For 2005

August – December 2005

dog-bites-cat13 Aug – Back in Thailand after a week spent watching the 2nd Ashes Test & getting addicted to Sodoku puzzles in the UK.   In my absence it’s been raining a lot on Koh Chang and that’s been pretty much the highlight for a couple of people who emailed recently to say that they’re glad they read this site and discovered before they went that options for excursions, indeed doing anything other than reading a book and eating, might be limited whist it’s raining.

Bangkok Post on 4 August had a press release from the   4-star Aiyapura Resort in he travel section. Main thing of note was the claim that guests could hire jet skis.   Wonder what happened to them, along with banana boats and parasailing being banned from Koh Chang. (Unless privately owned.)     Fortunately, if jet skis aren’t your thing Aiyapura’s guests can also take a course in ‘napkin folding’.   (Paper or sanitary, isn’t specified.)

Depending on your current location and plans to visit   Koh Chang you can either cheer yourself up or thoroughly depress yourself by checking the   5 day forecast.

Spot the difference! Below are two paragraphs taken from two different websites.   Both are about Koh Chang. One was published on 9th August, the other on 11th.

1. Koh Chang Marine National Park is new and virtually unknown to the outside world, and has some of the most pristine beaches that Thailand has to offer. Few people know of its secret wonders and some even call it “the last paradise island in South-East Asia”. Dull, official line on Koh Chang from Aussie travel agent’s site.

2. We bumped into the Swedish chef and he confirmed it was sewage. I felt like finding a wire brush and scrubbing my skin. The locals had tried to tell him it was just “whale crap” — a fishy story if ever I heard one. He said it only washed up on certain tides.   We were on the first boat we could catch off the island, our beach dream flushed away. Sensationalist holiday nightmare text in full from New Zealand.

If you guessed that one was written by someone who has been to Koh Chang and feels that pointing out faults in the hope that it will encourage the powers that be to do something about it and the other was merely propaganda you’d be correct.

In fairness, if you read the full text from which paragraph 2 is taken you’ll see that the author, having ‘done Laos’, didn’t make any attempt to see any of Koh Chang other than   White Sand beach, so whilst his thoughts on White Sand   Beach may be valid, they can’t be applied to the island as a whole.

15 Aug – Back on KC and the sun has been out most of the day.   Does this herald the end of the rainy season? (No, but it’s nice to be an optimist once in a while)

My missus is glued to ‘Academy Fantasia’ right now, like a moth to   a light bulb. You’d think she was watching the first moon landing   and not Thailand’s equivalent of   ‘Big Brother’ meets ‘American Idol’ but with none of the interesting bits of either.

16 Aug – Mary K. – let me have your full email address . . . otherwise I can’t reply.

** Coming soon ** Discount hotel rooms at several Koh Chang hotels and a couple of Pattaya resorts.   Only available to visitors to this site and guaranteed to be 20%+ cheaper than anywhere else on the internet.

19 Aug – Nothing at all to do with Koh Chang, but I’ve just been watching the news and have been struck by how creepy Pope Benedict looks in comparison to his predecessor, the cuddly JP2.   Sinners beware, this guy means business.

Koh Chang Grand Lagoona added to the reviews of places to stay on Koh Chang that are bookable online.

In a soon to be added Tourist Authority of Thailand sanctioned section entitled ‘Things we don’t talk about and pretend never happened in case it might deter tourists’ I won’t be mentioning the fact that a late night argument between two Thai guys on White Sand Beach resulted in one of them being shot dead last week or that earlier this week,   in Bailan, a western tourist was badly beaten up by a Thai.   So badly that the tourist authority sent someone to see him in hospital to ask him if he’d be kind enough not to make too much of a fuss about it.     And after a few days of sun it’s started raining again today.

23 Aug – Kicking off with the cheery news that Bangbao pier is to be lengthened and widened, in a cosmetic operation designed to give locals more space to ride their motorbikes on.   A secondary effect will be that the dramatic increase in length will lead to far more space for boats to be moored, meaning more visitors heading there to catch boats/ferries, more mini-marts, more dive shops and more souvenir t-shirt vendors and less fishermen.   No wonder one of the better known seafood restaurants is planning to relocate elsewhere on the island and a partner in another was at our place the other day as he’s looking around for alternative   business ventures.

You might be forgiven for thinking that it’s silly season all year round in Thailand, however this headline from today’s Nation newspaper takes some beating: Thai Rak Thai MP to ask party ministers over report of enlarged penis

24 Aug – Another nice day so I thought I take a few photos . . . . 8am this morning, rainy season, Klong Prao beach.   On the beach – 2 tourists from a luxury hotel, 1 backpacking couple taking a swim, a couple of locals fishing, myself and 3 dogs. Wish you were here?

28 Aug – Something for all the ornithologist’s out there . . . Brad and Angelina (the eagle formerly known as Jennifer) have returned to our part of the island.   In the last few days I’ve seen them a couple of times hovering over the palm trees, a welcome sight, providing you aren’t a defenceless small rodent in which case you’re the next meal.

Graham from Island Hopper would like everyone to know that this high season, in addition to the regular Island Hopper ferry services to Koh Wai, Koh mak, Koh Kham and Koh Kood, he’ll be organising mini-packages 2 days/1 night, 3 days/2 nights etc for visitors who want to see another island during their limited holiday time.

This is a good idea, which is why I’ve said I’ll add the info to this site and figure out a way that you can book these packages in advance thus eliminating any worries about not finding accommodation when you arrive on these small islands.

3 Sep – News . . . never mind Hurricane Katrina, in Thailand it’s top Thai superstar Kataleeya, that’s making the headlines.   Turns out she’s 5 months pregnant and not yet married.   News which relegated the goings on in New Orleans to inside story status in the Thai papers.

