For 2006

October – December 2006

postbox-koh-chang1 Oct – There are certain things in life that you swear you’ll never do.   For some it’s marry a Protestant, for others it’s give a hand knitted sweater as a Christmas present, and for me it’s put bus timetable on the front page of the site.   But I’ve just done it, and for good reason, as unlike in the bad old days of the early 21st century anyone arriving at the new Bangkok Airport (Suvaranbhumi) no longer has to head into Bangkok in order to catch   a bus to Trat.   They can head to the airport’s transportation terminal from where a bus direct to Trat can be caught.

The new airport opened a couple of days ago with very few glitches. The airport authorities even took it upon themselves to do away with the impersonal electronic signboards which display flight information for a couple of hours, and instead, employ staff to personally notify passengers of departing flights by walking around the terminal building displaying printed cards. Another of the little things that make Thailand such a special place.

Ate at Invito, Italian restaurant on White Sand Beach, the other night partly because I’d already tried the Amari hotel’s Italian restaurant last month and partly because someone else was (again) paying for the meal.   As far as the food goes, prices were similar but the taste was much better than at the Amari.   Being on an island you tend to get into the habit of expecting to be disappointed by western food as it’s often a pale imitation of the real thing, it’s akin to eating Thai food in Europe or USA,   so Invito was a very pleasant surprise.   It’s a place to visit if you’re celebrating something and are with a lively group of people – but not so good if you’re looking for a place to whisper sweet nothings your loved one’s ear, as these will be drowned out by the competing sound systems of neighbouring beer bars.   As I keep telling anyone who will listen, there’s a big demand on Koh Chang for a good quality romantic restaurant in a quiet location away from traffic noise, away from high volume dance music, somewhere where you can sit under the stars, enjoy good food and not have your significant other spend half the meal being distracted by the nearby bar girls lack of dress sense.   Samui has a dozen places that fit the bill, Koh Chang doesn’t have one.

It’s been raining here – more than usual, due to the island getting the tail-end of a typhoon that’s crossing Vietnam.   But it’s still enough to cut the electricity and make the main road along the west coast impassable for most of yesterday.   On White Sand Beach the main street was turned into a river over   a metre deep. Our electricity went out at 4am an our guests spent the morning watching trees float down river past the house . .   . we also saw a fridge go past – so as bad weather goes, it was pretty bad.   But it looks like the rain is here to stay for another 2-3 days.

Down on Koh Mak, this small housing development has been so successful, only a couple of plots remain, so the owner will develop an additional   10 Rai of land in the coming months.   This land is located approximately 150 metres from the current development.   Houses will be the same traditional Thai style, but rather than clearing and landscaping the land, the houses will be built amongst existing jungle – for a more natural, secluded feel.   I’ll be adding information regarding plots & prices etc when I get it. But, if you’re interested, contact me and I’ll put you in touch with the owner direct as the best located plots will be sure to sell quickly.

If you’re in Dan Mai between 8-11 Oct you can join the the local people at meetings to discover what plans DASTA has for making Dan Mai into an Arts & Crafts village.   Don’t laugh, this is meant to be serious.   Given DASTA’s past record, if the Arts & Crafts village turns out to be anything more than a prefabricated shop selling dried seafood, fruit by-products and souvenir straw hats I’ll be very pleased, if not a little surprised.   How this will help the local people and exactly why DASTA think that foreign tourists are clamouring for a sun-dried squid emporium is anyone’s guess.

11 Oct – That’s the kitten that deleted my emails yesterday in his new favourite sleeping place.

Lots more rain , more mudslides & more flooding today.   I was supposed to be in Koh Mak now but the boat was cancelled due to the weather.

Lou Gehrig’s Disease – Getting serious for a moment. I’d heard of it but never come across anyone suffering from until until the other day.   One of the staff at a hotel near us has it.     He’s a nice guy, mid-30s with two young children.   We always used to meet when I was taking the dog for a walk in the morning and he was on his way to work and also often in the evening when he’d come down to the beach with his kids and they’d play with the dog.   But I hadn’t seen him for   quite a long time, so I guessed that he left to work elsewhere.   A couple of days ago I saw him again, looking a shadow of his former, healthy self.   He was walking stiffly and his speech slurred.   He told me about how he was rushed to hospital about 5 months ago and spent a month in a coma.   Then he had another 3 months in bed before coming back to work.   During this time he was diagnosed as having ALS – an incurable disease commonly known as ‘Lou Gehrig’s Disease’

