Tailors. You’re going to be surprised by the number of tailors on Koh Chang, in 2004 there were half a dozen, now there are somewhere around 50 tailors shops! There is a simple reason for this increase, many of them relocated from tsunami hit areas of the south and were attracted to Koh Chang by the relatively cheap rental price of shop units.
I’ve no idea which are the good ones and which aren’t as they all seem to be proud recipients of the coveted ‘Koh Chang Tailor of the Year Award’. So some will provide you with a perfectly fitted Armani copy for a fraction of the price of an original, and others will sell you an ill-fitting version for the price of an original.
No island would be the same without a few Indian or Nepalese run tailor shops offering genuine ‘Hugh Boss’ and ‘Giani Armani’ creations. I can’t imagine how many visitors decide they really need a double breasted three piece suit, two Oxford knit cotton shirts and free silk tie for $99, but quite a few must do judging by the number of shops offering this service. (ear in mind, no-one has ever walked out of a tailor’s with a suit and only paid $99. You’ll always upgrade to a better fabric, different style etc. Plus you’ll probably want it to fit you.
Keep a look out for the patented ‘Tailor’s Walk’ . . . as all tailors have the same demeanor. Tailors are usually portly and of Nepalese origin. Their natural habitat is the territory around the frontage of their shop and are only rarely spotted skulking behind a pile of stock or chatting on their mobile like the common or garden Thai stallholder. Clad in their own bespoke creations they strut around their neighbourhood, hands clasped behind their backs offering a cheery “Hello” to their neighbours and a rather optimistic “Excuse me sir, would you like a tailored lightweight linen suit in a pastel shade, as popularised in the hit TV show ‘Miami Vice’ twenty years ago?” to sunburned tourists. In some areas you’ll feel as though you’re being stalked as they’ll be tailors approaching you with flyers, business cards and the promises of wondrous offers and discounts.
If you’re easily amused you can see a tailor’s called ‘Chamois Collection’ in VJ Plaza. No idea why it’d be named after the rag you use to polish your car. But they are one of the better tailors on the island and would recommend it if you are staying in the Klong Prao area.
More seriously – a couple of things you should be aware of. Always negotiate a good discount – tailors pay big commissions to hotels, bar owners etc, hence the number of people you’ll meet who seem keen to recommend a trip to the tailors as a ‘must do’ on Koh Chang. So, if you walk into a tailor’s on your own, then that should be 10-20% off any price immediately. Average profit margins on a suit are 50-70%, therefore don’t feel too bad about haggling hard.
Also, bear in mind that no tailoring actually goes on in a tailor’s shop, there is no backroom with machinists hard at work. It’s all outsourced to a small handful of overworked, underpaid guys sitting at sewing machines in run down shacks. See the small shop units, below road level, on the beach side of the road, about 500 metres south of Klong Prao Resort. The quality of your suit also depends more on how busy these guys are as well as which shop you buy from.
Tattoos. When I was a lad only bikers, only Motorhead and the Village People had tattoos, now it seems everyone has got a tribal motif of some kind on their right shoulder. I’m never sure if the tribal tattoo is designed to set you apart from the crowd or show you are part of the crowd. But, if you haven’t got yours yet, then what better place to get it done than lying on a sandy beach towel outside a hut on Koh Chang? There are a coupl,e of dozen tattooists on White Sand Beach, Kai Bae and Lonely Beach who will stick a sterilised needle tipped with sandy ink into your body in return for a few hundred baht.
Corporate types and twelve year old girls may prefer the henna tattoos on sale by beach vendors, they wash off after a couple of weeks so no bollocking by your boss or teacher when you get home.
If you are thinking of getting a tat remember to get it done at the end of your holiday as for a few days after having it done you wont be able to get it wet in the sea or pool. Bamboo tattoos are getting increasingly popular, one place that has been recommended to me by some of our guests is Noi Bamboo Tattoo in Lonely Beach. He isn’t cheap but does a good job.