Nearer home, possibly heading to Koh Chang after 11 years in Phuket is Jim and his yacht ‘Remington’ which will be available for charter in the coming high season.   Take a look at www.sail-remington.com for info about Jim and his boat.   Google his name and you’ll find he knows how to race as well as cruise.

Can someone with money and a desire for a 50 – 100% return in 6 months, please buy up some ‘Chanote’ titled land, off the main road on the west coast of the island?   Then split it into small quarter rai (400sqm) plots so that it’s affordable for the increasing number of people who are emailing me looking for a bit of land on which to build a house on Koh Chang.   (That’s what I’d be doing if I had cash in the bank.)

Our unique speedboat mould has now been completed and the body should be finished any day now.   Still on track to get hold of it by the end of the month.

The best way to spend a rainy day?   E.g. one of the days that we’re currently having.   Go and swim with the dolphins at Oasis Sea World in Chantaburi.   If you’re on a tour you’ll also be dragged round a gem shop or two so leave your credit cards at home unless you know your bargains when you see them.

Had an email from a singer who’s actually so well known that I had to think for about five minutes where I’d hear the name before.   He, or rather his PR person, wanted somewhere out of the way, luxurious and back to nature but the main requirement was somewhere he wouldn’t be hassled by fans. (What it is to lead a rock n’ roll lifestyle)   Having Googled and found the songs he was responsible for – one or two not bad,   a couple hummable and the rest crap – I replied, mentioning a few places and pointing out that he was virtually unheard of outside Europe so being mobbed was the least of his problems.

There was something important that I promised someone I was going to include in this update, but I’ve totally forgotten who or what it was. Add that person to the list of people I’ve pissed off.

I had a corn the size of a small pea taken out of my foot a couple of days ago.   This is done by using something resembling a mini electric welder.   One pole is strapped onto your leg and a ‘cutter’ provides the other.   There was local anesthetic but the smell of burning flesh coming from the ball of my left foot was something I’ll remember for a while.

7 Sep – A quick look at the labour market on Koh Chang.   I met someone who works 7am-9pm, 7 days a week,  in a   well known restaurant on White Sand Beach   for 3,000 baht/month.   Of course there’s an obvious reason why the conditions aren’t so good . . . he’s only 13.   Both parents are dead so he lives with his elderly uncle not far from us.   The money he earns helps pay for food and   school etc for his younger brother and sister.   Nice kids, the other day they had fun playing with our dog and drinking Coke and eating my supply of Hob Nobs.   I promised him if ever I needed a source of cheap, illegal labour I’d keep him in mind.

A quick look at progress on island infrastructure.   Good News, work on widening the road down the west coast has started with land being cleared south of White Sand Beach down to Kai Bae.   But what are the chances   that work won’t be completed before the height of high season thereby leading to traffic jams and roads full of earth movers and construction vehicles etc?

Construction-wise elsewhere – White Sand Beach is   a mess with Kacha Resort, Cookie, KC Lagoon Hotel still working on big projects.   In Klong Prao, the main roadside mudpits are by Klong Prao Resort where new shophouses and bungalows are being built and around the new market where a couple of roadside resorts are going up.   The area south of Klong Prao beach near the Amari is now a total eyesore due to developers rushing to put up two new shopping plazas and loads of slummy shop units to cater to the souvenir t-shirt requirements of Amari guests.

Over in Salakkok, the government’s new walkway through the mangroves is almost finished.   Eschewing usual eco-friendly construction materials for longer lasting tons of concrete, just how good for the environment this kilometre long walkway actually is, is still a subject of debate.   One side, comprised of marine biologists, academics and other nerdy types say it’s a bad thing for the environment.     To which tourism officials and business people say “Well they would wouldn’t they?   How much of their own cash is invested on the island?? . . . Hey, couldn’t we just dredge the whole area so tourists could use speedboats to get up close to the nature?

14 Sep – Rumours of tough new restrictions on visitor numbers have been spreading faster than a bout of Bird Flu.   Apparently, backpackers arriving at the jumping off point on the   mainland, Laem Ngop,  would be required to show evidence they had at least 2,000 baht for every day they intended to stay. Those failing to meet the financial requirements would be transferred to holding camps being built near Trat before being returned to Bangkok. Visitors arriving at nearby Trat airport would be unaffected by the new policy, as it was assumed they were cashed up.

There may we no truth in the rumours, but Lonely beach, the long time haven for backpackers   doesn’t appear to be the attraction, for business owners at least, that it once was. I was down there a few days   ago and   counted a few small businesses for sale there this morning. Among them , an internet cafe, large live music bar/club, small restaurant with bungalows, bar.   A couple have been for sale for a while, meaning the owner’s valuation bears no resemblance to   the actual value of the businesses.

A lot of land for rent in Klong Prao – numerous plots for 100,000 baht/year for 1 Rai.   The land is owned by the local headman ‘Kamnan’ and has Chanote title.   Quiet area now, but you can walk to the beach from it and the lack of available land   means that he ill have no trouble finding people to rent it all. A new wooden footbridge leading from the main road to the beach will also run nearby.

Down in Bailan, directly opposite Koh Chang Ferry’s new resort, an area of 27 Rai has been cleared and is available for rent.   You can rent small plots or the whole lot.

One for the fisherman and seekers of a peaceful life on the island. Live on the water – 600,000 baht or less will get you a fisherman’s house that you’ll have to knock down and rebuild.   Rebuilding coasts are well under 1 million baht.   But when you’ve done that you get a lovely place in the mangroves in the un-touristy fishing village of Salakkok. More info here . . .

19 Sep – A local woman came round to our place today with a handful of photocopied title deeds for various bits of land for sale around the island.   Nothing much of interest though for anyone wanting only a rai or two.   Smallest plot is 3 rai near Bangbao for 2.5 million/rai with a   Chanote title.   One plot worth having, if you’ve got the cash is 4 Rai for 5 million/rai on Klong Prao beach with NS3K title deed.   Ideal for a small upscale resort as there’s an access road and your neighbours would include the new Amari hotel. (Price per rai is cheaper than many   roadside plots.)