The hotel rehired him, and put him in a job where he can spend most of the time sitting down and not over exerting himself outdoors.   But doctors have told him that if he’s lucky he’s only got 5 years left to live, probably only 3.   There’s no cure, no chance of recovery and he’s basically just got a slow death to look forward to.   His extended family will look after his kids and make sure that they’re taken care of so he isn’t worried about that.     They’ll also take care of him when he can no longer walk – which he thinks will be in the next 6-12 months.   He hasn’t given up any any means, he’s just a realist.   He wants to work for as long as he is able and says that he’s got to fight to stay alive as long as possible for his kids.

He’s been Googling in Thai, so he’s knows a lot about the disease and what to expect – but Thailand doesn’t have the same support sites for sufferers and their families as in the US or Europe.   Although his English is good enough to hold a simple conversation it isn’t good enough to read through English language websites   I told him I’d see what info I could find to help him and have been doing some searching to find some info about natural medications / supplements that he could findland and take to either slow his regression or improve his quality of life.   So, if anyone reading this has any experience of dealing with someone suffering from ALS, please email me if you have any ideas about what works.   (At present his medication consists only of Vitamin B & E tablets.)

Back to the non-terminal frivolity . . . If you catch the songtaew (pick-up truck taxi) from the mainland ferry pier to Trat bus station be aware that the   songtaew will stop outside the offices of one of the bus companies in the centre of Trat.   A guy will ask if you’re going to Bangkok or the border and if you reply yes, you’ll be ushered off and pointed towards the ticket office.   The bus company is perfectly legitimate, but there are other better bus companies operating.   So, what you may well find is that you buy your ticket and are then taken to Trat bus station where you catch the bus.   However, you might find that when you get to the bus station that there are earlier departures but there’s nothing you can do about it as you now have a ticket for a different bus.

Just stay on the songtaew and only get off when you reach an obvious bus station just out of town.   The ticket office is at one end of the bus station, the times of the next buses clearly displayed.   Buy tickets for minivans to the border at the small table set up next to where the minivans are parked.   (You can also get a minivan to Chantaburi or Rayong, these will usually leave when they are full and are quicker than regular buses.)

If you arrive at the bus station and are heading to Koh Chang, you can choose to wait until there are enough people to fill a songtaew to the ferry pier, or pay 200 baht (total) to rent the pick-up privately if you don’t want to hang around.   A ticket costs 50 baht NOT 20 or 30 baht as your outdated Lonely Planet states.   It’s the same price for Thais & foreigners.

On the way from Trat to the ferry piers look out for the songtaew making a stop at the office of a tour agent near the pier for Koh Mak, again a guy will come to the pick up and ask if you want to go to Koh Chang ( which you probably will do) if you get off here you’ll be on the slow wooden passenger boat which doesn’t leave very frequently and is often overcrowded in high season.   Far better to stay on the songtaew and get off at Centrepoint Ferry pier then cross on the car ferry.

Visiting Cambodia & Koh Chang? Anyone want to share a private minibus transfer from Siem Reap to Koh Chang on 29 November?   Amy & friend, from the UK, are looking for other people to share the cost of a private transfer (8,000 baht), if you’re interested, please email me & I’ll put you in touch with her.

Whitesands Publications who produce a pretty good tourist mag to Koh Chang have revamped their website – www.whitesandsthailand.com It’s what you’d expect, you learn that Koh Chang is a nice place, with lots of nice places to stay all of which are on nice beaches, on koh Chang you’ll also find nice places to eat and come to realise that the island is populated by nice people.   If you’re the type of person who still books their holidays based on your travel agent’s recommendations then this is the Koh Chang site for you, if not, you might fall asleep after the first few pages.

6 Oct – Lots more rain . .   . all day yesterday & all day today.   The road near bridge over the Klong Plu river has again been almost washed out, half disappeared last night.

Siam Royal View have released more beachfront plots and marina plots which should be of interest for anyone looking for a beachfront house or   wanting to own a   riverfront house where they can moor a boat right outside the door.   Prices and downloadable PDF’s. (I’m told that this plot plan was drawn by a guy who used to illustrate the Biology textbooks you used in high school.   His inspiration for this plan was the anatomical diagram of a flaccid willy on page 89.)

