3 July – “A blue eyed girl met a brown eyed boy . . ” Holiday romance is alive and well on Koh Chang . . . at least that’s what Santa thought, but after a few nights of wining, dining and serious petting by Lizzie, she was gone, back to England and straight into the paws of a young Lab/Golden mongrel. Leaving a tearful Santa with only this photo to remind them of their time together.
Today’s Nation has includes this story ‘Mudslide wrecks homes on Koh Chang’. Turns out no homes were wrecked, only four resort bungalows. The article doesn’t mention one of the contributing factors to the mudslide may have been the owner of the resort digging away the side of the mountain in order to build the bungalows and not giving any thought to shoring up the resulting rock face.
We went to try ‘Paddy’s Palms’ the new Irish pub on White Sand Beach. Irish in so much as the exterior is green, interior mustard yellow & cream with dark wood furnishings, leather sofas, obligatory prints of the old country on the walls and sells decent pints of Guinness and Kilkenny draught. Although I don’t think Mam was expecting a pint of Guinness to arrive when she ordered a Pina Colada but, feeling sorry for the waiter, she drank it anyway. Happy hour prices, 4-7pm, are 140/150 baht/pint for real men’s beers and 100 baht for draught Heineken & Singha. No food yet, which has a plus side as the food available comes from a Thai restaurant nearby and pretty good it is too. It’s a bit lifeless at the moment, but so is everywhere on KC. The one difference between Paddy’s Palms and other large Irish theme pubs was this . . . every Irish pub I’ve been into always has loads of small things that catch your eye, bric-a-brac, interesting touches to the decor, humourous touches etc. You notice new stuff every time you go in. P.P. doesn’t have any of this, it should. Maybe it’s on the way. However, come the high season I’m sure it’ll become a regular meeting place for visitors & expats alike.
The new Bangkok Airport a.k.a. Suvarnabhumi Airport (which I guarantee you won’t be able to pronounce correctly but ‘Suwanapoom’ is a good attempt.) will be conducting test flights on 29 July. Why is this important? Because Bangkok Airway’s flight PG311, Trat – Bangkok is one of the lucky 13 test flights on that day. In addition to landing well over an hour’s drive from the current airport, passengers will get a certificate ‘I survived the test landing’, a free lift into town plus the chance to see first hand if all the stories about cracks in the runway and leaking roofs are true.
Also, as of July 1, Bangkok Airways has raised the price for transfers from Trat airport to any resort on Koh Chang to 300 baht per person.
Not everyone likes this site as this brief email, from someone who gave his name as Klaus, but unfortunately didn’t include a real email address shows: “Be careful what you say, people get hurt for less!”
14 July – I’ve been back in Bangkok again for well over a week or so, enjoying such delights as KFC, Starbucks and traffic jams.
Back on KC now for at least a month or so as we’re pretty busy with the start of the summer holidays in Europe and guests who are looking to swap the summer sun back home for cooler, damp days on KC.
On Koh Chang, the road widening scheme is nearing completion and will probably be almost complete for a few more months. An additional 1.5 metres of best Cambodian grade concrete has been added to the width of the road south from White Sand Beach to Kai Bae. What it’s actually for is anyone’s guess: parking? an extra lane for traffic? an area for stallholders to set up shop? a dedicated bicycle & motorbike lane? a footpath? or simply a combination of all of these. (I’m going for the latter.)
Coming soon, some nice land on Koh mak for sale – only 4 rai, with a maximum of 2 rai per buyer for 950,000 baht/rai. 200 metres walk to the beach, views out to sea & across the island, has a Chanote title. Much better value than anything you’ll find on Koh Chang.
For the benefit of American readers . . . this week’s state sponsored colour coded Terror Alert warning for Koh Chang is . . . ‘Lilac‘.
Next update when I’ve got more time, I’ll be adding some info on hassle free transport from Siem Reap or Phnom Penh to Koh Chang. A lot of people choose to combine a trip to Angkor Wat with a beach holiday on Koh Chang and the internet is full of horror stories about scams relating to overland travel. So, at present the only way you can travel to & from Koh Chang, assured of not being ripped off, is to fly in & out of the country. An expensive and also very inconvenient option as it means going via Bangkok. I’ll have an alternative which is far cheaper than flying and also comes with a money back guarantee that you won’t be scammed, duped, lied to, deliberately delayed, taken to any unknown hotels, dropped off at restaurants in the middle of nowhere several times during the trip, made to pay to fill in unnecessary forms etc etc.
“Is Koh Chang home to the some of the ugliest ‘ladyboys‘ in Thailand?” That poser was posed by an emailer last week & I’m entitled to agree with him. A bloke in a frock is a bloke in a frock, regardless of the amount of make-up he has applied and how well his wedding tacked is tied back and there are more than enough blokes in frocks, or more often miniskirts & hotpants on KC.
It’s deja vu all over again, last year several expat business owners complained when I wrote in a tourist mag that it rained quite a lot in the rainy season on Koh Chang. This year I’ve had a few emails from people who have far too much time on their hands now that there aren’t many tourists around, here’s this week’s example in a new ‘Green (NOT Rainy) season’ feature entitled ‘Disturbing Email of the Week‘, complete with original typos. I deleted info about the sender’s businesses on KC, but bear in mind his businesses aren’t mentioned on this site at all:
“who the FUCK do you think you are, to talk about +++++ the way you do. you call it a +++++, I have a +++++ there, yes I have a +++++, I can not find your office or adres on this site. so I love to meat you and I whant to see your face. so if your a big boy come over and tell me why you advertise like this!!!!”