We’ve got the builders in at the moment and our deck is getting a new roof, modelled on a photo of a roof on a stilt bungalow at an upmarket Malaysian resort that Mam found featured in one of her ‘Top 50 places to stay in Asia’ travel mags. It’ll be interesting to see how closely our builder and his mates can come to recreating the architectural spendour of the exclusive multi-million dollar   Pangkor Laut Resort, but on a far smaller scale and for under 5,000 baht.   It’ll also be interesting to see how they divide their time between working, fishing and walking around with no apparent purpose.

Also added a bit about recommended restaurants (by popular demand) to the A – Z.

Examples of fools and their money being easily parted on Koh Chang, No. 127 in a neverending series:   The English guy who’s bought land from one of the nice Thai gentlemen he met here recently. The odd thing about the deal is that he’s paid the money but the land won’t be put in his name for 30 years . . . i.e. when he’s in his mid 80s.   (Would you enter into any agreement of this type in your own country???   No.   But you feel safe doing it in Thailand ‘cos the guy you’re dealing with can speak passable English???) The guy who sold the land to him is a well known Thai businessman who appears very respectable.   He owns a small resort, a couple of restaurants, a tour business and is often one of those interviewed by news reporters when they need quotes about development on the island.   Speak to Thais who’ve been here a while and they’ll tell you he’s someone you’ll only ever do business with once.

23 Sep – Lonely Beach Blues – the changing face of every (non-Muslim) backpacker’s mecca.

The 4 rai plot (see 19 Sep update)   that seemed like a pretty good deal turns out to be bullshit.   The 4 rai for sale but to get it you also have to buy a nearby 10 rai plot – with no sea frontage for the same price per rai.   So many landowners holding out for one big payday without having the sense to realise that, at this time and stage in Koh Chang’s development, it’d far easier to sell 10 x 1 Rai plots than it is to sell one 10 Rai plot.

Slowly updating the info on specific areas of the island in the ‘KC Map’ section.

Booking a room at our place isn’t only a good alternative to staying in a generic bungalow resort, it also helps animals.

Our loveable retriever lives on imported ‘Royal Canin’ dog food, which is expensive here in Thailand.   So, unless we can generate some more income they’ll be more photos like the one below appearing on this site.

Help save Ginger’s feline friends . . . book a   room with us.

28 Sep – It’s all in the name – How did Koh Chang, ‘Elephant island’, get it’s name?   The offical, TAT sanctioned local folklore-based explanation here.   It involves an elephant named ‘Petch’ and tells of her run in with a   ‘Buddhist saint’ in ye olden days.

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When it comes to getting your business noticed most people running small resorts, bars, restaurants and shops are overrun by representatives from guide maps, locally produced guide books and even websites offering advertising for a price.

And I’m no exception . . . but there’s a difference, it’s FREE.   100% no payment required an you can advertise on this site.

So, if you have a small business on Koh Chang and you want visitors to Koh Chang to know about it before they reach the island.   Click   here for more info.

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Quite a lot of other stuff added – including a pocket size, cut out and keep, diving section, aimed at newbies or anyone who wants to find out more about the underwater delights that lurk off Koh Chang.

Fixing up the roof over our deck led to building an outdoor shower area, rebuilding the deck at the back of the house, ripping out old wooden supports under the balcony at the front, replacing 60% of the floor with new wood, sticking new beams under the floor of the house as we found a couple of rotting ones.   Aaah, the fun of living in an old wooden house built over the water.

A quick speedboat update added.

1 Oct – Possibly the dullest report ever written about Koh Chang using surveys that possibly never even took place, appeared on www.thaisnews.com – a Thai government mouthpiece:

Returning tourists to Koh Chang cite beaches and seawater as primary incentives.

Thai and international tourists revealed that the incentives that affect their decisions to return to Chang Island were beautiful beaches and glittering seawater.

Mr. Thanya Harnapol, the Acting Deputy-Director of the Organization for Development of Special Zones for Sustainable Tourism, said according to the organization’s surveys and studies of tourists in Chang Island, Sai Khao, Klong Prao and Kai Bae Beaches were some of the most attractive tourism sites in the vicinity. The tourists were also impressed by four other waterfalls in the area.

Furthermore, other elements that lured tourists to return to Chang Island included the island’s natural features such as forests and mountains. However, one of the weak aspects that required improvements was the quality of roads in certain areas.

To solve this problem, the organization has already allocated a budget for installing traffic signs, warning signs, and introduction signs for the island’s tourism sites. The signs are currently being installed, and once they have been placed, traffic accidents are expected to decline.

Would be nice to know is what the insightful, ground breaking findings from the   market research are going to be used for.

But the sentence that shows the research was probably made up after the budget had   been blown on the down payment for a black 4×4 Toyota Fortuner (essential for checking that adequate signage has been placed around the island) is the one that states visitors were impressed by “4 other waterfalls in the area”.

I’d bet my house on 80% of visitors not being able to name more than two falls and 95% never visiting any except Klong Plu on the west coast and Than Mayom on the east.

4 Oct – The internet is a wonderful thing, one of the most visited sites is Ebay, where sellers from around the world offload unwanted junk to Americans with disposable income.     Right now on Ebay you can find two places in Koh Chang for sale.   One is Bailan Hut down on Bailan Beach, a nice backpacker resort but not something that’ll make you rich.   The other is Angels beer bar in Kai Bae, a 3 year lease could be yours for only 1.3 million baht plus around 19,000 baht/month rent.   A sure fire way to either make   a fortune or empty your bank account if ever there was one.