Peace and quiet has been restored to VJ Apartment; the apartment of choice for foreigners who cant find anywhere better to stay, Thai nurses & middle management at hotels.   The junkie English guy who had been consistently keeping most of the building awake by noisily beating his Thai wife   was finally kicked out as events came to a head with him returning home after   a night out only wearing a t-shirt, which was quickly dispensed with.   It was up to the police to suggest he put some clothes on and point out that banging on all the doors on his corridor wasn’t a good way to make friends.

Keeping on the topic of drunk foreigners . . .   the grandly-named Koh Chang Entertainment Complex, and the girls who work there, were declared open for business on 2 October.     If only there wasn’t a particularly interesting episode of may favourite Thai soap opera on, I’d have been there with my camera to record the event for posterity.   History’s loss.   But if you’re looking for a night of cheap beer and mindless conversation about the size of your wallet and the option to “You nice man.   You pay bar for me?” at the end of the evening, make   a beeline for Koh Chang Entertainment Plaza, just north of Klong Prao beach.

There’s a new steakhouse opening on White Sand Beach next week.   I’ve got an invite to the Grand Opening and the food’s free,   so regardless of menu price, atmosphere and service   the Texas Steakhouse on White Sand Beach is my recommended steakhouse on Koh Chang . . . . and will remain so, until I have to pay for a meal there or another steakhouse owner offers me a freebie.

Slight correction made to the ‘Battle of Koh Chang’ blurb in the Articles section – after a Thai historian emailed me.   Some people are sensitive about facts, whereas I’m not one to worry too much if a specific ship was or wasn’t sunk 60 years ago, which isn’t   an attitude shared by historians apparently.

After repeatedly criticizing D(is)ASTA the organisation in charge of tarting-up Koh Chang up for tourists, it looks like I may end up helping write their English language user guide to the island and even getting paid for it as the guys in charge are apparently “good people” but clueless.   So I’ll be in good company.

There’s a small plot of commercial land for sale by the roadside a stones throw from the Amari Emerald Cove and half a dozen other resorts.   Just under 1 Rai & suitable for retail or long stay / apartment type accommodation.  Asking price of 7 million baht is negotiable.   Foreigners can own leasehold on 30+30 year contract or usufruct if required.   More info here

If the terms ‘usufruct’ and ‘superficies’ mean nothing to you . . . they should.   Especially if you’re thinking of living or doing business in Thailand, as owning land though the previously common Thai registered company route is now very difficult / impossible to do.   Usufructs & Superficies are two fully legal alternatives which provide security for foreigners. I added a bit about them to the Real Estate section for anyone who’s interested.

10 Oct – ** If you emailed me today, please email again as one of our kittens managed to walk across my laptop this afternoon and press the correct combination of keys which was required to delete a dozen emails. *

18 Oct – First, thanks to all the people who took the time to email me with info and links about ALS following my last update a week ago.

Go east young man and seek your fortune.   Having tried running a noodle stall, a t-shirt stall, a motorbike repair shop, a laundry service, a tour agency and finally a combination of all five run out of the same shophouse, Somchai was about to give up hope on ever making it big on Koh Chang.   One night,   a little over a month ago, a chance encounter with an Arabian oil billionaire in his brother’s karaoke joint changed his life.   Somchai listened intently as the stranger told him of the vast wealth that lay beneath the dry, unfertile desert.   Surely, he thought,     if oil can grow under the arid sands of the Middle East there must be huge quantities hidden, just waiting to be discovered under the fertile roadside plains of Koh Chang’s Klong Prao sub-district.   A week later his pick-up truck was in the pawn shop and Somchai was proud owner of a second hand oil rig.     I called by to see how work was progressing, it’s slow admitted Somchai but he’s down to a depth of over 40 metres now and manages to produce enough of his own fuel daily to half fill a dozen Johnny Walker Scotch bottles that he sells to passers by – to refuel their scooters or for use as petrol bombs   – at 30 baht a time.   As for the future, it’s looking rosy, Somchai has another 12 bottles on order from Noi’s recycling emporium and is hoping to break even sometime in the coming decade.

