Photos above are from a recent road trip up north to Petchabun and Loei provinces. It is the area in between the tourist trail areas of Sukhothai & Chiang Mai on the left and the bar girl breeding provinces of Isaan on the right. You will need your own transport to make the most of a visit to these provinces as there isn’t much in the way of traveller friendly minibus services or aircon bus routes. Most visitors are Thais. What you will find if you do make it up there are some of the most beautiful scenery in the country plus long and winding country roads with great views at every turn. At the northern tip of Loei province is Chiang Khan, which along with Pai and Amphawa forms a holy trinity of cutesy destinations for hordes of domestic travellers. It’s a very successful formula, old wooden buildings, artistic coffee shops, nice views, bicycles, good food, man made photo ops and cheap accommodation. Downside is that there is nothing really to keep you in any of these places for more than 24-28 hours, the length of time the typical Thai visitor stays.
The mighty Mekong river forms the border at Chiang Khan so from your guesthouse you look across 100 metres or so of water to Laos. But if you take the road 2195 into Chiang Khan from the west, which surely must be one of the worst roads in Thailand and is probably deliberately unmaintained, then for most of the way you are literally a stones throw from Laos in many places as a far smaller river forms the natural border. In this area, there are small villages which seem to straddle the river, with people going backwards and forwards with goods, and I am pretty sure that in the dry season you could easily walk across to Laos. No signs or fences or anything like that, the only way you know you are so close to Laos is that your phone will jump into roaming mode and you will be connecting through a Laotian network if you aren’t careful.
The only pic of interest I have taken on Koh Chang recently is of these little guys who come to sleep on the branch of a mangrove tree about 1 metre from the footbridge leading to our house. We first noticed them last month and they have been here every night since. They just sit virtually motionless and, providing people don’t make any sudden movements, they don’t appear frightened or concerned by humans at all.
Back on Koh Chang, not a lot has been happening. A visitor drowned, a beach was cleaned by volunteers and one unfortunate tourist got an elephant tusk through the chest and died instantly. Only one of these events made the news and it wasn’t the story that involved a Ukranian being washed up on Klong Prao beach or the second person the same elephant has killed in the past year. ( As the elephant in question cost rather a lot of money, the owner doesn’t want to get rid of it, so you might want to steer clear of the one elephant with large tusks on Koh Chang.)
In the coming fortnight, regardless of how many careless tourists decide to try holding their breath underwater or go running headlong into a metre long piece of ivory , the only news story that really matters will be the opening of the new Tesco Lotus Supermarket in Trat on 11 August. The last time there was this much excitement in the town was when King Taksin the Great used Trat as a staging post for his attack on Ayuttaya in 1767. Since then nothing, now Tesco.
Building season is underway on the island and regardless of where you stay you will almost certainly hear the distant tap-tapping of hammer on nail and thumb, from early morning until 5pm (Or till midnight if something a bit dodgy is being constructed and it has to be competed in a hurry.)
A lot of Dutch seem to be heading here in August for some reason – at least that’s the impression I get from the emails I receive. Swapping the rain in Amsterdam for the rain on Koh Chang. A more exotic and ethnic type of wetness no doubt. Likewise, I am getting more emails from the French who, unlike counterparts from anywhere else in the world, see this site, obviously read it and then email me in French. I then Google translate it and reply to them in English and then they come back to me in English. The French thought process seems to be assume everyone else in the world is French, unless proven otherwise to you in person. I occasionally get an email in Italian or some Eastern European language from time to time but just file them in the ‘Junk’ folder. I still subscribe to the old colonial adage that: ‘If it isn’t written in English, then it probably isn’t important or can at least be ignored without worry’.
For anyone looking for a holiday home on Koh Chang, Mike & Sheryl, have just made their lovely new beach house ‘Elegant Horizons‘ available for rent. Three bedrooms, ideal for families or groups and right in the centre of a kilometre long beach. Onsite facilities include a 35 metre infinity pool, beach restaurant & massage. Rental for a 3 night stay in High Season is from GBP 420 ( Around 19,000 Baht ) If you want more space than a luxury hotel room, to avoid package tourists or a proper ‘home away from home’ experience check it out.