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3 Days & 2 Nights of fun-filled fun can be yours courtesy of Island Hopper’s five island trip departing from Bangbao on 11th October and returning on the 13th.   Price is 3,500 baht/head & includes 2 nights   accommodation, breakfasts & evening meals, soft drinks on the boat, the use of sea kayaks & snorkelling equipment etc and pick up from your resort on Koh Chang. More info: a.h.ris@planet.nl or call 07 999 0788

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Went down to beautiful Salakkok again a couple of days ago, locals living near the pier are getting ready to move on as the day hoardes  of tourists begin to head their way grows ever closer.   Two places right next to the pier, ideal for seafood restaurants or some kind of fishing, kayaking related business or accommodation are for sale 1.2 million and 1.5 million baht respectively. (The place at 1.5million is well worth   having.) If you fancied living there . . . this would be the view from your living room.   (Not a bungalow or resort in sight.)

Guys from the local government have been out and about deciding where pipes for the centralised water supply will go.   All households ill be connected and the budget has already been approved.   So, in a couple of years, reliance on boreholes and mountain streams will be a thing of the past.

Four years ago a small fisherman’s shack near ours was sold for under 100,000 baht. The new owner built several small bungalows on the site – which never properly opened due to hassles with the powers that be as they shouldn’t really have been built in the first place.   Still, that isn’t her problem now as she’s just sold it for 7 million baht.     Even when you take into account the 1 million spent on constructing the bungalows, it’s not a bad profit.

13 Oct – No updates for week or so as I was busy rewriting a guide for Trat & Koh Chang that the Governor of Trat province has decided he need 50,000 copies of.   Unfortunately, I had to keep the English text as similar to the original Thai as possible, which resulted in the descriptions for virtually everywhere being identical.   Anyone reading the guide will be under the impression that every single beach and island in the 52 island Koh Chang archipelago comprises nothing but sun kissed powdery white sand and crystal clear water   They’ll also be provided with prices and timetables that are at least two years out of date – all info courtesy of the tourist office in Trat.

You know you’ve been on Koh Chang too long when you realise, as happened to me this morning, that the only two items of footwear you own are a 99 Baht pair of flip-flops for daily wear and a 399 Baht pair for use on formal   occasions.

The work on our house was finally completed. What started out as a three day job metamorphosised into 10 days of building work and the running up of 90,000 baht worth of bills   – almost entirely for wood – at builders merchants.   Amongst other things, we got a very nice place to sit out over the water now.   Photos of the new look ‘Baan Rim Nam’ will be added in a few days.

I get a few emails about the availability of printed maps, island guides etc, so here’s a quick look inside one of the them – the snappily titled ‘Koh Chang, Trat & the eastern islands’ from White Sand Beach Publications.

17 Oct I toasted a gecko today, not the “Ladies and gentlemen, please raise your glasses. . .” type of toast but the pop-up kind you usually eat with marmalade.   I should add that it was by accident as I wasn’t aware that it was in the toaster until I smelled something that wasn’t sliced bread browning. The cat seemed to enjoy the taste though.

Went out to look for bits of land this morning and found something for everyone . . .

Looking for land for a resort? 14 Rai land, ‘Chanote’ titles, with beach frontage at the south end of Klong Prao Beach, including 20 room resort for 70 million baht.   (Yeah, it seems a lot but it’s a bargain compared to the 5 Rai for sale in Kai Bae for 90 million or 7 Rai on Pearl Beach – no sand here – for 70 million.)

Cheap, ‘Chanote’ titled land in Klong Son – 3 Rai with a well-built house and newly planted garden, views across the valley of jungle clad mountains – 6 million baht.   Access by sealed road, 15 minutes drive into White Sand Beach

Farmland, as an investment for the future , 8 Rai for 300,000 baht/rai – currently rubber trees, small river at the front of land.   Lies along the ‘invisible road’ at the back of Klong Prao.   (The invisible road is a 3 kilometre gravel road, built by the government, that doesn’t appear on any maps of the island.   You can drive to the land by car at any time of the year.)

There’s also a plaza for rent in White Sand Beach for 1 million baht/year.   You’d need to work hard to make a good profit.   Also, a rai of land with 5 bungalows on it in Klong Prao, for 300,000 baht key money + 4,000 baht/month and 7 years remaining on the lease.   Crap location for tourists but good for longstayers, Bungalows are old but easy enough to make a bit of money from long term rentals or use to house your own staff.

And finally, something from the new menu in a local restaurant ‘Fried shrimp in crack powder‘.   Very addictive.

22 Oct You’d be surprise by the number of emails I receive on the subject of illegal logging and tree clearance. Apparently quite a few of you are keen to try your hand at this new form of tourist experience, so long the realm of Bangkok’s business elite, for yourselves.

As yet, there are no chainsaw rental firms on Koh Chang, so you’ll need to bring your own with you.     Thankfully, there are still huge swathes of jungle just waiting to be levelled in order for luxury resorts to be built.   Ask around and you’ll find voluntary tree felling work with the ‘Association of Land Rapers and Developers (Bangkok Chapter)’ A few month ago those guys had a big get together and cut   very nice 200 Rai hole out of the National Park, as the photo below shows.

The fun question isn’t so much as how they thought they could get away with it but, where did the wood go?   The only road to the land above goes past a manned entrance to the National Park.   Guess no-one noticed the hundreds of truckloads of wood that must have been driven out of there or perhaps it was just smuggled out . . . “Is that a 20 foot long tree trunk in your trouser pocket or are you just pleased to see me?”

Recently opened in scenic Bailan is Bailan Family Bungalows. A small place, with only 8 wooden bungalows where I’ve been assured you’ll receive a   warm welcome.   A fan room with a couple of nice home comforts, such as satellite TV and hot water goes for 500 baht/night. Photos at www.bailanfamilybungalow.com Book in advance through their website, mention IamKohChang.com and you’ll get a 10% discount.

Koh Chang Grandview also have a nice little website but why does the main page show a photo of Lonely beach when the resort is at the southern end of White Sand   beach?   Could it be it’s far more attractive than the rocky stretch of shoreline that’s actually outside their own front door?