But if you think Somchai will have   a hard time making any money then spare a thought for whoever ends up renting a shop unit that’s being advertised for sub-lease on White Sand Beach.   The unit, which is scheduled for completion by the end of the month is located roadside opposite Grand View Resort at the quieter, southern end of the beach and could be yours for a mere 500,000 baht ‘key money’ plus 15,000 baht/month rent for a 3 year contract.   Without going into a lengthy rant about how ridiculous this is, you got to be on crack to rent it   . . . and you got to be selling   crack to make enough profit in the brief high season to pay the rent,   let alone pay for a place to live plus make a profit.

If you still haven’t booked anything for Xmas / New Year, you’re going to have problems unless you’re after a 10,000 baht/night Jacuzzi suite at one of the 4 star hotels.   People are even booking Kerdmanee Resort   – my interpretation of ‘resort’ obviously isn’t the same as the owner’s.   But two places that are worth a look, have their own websites in English and accept advance bookings   are:

www.kachapura.com – upmarket backpacker accommodation, it will be quite loud here as there are loads of bars nearby, but the rooms are very nice.  Good if you need a posher than usual place to crash after a late night on the Vodka / Red bull.
www.gardenresortkochang.com – just off the roadside in Kai Bae, describing the location as being at the back of a 7-eleven gives a false impression, as the owner has done a good job of building some pretty nice bungalows in a quiet garden setting.

Officials from Trat province and the Thai Navy have got together and come up with the idea of bringing a couple of old navy ships to the area and sinking them in order to ‘sex up’ plans to make Koh Chang a site for people who are interested in historical naval warfare tourism.   (These guys know how to spot a niche market when the see one.) One boat will be scuppered near the naval memorial in the south-east of Koh Chang and the other in somewhere in deeper water so that scuba divers can get an idea of what it must be like to be on a warship when it sinks.

Finally, it’s not often that land on the mainland for sale comes to my attention but I took the photo opposite a couple of days ago from a huge 25 Rai plot, with good land papers, that was for sale.   This is the view from the house on the land across a couple of fish ponds towards Koh Chang in the distance.   It’s only 3km from the car ferry pier to Koh Chang and 2km from the passenger ferry piers to Koh Mak.   I was going to put some more photos on the site . . . but it’s almost certainly sold now.   The very good stuff doesn’t take long to sell.   In this case, 25 Rai for 2.8 million baht.

24 Oct – It’s a good time to go canoeing at the moment, very calm seas and very clear water off Kai Bae & Klong Prao beaches which makes it easy to spot the large jellyfish that are hanging around at the moment.

Head out in the morning when there are no people around and the sea is always calmest.   Spend a nice hour or so snorkelling around Koh Rom & Koh Suwan, the two islands nearest Klong Prao beach.   Although much of the coral is dead in places, you can see loads of fish and hard corals just off the south west of Koh Rom.

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that golf on Koh Chang was limited to a new crazy golf course in Kai Bae.   Seems I was speaking too soon as a real, full size golf course looks set to be built on the island.

The plans haven’t been officially announced yet so I’m not allowed to mention the exact location but I’d recommend that anyone with money start buying land in the Bangbao area as this would be worth a fortune should a golf course be built in the vicinity.   Also worth a look for investment would be the new Tranquility Bay Residence, 70 condo units and 10 villas, only a couple of kilometres from the golf course with leasehold condominiums starting at 5.7 million for 60sqm and villas priced around 30 million baht.    On-site Sales office will be opening in a week or so.

The Financial Times are doing a report on the best properties for people with an interest in fishing to buy abroad. (I know it looks like they’re running out of stuff to write about, it’s not, it’s a ‘niche’.) The writer emailed me to see if I wanted to feature our guesthouse as an example of a fisherman’s house in Thailand, and I said ‘Yes’ as I’ve never had my name in the FT before.   So it’ll be interesting to see what they write.

Also in the papers was Koh Mak, chosen as one of The Sunday Times’ ‘World’s Top Secret Beaches’ in the Oct 22nd issue:   “Koh Mak is six square miles of pristine beach and coconut palms that make the famously “undeveloped” Koh Chang, 10 miles north, look like Manhattan.     Koh Mak is not without its hotels, but as we’re only talking about a dozen, and as most of these have only a handful of rooms, it’s startlingly easy to find a stretch of chalk-white beach to yourself along the island’s 15-mile shore. Prices are disconcertingly cheap, and Koh Mak has some of the planet’s best budget-luxury beach hotels.” More details on Accommodation on Koh Mak & Land & Houses For Sale   on Koh Mak

Need a hotel?   If you’ve already tried finding a room you’ll know that the better value hotels & resorts on Koh Chang are already virtually full mid December – mid-February.   You can send enquiries to the online agencies which is time consuming and the replies aren’t always as quick as you might wish for.   Or you can use the new form in the Accommodation section of this site.     Have a Koh Chang based tour agency contact the hotels on your behalf and get the prices & availability sent to you.

