.
Lots of work has been done to improve the road. At the same time attention has turned to the thorny issue of land rights. The locals have been allowed to run small businesses in the forest and next to the beach However, the whole area with its waterfall with royal signatures carved in rocks has long been designated as a National Park. This is a legal pickle as you aren’t allow to build on National Park land. For years this anomaly was ignored but recently the police have clamped down on building work infringing on National Park land not just in Koh Phangan but throughout Thailand. The locals point out that they had occupied the land prior to the creation of Than Sadet National Park. The matter is due to be resolved in court.
For those interested in this on-going legal dispute the story has been followed by Thai Visa. In this article it reports the Suratthani Governor visiting Haad Sadet to witness land encroachment on the beach.
Currently, access is restricted to Haad Than Sadet. There is a post manned by the army located 50 metres from the beach and waterfall. Visitors need to sign in before proceeding. It is not an inconvenience for tourists but it is setting a precedent. It is perhaps not surprising that visitor numbers are down for Than Sadet. The beach is a lot quieter, and of course a police presence sits at odds with the traditional hippy atmosphere of the area.
Than Sadet has been famous in Koh Phangan for keeping true to the original tourist vision of Koh Phangan providing basic wooden bungalows at places like Mai Pen Rai Bungalows, Plaa’s Thansadet Resort and J.S Hut Resort. Telephone coverage is poor and the internet slow. Power still comes from generators. This is a small beach hidden away from the world far removed from the Full Moon Party and luxury resorts.
For a while between 2012 and 2016 the building of Koh Phangan Airport just down the coast from Than Sadet at Than Prapad changed perceptions about the value of the mountainous eastern coastal land with some predicting a corridor of luxury beach resorts being developed along lines similar to the successful high-end enclave of Thong Nai Pan Noi beach just to the north of Than Sadet.
Now the airport itself is being regarded by the authorities as encroaching on National Park land. Work has stopped on the airport. Attention has moved to nearby Than Sadet. It is hoped a resolution can be found to preserve this magical part of Koh Phangan not just for historians and wildlife conservationists but also for beach lovers.