30 Oct My attempts at adding a simple link for the new Bailan Family Bungalows and their website www.bailanfamilybungalow.com were thwarted by my inability to type without making an error.   So once again, that’s (with no ‘s’ at the end and the ‘i’ before the ‘l’.)

No, it isn’t legal to ride ATVs on the road in Thailand, so don’t rent them on Koh Chang as they aren’t insured.   In layman’s terms this means you’re well and truly screwed if you have an accident, regardless of whose to blame, as you’re the one riding an illegal machine without insurance.

Better late than never (or ‘never than late’ if hotel functions aren’t your thing) is the news that from 28th-31st October, the Amari are laying on live music, free food and soft drinks plus wacky entertainment from staff who’ve been pressganged into dressing up in ghoulish garb all in the name of Halloween.   Head down to ‘Breezes’ Bar at the Amari or give them a call and they’ll pick you up for free, take you to the hotel and then release you when you’ve had your fill of spooky fun.

And there was me thinking the only thing frightening about the Amari were the prices in the restaurant and the naming of the bar.   ‘Breezes‘, just the name makes me want to slip on my white loafers, order a white wine spritzer and groove to Dire Straits or Phil Collins.   Man, I must have oozed class and sophistication in my youth, just   a pity no members of the opposite sex thought so at the time.

You’ve returned home from your beach holiday and want to have something to remind you of your time in Koh Chang.   Postcards are for the unimaginative, souvenir t-shirts could have been bought in a Bangkok market and any seashells you see for sale by the seashore probably come from China. Instead, why not build a full scale replica of a beach hut in your backyard?     Read this handy cut out and keep DIY guide to building your own partially waterproof, semi-legal structure with only   hammer, a saw and a few migrant workers.   (Next week, in keeping with the Koh Chang way of doing things, I’ll be taking you through the steps involved in circumnavigating any of the applicable planning laws in your locale.)

2 Nov My computer died however I was able to resuscitate it and the only lasting damage appears to be the loss of the last month’s emails.   Therefore, if you’re still waiting for a reply from a few days ago – please email me again.

4 Nov The new International clinic, on the southside of White Sand Beach, was the site of a visit by loads of top Naval brass yesterday – according to my source (a friend who knows a market trader who is a relation of a guy working on the site), the clinic has built on some land it shouldn’t have done which has pissed off Naval chiefs who own all the land in that area.

Our boat is nearing completion, we’re just getting GPS navigation, CD/MP3 player and coolbox installed so in the unlikely event that we do break down at sea we’ll know exactly where we are and can put some music on and sip a cool drink while we wait for help to arrive.   Updated story here.

Jonas visited KC recently and stayed at a couple of well known resorts. He emailed me with his thoughts and reviews, my favourite quote concerns Cliff Beach Hotel, Kai Bae: “On the first morning when we came to the restaurant we discovered that there was no buffet. The resort has instead applied a different approach to the usual hotel/resort breakfast routine: order what you want and if you’re lucky they have it.” If you’ve got any info to share on good/bad hotels, let me know.

If you want to buy a new automatic motorbike, recommended for using on the hills, prices at the Yamaha   dealer in Klong Son are the same as on the mainland.   A ‘Mio’ is 39,000, 42,000 or 44,500 baht depending on specifications, this includes registration costs. Plus they’ll throw in a couple of helmets and deliver it to your door for free,   and you can pay 50% now and 50% in a month’s time.

Want a small bar/restaurant on Koh Chang? Here’s a cheap place for lease in Kai Bae, the price includes all fixtures & fittings.   Annual rent is only slightly less than some bars pay per month.   You can contact the owners direct if you’re interested. Photos and info here.

Quite a few of our guests have been snorkelling recently and the feedback from them all has been very positive regarding underwater conditions and the amount (and variety) of fish that are on show.     As far as the best location goes, snorkelling off the beach at Koh Wai is the spot that everyone agrees is the best.   Apparently, better than the more popular sites off Koh Rang.

If you thought that the only wines that were available for 350 baht in Thailand came from the dregs of Serbian wine bins or were made from mixed Thai fruit, (everything except grapes), then head down to the Hat Lek border crossing.   I usually make a point of picking up a few bottles of Baron Philippe Rothschild 1998 Mouton Cadet Bordeaux for 350 baht/bottle and case or two of Anchor beer.   However, the wines are all hidden from view now, as the police have been clamping down on sales of smuggled booze and ciggies.   Ask around and you can still find it though.   Now all I have to do is stop the mother-in-law from sticking a bottle in the freezer to chill it down, and then adding liberal amounts of ice and soda water to each glass.

9 Nov Our speedboat was put in the water, a couple of days ago, and it floats!!  Not only that, it’s also pretty fast. Only a couple of weeks to go and it’ll be here.   Then, for around 150   – 200 Euros (US$180 – 250) per day, you and your friends/family, could be taken around the island and out to Koh Wai, Koh mak, Koh Rang, Koh Kham etc for a full day of sightseeing, snorkelling and fun, well away from the crowds.

Meanwhile back in the land of make believe, which exists not only at the end of the yellow brick road but also in the shiny, fluffy world of hotel websites, a storm is brewing with resorts that claim Koh Chang to be ‘The Last Paradise on Earth‘ lining up against those adamant in their belief that Koh Chang is, in fact, ‘Heaven on Earth‘   If you have an opinion on this burning issue . . . keep it to yourself.

Bird Flu Update. In a bid to immunize Koh Chang against the adverse effect on tourism an outbreak of bird flu may bring, local authorities have enacted previously dormant powers, initially granted in the ‘Indigenous Chicken Act’ of 1978.     By re-enacting hitherto unused by-laws, all chickens on Koh Chang will now be classified as types of flora rather than fauna. Visitors to Koh Chang will therefore sleep safely in the knowledge that there is zero chance of catching bird flu via contact with any form of plant life.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, local official Somchai Notworkinalot stated that tourists should, however, be wary of a new health threat, ‘Mangrove fever’ which can leap from plant to human.   Those mainly at risk are involved in the cultivation of free-range mangroves.   Thankfully, he went on to add, it cannot be caught from eating well cooked mangrove, processed mangrove by-products or mangrove eggs.