Needless to say, when we spoke on the phone we agreed to differ as to whether I should be allowed to put my own opinions on my own website or whether my opinions should automatically change to reflect those of anyone who disagrees with me.
Take this site for what it isn’t: it’s not an advertorial filled tourist site full of platitudes for anyone who hands over a few baht. But a few thousand can buy a lot of love, as evidenced by impromptu plugs on this site for the Koh Chang Asbestos Co. Ltd., ‘The asbestos 9 out of 10 toddlers prefer!’
21 July – Koh Chang ‘Atlantis of the East’ so goes the tourist authority’s new advertising slogan dreamt up by copywriters who never let a bit of rain get them down.
Zoltan, the Hungarian photographer, not the nemesis of Superman, stayed at our place earlier this year and took a few rather arty photos. One, of Klong Prao beach, is opposite. See his photo site with pics from various countries here.
Info on a new private minivan service between Siem Reap & Phnom Penh and Koh Chang. This service is designed to ensure that anyone wanting to combine the delights of Angkor Wat or Phnom Penh’s riverside bars and the beaches of Koh Chang can do so safe in the knowledge they aren’t going to be taken on a magical mystery tour by the van driver. All the details here
If you’re staying at our place and have your laptop then you can now spend all day hiding in your room or sitting on the deck by the river surfing the web for free. No-nonsense with passwords etc, just power up your lap top and you’ll have access to our 1MB connection and you too will quickly come to learn that not all 1MB connections actually work at that speed, some, such as those on Thai islands, are much slower.
There’s a rather large fisherman’s house for sale in Bangbao – area 25m x 15m, can park a boat outside, price 3 million. Would make a good spot for a dive shop or seafood restaurant.
Following statistics courtesy of the TAT, who are putting the ‘anal’ back into ‘analysis’. Were you one of the 149,108 foreigners who visited Koh Chang last year? The TAT’s number crunchers have finally come up with that figure which represents a 49% year-on-year increase over 2004. Pretty impressive, but two things to consider . . .
. . . first it’s only slightly larger in terms of the number of additional visitors than the increase of 41,000 more visitors in 2004 over 2003. Plus a large proportion of 2005s increase over 2004 can almost certainly be attributed to people who would have otherwise visited Phuket or Khao Lak – had their resorts not been wiped out by the Tsunami. Thus bumping up figures for the first few months of 2005. ‘Make Koh Chang your first choice when your original vacation destination gets wiped out by a natural disaster’ Maybe that’s too long to fit on an advertising hoarding.
Anyway, if you were one of the lucky 149,108 then you probably spent around 3.84 days on Koh Chang, spent 2,330 baht daily and stayed in a hotel/resort with 41% occupancy rate.
27 July – Google Earth has updated their high resolution photos and the northern section of Koh Chang can now be seen in detail, rather than a blur. Even down to zooming in on individual houses – such as the red roofed house in this photo which is mine. Well worth a look if you’re planning a trip to KC, but the photo used is over 18 months old, as our footbridge was built in Nov 2004 and doesn’t appear on it. Also everywhere south of our place isn’t in high resolution.
Here’s a very good deal for anyone wanting to have a business on Koh Chang. Forget about renting a little shop unit or taking over a restaurant or internet cafe and rent yourself a resort which was built under a year ago. 3 Rai (4,800sqm) of land with 15 ensuite fan bungalows, a 300sqm restaurant, quiet area on a hillside above the main road in Lonely Beach. Bars & shops are only 5 mins walk away. Land rent paid until May 2007. 11 years lease remaining. Price: 2.2 Million baht – including all kitchen equipment, all bedding, two phone lines & a website. Annual land rent is 110,000/year – fixed for the next 11 years. All you need do is hire a couple of staff and you’re up & running. Photos & info (This is genuinely a very nice little resort with great views, I’ve been recommending it to people who email me looking for quiet, clean, good value, conveniently located backpacker huts.)
The Larry King Award for insightful questioning this week goes to, ironically, a CNN producer who stayed at our place last week. Using his searching journalistic mind to discover what really makes ‘Baan Rim Nam’ tick, his leading question was “So, where does the dog shit?” It had been playing on his mind for a while apparently, and the idea of the dog taking himself off down the footbridge to the coconut field hadn’t been considered as a possibility. Taking another leaf out of the ‘King of Talk’s‘ book, we then spent the next half hour discussing the plight of those caught in the middle of the Israeli shelling of Lebanon – featuring the story of an IDF gunner who tripped over a spent shell casing and twisted his ankle, leading him to miss his brother’s Bar Mitzvah the following day. Our thoughts are with the family at this difficult time.
Another week, another warning/threat email from an expat living on Koh Chang saying that I shouldn’t mention any businesses or any specifics about Koh Chang “Just talk about the island” because “30 baht of gas and a match later…Think about it, people have time on their hands during low season” Fortunately that was countered by just over 100 emails this past week from people thinking of visiting the island, all of whom seemed pretty happy about what they’ve read on the site.
