After the wettest June for a few years the weather has perked up a bit in July. Some nice sunny days and no big storms ( yet). However, the sea is still quite rough and another tourist drowned a week ago off Lonely beach. So, if you need to cool off but the sea is so rough that only foolhardy Chinese visitors attempt to swim in it, what to do if you aren’t staying at a fancy resort with a pool? Don’t worry. Head to Koh Chang’s free open air pool.
There’s a nice spot by the Klong Plu river where locals often go to swim after work or at weekends. You’ll find a shallow area for kids and deeper area where adults can swim safely. No strong currents – except after torrential rain. To get there turn off the main road at the Klong Plu Waterfall turning, head past the elephant camp, then look to your right and you’ll see a large house behind tall trees. Turn off at the obvious path by the road sign on the right hand side of the road. You’ll see well worn tracks through the trees that lead to the riverbank just 20 metres away and no doubt a few scooters parked up.
It’s still pretty quiet on Koh Chang. So quiet that a new welcome service has been introduced. For a small fee visitors can now be paraded from the ferry pier to their resort by elephant. An elephant on its own wouldn’t be much fun, so the new arrival is accompanied by party of dancing locals, a band and optional 50,000 Watt speaker truck. Below we see one of the few people to arrive on the island on 4 July making their way to their resort. I should have taken a video as the sound of the band breaking into Wham’s ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go Go’ was a sight to behold. Book this service through your local T.A.T. office.
The local police, accompanied by the ‘Nai Amphur’ ( boss of the island – in the blue polo shirt ) took down a Western ‘mafia’ ring in Lonely beach. At this point I should point out that the term mafia is used a bit more loosely in Thailand than in the west. No-one woke up with a horse’s head in their bed in this incident. The mafia consisted of a middle aged English guy and a young Russian guy. Their cunning plan was to meet people getting of pick up truck taxis and then try to divert them to particular resorts where they received commission. The two wannabe Godfathers then went to resorts and told them they had to pay 50 – 100 Baht per person commission for every live body of a backpacker they deposited in their reception area. If they didn’t, then they would tell potential guests how bad that resort was and attempt to take them elsewhere. Given the complexity of this seemingly foolproof path to riches it was a real surprise when some resort owners decided that this wasn’t particularly fair and complained to the police. ( Photo from Facebook )
A lot more people are getting in on the ‘Keep Koh Chang Clean’ bandwagon, which is a good thing. But what happens to the garbage after it all gets picked up and put into big black bags? Three years ago I had a wander round the garbage plant. Back then the machinery that was designed to separate plastic, glass etc had fallen idle and all the sorting was being done manually by a handful of Cambodians. Not particularly state of the art. Photos from the Garbage Plant in 2010. The good news is that the machinery appears to be working again and the separator seems to work. But unlike last time I visited where no-one cared if I wandered around, this time I was asked to leave. So no photos of how the sludge / food waste is treated or if they ever got the biofuel thing working. The old dump is still there in all its glory, leftover from simpler days when when garbage disposal was no more complicated than filling a large whole in the ground and setting fire to it. First thing you notice is that there are large bales of reclaimed plastic ready to be taken away but then you see that nearby there are more bales that are overgrown and almost hidden by weeds, meaning that they’ve probably been there for a while.
If you want an alternative to Koh Chang – I can definitely recommend a couple of nights on a raft house in the middle of Chiew Larn lake in Suratthani, way down in the south of Thailand, which we visited last week. Open the door, dive off your balcony into warm, fresh water. Stunning scenery, you’re in the middle of nowhere, with no mobile phone coverage, the sounds of various monkeys coming from the jungle and surrounded by limestone mountains. The only access is by boat.