1 April – Koh Chang’s first attempt at an Art / Craft / Music festival is being held on the 3 & 4 April at Hat Sai Noi beach near Bangbao. Find more details on the two days of events organised by Jambe House & Curlykez Gallery on flyers posted on literally every immovable object south of Kai Bae. Daytime events are free, evening stuff will cost you 250 – 300 baht to attend. Free pick-up service provided by the organisers to whisk people to Bangbao in style.
If the thought of staying roadside in Kai Bae is something you’ve always dreamed of and never thought would be affordable then think again – Baan Bo, Kai Bae have a webpage or two in English. (Also info in Japanese too.)
April’s edition of ‘Thai Travel Today’ the Thai language travel news monthly carries an article regarding a recent meeting of DASTA, the government agency for developing tourism on Koh Chang. It appears that plans are afoot to make simple changes that should, the committee hopes, bring more visitors to Koh Chang. Chief amongst these is the plan to rename several popular beaches. DASTA officials noted a disparity between the number of tourists staying on beaches with ‘western names’ and those with harder to pronounce Thai names. White Sand Beach and Lonely Beach regularly see high occupancy rates whilst Klong Son, Klong Prao and Kai Bae beaches are often shunned by holiday makers, researchers found. Dr. Wichian, Directory of DASTA is quoted as saying “There are two reasons for the change. We want foreign tourists to be able to tell their friends where they stayed and the current names don’t adequately reflect the natural beauty of the island.” If the proposals are adopted, next high season expect to be offered accommodation at ‘Hideaway Bay’, ‘Crystal Cove’ and ‘Six Islands Sands’.
‘Moccachino’ – the nicest coffee shop on the island is reluctantly up for sale by it’s owners. If you’re looking for a small well-located, well-designed space for an office or shop in Kai Bae then this is worth a look. Info & photos.
I have to update the Koh Chang info for May’s edition of ‘Untamed Travel’ magazine – so if you’ve got any kind of event / promotion / happening planned for May let me know in the next week or so, and it can have a free mention in the mag.
Contrary to what I have mentioned in previous emails to several people – the nice plot of land, 1.25 Rai, and house with 40 metres beachfront on the east coast is still up for sale. The owner has now been persuaded to include land leading back to the road in the sale and so has re-priced the land at 6.25 million from 5 million previously. Photos here.
If you like to spend your free time cruising, Seabourn Cruises run a Singapore – Vietnam cruise which stops off at Koh Kood on the way. The article on the cruise, from the Daily Telegraph website, gives a hint at it may not be a voyage for the budget conscious: “We snorkelled from a white sand beach on Koh Kood into clear waters where tropical fish glowed as if lit by internal light bulbs and a launch from the ship brought out caviar and Champagne served in the sea off a surf board.”
And in Salakkok, south east Koh Chang, there are three fisherman’s house for sale two at around 1 million each and one for 1.8 million. All have excellent views over the bay. If you’re into scenic views, no tourists and need a place to moor a boat then they’re ideal.
April 6 – It’s too hot to do anything outdoors on Koh Chang today. So far I’ve answered emails, written a press release on peripheral vascular disease for a stem cell research company, churned out an article on real estate on KC for a property mag and drank far more fruit shakes than most doctors would recommend. So, it’s time to take my brain out and do a quick update of the site.
I get quite a few emails from people considering moving to Koh Chang to open a small business and asking for my opinion (for what it’s worth) about their projects.
I thought it’d be interesting to highlight step-by-step, how the locals do it. I’ve enlisted the help of expat expert Bob, a representative of the Koh Chang Amateur Businessman’s Club and author of ‘How to lose your life savings in 30 days or less’, the popular guide for expat bar owners and restaurateurs, to talk us through this case study which explains the process of how one arrives at the decision to open a particular type of business in a particular area.
Somchai arrived on Koh Chang with nothing more than a smile and the contact details of a T-shirt & beachwear supplier, he setup shop in a small corrugated iron shack roadside. Business was good. Somchai invited his friend, Narong, to open a shop next door. Seeing the success Somchai was having the two decided that they could double their sales if Narong also opened a t-shirt & beachwear shop. A week passed and Narong’s cousins, Nit & Nat, who was visiting from Isaan suddenly had the idea that what the area really needed was a third beachwear shop. Two weeks later they were in business. However, due to a dispute over the overcharging of tourists – Nat insisted prices should be double what locals paid, Nit insisted on triple. The two split and Nit went solo, setting up ‘Nit T-shirts and beachwear’ next door.