4 Aug –
“I’m waitin’, waitin’ on a sunny day
Gonna chase the clouds away
Waitin’ on a sunny day“
Here’s a good MP3 of the live version, from Barcelona 2002, of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Waiting on a Sunny Day’, stick it on your Ipod and you’ll almost forget the rain outside your window. (The rain’s due to a tropical storm over southern China & the start of the SW monsoon coming across the gulf of Thailand . . . so it’s wet everywhere at the moment, not just on KC.)
I’ve now added a search facility to the site – on all pages except this one, so if you can’t find the info that you’re looking for, or simply can’t be bothered trawling through all the crap . . . give it a go.
Google Earth isn’t the only entity with aerial photos of Koh Chang. Aerial Photography Thailand, who, rather aptly given their name, specialise in aerial photography in Thailand are another. Justin, the boss, sent me a few small pics of the KC coastline – three of which are on this page. If you’re looking of aerial photos of KC for whatever reason, drop him an email.
Would you pay 30 baht for a four bar cappucino Kit-Kat in preference to 19 baht for the regular flavour?
Business challenge . . .which of these two ‘once in a lifetime’ investment opportunities would you go for? 1) Anyone wanting to ‘invest’ 20 million baht in a proposed development built on a small plot of farmland by the road, let me know and I’ll put you in touch with the mastermind. 2) Anyone wanting to ‘invest’ 20 million baht in a proven recipe for snake oil, let me know and I’ll put you in touch with the inventor. If you chose 1) . . .you’re the ideal investor for Koh Chang. If you chose 2) you probably have either an MBA or some common sense as 1) is actually real.
The Amari Hotel company would like you all to know that if you have US$325+++ handy you & your Mum can enjoy a ‘Mother’s Day’ break during August at the Amari Emerald Cove, Koh Chang. Price includes: free return airport transfer, dinner for 2, spa treatment, fruit & flowers and the dreaded, sickly sweet ‘Welcome drink’.
Will we be seeing any reverse swing at the Headingley test this week?
A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that the current international terror alert level on Koh Chang was ‘Lilac’. A reader wanted to know what that means / implies. The answer is simple, we’re on an alert that’s a step down from ‘Beige’ and several steps up from any number of pastel shades.
9 Aug – Just added details of the very nice modern Thai-style houses for sale on Koh mak. A 2 storey house built using local ‘it daeng’ (red stone), teak wood with terracotta roof tiles (as seen on all temples but rarely nowadays on houses) sitting on 500sqm of Chanote titled land can be yours for 75,000 Euros. (Facilities include a pool, property management service and use of a private island nearby.) More details.
There are two songs going around my head at the moment, one is the Chili Peppers’ ‘Tell me Baby’ and the other is a tune that I’m trying as hard as I can to get out of my head. If you thought the Crazy Frog version of Axel F. was annoying then have a listen to the website for Koh Mak Buri Hut Natural Resort.
Forget about a speedboat – the waterborne penis extension for the middle-aged. Forget about a yacht, the rich man’s plaything. Real men sail squid boats. And fortunately I know where you can get one. For a mere 200,000 baht this Trabant of the high seas can be yours. It comes equipped with GPS fishfinder, which presumably works for squid as well, a Yamaha inboard diesel engine and loads of bright lights to attract the squid up to the surface. All you need do is round up a Cambodian crew and give them all amusing nicknames such as Seaman Staines’, ‘Master Bates’ and ‘Roger the Cabin Boy’. You’ll be the envy of your friends and neighbours as you pull into harbour declaring “The squids on me tonight!” (Alternatively, a far better idea would be to fix the boat up for use as a snorkelling tour boat.) If you’re interested email Carsten, not me.
It’s now possible to take a Thai language class on Koh Chang at the island’s only language school. Anchana Language School recently opened up on White Sand Beach, opposite Top Resort, and is offering classes in both Thai & English. Worth checking out if you’re planning on relocating or working on the island and want to learn local speak. Or if you’re the boss of a business where many of your Thai staff have what educators, and your customers, refer to as “a piss poor grasp of English”. Send ’em along for classes, it’s worth it in the long run.
Finally . . . openings for entrepreneurs on Koh Chang. Laid off? Taken early retirement? Recently divorced? Are you looking for a new challenge, the chance to earn big bucks and the opportunity to live and work in paradise? Then why not run a beer bar on Koh Chang. Live out your fantasies by pimping ho’s on a Thai island. Visit the unsuccessful attempt at a covered market in Chai Chet that’s currently being converted into a beer bar enclave for more details.
15 Aug – It’s child vs. dog again in a common sense challenge. In the photo on the right, Santa has the choice to conserve his energy and just stare at a plastic bag on the river bank or do a ‘Lassie’ and drag the drowning kid out by his bandana. Fortunately, Luke managed to swim back home on his own whilst Santa was ferried back by canoe. Common sense score . . . . Dog 1: Kid 0
Seeing as the Siam Royal View development will now cover the entire length of Chang Noi Beach on Koh Chang it’s hard to ignore what will eventually be the largest luxury development of it’s kind in Thailand. (Well over 50% larger than the next biggest development which is in Phuket.) In addition to the beach front villas & bungalows, a 50 Rai plot of land has been bought inland for developing into cheaper housing for people who are happy to walk to the beach in return for saving a few million baht. Big developments such as this aren’t really my cup of tea, although I wouldn’t mind one of the waterfront plots with boat mooring that will be on sale later this year or the large plot at the very end of the beach – a triangular shape with water on two sides and private beach area. Very nice if you’ve got 20 million baht handy. But I can see the advantages for people who aren’t yet living in Thailand permanently or are just looking for a holiday home and aren’t interested in all the hassles that go along with watching over Thai labourers and dealing with petty bureaucracy. Therefore, there’s now a Siam Royal View section on this site covering pretty much all you need to know.