There’s a new speedboat service from Laem Ngop (mainland) – Dan Mai (on the east coast of Koh Chang) – Koh Wai – Koh Mak.   Departs Laem Ngop at 10am.   Returns from Koh Mak at 1pm.   Laem Ngop – Koh Mak leg is 450 baht.   Koh Chang – Koh Mak is 600 baht, including transport from your hotel to Dan Mai.   Book through Matching Tour on White Sand Beach.

29 Oct – Are today’s backpackers a bit soft? Has living in a nanny state taken it’s toll on a generation of travellers? A quick look at the photo right and it would appear to be a photo of a group of fresh faced visitors enjoying their Asian adventure.   But look closer, you’ll see that they are all carrying cushions (an orange one, brown one, burgundy one and a pale blue one) to protect their sensitive backsides from the rigours of the Bangkok to Trat bus journey.   Call me old fashioned, but there’s something just plain wrong about travelling half-way around the world carrying your own cushion.

Our wealthy neighbours at Aana Resort, just across the river from our house, and Evolution Tour have got together to offer special rates for visitors to this site who are in need of upmarket accommodation from now until 19 December.   Room Rates, inclusive of Tax etc:

Deluxe = 3,300 THB per night with breakfast
Deluxe Grand   = 3,700 THB per night with breakfast
Villa = 6,400 THB per night with breakfast
** Stay 7 nights – pay only 6 nights **
** Stay 12 nights – pay only 10 nights **

Make an enquiry here but bear in mind that whilst it will be peaceful midweek, at the weekend the place often fills up with Thai tour groups on ‘2 day / 1 night’ packages who love making a racket – screeching as they canoe in circles and getting over excited at the sight of a breakfast buffet.

On Koh Mak, a newly built coffeeshop / internet cafe on 800sqm of land can be yours for a negotiable annual rent of 200,000 baht – includes accommodation.   A cheap way to live on a desert island.   More . . .

Just added an update on the ‘Good Time’ housing project on Koh Mak.   There are a couple of small single floor houses   which are ideal for anyone looking for a place to stay for a month or two a year and then rent it out to holidaymakers for when they aren’t using it.   These teak houses were priced at 68,000 Euros and are now 58,000 Euros each, for a 90 year lease including 400sqm of land.   Both are under construction now. (As this photo on the left shows.)   Further details here

Koh Chang in the blogs . .  . what some visitors have been saying about KC this week:

Allie’s Travels: “Koh Chang…we are finally here!   There isn’t much of a beach.   The ‘white sand’ is actually under the water, so laying out kind of sucks…but the swimming in amazing!   Everytime I look in the water, I want to jump in!   It’s so blue and clear, and the sand is so soft…and rock and creature-free!   I haven’t had any encounters with any jellyfish yet which is good, although I still have my fingers crossed! “

Lisa & Jason: “The row of Thai girls standing at the front, trying to lure customers in welcomed us with gracious Thai smiles. We sit down. Nigel, the bar owner comes over and welcomes us to his bar. Friendly people, friendly owner, great music.   All is good.   We order the famous rye and soda. Sure it is a little (ok, a lot) more expensive than everywhere else. but the music!!! Then, our server, sits down. Apparently, we have our own private server. She’s nice enough and spoke a little bit of English and it took a good 3 minutes before we both got extremely uncomfortable. Is she ever going to go away? Then we notice. Lisa is the only girl, other than the Thai girls, in the whole bar. Yup, every man has a personal server. But those men have their hands on the bums of their server. Yes, top notch service. Happy ending? No thank you. So, we made our way up the road to Paddy’s Irish pub. They just like to drink there, prostitutes not included.”

