Cable TV. The Koh Chang Television company are the sole purveyors of fine cable content on Koh Chang. Most hotels are connected up to their 50 channel service which includes news & movie channels, a few of which are in English. Subscription fees are 500 baht/month. Sign up at their HQ in White Sand beach. For your amusement there are also adverts from local businesses. Their website is, if it is online, www.kohchangtv.com – only worth looking at for the adverts. My favourite ad is for the Klong Son carwash, closely followed by the commercial for Angels Bar which is a lesson in ways to diplomatically say a hooker bar isn’t a hooker bar but still imply that it is.
Cakes. When I was at Middle School I made a Victoria Sponge for which my Home Economics teacher gave me 10/10. If I can do it at 12 years of age, there really is no reason why good cakes can’t be made here on Koh Chang by owners of coffee shops and small bakeries. Yet for some reason it is next to impossible to find a nice piece of cake. I don’t ask for much, just some texture, flavour and icing that doesn’t taste like margarine. The sort of thing anyone with access to eggs, flour, butter and sugar and an over should be able to produce.
Cambodian Border Crossing. The border crossing is around an hour and fifteen minutes drive by minivan from Trat town. Take a minivan from outside Trat central market. This crossing is far removed from the hectic activity at the far busier Aranyaprathet / Poipet crossing which anyone travelling from Bangkok – Siem Reap overland will go through. Had Lek / Cham Yeam border post is a far more laid back affair with no queues and formalities taking 10 minutes maximum.
Get your stamp out of Thailand at the small office on the left of the checkpoint barrier, then walk 100 metres to the Cambodian Immigration office – which is the first building you see on the left. (Look to the right and you’ll see the entrance to Koh Kong Casino Resort). Refuse all offers of help from the Cambodia guys who will approach you. If you’ve made it this far you can fill in a simple form in English without their assistance. If you don’t already have a Cambodian visa, head to the open door of the visa office. The office looks as though it has been recently looted, with only an empty wooden table, couple of chairs and no information or adornment of any kind on the unpainted concrete walls, other than a decade old map and a photo of the Cambodian King trying his best to look as un-gay as possible.
The Immigration guys will probably playing cards in the back somewhere. They know why you’re here and you’ll be given a simple visa application form to complete, you’ll also need to supply one passport photo. You’ll also need around 1,100 baht for the visa. When the hand of cards is over a guy will come and check the form, another will appear with a key and unlock a draw containing a book of blank visas, the visa takes up a full page of your passport, and a third will sigh, pick up his pen, fill out the blank visa stick it in your passport, call the guy who’s job it is to stamp visas, wait for him to do his official duty, then hand your passport back and you’ll be on your way.
Not very far though, only to the ‘Arrivals’ window immediately to your right as you exit the visa section. Here you’ll have to fill in the usual arrivals/departure card and get your passport stamped with arrival date etc, again ignore the annoying locals who will have these cards in their hands, take one from them and you’ll be pestered for a tip incessantly. Once your passport is stamped you can wander off, pursued by a rag-tag band of locals all wanting to escort you to a guesthouse, carry your bag or sell you cigarettes; and catch a motorbike taxi to Koh Kong village a few kilometres away. From here on the website www.talesofasia.com will provide you with all you need to know about Cambodia.
If you plan on staying longterm on an unlimited number of consecutive free visas, you’ll have problems as you now only get 15 day visa on arrival if you enter Thailand by land. So visa runs will get expensive.
If you plan on staying in Cambodia only for as long as it takes to get your passport stamped ther be prepared to pay an unofficial 300 baht surcharge to the Immigration officers as compensation for not staying in their lovely country longer than you had to. You can argue about paying it and waste half a day of your life, but it’s much less hassle to just pay up and get back to Thailand.
Canoes. Most resorts rent out sea canoes for visitors who wish to paddle around the shoreline. If you’re going to hire a canoe then it’s worth making the effort to paddle to somewhere rather than just going round in circles 50 metres offshore for an hour or two. From White Sand Beach you can head north, past the headland and onto Klong Son Bay – the bay with relatively little development, palm fringed shoreline, shallow waters and mountain backdrop looks seriously nice when photographed from the sea plus there’s some snorkelling off the northern tip of the island. If you rent a canoe from Kai Bae, southern Klong Prao or Lonely Beach then you’ll find that paddling out to the islands offshore make for a good day out. From southern Klong Prao beach the nearest island, Koh Rom, is less than 30 mins away, lazy buggers may prefer to rent a canoe at the southern tip of Kai Bae where the nearest island, Koh Man Nai, is less than 10 mins away across waters which are wade-able at low tide.