Meanwhile, in the paddy fields of Isaan, Somchai’s younger brother had heard tales of his brother’s booming t-shirt and beachwear emporium. And, as it was conveniently located in the midst of a thriving expat Isaan community, he loaded his wife, kids, dog, and mother-in-law in the back of the Isuzu and drove south. Within a week, this 50 metre stretch of roadside had it’s fifth t-shirt and beachwear vendor. For a while business was good with some shops seeing daily profits of well over 120 baht. However, the bubble burst in March with the end of the high season and the arrival of Narong’s aunt who after researching her options carefully over the course of a 2-hour somtam and sticky rice business lunch with Somchai’s wife, decided that the current investment climate could support a sixth t-shit and beachwear shop, albeit one that focused on beachwear more than t-shirts, which would set her shop aside from the others, thus ‘Same same but different beachwear and t-shirts’ opened for business. Despite insisting that she hardly made a profit, the other traders placed the blame for their drop in sales on this new arrival, who didn’t display a plastic, paw waving Chinese ‘welcome cat’ in the shop, and thus placed a jinx on all other traders in the vicinity. Somchai is rumoured to be mulling a move into the lucrative sunglasses and sandals market for the 2006-07 season.
And just to prove that the truth is often stranger than fiction, a new bungalow resort has recently opened on the roadside several kilometres south of Dan Mai, on the unvisited east coast. Its name . . . . ‘White Elephant Resort’. (Really)
14 April – As a few of you found last week’s business advice from expat expert Bob, author of ‘How to lose your life savings in 30 days or less‘ useful. So, he’ll be back later this month with some tips taken from his latest work ‘The art of selling loss making small businesses to unsuspecting newcomers‘ which shot straight to the top of Koh Chang’s best seller list recently.
Why do people remove their brains once they get onto an island? I met a girl who ‘bought’ a small business and now wants to sell it. She owns the fixtures & fittings but pays rent to a landlord for the shop space:
“How long is the lease?”
“I pay rent every month.”
“Yes, but how long is the contract for?”
“As long as I want, I pay every month.”
“So, what does the contract actually say? 1 year?, 3 years?”
“Your rental contract.”
“I don’t have one, but the landlord is a nice guy so it’s OK.”
A new contender for the title of ‘Best small plot of land currently for sale on KC’. Here’s the view from a lovely bit of land for a house or small quiet resort. 9 million baht will get you 2 Rai of ‘Chanote’ titled beachfront land near Bangbao which stretches up a hillside with views over the bay and private beach below. (More photos & info)
If bay views are your thing, a budget version, aso 2 Rai, but no beachfront is available for 1 million baht down in Salakphet. Farmland but with sunset views over the head of the bay. Email me if you’re interested.
The Independent newspaper (UK) had an article on Ethical Travel the other week. Koh Chang got a mention as a good place to go in Thailand for the ‘conscientious tourist’. So if you’re the type of person who feels guilty about all the jet fuel that’s used to transport you to Thailand, let me know and you can plant a mangrove tree at our house in order to say ‘Sorry’ to Mother Nature for only 1,000 baht. (Who said absolvence should be free?).
The lovely Lek, from the Project Department of the IMPACT Exhibition Center, would like everyone, or, more probably, only people with money to spend on yachts and condos, to know hat the ‘First Pattaya Boat Show & Premier Living Exhibition’ will take place between 29 April – 3 May 2006 at Ocean Marina Yacht Club. More details at: www.impact.co.th/pattayaboatshow.
‘Bunting’ – there’s a word I haven’t used for a while, and have only used now as Aana Resort today have put up the saddest example of bunting I’ve seen since my primary school’s Sports Day in 1976, which took place at the height of a national strike by the Union of Bunting Makers.
Big thanks to Nick for making a phone call to enable me to get my 1MB ADSL hooked up in under 24 hours (after over 3 months of waiting). Next high season they’ll be a free wi-fi hotspot at our place for any laptop carrying guests.
April 24 – The Koh Chang International Triathlon Championship, is set for May 21st. Competitors will start at White Sand Beach with a 1.5km swim, then cycle 40km before a 10km run to the finish line at the Koh Chang Lagoon Hotel. Prizes, medals for participants and no doubt lots of posing and handshakes from local dignitaries. No idea how you can enter though as the tourist authority’s finely tuned publicity machine hasn’t made this info public yet.
