This afternoon over 300 Koh Chang residents, locals and resort staff, plus a handful of white folks, took part in the Koh Chang eco-friendly, earth saving, CO2 reducing, bike ride for HM the King, in order to promote cycling as the ideal means to get around Koh Chang. Even more ideal when the police ensure all other road users give anyone on a bike a wide berth, and not force them off into the drainage ditch as usual.
The opening ceremony featured a rather lengthy speech by the Governor of Trat plus the obligatory landyboys dressed in their finery and several cute girls dresses in cut off jeans, plaid shirts and with shiny plantpots on their heads. Their purpose was to hold the ribbon that was cut as part of the opening ceremony. What the ladyboys were doing, I have no idea. But they had definitely made an effort.
The gruelling 5km ride took in terrain such as flat tarmac road and yet more flat tarmac road as the riders made their way from the old song and dance place in Klong Prao, ‘Natasala’, in weather conditions best described as ideal. Fortunately there were four water stops enroute to allow weary riders the chance to rehydrate as the kilometres became a blur and they pushed themselves to reach the finish line at Kai Bae Camp.
As there is a rather steep hill leading up to the viewpoint overlooking Kai Bae, riders left their bikes and then began the long march, 600 metres, to the top of the world, a.k.a. Kai Bae viewpoint.
Without a hint of irony, the Governor and other VIPs took an airconditioned minibus to the viewpoint, their pink shirts unmarked by unsightly sweat stains, while the masses trudged up the hill. Lesser VIPs took a non-aircondioned pick up truck taxi.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t hang around for the closing ceremony and more speeches as a delivery of wood had arrived and so I had to head back home to pay the driver. Don’t think I missed too much though. It looked like there was going to be a mass photo, taken from a high angle, from a cherry picker, showing participants around a large banner with the islands as a backdrop. Although that pic should look nice on the local tourist authority website and in brochures promoting Koh Chang’s green-ness.
It could be argued that events like this aren’t actually going to save the planet, let alone the far harder task of getting more people to use bicycles on Koh Chang. But at least it’s a start and everyone who took part had a fun afternoon. There are quite a few areas of the island that are off limits to all but the most hard core cyclists, due to the narrow winding road and super steep hills. However, it would be nice to see something permanent and tangible such as having a cycle lane or an MTB route or two being established somewhere.
If anyone wants a business idea – there are no guided bike tours on Koh Chang. Given a bit of co-operation from local landowners, it would be possible to plot out a couple of routes in the valleys on the west coast for scenic rides and anywhere there is a rubber or fruit plantation there are trails which would be cycle-able. As cycling and attempting to be eco-friendly are in the minds of the local officials at the moment, there may even be a chance of having some official help in promoting this type of activity.