Unlike the southern Thai islands there isnt much in the way of canoe tours yet. The only organised sea canoe, tours are from Kayak Chang, run by Brits who know what they are doing and use professional sit inside sea kayaks. They are based at the Amari Emerald Cove Resort. Good mangrove canoeing is available, the downside is that the two best areas to head for Salakkok & Salakphet are both in the south east of the island – i.e. 40-50km away from the areas where most visitors stay. You can rent canoes at a couple of places in and around Salakphet from where you can explore the bay, see the fishing village and visit the islands in the centre of the bay. The Koh Chang Discovery Club, run by the guy who owns Baan Kwan Chang elephant camp, started kayak rental in an easily accessible mangrove forest in Salakkok. It’s a very nice way to spend an hour or so if you are in this part of the island. No public transport here though, so head to Salakkok on your rental scooter and follow the signs the ‘Salakkok Kayak Station’. 100 baht/hour to rent the kayaks. Follow a numbered trail through the mangroves and you cant really get lost. At the far south east of the island, at the end of the road past Long Beach, lies Sea Breeze restaurant – rent a kayak here for 250 baht / day and you can paddle to Koh Ngam – lovely beach, Koh Mai See Yai – large island only a couple of sea gypsy villages on it, Koh Laoya – private island with small beach or even down to Koh Wai if you wanted to. Koh Wai and back is around 14km, easily done in a day but check the weather first.
An easier alternative is to rent a canoe from any Klong Prao beach resort and paddle down the nearby river estuary. You can go around a kilometre up either of two rivers which feed the estuary.
Charoen Pokphand (CP) Company. Mention CP to any local or small businessman and they’ll more often than not shake their heads in a mixture of envy and sadness. Before it was announced that the government had big plans for Koh Chang, CP went on a buying spree and locals, not realising that a big boost for tourism was on the way sold out to the big generous buyer. However, when land prices shot up almost overnight following the government’s announcement, local landowners saw that they had sold out far too cheaply. At the moment CP’s developments, interests and friends with benefits include 7-Elevens, Chesters Grill & Coffee shops, Changburi Resort, Seaview Resort and Koh Sai Khao – a private island in Salakphet Bay. In addition, half of the useable land around Klong Prao belongs to them. And they are tied in with the company that owns Koh Chang Ferry, which in turn owns the Dusit Princess Resort and the largest prawn farm on the island.
Chang Cruise. Unfortunately no longer in use – but still in the A to Z for novelty value. Originally a car ferry, then a snorkelling tour boat with a capacity of 300 and finally used for romantic dinner cruises. (But, as of mid 2009, rusting at the Koh Chang Ferry pier on the mainland.) The snorkelling idea didn’t really take off as, for some reason, tourists didn’t leap at the prospect of travelling by car ferry across open water to the small protected dive sites. It was then bedecked with fairy lights and moored off White Sand beach. Phuket and Samui have dinner cruises in everything from old Chinese junks to purpose built yachts, only Koh Chang offered an old car ferry as the ultimate in romantic dining experiences.
Chantaburi. Not on Koh Chang but home to the nearest Tesco supermarket and only an hour’s drive from the mainland pier, and so worthy of a mention. There’s quite a lot of French influence in the older buildings, as they controlled this area of Thailand for a while until the early 1900s. Many Vietnamese immigrants who made it home around the same time too and the town has the largest Catholic church in Thailand.
This is the gem polishing capital of Thailand and is also, interestingly, known as “Gunman Town” to Thais, supposedly as it is also home to the cheapest and best assassins in Thailand. So, if you find yourself needing to stock up on household goods, buy an engagement ring and hire someone to knock of a business rival, plus take in a dolphin show at the nearby Oasis Seaworld with the kids, you know where to go. The town symbol is the Rabbit which is why you see huge topiary bunnies lining the roadsides.
Chinese Shrine. Between the ferry piers and Klong Son the road winds up a small hill, on the right you’ll see ‘Chao Po Koh Chang’ which roughly translates as the ‘Godfather of Koh Chang’. (Whether he actually bore a resemblance to Marlon Brando isn’t documented.) in days of yore, when fishermen found themselves facing a strong monsoon or a farmers a poor harvest, they would seek guidance from the Chao Po Koh Chang. Cynics will be disappointed to learn that prayers have been known to be answered. Nowadays many superstitious locals, head there to make offerings in return for having good fortune granted upon them. Outside the shrine you’ll see bamboo offered to the concrete elephants and drinks and snacks left for the spirits that inhabit the multitude of mini-likenesses of the Godfather and his wife to enjoy. You’ll hear many drivers beeping their horns three times when they pass to say hello to the spirits.
Climate. Either hot & fairly dry or even hotter and very wet; depending on whether you visit during November – May or June – October. You’ll sweat a lot and get burned regardless of what time of year you visit.
Coffee. One of the reasons our first plan for a small business was to open a coffee shop was that we couldn’t find a decent place to buy the stuff when we first came here. There are a growing number of options now. ‘KC Coffee ‘ and ‘Cafe de Koh Chang’ ‘ are all on White Sand beach and have a variety of fancy coffee drinks ending in –chino of offer. Crust bakery in Klong Prao and Papa’s Deli in Kai Bae also offer coffee in espresso, cappuchino and latte form whereas, Kai Bae Hut Noodle Shop doesn’t try to be pretentious and has either hot coffee or iced coffee both of which are very good and half the price of the fancy coffeeshops. Beans used here come from ‘Roytawan’ in Chantaburi, which doesn’t mean anything to you, but the Roytawan coffeeshop usually wins barista competitions in Thailand and roasts their own beans.