We’ve had some nice weather recently which is good. However, just because the sun is out that doesn’t mean that the sea is safe to swim in at this time of year. (The white topped waves crashing against the shore should be an indicator.) If it’s cloudy no-one goes near the sea, but as soon as the sun comes out people go in & forget about the possibility of riptides etc. Unfortunately, this is what happened on Aug 12th when a Dutch woman drowned off White Sand Beach, her husband & sister were rescued, but she died. The news reports of this incident went for the sensationalist angle and described a them being washed out to sea by a tidal wave or mini-tsunami – which is nonsense. Just down to people not expecting currents & undertow and then panicking when they get swept out to sea.
Meanwhile on Klong Prao, beach four Thai tourists also had to be pulled out of the water after being taken out to sea by the current. BUT . . according to a Thai guy we know who works for the local rescue organisation, and was at the scene, three of them died. However, there haven’t been any news reports about this. (Maybe four people drowning on the same day would be too much bad publicity.) There are no official lifeguards or red warning flags on the beaches so if you do see anyone out patrolling the beach that almost certainly means that an incident has recently taken place.
Totally unrelated to Koh Chang . . . but the Hollywood remake of ‘Bangkok Dangerous’ (called ‘Time to Kill’) is currently being filmed in Bangkok and they’re looking for extras right now. Both the original and the remake are directed by Danny & Oxide Pang from Hong Kong but Nicholas Cage will be playing the hitman this time round rather than an unknown Thai actor, although he won’t be a deaf mute as in the original movie: “We’d like to keep him the same, but we understand that from a marketing point of view Nic needs to have some lines“, Oxide Pang is quoted as saying.
The original is one of the best Thai movies you’ll come across and it’s well worth picking up a copy simply for the scenes in which Kong, accompanied by the ghost of his dead friend, walk through a Japanese restaurant in order to gun down the guys who killed his mate; and the super slo-mo ending where you see individual glasslike, rain drops falling as Kong does what he believes is the right thing to atone for his crimes. (I won’t spoil the ending for you.)
Just added more details of the lovely little housing development on Koh Mak. I just received a detailed plot plan and some floor plans for the two styles of house. Nine of the sixteen plots have already been sold with seven remaining. If you’ve got 60 -75,000 Euros to spend on an island retreat with a large garden (500sqm of land) and only a few minutes walk from two long sandy beaches then take a look.
21 Aug – Would you swim in that? Neither would I, but only a couple of days after a Dutch woman drowned, and the local powers that be said that there was a system in place to warn / prevent people from swimming in the sea a couple of Thai teenagers had to be rescued from the sea off White Sand Beach. Not by any lifeguard or rescue crew but by three foreign tourists who were also in the water.
You wouldn’t feel safe visiting Koh Chang unless there was an up-to-date warning designed to make you feel how fortunate you are to still be alive. Thankfully the draconian laws restricting carry on items on pick-up truck taxis and the screening of all passengers have now been relaxed. With tourists & locals alike unable to travel between White Sand Beach and Kai Bae by public transport, they took to camping out roadside until the all-clear was sounded. Meanwhile local officials busied themselves by adopting serious frowns and implementing ‘better to be safe than sorry, especially after the fact’ policies. However, the novelty wore off after a few hours and the pick-up truck taxis were soon running to their usual irregular schedule. This after police investigations rumours concerning the possible use of suicide fighting cocks by terrorists intent on bringing vehicles to a halt using a potentially lethal mix of menthol inhalers, locally grown vegetables and badly sung Thai pop songs, proved to be unproven. However, the ban on all liquids being carried – except essentials such as Red Bull and Beer Chang – is still in force.
Is Koh Chang dull in low season? Look at it this way the only event of any kind that will take place on the island between June – October is the opening of the new Post Office, by the roadside in Pearl beach, which will begin providing all manner of postal services from 4 September onwards. Locals are already camping outside the doors in anticipation of being the first to glimpse the whitewashed interior walls. Last year there was no new post office that could be opened and next year there probably won’t be either, making this a once in a lifetime occurrence for some unfortunates.
Added some guest reviews, in addition to my own thoughts, to the hotel booking pages on the site. The common thread that runs through virtually all reviews is the lack of English ability amongst hotel staff. Unfortunately, this isn’t going to change any time soon as virtually all hotel managers have no say in how their hotels are run. Rather than being a GM, they’re more like an RM, and so just take care of the staff and resolve day to day problems rather than having any say in how things are actually set-up, organised and run, let alone allocating a budget to any from of worthwhile staff training. Requests for money have to go to the owner, or in some cases to the owner’s wife who hold’s the purse strings despite never having run or even worked in a hotel before. The only qualification being I’m richer than you so I know best. Being an impotent manager gets to many people after a year or two, hence the high turn over of GMs in many resorts. Some go through 2 or 3 in a year and thus have no direction or continuity. Managers learn that to survive they just go along with the boss, sit back, relax and don’t change a thing as what’s in place already pleases the boss so why change it? When you’re at your resort try asking the manager how often his hotel provides English language classes for staff. (Then ask the staff and see if a) they understand the question and b) if their answer is the same as the manager’s.)
