It’s true that a lot of shops & businesses on Koh Chang did shut down due to the economic effects of the covid pandemic. And I’m pretty sure that there will be more during 2023 if the number of tourists doesn’t increase dramatically. But it’s not all doom and gloom. Often the best time to start a new business is when it seems like the worst time. And since the beginning of covid in March 2020 there have been quite a few worthy new openings on the island.
So here’s a quick run down of just some of the new places visitors will see when they return for the 2022 – 23 high season.
Hotels with Waterparks
Cast your mid back to April 2020, Thailand wasn’t allowing anyone in and everyone was freaking out because of this new covid-19 thing. It probably wasn’t the best time to open a new resort on Koh Chang. However, it didn’t turn out too badly for the owners of The Splash. This new resort, on the site of the old Grand Cabana Resort adjacent to Emerald Cove, added a very nice waterpark which was great for families with young kids. Another plus was that the waterpark wasn’t open to outsiders. So never got too busy.
Later in 2020 the Thai govt launched a program to subsidize the cost of domestic tourism. With the government paying 40% of the room bill plus throwing in vouchers for 600 Baht/day of food/drinks. Hotels of course had all discounted their room rates to try to attract locals and had also upped their Instagram and Facebook game. Something The Splash social media team did very well. And it turned out that it wasn’t hard to attract families to a 4* resort where kids could play safely all year round. From late 2020 – mid 2022 this was probably the busiest resort on the island.
Now it’s your turn to try it. A great choice for families with younger kids. Older ones might get a bit bored. Check room rates on Booking.com
Which brings us to the second new opening. Paradise Resort in Klong Prao obviously saw what was happening at The Splash and did the same, building a larger waterpark on the inland side of the main road adjacent to their new (2018) Paradise Hill annex. This too is only for in house guests and has proved to be a winner. The Paradise Hill waterpark has a better choice of slides and is more suited for families with older children.
Technically, Cannabis Dispensaries – as it’s a medicinal product. Yep, Thailand did a full 180 and scrapped laws criminalizing the growing, possessing and using of marijuana. Smoking something that could easily have got a tourist arrested, locked up and either very heavily fined or deported just a couple of years ago is now legal. But note that vaping is still illegal in Thailand.
Meaning Thai citizens can now grow it legally and anyone, foreign tourists included, can buy it for medicinal purposes. Note that a doctor’s definition of what qualifies as a ‘medicinal purpose’ may differ to the shop owners. Which is good news as it means there will be a strain available to treat any ailment you may suffer from, from an ingrown toenail to cancer.
Now, when you wander along the street browsing the beachwear offerings, new range of toasties in the 7-elevens and trying to find a currency exchange that’s open, you’ll also notice weed shops openly advertising their wares. I’m pretty sure that a lot more will follow in the coming months.
At present, here are a weed shops where you can get stoned legally for medicinal reasons. In Klong Son – Tropicanna, on White Sand beach – Ban Ganja (I’d have gone with the double ‘a’ spelling of Baan, house in Thai, to avoid misunderstandings.) In Klong Prao – Koh Chang 420 , Top Strain, Kai Bae – 7th Heaven, Bailan – Jungle Garden Cannabis Dispensary, Bangbao – Top Strain at Home Hostel.
Note that prices will be much higher than you’re used to paying (around 600 – 700 Baht/gram) but should come down as the supply of legally grown crops increases to meet demand. Also, smoking marijuana in public is still illegal, but is allowed in the licensed weed shops, which also offer a range of cannabis infused snacks and drinks.