And if your plans involve staying on Koh Chang longterm and you are looking for a business that has a bit more of a niche than yet another restaurant, coffee shop or bar then Koh Chang’s best little upmarket jewelry and handicraft store, which also happens to be in a prime spot right outside a large resort on the island’s busiest beach, is for now sale. No direct competition and the ideal location. Photos and information.
Finally, the story of my secret life as a Honda dealer. If ‘Katabeachbum’ is reading this, as you will see Iamkohchang.com isn’t really what any sane or sober person would call a motorbike dealership. There again, what if the past seven years of running this site for tourists has been a cover for my secret life as a Honda dealer in suburban Bangkok. All this time I have been waiting, sleeper cell style, for an opportunity to post prices for my bikes on the Thaivisa forum. That opportunity arose but my plan was foiled by your gallant intervention.
A bit of background . . . if you think the above is a tad far fetched then obviously you aren’t qualified to moderate a discussion board in Thailand. Here is a little story about how the lure of advertisers money is such that a popular Thai website will remove genuine, useful information so readers can’t benefit from it.
I have been thinking of getting a new motorbike. Years ago I had an X-11, a Naked Blackbird, in Bangkok which was fun but not the ideal city bike. On Koh Chang a scooter is all anyone needs but something a bit bigger for trips over the the mainland would be fun. Honda have a new 250CBR which is ideal for use in Thailand and but they are in short supply and so dealers charge a premium. Ball from Kohmak.com emailed me a few days ago to say he had got one from a bike show in Bangkok. He sent me all the info and said he would put the deposit down to secure one for the correct list price if I wanted one. I hummed and haaaah’d but in the end I decided against getting one. However, as I knew that a lot of expats in Thailand were interested in this bike I posted the info I had on Thaivisa.
Imagine my surprise when I learned that instead of living on Koh Chang I am in fact running a Honda dealership in suburban Bangkok, something called World Speed Honda and sneakily using the Thaivisa forum to promote my wares. I know this because an esteemed moderator by the name of ‘Katabeachbum’ blocked my username and sent me a message stating:
‘Your topic in bike forum promoting your Honda dealer World Speed has been closed. You have been issued a warning and your posting rights are disabled indefinitely.’ and went on to add ‘ThaiVisa has been provided info you are World Speed Honda AP dealer’
It isn’t that there is anything derogatory about being called a ‘World Speed Honda AP Dealer’ – although it maybe some new urban slang I don’t know about and I get banned from Thaivisa fairly often for speaking out of turn and that is fair enough. But what annoyed me was the fact that he decided to ban me for posting something that is of use to people and for a nonsensical reason. I tried to explain my side of the story that I simply thought the info was useful, but Katabeachbum was adamant – he has proof my company is flogging bikes in Impact Centre, Bangkok at this very moment. Where he got this proof is anyone’s guess
To wrap up, Katabeachbum, I hope I have now provided proof that I am not in fact selling Hondas at a bike show in Bangkok and competing with your sponsor and that you have been caught out blatantly putting your advertisers interests ahead of those of your members. ( Your job is to do this discretely ) I would now love to see your proof that I own a Honda motorbike dealership. However, I am sure it won’t be forthcoming.
The above was all a bit self indulgent, but pointing out what a knob this guy is is therapeutic :-)
UPDATE: March 2012. Turns out that Thaivisa.com’s moderator vetting procedures are a bit lax. Katabeachbum, real name Stein Havard Dokset, was arrested for the murder of his girlfriend in Phuket. He kept her remains in a wheelie bin in his basement for almost 3 years. This follows on from their old IT Manager at Thaivisa being a arrested for paedophilia. Nice crowd that run that site. News Story
So to compensate for putting you through that, here are some more pretty photos taken up north, again self indulgent, but hopefully of interest. If you have done Chiang Mai, don’t fancy rice fields for miles and want a still relatively undiscovered northern Thai destination then rent a car and explore, Petchabun & Loei with a night or two in Chiang Khan where these pics were taken. Enjoy.
Finally, finally, I just discovered that you can get your dog’s blood tested at the human International Clinic on White Sand beach. It costs 800 Baht and takes about an hour. ( Although you have to provide the blood sample – I don’t think they will draw it there. )