26 Aug – As the sun has been out recently (very good weather for the past week with hardly any showers at all let alone storms) I thought it was time to start to spotlight some of the people who come to Koh Chang and their reasons for doing so. This week it’s the turn of Sophie, a volunteer do-gooder from NYC.
Got taken for a free meal at the posh Amari Emerald Cove resort a few days ago. I couldn’t face the Thai restaurant at the hotel as once you’re used to good Thai food, all hotel Thai food is crap. (I used to do some work at The Oriental in Bangkok, assessing the customer service skills of some of their apprentices and part of the deal was a free meal. I remember having a bowl of Tom Yam Goong, priced at almost 1000 baht and the only differences to to 50 baht Tom Yam from my local restaurant were that the prawns were larger; it wasn’t served in a plastic bowl with mismatched cutlery; and that it didn’t have any real taste.)
So, Italian food at ‘Sassi’ it was, and we chose to eat outdoors overlooking the hotel car park. Starter was Caesar Salad with soggy croutons – how a 4 star hotel can screw up what are essentially small square bits of toast is beyond me, but aside from that no complaints. Main course was chicken breast stuffed with something green – probably vegetables – not bad and served with a single boiled potato that had been carved into a conical shape and stood upright for an unspecified reason. Dessert was mango & sticky rice, 40 baht in the market and always delicious. OK, so it’s about as Italian as the chefs at the Amari, but seeing if the staff can lower themselves to make the only Thai dessert that’s worth eating is always fun. They made it, but the mango wasn’t sweet and the sticky rice wasn’t cooked properly. So overall about a 6/10 for the food and if I’m building value into the rating as well then you’re probably looking at a negative number as I really don’t care if I drink out of imported glassware and eat off celadon plates or not, but when the bill is almost 3,000 baht for two people I have high expectations. However, the waiter was very good – he had 10 years experience of working in an Italian restaurant in Bangkok and certainly knew his stuff. Also good is the sight of the hotel lit up at night – it looks far nicer when you can’t see the harsh whitewashed walls and just see the subtly lit pool & walkways and security guards lurking by the beach – not sure if that’s to keep guests in or keep beach dogs out.
G’day! Last Saturday’s (19 Aug) ‘Sydney Morning Herald’, and also ‘Melbourne New Age’, newspapers featured a lengthy write up on Koh Chang. Surprise, surprise I get a mention in it, apparently I’m “loquacious”. (Yeah, I had to look it up too and it’s something that I’m not.) Still, it makes a pleasant change from being called a “twat”. Anyway, I’ve cut & paste the article here, so you too can revel in my growing fame.
Business owners . . . . make sure your place is open in early October, spruce it up and employ an English speaking member of staff with an IQ greater than their shoe size. Why? Because God, in his/her earthly form as a Lonely Planet guide writer, will be visiting this area of Thailand in a few weeks’ time in order to update listings. My advice is to offer generous discounts and freebies to anyone with an antipodean accent who wanders into your place in mid to late October.
Tourists . . . Carry a notepad an camera wherever you go, pay more attention to your surroundings than usual, put on your best Steve ‘Crocodile Hunter’ Irwin accent and make the most of this opportunity to negotiate good discounts and in mid-late October.
Animal lovers . . . Stop reading now. Another year, another dead baby elephant on Koh Chang. That’s three dead at the two elephant camps in Klong Prao in the past three years. Baby elephants may be cute but they get stressed pretty easily and the novelty of being pawed by kids and having their photos taken with families crowding round them soon wears off. They get fed-up and lose the will to live – I know how they feel. I’m not a vet or zoologist but I’m pretty sure that a young elephant should last longer than a pair of 99 baht flip-flops do.
2 Sept – Protein packed & crunchy with a soft centre, I found the ideal snack for our dog. Young Nigel, egged on by his brother, Ken, climbed in there of his own free will, no idea why, but that’s one reason why cats don’t rule the world.
Just found out that this site was recommended on The Times newspaper’s list of the world’s best travel websites on July 31st. But that probably says more about the poor quality of most travel sites than it does about the merits of this one. Still it’s nice to know someone reads it.
A few days ago the Thai newspapers reported that the government had approved a whopping 40 million baht (almost the same as a luxury villa in Phuket would cost you) for infrastructure projects on Koh Chang including two waste water plants and a garbage disposal plant. I wonder if this is a different garbage disposal plant to the one that was reported in March 2004 as being approved and had a 50 million baht budget allocated, and which would produce fertiliser from waste materials. Or maybe it’s the same one as the garbage disposal plant that was scheduled to open by the end of 2005 and which would reduce the amount of garbage by recycling 80 per cent of all trash. The non-recyclable stuff would be shipped to a garbage landfill on the mainland. Obviously the designers of this plant know something that no-one else does, as the ability to recycle 80% of all garbage is one that no other recycling facility in the world has. It’ll be interesting to see if the money goes on anything other than digging another large hole in the ground.