Temples. There are no prime examples worthy of a visit on architectural grounds on Koh Chang so unless you’re cremating a close friend or relative they don’t really merit a visit. There are Buddhist temples in Klong Son, Dan Mai, Salakphet, Salakkok, Bangbao & Klong Prao. And the hill between the ferry piers and Klong Son is home to a small Chinese temple but that’s the lot. Klong Son temple dates from over 120 years ago, nearby, built on a sandbar, is a stupa that greets fishermen as they return home. a similar stupa can be see near the pier at Dan Mai.
A couple of times a year temples hold fairs which are fun to see. Temple fairs have long been a way for the temple to raise money. Expect to see lots of stuff to buy & eat, an old; classic Thai movie being shown on a projector from the 1950s; a mini-disco where the young and young at heart can get down and boogie to disposable pop from the past; never-ending games of bingo with a variety of plastic items up for grabs and form of gambling involving a frog or a rat.
Tennis. In early 2010 Koh Chang’s first tennis court (singular) opened to the public at the grandly titled Koh Chang Tennis Club, located behind the motorbike repair shop in Klong Prao village. The one hard court is complemented by a small reception area where a fridge full of cold drinks and a sofa wait weary players. Around 200-250 Baht per person including racket and balls. It is floodlight though so playing at night is also possible.
Tide Tables. About as much use to you as a chocolate teapot if you’re a landlubber, but essential if you plan on being out on the water. Printed tide tables for Laem Ngop (on the mainland) are available from the Marine Department office which is on Laem Ngop pier. Online, you can get pretty good, free, 7-Day forecasts which include wind direction etc as well as tides, from a couple of sites. Buoyweather.com has tides, wave heights etc from a spot not far from Salakphet in the south-east of Koh Chang and the British Govt.’s Hydrographic Office, has an excellent service for yachties, ‘EasyTide‘ with a free 7-day sailing forecast from places around the world – select ‘Koh Mak’ for the nearest spot to Koh Chang.
Another useful site for sailors is Wind Guru, which if your boat has sails will help you figure out just how slowly you are going to get to wherever you want to go. Expert use of the data from these sites, plus holding a moistened finger in the air should ensure you make it back to port safely.
Tobacco. An essential item if you are jungle trekking. Why? because of you are bitten by a leech you will need to stop the blood somehow. The leech zaps you with an enzyme that stops your blood from clotting and so the small hole in your foot or leg won’t block up. A pinch of tobacco pressed against the wound for 30 seconds and then left on your skin is what you use to stop the blood flow. I’ve tried it and it works.
Tourist Figures. How many people visit Koh Chang annually? This is something that no supposedly informed source ever agrees with another equally ‘reliable’ source. Counting ferry tickets is the easiest thing to do, but that requires obtaining accurate figures from the ferry companies. But, how would you discriminate between locals and market traders from the mainland regularly using the ferry, Thai tourists, overseas visitors, Thais visiting on business, etc etc.
The TAT use the number of visitors staying at their registered accommodation, which again relies on accurate reporting and doesn’t take into account the large number of places that aren’t listed with the TAT
The, ‘straight out of the hat’ figure that’s usually bandied around by local authorities for the average year is 1 million visitors . That’s obviously nonsense.. Since 2008 the number of visitors has been heading downward – due to the number of foreign arrivals remaining pretty contrast but the number of Thai tourists dropping significantly as prices increase. In rainy season the number of guests in most resorts can be counted on one hand. That’s very optimistic and what you see on the ground doesn’t reflect that level of occupancy. At the end of the day, does anyone really care?
As a visitor, all you need to know is that even in high season, Koh Chang is nowhere as busy as any of the better known Thai tourist destinations. It is still possible to escape high season crowds here.
But if you are thinking of starting a business here then you need to be thinking how you’ll attract customers in an increasingly competitive environment as a huge number of small bars and restaurants change hands after one season.