Down on the shores of Salakphet Bay someone has paid a rather obscene amount of money for Ploy Talay Resort and the neighbouring Ban Mae Resort.   Only someone with knowledge of the plans for developing this area would plough the amount of money that I’ve heard mentioned into a sleepy area such as this.

Nearer home, in Klong Prao, Ramayana Resort   have finally realised that you can build a lovely resort roadside but you aint going to get any foreigner guests staying there if they can’t walk to the   beach. So they’ve leased 16 Rai of prime beachfront from a well off local guy, on which to build a new beachfront (not roadside) resort.

And to end on an upbeat note, so heart warming you’d expect to see a ‘Hello Kitty’ logo adorning it, is this quote from a Thai student who I helped out with a report they were writing on Koh Chang: “Thank you for your advise Mr Ian. I hope Koh Chang will be more popular and be one of the most well-known destination in near future because of its potential to attract both domestic and inbound tourist to come to travel.” Well, it brought a lump to my throat.

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15 Nov It hardly seems only 6 days ago that I was writing the previous update, how time flies.

Opening night review . . . Klong Prao Temple Fair, 14-16 November.   As with last year, and presumably annually since time began, locals were out in force to celebrate Loy Krathong in time honoured fashion.   The makeshift bingo hall was buzzing as contestants used all their   skill and judgment to attempt to win prizes a diverse as bottles of warm Beer Chang, a rice cooker and a cuddly toy.   Food stalls had all hiked their prices up in order to cover the 1000 baht/night cost for renting stall space at the fair but even that didn’t stop me from splashing out 25 baht on a   banana an chocolate roti, extortionate, but hey, it’s only once a year.   However, after 5 minutes the novelty of the fair began to wear off and it was time to go home.   Only 365 days to go until the next one. But if you’re currently on Koh Chang now and want to see something totally non-touristy then it’s worth taking a look at the temple fair, especially as the grand final of a singing contest for children wearing 1980s style make-up will be held tomorrow night.

I met   Thai guy with land to sell on the east side of the island this afternoon,   best of the small plots that he has is a 5 Rai parcel the shore just south of Dan Mai with a private access road leading to the main road and plans for   a tasteful 16 bungalow resort already drawn up and approved. Photos and info to come later.     Also a group of Thai investors are looking at a couple of areas on Koh Chang where they can buy land and split it up into smaller plots for sale for farangs wanting sensibly priced small (half or one rai ) plots.   If it happens, I’ll have details on here somewhere.

Have you ever stayed at a resort and fund that the food was so bad that you had to travel a few kilometres to get breakfast.   I received an mail from a guest at Nirvana Resort, who praised every aspect of the resort without hesitation . . . with the exception of the food.   So bad they checked out after 3 days and moved to Seaview Resort, where the chef knew how to cook a sausage and meals weren’t served cold.   Hopefully this was just a blip on Nirvana’s part a the resort deserves to have kitchen   staff that complement it’s accommodation.

Recently opened in VJ Plaza, Klong Prao is ‘Slick Willies’, don’t read too much into the name it’s an American style diner rather than a gay sauna.   Looks like a lot of money & effort has gone into setting up so I’ll have to see how the burgers stack up.

Meanwhile, down in Kai Bae, Siam holiday has opened up.   The bungalows are basic backpacker huts built in time honoured   Lonely Beach style, and combining elements of Rio de Janeiro slum with palm frond roofing to create a look we call backpacker chic Located smack in the middle of Kai Bae adjacent to Chang Park Resort, so no need to head any further south to stay with the banana pancake eating crowd.

24 Nov You should be looking at a photo of our new boat moored outside our house.   Due to delays beyond anyone’s control (although the guy at the marine dept in Trang who’s in charge of registering it needs a slap) you’re instead looking at a photo of a couple of cute kittens that have moved into our house with their mum.   If you want to give them a home, let me know as we have enough cats hanging around already.

How much would you pay for a 6 room guesthouse plus small bar on a quarter rai of land, roadside in Kai Bae bearing in mind the land has no title deeds yet . . . 2 million? . . . .5 milllion? . . .try 15 million baht. Offers around this amount to the current owner (and offers of financial guidance to the new owner).

A quiz game for kids of all ages. . . Whose Garbage is that? First, study the photo to the left.   Garbage has been dumped on some unused land, well out of sight of any tourists, but which hotel is responsible for creating this unsightly mess?   Using your knowledge of resorts on Koh Chang and the hints below, see if you can work out the answer.

Clue 1: The hotel has a Spa
Clue 2: It isn’t in White Sand Beach or Klong Prao
Clue 3:  The hotel has a ‘view’ of the ‘sea’.

(I could be wrong about the hotel but I saw invoices from this resort, boxes with the same hotel’s address on, a couple of   old t-shirts with the hotel name on, hotel flyers, headed hotel paper amongst the rubbish – all from the same place.)

IamKohChang.com is big in Denmark! A Danish national newspaper invited readers to send in their favourite travel websites, apparently quite a few recommended this site in the write up that was done a couple of days ago.   Many thanks to the citizens of Denmark for that, and, by pure coincidence, Denmark is also one of my Top 15 EU member nations.

I get quite a few people emailing me saying that it’s virtually impossible to get any reply, from a large hotel, to a simple enquiry. Do hotels read or answer emails they receive?       A reader put this to the test with a simple email asking whether young Nigel the house broken Shi-Tzu puppy could stay at the hotel with him. Only 5 out of 10 well known resorts bothered to reply.   Of those, none answered in the positive, so Nigel had to stay at home which is not nearly as disturbing as the fact that half the hotels never even sent a one line reply.