Had lunch with a guy who designs frocks for Pink & Christina Aguliera as well as sunglasses for Brad Pitt & J.Lo, the other day. Which pushes the ex-member of Massive Attack, whom I met whilst out canoeing a while ago, down a position on my ‘Barely Recognisable Celebrity Island’ list.
Good value Chanote titled land on Koh Mak for sale. Sea views, 2 minutes walk to two sandy beaches. 5 Rai in total, but buyers are limited to a maximum of 1 Rai (1600sqm) each. Half Rai = 1.2 million baht, 1 Rai = 2.3 million baht. More info here.
Down in Lonely Beach the very nice Oasis Bungalows is now under new ownership, although Aomm & Tarn will stay on and look after the place for the new owners this high season.
There’s one beachfront plot of land for at Siam Royal View, for sale by the owner. All beachfront plots have long been sold. Price 7.5 million (negotiable). Email me if you’re interested and I’ll put you in touch with the seller – an English guy.
In Kai Bae, I noticed that the ‘Happy Elephant’ has closed barely a month after it opened. This was a western run drinks/ice cream parlour/restaurant type of place that wasn’t trendy enough to attract the beautiful people and didn’t appear to be cheap enough to attract the backpackers. No idea what the story is however, but it now holds the record for the shortest lived farang owned business on KC. With luck, the owner sold it on to someone for a crazy price.
As of 1 Sept, all Thai mobile phones now have an extra digit, they will all begin ‘08‘ instead of ‘0’. So 01-555-xxxx now becomes 081-555-xxxx. However, the old number will work until 30 Nov.
9 Sep – “I recently had one week off and spent it on White sands beach, Koh Chang. Seriously, what is up with the English guys selling drugs on the beach after hours? I met two idiots 25 something, on my way back home one night, trying to sell me ganja and xtc with an offer to join their party back at a bar/bungalow area they partly owned. I told them to **** off and went to bed. Next morning I asked my Thai hotel manager if local ?????? knew about them and he said something like “Yes, it’s alright, they pay ?????? to be able to market their bar with drugs”. That sounded unbelievable to me, could foreigners really be that stupid or ignorant? I presume they don’t know the penalties for selling or using drugs in Thailand. How ****** up can you get? Paying locals to shut up about your drug scam, good luck…I hope they rot in hell”
( The ?????? is an edit on my part. Just say ‘No’ to drugs, corruption and naming names, kids.)
And finally, as part of the tourist authorities plans to encourage people to spend more money in Thailand, the price for entry to all National Parks has now been increased from 200 to 400 baht for foreigners. On Koh Chang, this will only affect you if you want to see one of the two waterfalls which visitors often go to – Klong Plu & Than Mayom falls. If you’ve seen a waterfall before, save your money or visit Kiriphet or Klong Neung waterfalls in the south east of the island – these are free.
10 Sep Two photos in today’s update. On the right is the sunset from a couple of days ago and at the bottom of the page the view from Long Beach, also taken a couple of days ago.
Had a fun 24 hours recently which started when an oil line broke on our pick-up and it ground to a halt on the unfinished road down to Wai Chek beach (which is now washed out so you cant drive to the beach anymore unless you’re on a motorbike). Got a tow back OK, only to find that one of our guests was having a weird adverse effect to some prescription drugs. The general consensus amongst the amateur physicians that were on hand was that she looked like something out of Dawn of the Dead. So she had to be rushed of to hospital and spent the night there. Fortunately the car will be fixed soon for only a couple of thousand baht and the guest has made a quick recovery.
Jim & his yacht, “Remington” are currently down in Malaysia, off Tioman Island, and want to know if anyone fancies a trip up to the Perhentians and then back down to Tioman and past Singapore to Phuket, where he’s due a re-fit – apparently the dodger and genoa are on the way out. (I don’t have a clue what that means either.)
We’ve still got one room left for 14-20 January, other than that our place is already fully booked from mid-November to mid-February. So it looks like this coming high season will be busier on KC than last year. I’m getting a lot of emails from families looking for rooms/bungalows as many hotels say they limit the number of kids in a room to one – which isn’t much good if you have 2 kids. If anyone has any recommendations for places, let me know and I’ll pass them on when I answer emails
More boat stuff . . . A Danish icebreaker . . .(see if you can guess the name) . . . the ‘Hans Christian Andersen’, is Koh Chang bound, having set sail from Denmark in late August. There will be 15 members of staff on board catering to the needs of up to 40 guests who are looking for an experience rather than luxury travel, according to the report on Scandasia.com
Some folks working for a internet company based in Bangkok thought it would be a good idea if their new Koh Chang site had some content worth reading. So they simply cut & paste half of this site plus dozens of my posts from the Tripadvisor discussion board and claimed they’d written it. The stuff they ripped off has now been removed and I got a “I don’t know how it could have happened’ type of apology from someone pretending to be the boss. So, if you’re looking for a hotel booking site please avoid kohchangonline.com. They also claim 7 years experience of living on Koh Chang which is nonsense and their parent site is on a blacklist of sites listed as being unauthorised agents for a major hotel in Bangkok. If you just want to book a hotel, there are lots of other sites to choose from.