Spa Samui, will open their new Koh Chang operation aimed at the healthy and want to be healthy sections of the tourist market, on May 1st. The new venture is named either ‘The Spa Koh Chang Resort’ or ‘Seamazon Spa the Health Resort Koh Chang‘ depending on if you read the info on www.spasamui.com/spakohchang.htm or www.seamazon.com. It’s located down in Salakkok, hidden away amongst the mangroves. I had a quick look in when I was in the area the other week and very nice it is too but still needs quite a lot of work doing if it really is opening on May 1st. But it may well be the resort to put Salakkok on the tourist map.
Anyone want an internet cafe on White Sand Beach? Good location, well known, everything in place – just turn up, hand over 320,000 baht and it’s yours. Photos here.
Anyone want to rent a bungalow long term. A friend has one for 10,000 baht/month to lease long term – 6 or 12 month renewable contract. Bedroom, bathroom, living room and additional room that can be used for storage/spare room etc. Quiet location, off road parking, and has a private swimming pool you can use. (We lived in the bungalow next door to this when we first came to Koh Chang.)
Lots of traffic jams on Koh Chang over Songkran, the Thai New Year holidays. The Bangkok Post reckoned on over 2,000 cars coming onto the island. The traffic flow wasn’t helped on the day when everyone was leaving, as a Thai royal decided to come here for a day trip which resulted in roads being cordoned off for her and her entourage. The party ate at Aana Resort, (wouldn’t be my choice for a mid-afternoon meal) and I’m sure my excitement at seeing her matched her delight at watching the farang opposite.
The second installment of my ‘Koh Chang Real Estate’ trilogy for Thailand Real Estate Magazine is online now at their site and in print in the magazine. Click here to read it or visit www.thailand-property-guide.com.
Down in Bangbao it appears a new housing project is underway, a couple of signs for ‘Aana Resident Project’ have appeared. Call me cautious but it’s always a worrying sign when a developer doesn’t make any effort to check the three words of English on the sign.
A new coffee booth opened a week ago in Kai Bae, Sawasdee Coffee. The good news is that it’s cheap – 35 baht for iced coffee. The bad news is that it’s undrinkable.
3 May – < Start of educational paragraph. > What’s a flicking shrimp? . . . I hear you ask. Bob, pictured right, is one such crustacean, he was dug out the the muddy mangrove roots near our house in the name of science (and a curiosity about what BBQ flicking shrimp tasted like). Flicking shrimps make an audible ‘clicking’ noise – a bit like someone snapping their fingers – with their one large claw. You often hear them in mangroves but rarely see them – except, as in this case, when displayed on a plate. < End of educational paragraph. >
There was a big travel fair in Bangkok last weekend, quite a few Koh Chang resorts were represented one whom who’s brochure included such gems as: ‘We invite you to spend your vacation with us and let the stress of daily life drift away on the sea breeze.‘ . . . .what a load of bollocks, who wrote that? Oh, yeah . . . I did, think yourself lucky no-one is paying me to write this site.
I need a holiday, it’d be great to get away from the beach and just spend a couple of weeks sitting in a homely cubicle in a sterile office, whiling away the hours surfing the web.
An English translation of Koh Chang’s land usage regulations is now on the site. Plus scans of the original documents. (Thanks to Ron at Morrissey Fashions, near the Amari, for letting me have them.) The translation isn’t word for word but you should get the gist, which is basically that you can’t just go and build the meat processing factory of your dreams without first considering the zoning laws.
More ‘recently opened but failed after 6 months type‘ of businesses are for sale – a restaurant/bar in VJ Plaza, Klong Prao and Koh Chang’s first paintball arena – which must hold the record for having the shortest time between opening and being put up for sale. I expect to see a lot more ‘For Sale’ signs on shuttered shop units in the coming months. If you’re interested in starting a business there’s very little reason to pay over the odds for a few tables and chairs in a shop unit when there are plenty of vacant units around. (Unless of course you’re getting something that really is well designed / decorated and has potential.) And as anyone in VJ Plaza will tell you, it’s all about location. Unfortunately, the arse end of a half-rented out plaza isn’t the location for a restaurant or a bar. The only place that’s ever busy in the evening is the 20 baht a bowl noodle stall near the entrance.