Lost Already: “The beaches are lovely here, beautiful clear water. We made some little Thai friends. Three 9 yr old boys kept bringing me shells while i was lazing around on my lilo.. we ended up having so much fun with them! Just like when you were on holiday as a kid.. didnt matter that we didnt speak the same language.. just messed about in the sea. Ali was chuckin these kids around in the sea, and i was miserably losing the ‘who can stand on the lilo the longest’ game! It was a real shame when it got to be time to leave… thai kids are amazing. Not at all like screaming, whiny, needy, spoilt western kids. I’m so glad I never was one ;)”

3 Nov – Got a new pet, Bob the stick insect, who I found clinging onto the dog’s tail last night. If anyone wants to give Bob a home, let me know before the cats make a crunchy meal of him.

I can hardly believe it’s been a year since I last wasted an evening night playing endless games of Bingo and   winning more packets of dried noodles than I could count on a tombola. Pay 10 baht for   a ticket & you’re guaranteed to win a   prize worth 5 baht every time.   (Makes no sense to me, but if I mention that I get accused of not entering to the festive spirit.)   All this plus betting my last 10 baht on which numbered hole a rat would run into when released from under the bucket – a game of skill and judgment if ever there was one. But tonight it’s time to do it all over again – whether I like it or not – as the   annual Klong Prao Temple Fair is on for the next three evenings.

Some new photo galleries added.   Larger photos as I don’t have to worry about uploading on a dial up connection now.   For starters, some new photos from White Sand Beach, The coastline along the East Coast & Koh Mak.

Aficionados of Thai Country Rock music, energy drinks and Beer Chang TV commercials should whip out their diaries and make   a note that the old revolutionary turned businessman / self-marketing machine, Ad Carabao, will be playing a one off gig on White Sand Beach on New Years Eve.   High tide permitting.   Tickets are 400 baht/head from Sabay Bar.

Sunsail, the yachting people, will open a base in Koh Chang next year.   According to the Press Release, the new base will offer both bareboat and skippered yacht charter that will allow Sunsail’s customers to cruise the beautiful grounds around the Koh Chang archipelago, which contains 50 almost untouched islands. Sunsail will be providing a fleet of yachts which will be available for charter on a daily, weekly, or fortnightly basis.

I went down to Bangbao to meet the developers of the new Tranquility Bay Residence.   Very nice place, great views south towards Koh Wai & Koh Mak designed to appeal to western tastes.   Units will be sold fully fitted and furnished, just bring your personal effects . . . and a check for a few million baht, and you can move in. Full details, interior mock ups, construction photos coming soon. Condos from 60 – 120sqm, and 300sqm beachfront villas, all with uninterrupted sea views and access to a private beach & pier.

9 Nov – Hello Sailor.   A nautical round-up, as the other day I met up with Sam & Charlie who are fortunate enough to spend most of their time messing around with their yachts.

Prior to this, my yachting knowledge was garnered from Duran Duran’s ‘Rio’ video from around 24 years ago.   So I knew that you should dress appropriately – satin pastel coloured suit, loafers, mascara, and floppy haircut.   But, much to   my chagrin I found that, yet again, the pop video cannot be relied upon for educational purposes.     And so, with not one square jawed ‘John Taylor-type’ or bikini clad chick aboard we set sail for Koh Mak.

Although it’s a slow ride I can now see why many people would love to be able to just hop in a boat, point it towards an island and leisurely cruise out onto the sea.   Get a few people to share the cost, a boat & a skipper and have a day out with a difference. If you’re interested in sailing get in touch with Deiter at Island View, Salakphet Bay.   He’s a German guy who first sailed to Koh Chang over 14 years ago and now owns a nice little marina in an ideal spot to use as a base for sailing in this area. He has several Ac rooms for rent at only 900 baht/night and there’s a host of waterborne activities to keep you busy.   If you get bored lounging on a beach all day this is a good place to head to.   Gulf Charters now have their fleet based at Island View and can arrange sailing courses as well as skippered and bareboat charters.

Online tide tables . . .there aren’t any tide tables online specifically for Koh Chang – that I can find – but you can get pretty good, free, 7-Day forecasts from a couple of sites.   Buoyweather.com has tides, wave heights etc from a spot not far from Salakphet in the south-east of Koh Chang and the British Govt.’s Hydrographic Office, has an excellent service for yachties,   ‘EasyTide‘ with a free 7-day sailing forecast from places around the world – select ‘Koh Mak’ for the nearest spot to Koh Chang.