15 Sept – On the right is the cover of the monthly magazine from DASTA, the Thai government organisation responsible for promoting sustainable development and basically protecting the marine national park from exploitation. So, it seems odd that they choose a cover photo that clearly shows a totally unnatural harbour and a long channel dredged through the seabed off Koh Kradad, near Koh Mak.
The big news this week that affects a lot of people across Thailand is the new limit on number of 30 day ‘Visa on Arrival‘s that foreigners can get. If you’re on a two week holiday this doesn’t affect you at all, but there are a lot of people who are working, travelling long-term or are retirees etc and rely on the simplicity of being able to hop over the border every 30 days to renew their visas. From 1 October onwards they’ll limited to a maximum 90 days entry on VOAs in any 6 month period, this can be 3 consecutive 30 day entries or a dozen or more shorter visits – but either way the total is 90 days stay in Thailand out of every 180 days. These border hoppers have to either pay some money and get a proper visa or find another country to stay in. On KC the businesses most affected will be dive schools as virtually all dive instructors in Thailand are employed on a cash in hand basis and so are continually making visa runs. This coming high season they’ll have to get multiple entry tourist visas in advance. Not a major hassle but an inconvenience for many. If anyone is looking for a way to get a multiple entry, 12 month Non-Immigrant ‘B’ or ‘O’ visa, send me an email – I know someone who can help out.
Meanwhile, how are the efforts to transform Koh Chang into an upmarket paradise that Thailand can be proud of going?
Golf is a sport that attracts the high rollers with bad fashion sense, a love of plaid and a credit card. Phuket has several courses, amongst them Mission Hills – designed by the Nicholas family, Jack Snr was a well know player in his day. Samui has Santiburi golf club, rated by some as being in the top 25 courses in the world.
Not wanting to be left out, here on Koh Chang, a new crazy golf venue, in the old car park of the 3×3 Plaza, Kai Bae is being set up. I took a quick look at the course and it appears to be 9 holes, Par 27, roughly 40 yards in length. There’s a dog leg, amongst other body parts, but I’m sure that will be cleaned up before the course officially opens. Miss it & miss out. (Tartan cap, stay-pressed strides and a fondness for Tiger Wood’s balls are all optional.) No mention as to whether female caddies will be provided. For anyone new to golf in Thailand . . . if you thought ‘the 19th hole’ was the clubhouse bar, you’re mistaken ;-)
But, apart from that one major attraction opening, a quick look at two recent posts on the Lonely Planet discussion board would seem to indicate that it’s a while yet before ‘Utopia’ status is reached . . .
8 Sep – From a business owner in Lonely Beach: “Last night a group of backpackers arrived on Koh Chang with their latest purchase from Jartujak market Bkk. A baby monkey not more than 3 weeks old, it could fit in the palm of your hand. The stupidity of this blows me out of the water. Feeding it all kinds of junk food; being an instant source of attention and at the end of the day left with the only one option, leaving it behind in the jungle when they continued their travels. I am not David Attenborough but the chances of its survival and its acceptance by other closely knit wild monkey groups is virtually negligible. Please think!!!”
20 Sept – Coup News: This being Thailand, Miss Orasa, the celebrity hand-model who’s career was tragically cut short when she lost both arms below the elbow, has been employed as rather pretty coup spokes-babe. Her duties include passing on the message reminding viewers that the army has all the guns so it’s best not to upset the Generals at this difficult time.
But how did yesterday’s coup affected Koh Chang? A quick rundown of the past 24 hours as it happened:
8.00 am Thaksin Shinawatra calls an urgent teleconference with all armed forces’ commanders at Government House, but none attends. On Koh Chang, I noticed a couple of police hanging around outside the 7-eleven in Klong Son. Possibly, paying their electricity bills, or was something more sinister about to unfold?
12.00 pm After finishing the webcam teleconference with Thaksin, who is New York, several Cabinet members check with reporters if there would really be a coup. On Koh Chang it starts raining, is this an omen?
6.30 pm The Army’s special forces from Lopburi move into Bangkok. Gen Prem Tinnasulalonda, president of Privy Council, has an audience with HM the King, reportedly on a merit-making ceremony for ML Bau Kittiyakala. On Koh Chang two of our guests take the boat across to Pu-Talay Restaurant, oblivious to the drama unfolding in Bangkok.
9.00 pm The Army’s special forces from Lopburi arrive at the Army’s Bangkok headquarters. On Koh Chang I take the dog for it’s evening walk. Was that a troop carrier or just builders in the back of a pick-up?.
9.30 pm TV Channel 5 cancels regular programming and puts on air royally authored songs. Panthongthae, Thaksin’s son, reportedly has left Thailand for the UK. On Koh Chang, one of our guests is thinking of leaving to the UK too, in a week or so, after the end of his holiday.
10.10 pm CNN reports Bangkok situation. Koh Chang not mentioned.
10.20pm Thaksin declares a state of emergency via the phone from New York. He also issues two orders, transferring en Sondhi from the post of army chief to the PM’s Office, and naming Gen Rungroj Mahasaranond as the officer in charge of the crisis. On Koh Chang, no one’s sure who’s in charge or what they’re in charge of – situation normal.