A very nice, 29 bungalow beach resort on 9 Rai of land (6 Rai owned & 3 Rai leased) Koh mak is for sale for 30 million baht. Much better designed that the majority of KC beachfront resorts and very well priced for the location and land size. Serious enquiries only to me and I’ll put you in touch with the seller who wants confidentiality.
8 May – Photo on the right taken at Klong Son, there’s no need to head to Bangbao to see fishing boats and locals doing local things.
The Koh Chang International Triathlon organisers have surprised everyone by getting a website (www.kochangtriathlon.com) up & running before the event actually takes place on May 21st. It includes all the information any potential competitor needs . . . in Thai. But worth checking back as the event draws closer as content seems to be added every few days.
The three killers of Jimmy ‘“The best pianist I’ve ever played with” says Elton John’ Hall, who was murdered on White Sand Beach in late 2005, were sentenced to 30 years in jail last week. His mate Stevie Strong bought out a tribute CD ‘Rainbows Cafe’ containing the last recording Jimmy ever made. Try as I might I cant find it in iTunes, maybe not as popular as Elton’s ‘Candle in the Wind’ which, no doubt, would have benefited greatly from having Jimmy tinkling the ivories.
Had an email from the boss of Siam Beach Resort on Lonely Beach, assuring me that they are going well and truly upmarket with a 4-star resort being the aim. No doubt complete with guards to shoo away unwanted backpacking types. 24 new rooms have already been built with another 60 on the way next year. Take a look at the new website: www.SiamBeachResort.in.th. A site that is actually well written and interesting to read, which makes a change for a resort webpage.
Get your handkerchiefs ready, the Associated Press ran the tear jerking story of Bangkok woman Ariya Manee who was planning to drive down to Koh Chang for her honeymoon. Due to a rise in the price of gasoline she was now seriously considering abandoning her dream honeymoon. (Apparently, this was the best case of an oil price rise induced hardship the journalist could find in a city of 12 million.) My first thought was, gasoline cost to drive Bkk-KC-Bkk 6 months ago = around 800 baht. Cost now = around 1200 baht. So, this woman will consider cancelling her honeymoon for the sake of 400 baht, but she can afford to own a car which I’ll bet she still drives to work everyday, rather than taking the bus.
15 May – Count the monkeys and win a prize . . . or maybe not. We saw these monkeys on cliffs in the south west of Koh Chang when we were out on the boat last week.
For anyone interested in 6-star luxury getaways, Six Senses Resorts now have a webpage for their new Soneva Kiri Koh Kood resort, which is opening next year. Lots of blurb on the eco-friendliness of the resort which guests will be able to travel around by electric golfcart or bicycle. This is in an effort to compensate for the guilt they must feel about the amount of fossil fuels burned in transporting them by private plane to a newly built airstrip, on the nearby island of Koh Mai See Lek, and then being whisked by private speedboat for the last 2 kilometres of the journey to their ‘green’ hideaway. One final thought . . . would Six Senses sue if you named your resort ‘Soneva Bitch’?
Interesting info for anyone worried about malaria . . . . the Thai Red Cross recommends against taking anti-malarial drugs for several reasons including:
1) Ineffective prevention of an infection allowing for a sub-symptomatic infection that delays diagnosis and treatment. Treatment during the early first stages of malaria is very effective, but it gets more difficult as the infection and life cycle of the parasite progresses.
2) Contribution to the development of resistance pools to anti-malarials that are also used for treatment
3) Side effects from the anti-malarials. Rather, they recommend that you use bite prevention and if you have the slightest doubt that you might be infected, report to the nearest clinic or mosquito control office (there’s one in every small town in Thailand) for a diagnostic test, followed by immediate treatment on the one in a million chance that you have actually contracted malaria.
21 May – It’s now been raining solidly for 4 days. Definitely the worst weather so far this year.
Today is also the day of the Koh Chang International Triathlon, so I hope participants have adequate insurance as the sea is pretty choppy at the moment. No doubt the last minute offer of a free Koh Chang to Trat ferry ticket (one way only, value 50 baht) for all participants, Thai and foreign, will have swelled the number of entrants significantly. When it comes to slick marketing, you know who to call.
