Dengue Fever. You know what Malaria is, and if you are from the UK your GP probably tried to sell you a course of anti-malarial drugs as Koh Chang is in the red ‘Zone of Certain Death’ on the world map on the surgery wall.
The time to worry about Malaria is if you go to certain areas of Africa where 3,000 people are dying from it daily. Not when you are heading to a 4 star beachfront resort in Thailand.
If you must worry about catching a mozzie borne disease, Google ‘Dengue Fever’ and that should put you off travelling outside Europe for good. There’s no cure and in it’s worst form it will kill you. It’s also very common in S.E. Asia. Most expats in Thailand have either had it or know someone who has had it. (I got it whilst living in the centre of Bangkok.) It’s also known as ‘Breakbone Fever’ as every joint in your body seizes up and aches for an entire week. This is coupled by a migraine pounding behind your eyes. Then you get a red rash on your chest and recover. You’ll know if you’ve got the fatal strain if you start bleeding internally and die.
Dentists. There is one dental clinic, called ‘Baan More Fun’ on Koh Chang, Koh Chang Dental Clinic ( www.kohchangdental.com ) is located roadside near the Amari Emerald Cove Resort. It’s run by Dr Itsakpong and a couple of other dentists who have had their own private clinic in Trat for well over 10 years. The equipment all comes from overseas – mainly USA & Germany and the place is spotlessly clean. Get your teeth cleaned for under 1,000 baht or a have them whitened and return home with a movie star smile for 10,000 baht. Just remember, just because a gleaming toothy smile looks good on Brad Pitt it, doesn’t mean it will suit you. You’ll probably end up looking like a Bee Gee.
Diving companies. The number of dive schools on Koh Chang has increased annually since time began, due to one simple reason. The sea around Koh Chang is home to some of the world’s top dive sites. There’s a bucket load of cash to be made. However, recently with the number of dive schools increasing far more rapidly than the number of visitors to the island the slices of the pie are getting thinner. Bangbao is home to many of the dive schools including BB Divers, which is one I recommend to people as I’ve known a lot of people who’ve dived with them and all have had a good experience. Their HQ isin Bangbao but they have a training pool & accommodation for divers in Lonely Beach. They’re unique on Koh Chang in that it’s female-run, which would seem to indicate that not only will they be organised and efficient, but that there’s far less chance of bumping into the owner at 2am in Sabay Bar drunkenly trying to pick up a hooker.
Also worth checking out here are Scandinavian Chang Divers based in Klong Prao, opposite the entrance to Klong Prao resort and ‘Scuba Dreams’ in Kai Bae and ‘Tec Evolution’ in White Sand Beach, two of the new arrivals that offer more specialised or customised courses.
Dive Instructors. The lure of becoming a diving instructor isn’t simply the about getting paid to work in exotic locations. There’s learning about marine flora and fauna and the thrill of passing on your knowledge and experience to others who may one day become passionate about protecting the planet’s undersea beauty for generations to come. On second thoughts, bollocks to it, it’s all about shagging as many of your students and local female population as possible. As work in exotic overseas locations goes, it’s either teaching English or teaching diving for the majority of Western 20somethings, and, trust me, your average English teacher isn’t on any girl’s ‘must-shag-when-drunk’ list.
Dive Sites. Let’s be honest, any one with a real zest for a diving holiday is going to head straight for the Andaman sea and the (really) world class dive sites around the Similan islands or heading straight to Koh Tao where virtually everyone visiting the island is there for the diving, Koh Chang won’t be on the shortlist. But if you’re new to diving or simply want to dive in Thailand at a location within easy reach of Bangkok then Koh Chang is a good option. The main undersea attractions are the underwater rock pinnacles which range from about 5 – 30 metres in depth. Whale sharks are also regularly sighted between December and February. Visibility is usually in the 10-20 metre range. There are a handful of wreck dives, but these are small fishing boats.
Dodgy Construction Work. Local government staff, more specifically, those in the planning department, don’t work weekends. Therefore, you’ll often see large trucks shifting dirt from one location to another on a Saturday or Sunday. Why? Because, more likely than not, the work that they are doing is best completed without nosy officials getting in the way. Once something has been built it’s far harder to have it removed than it is to either stop it being built during the planning approval phase or during construction. Therefore, don’t get plans approved and don’t let anyone catch you building it. Job done, but over a period of several weekends.
Dolphins. Around Koh Chang, there’s probably more chance of seeing dolphin on a menu than in the sea, which is why any ‘Swim with the Dolphins‘ tours you see advertised will head to Oasis Sea World at Chantaburi rather than the open seas. The dolphinarium is only an hour’s drive from the mainland ferry pier and you’ll have the chance to see a dolphin show and also swim with the dolphins. (Read the small print, actually swimming with the dolphins – which is what everyone wants to do – is always an extra on top of the tour fee which usually only includes the dolphin show.)
On the tour you’ll probably also be taken to a gem shop or two and a run-of-the-mill Thai temple, and even Robinson’s department store, as your guide will want to make sure you spend the whole day having your wallet emptied.
Despite, or possibly because of, this it is a popular day trip and it makes a for a pleasant day away from the beach.
If you had your own transport you can also visit the nearby mangrove forests, follow bike trails along the quiet roads that run parallel to deserted beaches. These are the real highlights of Chantaburi. If only someone would build an out of town shopping mall or gem shop nearby, you might be able to see them on a guided tour.
After going completely off topic for the past couple of paragraphs, and to get to the point, there is one place where you do have a good chance of seeing a pod of dolphins in the open water. Head right round the the south east of the island to the end of the road, past Long Beach. In the channel between Koh Ngam and Koh Chang dolphins regularly make an appearance early in the morning, that’s sunrise early and not 9am early.
There were also news reports in early 2009 of dolphins dying after being caught off Koh Chang in fisherman’s nets, due to them both trying to catch the fish that live around coral reefs. And in late June – early July 2010 eleven dead dolphins were washed up on the shores of Koh Chang, including an irrawaddy Dolphin that I found washed up on the beach which had had all the meat taken off it’s carcass. ( Photos are in the Photo Gallery on this site.)
Driving. A tarmac road circumnavigates over 90% of the perimeter of Koh Chang with only the 10km stretch between Bangbao and Salakphet still in a perpetual state of semi-completion. ( As of mid 2010, the latest news is that the funding for completing the road is in place, so we’ll see if work begins again in the near future.) It’s impossible to get lost on Koh Chang, so don’t let that deter you from renting a car. The only thing to be aware of is that the roads are narrow, steep and winding in the northwest and southwest of the island. Take care and be wary of drunk drivers at night on these stretches.
Drugs. Officially the same illegal substances are banned here as in the rest of Thailand, and you’ll see signs outside police boxes pointing out the illegality of taking drugs, although they don’t specifically mention if ‘taking’ refers to usage or the act of not paying the dealer for the purchase of controlled substances*. However you’ll notice that some backpacker bungalows and restaurants have a more laid back view about allowing herbal tobacco to be smoked on the premises. This is usually linked to how well the owners know the local police.
* Legal disclaimer: Please don’t rely on this as your defence if you do get busted.