‘Moccachinao’, opposite Papa’s Deli, is another good option in Kai Bae. for sale on White Sand Beach is pretty good but almost Bangkokian in it’s pricing. Hotels like to use the ‘Boncafe ‘ brand which offers style over substance with very average coffee, as you’ll no doubt discover for yourself. A few of the upmarket restaurants also now sell ‘Illy’ coffee and the ‘Senseo’ brand of coffee machines are also appearing, to appeal to people who like their coffee to come out of little coffee pods.
Save money and buy ‘cafe boran’ the traditional strong, sweet Thai iced coffee served to go in a plastic bag for 15 baht from a market stall.
Cookery classes. Another popular way to kill time away from the beach on Koh Chang is to learn how to cook your favourite Thai dishes. ‘Blue Lagoon’ & ‘Ka-Ti Culinary’ – both in Klong Prao are two of the most popular places to spend an afternoon fighting back the tears as you choke on chilli fumes. The format of most cookery classes is pretty straightforward. A chat about Thai food in general, an introduction to some of the more exotic ingredients, then hands on experience making common or garden Thai food – Tom Yam Gung, Pad Thai, Green Curry etc, followed by eating your creations. You’ll quickly learn that virtually all Thai recipes include adding liberal amounts of sugar, oyster sauce, fish sauce, mysterious seasoning sauce and soy sauce to enhance the flavour. (Adding a couple of spoonfuls of MSG while no-one’s looking doesn’t hurt either.) You will have fun, you will learn a lot and you will be too full to eat dinner. Figure on around 1200 baht per person for class, with a maximum of 6 people per class.
Cookie’s Restaurant. One of the most popular place for Thais and farangs to eat on White Sand Beach. And deservedly so. Good food and good sized portions at sensible prices. If you want to eat cheaply simply avoid the seafood. Our dog gets free sausages when he comes with us, we don’t. But we’ll get served by a small army of waiters all eager to play with the dog. Maybe not as good as it once wa though, in which case try Bamboo Restaurant to the south or Beach Terrace at Sangtawan Bungalows, 100 metres to the north. Both are also very good and Bamboo does some nice Italian food and rather tasty pizzas at far lower prices than Italian restaurants..
Contacting hotels from abroad. You plan to book your hotel with your local travel agent but have a few questions that you’d like to ask the hotel management before you do so. Not a problem you think as you’ve got the hotel’s website URL and all the contact info you could wish for is listed.
First, of all stick to the tried and trusted methods – start with a Fax, remember them? You dial, then nothing, or at best a voice in Thai telling you that the number was discontinued years before the hotel was ever built. OK, the phone. You dial and get a confused receptionist, you then enter into a 15 minute conversation during which you repeat the following at least a dozen times each: “Hello, can you hear me?”, “Hello, are you there?”. You finally put down the phone when the line mysteriously goes dead and all subsequent calls to the same number are met with an engaged tone.
Finally, thank God for email. Your message isn’t bounced back as undeliverable which may lull you into a false sense of security and you think you’re finally on a roll. You spend the next day eagerly awaiting the reply, and then you spend the following day eagerly awaiting the reply, and the next, and the next until it dawns on you that perhaps a follow-up email is in order. A week later you’ll then email me and ask me why you can’t contact your hotel of choice. as if I have some insider knowledge. Other than the fact there’s usually only one person in each 3 or 4 star hotel who knows enough English to answer a fax, call or email correctly (and if they’re off sick or too busy then you’re screwed), I have no idea. But it’s a very common problem. A simple rule to remember is that low level Thai staff and email seldom mix well.
Crime. Thailand isn’t as safe and crime free as you might think, it;s just that as most crime doesn’t involve tourists it isn’t reported in the English language media. In most aspects it is far safer than living in the UK for example, you won’t find hoodies lying in wait on street corners here. But it still pays to watch your possessions and not to antagonise the natives for no good reason. On Koh Chang violent crime against foreigners is pretty rare. Expats / tourists do get attacked and have been murdered in the recent past here, but there’s still far more chance of that happening to you in most western countries or on any of the more developed islands or beach resorts than here. Thefts do occur too, although they are usually opportunist crimes rather than planned break ins to house or bungalows. If you have valuables that you want to keep safe, Island Cafe, located at Top Resort, White Sand beach has bank quality safety deposit boxes available for very reasonable rates. The Tourist police numbers are: 039 557 287, on Koh Chang or 1155, for the main nationwide number, don’t confuse this with 1145 which is the number for Chesters Grill home delivery fast food service, they have a branch on White Sand beach and you’ll confuse the hell out of the poor operator who’ll be trying to figure out why you refuse to tell her if you want spicy or regular chicken wings.
Cynical. That’s what this site has been called, and it is a little. Good luck to those people who are happy to live on, work on or visit their own rose tinted version of Koh Chang but this site is for people who have outgrown travel brochure nonsense, appreciate a more realistic view and don’t enjoy reading sycophantic muse written entirely to plug advertisers business ventures. Phew, got that of my chest.