However, organising the event on the same day at the well-established Chantaburi half marathon, taking place an hour’s drive away perhaps wasn’t wise, neither was giving athletics clubs around Thailand only one months’ advance notice of the event. What you need time to train? Surely, it’s only swimming, jogging and riding a bike?
I had toyed with the idea of heading down to see the start at 8am but as it was raining so much I decided that the better option was to scour the internet for a photo of a rabbit with a pancake on its head. Infinitely less off putting, to anyone thinking of visiting Koh Chang, than a photo of incessant rain over a stormy sea.
22 May – Seems like quite a few people had questions about the rabbit. No, it’s not mine. Yes, it looks like a ‘Dutch’ -but I cant be sure. No, they’re not crumpets, they’re pancakes. If you have an opinion on this, or any other topic that’s totally unrelated to this site, feel free to email me.
27 May – It appears that some of my fellow countrymen are made of sterner stuff than myself, as the results from the KC Triathlon bear out. Englishman Peter Gibney (not pictured right) proved to be the toughest competitor at the Koh Chang International Triathlon on Sunday, leading all legs of the event before winning the title and 150,000 Baht in prize money. (I have a feeling that this wasn’t his first triathlon.)
In second place was another Brit, Simon Thomas. All in all, around 150 people took part in the event which cot around 3 million baht to organise. Unfortunately, none of this amount was spent on informing locals that the road outside Chang Park Resort in Kai Bae would be sealed off for an hour or two whilst the cyclists U-turned there – resulting in a tailback.
Yesterday, I went to see the GM of a resort to get some info for an article I have to write about them for a tourist mag. She wasn’t there but an underling was dispatched to speak to me and let me know that “we” didn’t know what she wanted to say about the resort as “We haven’t had a meeting about we what to say yet.” I went away fearing the worst . . .”we” will want to use the word ‘paradise’ way too often; will make repeated references to a ‘pristine, palm fringed, white sand beach’ that exists only in the eye of your graphic artist; and will probably expect me to include some slogan that your marketing department came up with that has zero meaning to anyone with English as a first, second or third language. Fortunately, that didn’t turn out to be the case when I went back this morning I had a cup of tea, a nice tour with her and permission to write whatever I wanted, with the proviso it was all positive. :-)
‘The Nation’ newspaper will be running a Koh Chang special shortly. Their salesgirls are currently phoning businesses on KC to try to sell advertising spots and mentions in the upcoming feature. Another option for anyone wanting to see their resort or business’s name in the national media is the offer from TATV – (Tourist Authority TV, on UBC Channel 9) to make 25 minute long TV show about your place, and just how great it is, for only 35,000 baht – discounted from 45,000 baht. On the face of it it sounds like a good deal but I’ve yet to meet someone who’s actually sat through a program on this station.
30 May – Just thought I’d add a photo showing the view over the southern end of Klong Prao beach taken a few days ago when the clouds broke and the sun came out.
There’s a nice little cafe for lease in Kai Bae. If you don’t want the hassle of setting up your own business then it’s worth a look as this is a turn key business. Located opposite two large resorts, it’s fully furnished & equipped, all stock included too. You get everything you see in the photos – with the exception of the owner’s wife. 650,000 Baht includes rent paid until January 2007.
The new PNN Spa at Sea View Resort, Kai Bae is a good place to visit if you need to kill a rainy afternoon. Not particularly cheap but well run and with a wide range of treatments / massages available. For a cheaper alternative – i.e. without the jacuzzis, steam baths and trappings of luxury; try Sima Massage, Klong Prao on the roadside near Chang Chutiman Elephant Camp.
And last, but definitely not least is news that affects every foreigner, across Thailand, not only Koh Chang, who has bought property through a Thai registered company that was set up for this purpose.
As of May 26th the Interior Ministry decided to crackdown on this practice and it’s now no longer possible for any company with a foreign shareholder to buy or sell property through a company if it appears that the company was set up specifically for this purpose. I.e. you’d have to prove that all the nominee shareholders actually knew what was going on and invested their own capital in the company etc.
This method of owning land is very common, but the laws haven’t changed it’s just that officials at the Land Registry departments nationwide have now been told to actively enforce them. The setting up of companies in order to buy land was so common that virtually all law firms in Thailand did this – despite it being technically illegal. It’ll be interesting to see how this pans out especially with regards to the large housing developments, such as Siam Royal View on Koh Chang where foreign ownership of all plots is via the Thai registered company route.