Coffeeshops with a View
Businesses have been dependent on Thai tourists for the past couple of years and in order to attract them you need good photo opportunities. Hence the rise of coffeeshops with great views. Here are three to try:
The Mount, Kai Bae. Located on a hillside overlooking the village. A wooden hut with outdoor seating with great views across the valley, north along the coast to Klong Prao and White Sand beach and out to the islands offshore. Only 5 minutes from The View cafe at the Kai Bae viewpoint which opened before covid. So easy to visit both to get a few good selfies. Location: https://goo.gl/maps/1fCEC549JHDtG8EP7
Altitude 79, Salakphet. My favourite. A basic hillside coffeeshop with no electricity. Yet the owner, Khun Fluke still manages to make some of the best coffee and matcha green tea on the island. Try the Americano & Orange juice. The coffeeshop looks out over Salakphet bay and to the islands to the south. on a clear day you’ll see Koh Kood in the far distance. It’s very peaceful with no traffic noise and if you’re luck you might see a Hornbill or two flying past. Location: https://goo.gl/maps/pCh6whctN6BXkki37
View Talay Cafe, Bangbao. Located in a renovated fisherman’s house near the end of Bangbao pier. This airconditioned cafe is a pleasant spot to escape the heat and grab lunch or a drink. They have a good menu of simple Thai food plus delicious fruit smoothies and of course coffee. There’s also covered outdoor seating on the terrace which faces south and looks out towards the mouth of the bay.
And . . . one more coffee shop . . . there’s now a small Starbucks on the beach at Mercure Hideaway. It opened on 1 October 2022.
Restaurants and Bars
Khao Kwan, Kai Bae. Not only the best Thai food, but also the best presented. This is Thai dining using locally sourced ingredients served in flavour combinations and ways you won’t have seen or tried before. Since opening in November 2020 the restaurant has been featured in numerous Thai TV shows and news articles. If the Thai Michelin guide expanded its coverage to Koh Chang, Khao Kwan would be in it.
Not the place to go if you want a plate of fried rice for 50 Baht. But if you want a spotted Grouper ceviche complete with edible flowers it’s worth trying. There’s also a whole range of unique cocktails & non alcoholic herbal drinks on offer. The owner, Ya, is already well known from her many years of running the Blue Lagoon cooking school and restaurant. Book in advance. Contact: https://www.facebook.com/khaokwankohchang
Squid Story, Kai Bae. “The idea is this . . . we open a restaurant and sell squid, either raw or cooked, and beer. Maybe have some live music too. Are you in?” If you were, then you would have made some money as Squid Story is the place to be seen for Koh Chang’s young folk. This is a beer garden type of set up with open sided outdoor seating by the roadside at the south end of the village. If you are looking to party like the locals then go here, enjoy your raw squid, with chaser of squid ink all washed down a tower of Singha beer. Loads of photos on their FB page: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100077993059170
Himmel Bar, White Sand beach. Prior to covid Himmel was well known as the most popular bar in Lonely beach. Then tourists stopped visiting and all nightlife came to a halt. When bars were allowed to re-open tourists hadn’t returned to Thailand in any significant numbers and the backpackers, which Himmel relied on were none existent. So they moved to White Sand beach. And instantly became the best beach bar in the area.
The famous flaming bar is still there, the crowd comprises of far more Thai visitors but if you want a night out by the beach or just to chill on a beanbag with a sunset cocktail or two, the Himmel is a great new option. Easy to spot, just walk along the beach until you see a massive jellyfish overhead or go straight to Koh Chang Lagoon Resort. FB: https://www.facebook.com/himmelbarwhitesand
Izakaya Koh Chang, Klong Prao. An Izakaya is a simple, informal type of bar found in Japan. It’s a place to go for a drink and snacks with friends. Koh Chang’s version is no different. This Japanese themed bar opened at the south end of Klong Prao village in 2021. It’s a ten table, dimly lit, air-conditioned bar which often gets busy. Live football is shown and there are sometimes DJs. Food is simple gilled meat skewers and a small selection of sashimi. Drinks are mostly beer and Soju ( Yep, I know that’s Korean but there’s far more choice of drinkable Soju than Sake available in Thailand.) FB: https://www.facebook.com/izakayakohchang/
And finally . . .
. . . we also rebuilt our guesthouse – Baan Rim Nam in Klong Prao.
We’d already planned to do some renovations but when covid-19 came along and it was clear that things weren’t going to get back to normal quickly, we decided to knock it down and build a new version. All that remains of the old wooden buildings are the covered deck by the river and walkways through the mangroves.
We also downsized from five rooms to four. But that means guests get far more space and more home comforts – sofas, big TVs, King size beds etc – than they did pre-corona. If you’re interested, check it out here.