And finally, also on the subject of emails.   A guy was considering taking a dive course and he visited a few of Koh Chang’s dive school websites.   He didn’t email Eco Divers as their site asks emailers to ‘wait about seven days for a response’.   I know the dial-up connections are slow here but I could send the bytes by carrier pigeon and still not take 7 days to get a reply out to someone interested in my courses.

20 Nov In need of a beach read? The recent novel, ‘Thai Girl’ by Andrew Hicks, is a literary first for two reasons, as it’s set in part on Koh Chang and because British backpacker, Ben, fails to get the tasty Thai girl he’s fallen for.   (Well that’s spoilt the ending for you . . .or has it?) It also happens to be the biggest selling English language novel in Thailand over the past year, making it pretty much a ‘must read’ for anyone requiring poolside reading material.

One place on the island where you may well be able to pick up a used copy is the well stocked Lonely Books at Nature Beach Resort, Lonely Beach. If they don’t have it, then it probably isn’t worth reading!   (That’s enough praise until Keith’s promise of a free breakfast materialises.)

On the subject of backpackers . . .this from an email I received from a backpacker complaining about fellow backpackers . . .   ‘You always hear them saying: “Koh Chang is a national park. Look what the Thai people have done to it.” But they’re happily sitting here in this full on tourist place which is disguised as a place for people with one to many tattoos to hangout and deceive themselves the are back to nature.’ Maybe he was just having   a bad day or maybe he summed up the attitude of a segment of the ‘traveller’ population accurately.

However, if ‘back to nature’ is your thing (how’s that for a segue) take a look at www.kohchang-oasis.com, the website isn’t 100% complete yet but the bungalows are.   A total of 15 very nice, 250 baht/night ensuite fan huts on the hillside overlooking Lonely Beach.   From what I’ve seen they’re probably the best value rooms on the island.   Well worth checking out if you want a laid back place to relax before and after partying.

In the Property World, a family from Bangkok are selling a small plot of beachfront land, but it’s on the east coast, 4.5 Rai for 3.5 million/rai – includes approved plans for a 16 room boutique resort. Hand over the cash and start building the next day. Info & photos.

29 Nov Having problems finding a good standard hotel room for Dec / Jan? Take a look at the recently opened VJ Hotel, located next door to the 4 star Amari.   But it’s a third of the price.

Meanwhile down in Trang yesterday,   the new boat was having it’s final test and Mam was learning how to   drive it.   Pichet, the boat builder, is the guy giving directions and advice about how to avoid the large island shaped objects dotted in the sea.

Good news for nature lovers, an attempt by a large resort to claim 90 Rai (14 hectares) of mangroves as their own land ended in a defeat in court for them, and a victory for the National Park, recently. It’s not hard to figure out the resort if you want to – there’s only one place on the west coast with 90 Rai of mangroves still intact.   And just when you thought it was all good news, the powers that be now have a plan to build a walkway through these mangroves   (see how a recent attempt to do this in Salakkok resulted in an unfinished concrete monstrosity)

At the northern tip on Klong Son bay a large sign warns visitors to keep out of a construction area.   beyond this sign lies the huge Siam Royal View housing development.   Plots of land and houses for multi millions of baht.   No advertising to be seen on Koh Chang or on any KC related websites as you aren’t in their target market they’re after.   A visit to their website will show that most marketing goes on in Europe and the Middle East in order to attract people who want a villa on a Thai island where they can be prisoners in their own luxury community well away from the likes of tourists such as yourself.

5 Dec A couple of new photo galleries added – Klong Neung & Khiriphet waterfalls.   Both are near Salakphet, both are rarely visited, both are free but one is a bit of a let down whist the other is pretty interesting. Find out which one is worth visiting for yourself – Klong Neung or Khiriphet.

A few days ago I donned my ‘Beer Lao’ t-shirt, fisherman’s pants and henna tribal tattoo and went on my annual undercover mission to mingle with the masses in the backpackers ghetto of Lonely Beach, and to have breakfast at Nature Rocks. (But having my Golden Retriever in tow did set me apart from the crowd a little).   Happy to report the banana pancakes were very good as was the mango juice shake. Keep up the good work.

More interesting   than the fact that Nature beach seems to be inhabited solely by beautiful people – not a paunch or stretch mark in sight, was seeing that the bungalows that they built less than 2 years ago have now been knocked down to make way for a new resort. The bungalows were on rented land and the neighbouring plot was sold for 88 million baht last year – so I doubt that 300 baht/night huts are planned.

More Koh Chang visitor statistics from the TAT . . . in 2004 there were, officially, 361,465 visitors to the island of which 99,264 were foreigners.   Why is this of interest? Thought it might be if you were planning on opening a business aimed solely at foreign visitors and were interested to know how few visitors actually visit.   And if you’re opening lodgings of any kind, note that the average occupancy rate across all 112 TAT listed hotels & resorts in 2004 was 36.74%. With the rate climbing over 50% in only 3 months of the year.

11 Dec On klassy Koh Kood, Six Senses Resorts & Spas, the guys who run the exclusive Evason Resorts, just issued a press release to let the world know they’re planning a 63 room resort, called ‘Soneva Kiri’ on 150 acres of land and opening in June 2007.   You get an idea of who the target market is when you learn that guests will be flown into the resort’s landing strip by the resort’s by private 12 seater Cessna.   Apparently, a Soneva Koh Chang is also planned and expected to open late 2007.

Less extravagantly, on Klong Prao beach ‘Tiger Huts’ has just opened with very basic huts for 300 baht/night but all 18 rooms are about 5 metres from the beach.   No landing strip here for guests, only a kilometre walk along the laterite access track that leads off the main road.