There are still ways for foreigners to ‘own’ land – such as buying it in a Thai’s name and then entering into a 30 year renewable lease with them. Of course doing this requires a watertight contract and the services of a good lawyer . . . not to mention a Thai in whose name to place the land.
Expect this topic to dominate the expat discussion boards in the coming weeks.
8 Jun – As Koh Chang is officially hibernating at the moment. We’ve decided to have June as a holiday month which means spending a bit of time on KC, a bit in Bangkok, a bit in nearby parts of Thailand and a bit out of the country.
The photo on the right is a vision of Koh Chang in the future, a beach populated almost entirely by hoards of Chinese day trippers. Behold the beauty of Koh Larn, a 20 baht, 1 hour boat ride away from beautiful downtown Pattaya if you do it yourself, or a few hundred baht by a far faster speedboat.
Highly recommended if you love travelling as part of a shepherded tour group, swimming in petrol fumes, paying over the odds for everything. (The exception being the guy selling ‘Nam Kheng Sai’ – shaved ice dessert – for 10 baht.)
This was only my 3rd or 4th visit to Pattaya in 9 years, and we only went because I can get a free hotel room there easily. On the plus side – Gullivers at the northern end of Beach Road does very good Thai and western food & cheap cocktails, we had delicious Vietnamese food at Vientiane Restaurant on Walking Street and Angelwitch, just off Walking Street is the place to go to see naked girls cavorting in foam, if such a thing takes your fancy.
Want to do something to help the local community on KC? Travel to Teach run volunteer programs throughout Thailand. I had an email from a recent volunteer couple relaying their experiences:
“The reality is that this program was started more as a place for volunteers from other part of Thailand to come for a free vacation. The program coordinator was leaving Thailand for England in 2 weeks and was more concerned with how to get a free bucket at the Sabay Bar than running a worthwhile program. When I asked her about the purpose of the program and why we weren’t doing any environmental work which is what we had been originally promised her response (as a Thai person) was that Thai people don’t want westerners help. True or not it makes me wonder what the point of the program was in the first place.”
The couple were also supposed to be doing some English teaching for local kids, something worthwhile. In reality they taught two classes at 4 star hotels on Klong Prao beach for hotel GMs who are too miserly to pay for proper training for their staff.
However, the head of T-to-T, after hearing of their time on KC, agreed to refund most of the fees paid to the couple and reports on various discussion boards seems to indicate that the organisation does a lot of good work in the North of Thailand.
15 Jun – Wonder how many of the people watching HM the King’s 60th anniversary dinner TV special last night – shown exclusively live on every Thai channel – could name more than three of the assembled royals from 26 countries. (I got Prince Andrew, the Swedish King & Queen and Prince Albert of Monaco. Not a clue on the others.) But the King of Tongo appeared to be having the most fun on his river boat ride up the Chao Praya whilst the Japanese emperor visited what appeared to be a museum to dead fighting cocks – skeletons, stuffed birds and all. (If I was a Japanese tax payer I’d be wanting to know if this was really necessary.) The Danes sensibly visited a shoe factory which made sensible Danish shoes and quite a few minor monarchs went shopping at the Jim Thompson house of silk.
No more updates for a couple of weeks as I’m out of the country and will have better things to do with my time.
You’d be amazed by the number of people emailing and finding it surprising that there might be rain in August, apparently many travel agencies fail to mention that pretty much all of SE Asia is rather damp between June-September. Clue: this time of year is known as the rainy season or, in more tourist friendly terms, as the green season i.e. the season when green stuff grows a lot.
Before I left KC I went to see a couple of plots of land that are now up for sale. On the east coast you can get several 2 Rai plots by the beach for 6 million baht each – with Chanote land title. And . . . at the southern end of White Sand Beach, on the west coast you can get a 1 Rai plot with uninterrupted sunset sea view. The photo opposite was taken on the land, more info here. (Not sure of the price yet though.)
28 Jun – As it’d be depressing to post a picture of incessant rain I’ve added an artist’s impression of a sunny day on Koh Chang. (Note the ominous cloud.)
Good (?) news for Koh Mak & Koh Kood, the Thai government announced that they intend to use the Koh Chang tourism management model to systematically develop other neighbouring islands. Cue the sound of the cheering masses.