Tourist Police. As of mid 2006, the Tourist Police have been based on Koh Chang. You’ll recognise them as they get a real police car complete with lights & a siren, to drive around in; rather than an old motorbike. They’re currently based in a shophouse next to Klong Prao temple, having moved there from their portacabin at the viewpoint overlooking Kai Bae in late 2008. If you have any problems, these are the people to call rather than the local police as they will at least pretend to care about your misfortune. But bear in mind they dont have any investigative powers. their emergency number is: 1155 ( They also have a quad bike, cool. )
Typical tourists. About 65% of the visitors to the island are Thai. However, the majority of better resorts would prefer to get the majority of their income from Western guests for a couple of reasons. (Note, this doesn’t mean that owners feel that they can charge foreigners more than Thais it’s more down to what each group expects.)
Thais usually travel as a family or in a large group of friends, rather than ones or twos. But they will often still all want to stay in one room. Foreigners will arrive carrying only a backpack or suitcase. Therefore 99.9% of them won’t be carrying a charcoal grill, week’s supply of food, 100 liter ice box, gas stove and the contents of their kitchens when they arrive, unlike a typical Thai group.
With Thai groups the resort loses out by having three times as much mess to clean up as the guests will have been cooking in the rooms and also they won’t make anything in earnings from the restaurant.
Foreign tourists don’t do this, they stay 2 people in a room, eat 2 or 3 meals a day in the restaurant – maybe they aren’t as sociable but the real downside is that they aren’t always forgiving when things get screwed up and can be demanding but that’s life.
The Treehouse. Probably the best known of all the Koh Chang hut complexes, a Lonely Beach legend. Having adverts showing a cartoon smiley sun, hearts, flowers and cute dolphins can’t hurt either. Very mellow man. Unfortunately it’s success proved to be it’s undoing as the landlord called time on their lease and the bungalows were pulled down after a lengthy legal battle. The Treehouse restaurant is still there on Lonely beach though. (The original owners have long since sold up and left Koh Chang.)
In mid 2005 a new Treehouse, down on Long Beach, which is about as far away from other people as you can get, opened to provide basic bungalows for people who really want to get away from it all. To get there take the daily, 10.00am pick-up truck service from Treehouse Lonely beach.
Trekking. All backpacker bungalows have a contact who knows a guy who can take people into the jungle for a day’s trek. Some are good, some are the kind of people you wouldn’t really want to be alone in the middle of an uninhabited jungle with. Some can provide a pretty good commentary on what you’re seeing and about to be bitten by, other guides simply smile and point out the obvious “Snake, bad. No touch.”
‘Tan Trekking’ is a one man trekking company run by a Thai guy, Tan, who lived in Australia for a few years and who has worked as a tour and trekking guide in Chiang Mai and Krabi prior to moving to Koh Chang. He’s also fully licensed a a tour guide by the Tourist Authority of Thailand. He speaks excellent English and cuts his own routes through the jungle. He runs a variety of different tresk from short half day walks for families and older folks to more strenous treks to the top of Khao Jom, the peak overlooking White Sand Beach. see the Activities section for more info on the treks Tan offers.
Jungleway, a small out of the way bungalow resort deep in Klong Son valley, not far from Baan Kwan Chang elephant camp, also offer relatively easy guided treks for a few hundred baht/head. Overnight treks are also possible. See their website for more info www.jungleway.com
‘Mr Anong’ – is a one man trekking organisation operates around Klong Prao and takes visitors up into the hills above Klong Plu waterfall. By all accounts, he offers a good day out. Day treks for 1,200 baht/person.
Another alternative, in the Salakphet area in the southeast of the island, is the ‘Trekkers of Koh Chang Club’. A group set up by experienced local Thai trekkers to promote eco-friendly trekking on the island. They conduct several interesting day long treks in the park. The cost is around 900 baht for a day or 1,600 baht for overnight treks. Contact by phone: 039 525 029 or 01 578 7513.