Laundry. The going rate for laundry services on the island is about 30 baht per kilo. There are plenty of good laundry services are available so no need to pay extortionate hotel rates if you don’t want to. It’s not as if all hotels do their own laundry, often it is sent to one of the laundry services charging 30 baht/kilo and then add a 300 – 400% markup for their trouble.
If you plan on staying a while you could also keep an eye out for coin operated washing machines, you can find the in out of the way shops tucked down alleyways on all the main beaches. These usually cost around 30-40 baht for a full load. All you need is to buy a 5 baht bag of washing powder and give up an hour of your valuable time to wait for the machine to complete its wash, rinse & spin cycle. Laundry dries within 30 minutes with a bit of sun and sea breeze. Don’t worry about not having your clothes ironed wearing slightly crinkly t-shirt won’t kill you or shame you in front of strangers regardless of what your mother may have taught you in the past.
Lawyers. Whether you’ve been busted for the pigs for a crime you didn’t commit or wrecked your rental motorbike and are now facing a ridiculous demand for damages, you may think about obtaining the services of a lawyer. There are a handful of companies that practice law. Practice being the operative word as a couple of them have pretty bad reputations one screwed up a land deal for a hotel that almost resulted in them losing their land; another has been described on discussion boards as a “bar girl turned lawyer” and another will happily drawn up totally bogus 99 or even 999 year lease contracts allowing foreigners to ‘own’ farmland with no title deeds. So it definitely pays to be wary.
There is a small law firm called P&P law, located in Klong Prao – opposite the temple. They charge the same prices as lawyers in Pattaya but a couple of people i know have used them and said they knew what they were doing. My first choice for anything that involved large amounts of money would be to get a lawyer from Bangkok, if not then Pattaya who doesnt’ have any connections to landowners, business people here on the island and so you know they are acting on your behalf. They’ll cost more but they wont screw up the rest of your life.
Learning Thai. Koh Chang’s first language school opened it’s doors in July ’06 and as with most ideas that don’t involve selling junk to tourists, closed a year later. It’s now a profitable German restaurant ‘Meals and More’ rather than an unprofitable place to learn Thai or English. You’ll find a few freelance Thai teachers on the island. But no organised classes available. Thais who want to learn English will head to the mainland where they can study in large groups for a very low cost. The benefits of paying slightly more for a far smaller class size are lost on them.
Lifeguards. For a fleeting moment in mid 2009 there were now lifeguards on duty on Koh Chang’s main beaches. Yes, seriously. Those slowly rotting white wooden lifeguard towers did house volunteer lifeguards during the period from June – August 2009. They had a variety of red flags, life belts, life jackets buoyancy aids at their disposal along with walkie talkies. One thing I noticed was that they knocked off at 5pm. So if you planned on trying to drown, it was best to do it during office hours. However, that is all history now. The 1 million baht + the local authority was provided in order to train lifeguards didn’t stretch too far and the lifeguards haven’t been seen since. So this rainy season people are still drowning off Koh Chang’s beaches.
Lifejackets. These are provided, in varying degrees of quality and quantity on ferries and all speedboats and tour boats. But rather than being designed to keep you floating face up in the water, they are more designed so that non swimmers can snorkel whilst wearing them, and therefore are great if you want to float face down in the water. The average Thai citizen’s unnerving reliance on lifejackets as the only thing standing between the wearer and certain death whilst on or near water is something just waiting to have a PhD. thesis written on.
Most Europeans who travel and take boat trips or snorkelling tours can swim or at least have the ability to float and also understand that the odds of the boat sinking are comparatively minimal. Many Thais, for whatever reason, aren’t naturally buoyant and therefore feel the need to don a day-glo orange life preserver at the mere mention of open water. Of course, taking non-swimming grandparents and young children snorkelling and then relying on lifejackets to keep the dangers of the ocean currents at bay isn’t one of the greatest ideas ever.
Lizards. There are three types of lizard that you’ll almost certainly see or hear, when you are on Koh Chang. Geckos – which are everywhere and can be very social little creatures, coming onto dinner tables to steal small scraps of food. Then you have the small long tailed lizards that like to hide in undergrowth. You rarely see them , usually you’ll hear a rustling by your feet and maybe just a very thin tail disappearing as you look down. These are known as ‘Jing Len’. And finally there is the Tuk-kae, a much bigger version of a Gecko. But several times the size and with a head that looks too large for it’s body. These guys like to live in houses or bungalows and whilst you probably wont see one you’ll hear their distinctive call a loud “Tuk -kae” sound, hence their name.
Locals. The local population falls into two camps, those who cashed in on the land price boom too soon, and those with a brain.
The former group sold their land as soon as a nice man from Bangkok came to their door and offered them a couple of hundred thousand baht plus a second hand pick-up truck for their acres of useless beachfront coconut palms. The latter group, rent out their land but periodically sell small plots when they are offered huge sums of un-taxable cash. You’ll also notice that there are only a handful of families on the island and that everyone in a certain area has similar features. Pretty much everyone is related to everyone else and now it’s common to have a child from one landed family marry one from the neighbouring villages wealthiest clan, thus creating a super-family of resort and landowners. This is the old Chinese way of doing things kicking in. Families make money, inter marry and the offspring continue to build the expanded empire.
Lonely Beach. – see ‘Beaches’. Sure the beach is excellent but now that everyone and their dog has built small bars and dirt cheap huts it reminds me too much of Koh Phi-phi (pre-tsunami) and it’s shanty town, cash-in-quick commercialism. And like Phi-phi (immediately post-tsunami) levelling the place in order to build something a little more upmarket isn’t such a bad idea. In fact, the process is already well underway with Siam Beach resort doing away with their backpacker bungalows to provide rooms suitable for families and US$200 a night pool villas plus the Bhumiyama, a good 3 star, opened in 2005 sandwiched between two backpacker hut places. On a smaller scale the tasteful ‘Warapura Resort’ provides travellers who are looking for a bit more comfort but without the hotel ambiance very good value accommodation complete with pool, wifi etc by the sea.
Lonely Planet Guidebook. A new ‘Thailand’ edition was published in mid-2007, the problem with listings for places such as Koh Chang which are developing so fast is that by the time the book is published the information is at least 18 months out of date. A researcher for the new edition was on Koh Chang in late 2008, so expect a new edition of the Thailand guide in late 2009. And in late 2009 Rough guide and more Lonely Planet authors were on the island. ( They read this site. )
So use the LP guide and other printed publications to get some ideas, but don’t expect prices etc to be anywhere near accurate and also note that so many small resorts and restaurants open and close every year that just because one isn’t in the LP, it doesn’t mean that it’s not worth staying or dining at.
Longtail boats. You wont see any of the type used in southern Thailand, narrow, 6 metre long boats with a truck engine mounted on the back. Here locals use smaller 4 metre fiberglass boats with 6 – 15 HP Honda engines. These are dirt cheap to run and also well worth buying if you plan to be on the island for a while, the only thing you need is somewhere to moor it. The cost, including delivery for a boat and engine which is ready to go is from around 60,000 baht, get one in Trat town. The one proper , southern Thai style, longtail belongs to Panviman Resort and is used to take their guests on short trips to the islands just off Klong Prao beach.