Gelato. This fancy, more flavourful version of ice cream is gaining popularity in Thailand. You’ll find it on sale through concessions from well known Thai brands such as ‘Dream Cones’ in a handful of restaurants on Koh Chang.
Golf. The nearest golf club is the excellent Soi Dao Highland course. Unfortunaley, this is about 3 and a half hours drive from the mainland ferry pier. As a result, Koh Chang doesn’t attract many golf enthusiasts.
But if you simply must hit a ball whilst on holiday there is a makeshift driving range at the airfield in Klong Prao. 100 Baht will get you a bucket of balls and a golf club of your choosing. Better still is Cookies Driving Range, located in Klong Son valley. A very nice driving range complete with distance markers and chipping nets has been set up here. A full set of clubs and three racks of balls are yours just just over 100 Baht.
Golden Retrievers. We’ve got one and they’re one of the more popular breeds on the island, if unloved, unwanted beach and street dogs are discounted. Or at least they are popular when they are puppies but many owners forget they grow and need plenty of exercise. You’ll see a couple of unwanted, stray, retrievers on the island now. Sad, but that what happens when puppies because their girlfriend’ thinks they are cute but forget that the odds of the dog outliving their relationship i.e. to making it to 6 months, are extremely high.
Green Club. A ‘Koh Chang Green Club’ was in existence a few years ago. At the time I was pretty sceptical about it. My scepticism was based on the only people I saw wearing the Green Club t-shirts were prominent businessmen & resort owners on the island; one of whom we met whilst he was overseeing construction of a small luxury development in the south-east of the island. A project he was happy to admit had to be completed quickly, he was aiming to build two nice teak wood houses in under two weeks, so as to avoid being told to stop by planning authorities. Talking much later with the one guy in the original ‘Green Club’ that was actually into doing something to protect the environment, he admitted that his initial project had pretty much been hijacked by people wanting to promote themselves using the idea of being ‘eco friendly’ as a selling point.
The ‘Koh Chang Discovery Club’, run by K. Pittaya, is now the leader in projects that help protect the environment but still provide jobs and income for locals. They operate a couple of projects in Salakphet and Salakkok. The mangrove kayaking and restaurant in Salakkok is owned as a collective by members of the local community. They all have a stake in running the business, some put in a little money, others donate their time or work there. But all share in the profits. This project won an award for involving the local community in eco-tourism development at the 2007 Tourist Authority of Thailand awards.
Many resort owners have now realised that an ‘eco’ or ‘green’ motif is a good selling point but real, effective initiatives are few and far between.
Graffiti. You don’t see much graffiti in Thailand but Koh Chang is home to a little bit of the royal variety. Head to Tham Mayom waterfall to see the spot where King Rama IV and, a few years later, King Rama V carved their names into the stone. It’s probably best not to ask the park rangers if you too can carve your name there or enquire as to whether this type of royal vandalism should be promoted as a tourist attraction. In 2007-08, the graffiti actually became noticeable on the island with many street signs, some corrugated iron walls around construction sites and concrete walls in out of the way locations all getting disfigured by amateurish spray ‘artists’. And in 2009, some wierd and wonderful graffiti art featuring groovy, red elephants appeared on various walls around the island. The largest being painted on a wall directly opposite the Tourist Police station in Klong Prao.
Guidebooks. The expat-run White Sands Publications churn out a free quarterly guide to Koh Chang and the surrounding islands which includes the best maps and lots of bland, non-controversial, useful & sensible tourist info and seems to be the most widely available guide on the island. Expect regurgitated facts and plugs for advertisers rather than an exciting read.
The company behind www.koh-chang.com, a touristy website aimed at getting you to book your hotel room online with them, also produce a free ‘ultimate guide’ However, this guide appears to be targeted at potential clients for a few of the big hotels and seafood restaurants on the island and is therefore full of lengthy outdated prose on the enchanting beauty of the island and phrases such as ‘Join with us to come to experience the only one natural paradise eden of Koh Chang.‘
It’s possible to lay your hands on free island maps of varying degrees of usefulness and accuracy or you could lay out some cash and buy a fold out map from most minimarts in tourist areas. But even these maps exist more to make money from selling advertising spaces to bungalows and restaurants on the island, rather than they do to provide any useful, accurate information. A truly abysmal map, which was unique in that the map itself contained no content that could be of use to anyone was prodiuced by a german guy a couple of years ago. A testament to his marketing skills rather than his cartography.
‘Siam East’ is a pocket guide worth checking out if you are interested in the mainland too. Quite a lot of info on Chantaburi and Trat areas. This guide also occasionally has some pretty humourous articles and interviews obviously written by a native English speaker who realises how dull his basic subject matter is and that it needs livening up a little with some gentle piss taking.
‘Koh Chang & Beyond’ – an advertorial filled free magazine which includes basic maps & general info guide to the island and Koh Mak & Koh Kood. I occasionally write some stuff for it, for free. But more often than not I have to write in a tourist mag style which means keeping a thesaurus handy and lots of references to ‘tropical paradise island’, ‘stunning vistas’ and ‘palm trees swaying in cool tropical zephyr ‘ and every restaurant of course comes highly recommended. So take it for what it is.
Gym. After working up a sweat by simply walking around, head over to Koh Chang’s first gym, namely ‘Koh Chang Gym’ located at the southern end of White Sand beach near Bangkok-Trat International Clinic. It’s a shop unit as full of as many free weights as can possibly be packed into 24 square metres of floor space . A much larger gym, also named ‘Koh Chang Gym’ is located at one of the ferry piers on the east of the island. They have a large selection of weights machines and barbells, dumb bells etc. At the old Dan Kao pier, 400 metres south of the Centrepoint ferry pier is the biggest & best equipped gym on the island. Loads of free weight machines and sweaty Thai guys. Weekly, monthly an annual memberships are available. Also see ‘Gym 99’ located at Paradise palms on pearl Beach.