11pm “The Administrative Reform Council” (ARC) issues a first statement on TV network, saying the armed forces and national police have peacefully seized control of Bangkok and surrounding areas. Soldier seize the Shinawatra Building, iTV television station and Thaksin’s residence. On Koh Chang all the Thai TV stations are off the air, no tourists affected except those with Thai spouses who now have to put up with them whining about having their daily soap operas interrupted.
11.50pm ARC issues the second statement explaining the reasons for the coup d’etat, citing national disunity and rampant corruption. ARC says it plans to return power quickly to the people. Foreigners now severely affected on Koh Chang as CNN & BBC are off the air and so are all other satellite channels including ESPN which was cut in the middle of an analysis of Rafa Benitez’s use of Steven Gerrard this season, and I for one, was looking forward hearing Steve McMahon’s insights. More seriously I do begin to get concerned, my Dad just posted a ‘Little Britain Series 3’ DVD to me, and I’ll be rather annoyed if this coup delays the mail in any way.
8:00 am ARC spokesman announces Gen Sonthi will make announcement on TVs at 9 am. The spokesman also announces that TV stations can resume their normal programmes but most continue to relay signals from Channel 5 except iTV, which briefly airs its morning news programme. On Koh Chang, at our place, guest Peter goes for tea instead of coffee with his breakfast which is a bit unusual. Unsubstantiated rumours of tanks queuing at the mainland ferry pier as ticket staff try to decide on whether a troop carrier really should travel for the same price as a pick-up or if a truck ticket is more appropriate and if a tank is a ten wheeler or not.
9.00 am Not one to miss an opportunity, I email the ARC asking if I can declare Koh Chang an independent state and install myself as leader and, if not, do they have the phone number of the cute spokeswoman. No reply to either request as of yet.
21 Sept – Coup Update: My fleeting association with fame related to the coup comes in the form of being quoted in an article in today’s Daily Telegraph (UK) newspaper. ‘Overthrow almost not exciting enough‘. In my defense the journalist emailed me late last night after I’d polished off the best part of a winebox. (Toasting the Generals of course, ‘Viva El Revolution’ as they say in Thailand.)
25 Sep – Coup fever has died down here on Koh Chang, where a warm welcome awaits all members of the Council for Democratic Reform under Constitutional Monarchy. The tanks are off the streets of Kai Bae, the Klong Son militia is back in its barracks & life on KC is as normal as it ever was. But what passes for normality on Koh Chang if often rather unfathomable. As the following example will attempt to prove beyond all reasonable doubt:
In this role-play you put yourself in the shoes of a DASTA official. Remember, they’re the guys responsible for building only half a road around the island, a monstrous concrete walkway though supposedly protected mangroves, building toilets without any water supply and generally making a balls up of any project they come within a mile of.
You are supervising the project to add visitor facilities to the view point above Sea View hotel, Kai Bae, which really does have great views. You decide that what the area really needs are two things in order to attract more visitors. The first is a no-brainer. There should be a huge concrete tower (see photo), as there aren’t nearly enough of those on the island and tall structures are popular the world over. I’m betting that they’ll be a large sign atop of this pole flashing ‘Scenic Viewpoint’ in blue neon.
The second is a postbox, so that people can drive up here and post stuff – it’s obvious really. However, your challenge is to decide what design you should make the postbox. Something traditionally Thai? Something nautical? Something environmental? Something elephantine? But, if you work for DASTA it’s pretty obvious that you want to go down in history as a forward thinking guy, and what’s more forward thinking and up-to-the-minute than a scale model of Flash Gordon’s rocketship from the 23rd century?
Good news . . . . 10 days ago the entrance fee to the waterfall was increased from 200 to 400 baht however, on 23 Sept, Thai National News Bureau & Bangkok Post reported that the National Parks, Wildlife and Plants Conservation Department has now seen sense and postponed the increase until November 30, 2007. The department said it did not want the fee adjustment to affect tour businesses which sold the trips to these national parks at old prices. Why they didn’t bother telling anyone that they wouldn’t increase the prices on Sept 15th, before Sept 15th came around and not a week later is information that can only be divulged on a need to know basis . . . . and members of the public don’t need to know, otherwise they’d already know, wouldn’t they?
All of which begs the question . . . Why, as of today, is the sign at the entrance to Klong Plu waterfall still showing the entrance fee as 400 baht for foreigners and who’s keeping the addition 200 baht/head that’s being charged illegally?
Anyone interested in what I’m reliably told is the nicest coffeeshop / internet cafe on Koh Mak? It was built by the owner of a resort but she doesn’t have time to run both it & the resort, so it’s for lease. Annual rental of 200,000 baht. Brand new, got most of the equipment you need. Includes living accommodation for the owner, high speed satellite internet connection, large garden area, covered outdoor seating. Best of all, unlike every small business you’ll see for sale on Koh Chang, there’s no ‘Key money’ required. I’ll have photos in a couple of weeks time when I go to Koh Mak. If you’re interested let me know & I’ll put you in touch with someone on Koh Mak who can provide more details.
Also 1 Rai of land to rent on White Sand Beach, Koh Chang for the same price as renting a couple of shop units. Clifftop, with uninterrupted seaviews – ideal for a restaurant or long stay accommodation. 9 year contract possible. Photos here.