Naval Memorial. Don’t mention the war. Or more specifically, the naval battle off the southeast of Koh Chang in January 1941 when the (Vichy) French navy opened a can of nautical whoop ass on the Thai navy. Or , as local historians prefer to recall, after a hard fought battle the French retreated . . in the direction of Bangkok.
Err, yes, that is true to a point. As after they’d sunk all the Thai ships, the French did indeed depart from Koh Chang, as they planned to sail up to Bangkok. It was down to the Japanese, who occupied Thailand at the time, to bang some heads together and tell the warring parties to stop the infighting. You could almost sense the Japanese commanders thinking “We’re never going to win the war with these guys on our side”
Regardless of who won or lost, the battle and the Thai sailors who lost their lives are commemorated in a ceremony on the mainland and also a smaller one at Hat Yuthanavy in the south east of Koh Chang every January 17-19. There is a large memorial complete with old guns near Krom Luang Pier, Laem Ngop – this is the pier that speedboats to Koh Mak depart from. the memorial at Hat Yuthanavy on Koh Chang is much smaller, just a spirit house for the souls of the dead sailors and a flag which usually flies the old Thai Navy flag – with white elephant at the centre.
Newspapers. Supermarkets on Koh Chang now stock the day’s Bangkok Post or The Nation newspaper.
New Year Gala Dinners. Yet another pet hate of mine are the compulsory ‘gala dinners’ which guests staying at larger resorts and hotels over New Year, and often Xmas have to pay . . . along with inflated room rates.
I’m not sure who coined the phrase ‘gala dinner’ but I’m sure that it wasn’t originally used to describe a mediocre buffet and entertainment that consists entirely of the male hotel staff dressing up as women and lip synching Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey’s greatest hits – plus “I will survive” for the finale, whilst guests, who attend only to avoid wasting the 2,500 – 4,500 baht they’ve prepaid, down litres of free ‘punch’ in a desperate attempt to get in a party mood.
Nightlife. If it’s a full on full moon experience you’re after, heading to the islands south, rather than east, of Bangkok is a better bet. There’s a couple of nightspots that fall into the ‘nightclub’ category – Sabuy Bar on white Sand beach is one. they have live band and are often very busy. They also sometimes have fairly well known Thai bands appearing. ‘Vitamine Club’ Lonely Beach caters for a 99% backpacker crowd who still haven’t realised than dance music is dead.
There are also a handful of beer bar enclaves by the roadside on White Sand beach, Chai Chet and in Kai Bae. See the ‘B’ for Bars page for more info
Elsewhere you’ll find plenty of small bars which will stay open until the last customer leaves or passes out, whichever is sooner.
Nonsi waterfall. Don’t bother unless it’s been raining a hell of a lot in the previous 24 hours as this is a minor attraction if ever there was one – a small fall at the end of a usually track. Although the nearby restaurants just north of Dan Mai village are supposedly good so it’d make a pleasant enough stop on an east coast trip if you happened to get a puncture nearby.
Novels featuring Koh Chang. Pick up a copy of ‘Thai Girl’ by Andrew Hicks at the airport or any good bookshop in Bangkok. Since being published in 2004 it’s been the best selling English language novel in Thailand. Part of the story is set on Koh Chang and the author is a regular vistor to the island. Reviews were uniformly positive, so you should have no qualms about it being ideal for a poolside read whilst you are here. Especially if you need an alternative to violent thrillers or want to stand out from the ‘DaVinci Code’ or Tom Clancy reading herds.