If you’ve booked a vacation in the south of Thailand for this month . . . hope it doesn’t rain too much.   It’s been raining virtually everyday for the last month’s down in Trang & Krabi whereas here on KC the weather has been great with only   a handful of cooler, wet days during the past month.

Anyone staying at Kai Bae Beach Grand Ville   Hotel . . .   note the sign on the circular reception counter which simply says ‘RECTION’.

And I also received a cautionary email from a guy who set up a small bungalow resort in Bailan with his Thai g/f two years ago.   The short story is that he’s back in the UK having lost the 2 million baht he invested and his ex now has a new farang guy in tow.   The golden rules are don’t invest more than you can afford to lose and that bargirls don’t make the most reliable of business partners.

16 Dec A very extensive trip report to Koh Chang has been posted (in Russian) by Vladimir, boss of Crime Research in the Ukraine.   (If you have a problem with cyber criminals or cyber terrorists, give him a all as he’s one of the guys the FBI or Scotland Yard call when they need help.) If you don’t read Russian, fear not as there are loads of photos of Koh Chang taken during his stay last month – I’m in one of them :-) See:

To the management of Kacha Resort . . . the Scandinavians would like some cheese for breakfast please. (Why these crazy   Norsemen aren’t happy with a choice of boiled, scrambled, or omeleted eggs is anyone’s guess.)   So if you could pop down to VJ Supermarket and pick up some Edam and Cheddar it’d go down well.   Thanks.

Why did Siam Royal View feel the need to retouch the photo of Klong Son Bay they used on their front page advert in this week’s Pattaya Mail?   Looking at the ad, there’s now an additional bay near Klong Son which doesn’t appear on any photos of the area that I’ve taken.   As an afterthought . . . doesn’t Koh Chang have planning regulations that state that you now cant build on the shoreline?   If so, why does the SRV website show mock ups of bungalows & villas built right on the shoreline?

Coming soon, more probably than possibly, especially if the Thai businessman backing it   comes up with a bit of cash and goes through with promises of a Thai reporter to do the donkey work, will be Koh Chang’s first newspaper. Published monthly to begin with.

Thanks to Lena from bringing a bag of ‘Royal Canin’ dog food all the way from Sweden for our dog. He’s just had some tonight as have the cats.

Also thanks to Mark from Moscow for the Russian red wine, 2005 vintage, I’ll save it for a special occasion.

Our boat is in Bangkok, will be here tomorrow or the next day depending on how many contributions to police coffers have to be made on the way.     For anyone thinking of towing a boat through city centre Bangkok at night, expect to pay numerous ‘tolls’ to policeman you meet on the way.

24 Dec –‘Santa’ the dog, took our new boat out for a spin yesterday.   He’s got a lot to learn about knots.   As you can see the weather here is pretty good now, after several extremely cold (under 20C) and windy days during which no boats were going out to sea.

It’s the season of Christmas Gala Dinners- so my sympathies go out to those of you being forced to pay up to 2,500 baht or more for what amounts to he usual buffet dinner plus tinsel, a turkey and never-ending rounds of ‘Jingle Bells’.   Fear not, a few glasses of festive punch and you’ll be comfortably numb.

Festive cheers to Plaloma Resort who prove that tacky Christmas lights are more than readily available in this part of the world, they must be seeing how many they have draped around the entrance.   Tropicana outdoes everyone else with their   nativity scene.

Meanwhile at the IamKohChang HQ, we’ve got a pretty good festive platter – mince pies, a variety of cheeses, Russian beer, Mouton Cadet Rothschild ’98 and an Xmas pudding – brandy sauce rather than custard.   So my thanks to visitors to this site who smuggled all this through customs for me.

Had an email earlier this week from a Thai hotelier wanting to sell a large, very well known beachfront resort on Koh Chang.   If you need more details or want to deal direct with the owner, email me.   Serious enquiries only as you’ll need millions (Dollars or Euros) to buy it.

I’m getting quite a few emails from people looking to buy small businesses – bars, dive schools, bungalow resorts etc.   So if you want to sell up your let me have a few details.

Building news . . . one construction firm not to hire is the builder who erected a new restaurant a few hundred meters north of the Amari.   A huge metal and tile roof was built precariously on thin brick pillars.   The result was that during high winds on Wednesday night it collapsed, whilst nearby wooden structures were undamaged.

26 Dec I was on the ferry to the mainland this morning, saw that there were three guys in the back of   a police pick up truck.   Nothing unusual in this, but they were being watched over by half a dozen police – which seemed a bit excessive.   The reason was they were off to court having been picked up for murdering their boss.   James Hall was a 57 year old from the northeast of the UK, the guys who killed him were working on building his bar on White Sand Beach.   Nothing about this in the English language papers in Thailand yet.

Ever wondered how many websites begin their description of Koh Chang with the phrase Some even boldly call it “the last paradise islands in South-East Asia” . . . . ‘.   If I had a baht for every one that did, I’d now have 130 baht, including the most recent site to use it www.changdiving.com. Klong Prao Resort’s in-house dive school.   The site looks very nice with a clean, easy to read and navigate design, but as with most sites of this kind the information has been cut & paste from any one of a variety of other sites info cut but has annoying Flash animation that takes literally hours to load of a dial up modem.

You can tell that no-one   has really read the site as it still touts the ‘Pak One’ wreck as a popular dive. (Which it was . . .   until 2002.) The dolphins look nice, but some photos actually taken off Koh Chang would be less misleading.   Around here there’s more chance of seeing dolphin on a menu than in the sea.

If you’d have been staying at our place on Xmas Day you’d have enjoyed a free trip out to Koh Wai for a bit of snorkelling and lunch on the beach.

Koh Chang Speedboats have just started running an hourly service between Centrepoint Pier on the mainland and Koh Chang. 120 Baht will get you a one way ticket for the 10 minute   ride.   (Cost is only 20 Baht more than the regular ferry and far more fun.)