This is the same tourism management model that allows developers to do pretty much what they like, oversees the building of public toilets that don’t have running water, sees that way too many slummy shop units are erected, provided close on a million US dollars for a waste management plant – that’s actually a large hole in the ground, and, after several years of half hearted construction never got round to completing the road around the island.
The brain factory behind the scheme is DASTA (Designated Area of Sustainable Tourism Administration) committee – headed by Deputy Minister for Natural Resources and Environment Plodprasop Suraswadi. The report also mentions that the model will serve as the development master plan for the straw-clutching ‘Riviera’ project, which aims to promote the eastern seaboard as an international beach paradise. (All that’s required are international paradise-like beaches.)
But, who is Plodprasop? A quick glance at his CV shows he’s the right man for Koh Chang ;-)
He was Thailand’s Forestry Chief and is the guy who in 2000 allowed owners of two illegally built resorts in Tap Lan National Park in Khon Kaen to continue operating despite a court order for them to close. At the time he was quoted as saying “How can we demolish their buildings? They have invested a lot of money.” Fair enough and just to show he could stand up to encroachers the Bangkok Post, 2 Dec 2000, reported that he dispatched a battalion of 1,200 armed men to demolish four Karen shacks in Thung Yai forest on grounds of encroachment. “The law must be respected.” Plodprasop insisted. Even though the forest dwellers argued that the area had been the home of indigenous Karens for generations.
He also, in July 2002, decided that all you tourists should pay 10 times as much as Thais for entrance to National Parks. (No, the extra money doesn’t go direct to the Park as park fees have by law to be returned to the central agency, Royal Forestry Dept, which isn’t exactly renowned for its probity in administering funds. High-ranking positions in RFD are known, according the boss of the Center for Conservation Biology, Mahidol University, to be bought and sold for millions of baht.)
However, later in 2002 he took ‘early retirement’ when the cabinet was reshuffled and he was out of a job. Oh, at the time there was a little matter of him being under investigation by seven different government fact-finding committees following several malfeasance complaints but that’s probably only coincidence.
However, you cant keep a good man, or Plodprasop, down for long and he remerged, reputation intact to head DASTA.
He still knows how to wow foreign visitors, as, at the grand opening of Chiang Mai Night Safari in Nov 2005 he announced: “The zoo will be outstanding, with several restaurants offering visitors the chance to experience exotic foods such as imported horse, kangaroo, giraffe, snake, elephant, tiger and lion meat. We will also provide domestic crocodile and dog meat from Sakon Nakhon province.”
Running a zoo isn’t all about dog burgers and BBQ lion ribs you’ve got to know your market . . . the animal export market, and no one knows it better than Mr P., as in 2004 an inquiry by the Thai government panel on wildlife and plant protection, concluded Plodprasop broke the law by allowing a private Thai zoo to export 100 tigers to China for “research purposes”. (Probably to see what they tasted like stir fried.) Fortunately, the illegal export of endangered animals merited no more than a judicial slap on the wrist, so didn’t result in any loss of job this time round.
Plodprasop is also an excellent judge of character, or possibly recognises his own kind. In 2000, at a meeting to map a national tourism strategy, chaired by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, he called for a statue of Kanchanaburi Senator Chaowarin Latthasaksiri to be erected on account of his discovery of a huge stash of WWII Japanese gold & billions of dollars in US Treasury bonds hidden in a cave. Time magazine had this to say on the matter: “The lost treasure of Lijia Cave is now notorious as the biggest hoax in Thailand’s history, a scam so brazen it came dangerously close to ensnaring the monarchy.”
People are entitled to make errors of judgment, but so long as Plodprasop is liked by those on Koh Chang all should be well. Unfortunately, in May 2005, an adviser to Trat Environmental Conservation Group was reported as stating that “The organisation (DASTA) is killing our island” and had “Totally ignored people’s participation in formulating the master plan”. The report concluded by calling for the ouster of Plodprasop to ease local resistance to the project as the locals had questioned Plodprasop’s transparency and his disregard for public opinion.
Will Plodprasop listen to the locals? Doubtful as this is what he had to say following criticism last year by Surapon Duangkhae, Secretary General of Wildlife Fund Thailand, over the transfer of wild animals from Kenya to Chiang Mai. Plodprasop was quoted in the Bangkok Post (9 Nov. 2005) as saying, “Mr Surapon is nobody. . . I’d like to warn him to stop making comments on the issue.”
Methinks someone needs a spin doctor.