Thai TV is reporting that shooting stars will be visible pretty much everywhere in the country on Nov 17th & 18th.   Head to somewhere with no light pollution for the best view.   Quiet spots on Koh Chang or outlying islands such as Koh Wai, Koh Mak etc should make for good vantage points.

Ommmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm . . . you too can now learn how to ‘Om’ correctly (with the correct number of ‘m’s)   at Baan Zen, Klong Prao.   Frenchwoman,   Joelle, runs Yoga classes and private sessions for novices who don’t know their Asana from their Pranayama.   Being from the ‘If it looks painful, then it probably is‘ school of avoiding any form of exercise which involves too much flexibility, you probably won’t see me at the classes.   But for those of you looking for a relaxing way to start the day and or wind down in the evening, check out the small group sessions which are held on the deck of Joelle’s waterfront house which is within easy walking distance of the Amari, VJ, Tropicana & Barali resorts. Other classes in Tui-Na Massage, Reiki, Thai Massage and something that involves being pummeled by bamboo sticks and is not dissimilar to torture techniques seen in ‘Rambo 2’, are all available, for more details take a look at baanzen.com.

14 Nov – Here’s something for anyone planning on staying at the Ramayana Resort. This photo shows the 4 star (?) resort’s private beach, (apparently) and was taken from  an online hotel booking site.   Unfortunately, since last week, the private beach has been relocated to a corner of KP Huts, where it can be found sandwiched between 300 baht/night bungalows and a large drainage canal.   If you’re not one of Ramayana’s guests then it’s pretty funny to walk along the beach and see the package tourists putting a brave face on things as the KP Huts German Shepherds run round pissing on the sunloungers.   If you are a guest, ‘mai pen rai’ as the locals say.

Apology: A few hours after updating this page I was emailed by the owner of Ramayana who would like me to point out that the move of the private beach to KP Huts is only for the next 4 months and not permanent. Another inaccuracy included   describing the resort as 4 star, this isn’t the case, they have never claimed to be a 4 star property. I also admit, there was some artistic license used.   For example instead of ‘drainage canal’ I should have said ‘landscaped water feature’ and when it came to describing the possibility of German Shepherds relieving themselves on the sunloungers,   I shouldn’t have mentioned this as it may put people off using the private beach and the odds are it won’t happen whilst guests are tanning themselves anyway. ( But I’d still give your chair a sniff before lying down just to be on the safe side.)

Who needs a room or two for Christmas? Due to a family tragedy   – I’ve seen the newspaper reports and it’s the kind of thing that only ever happens to Spinal Tap’s drummers –   our guests for Xmas have had to cancel their booking.   So we have rooms free from 19 – 27 December.   If you’re still looking for a place to stay, contact me.

The Sunday Times ran an excellent article about Koh Chang this week.   It’s required reading for anyone thinking of staying at Tropicana where the writer stayed: “The Tropicana is still at that stage in its development when dinner has to be accompanied by “sophisticated” music, which means either traditional Thai percussion – a bit like being trapped in a lift with a drunk xylophone player – or a Filipino with his Yamaha set to “hotel schmaltz”. And is it fair to say that Bangbao has all the charm of Grimsby?   Probably, not but there again who in Grimsby really cares?

Raina and her boyfriend are looking for anyone interested in sharing a a private hire minivan from Siem Reap to Koh Chang on 26th December.   If you’d like to share the cost, please email Raina direct as soon as possible.

I’ve always fancied having some long stay bungalows, that can be rented monthly.   There are some on Koh Chang but many are just located in resorts or are basically pretty slummy and squashed into an area just off the main road with no view of any kind.   When I worked in Bangkok I always liked to stay somewhere with a good view, up in a high floor condo, with views over the city but within easy reach of the work, pubs etc.   So on KC   I wanted a similar thing.   Finding a small plot of land in a west coast location and with excellent sea views on KC isn’t easy, finding some that’s affordable is even harder.   It’s taken us over a year.   But hopefully, our search is almost over . . . .

Not only has the Monkey School on White Sand Beach gone, (the monkeys have all graduated)   the postbox shaped like a spaceship has now been removed from the view point above Sea View hotel and replaced with a ‘normal’ postbox.   Pity, it could have become a landmark.   In case you missed it, here it is photographed in all it’s Flash Gordon-esque glory a month ago.   I’d like to take this chance appeal to business people and local officials with really bad ideas for tourist attractions or landmarks to build some as   I’m running out of things to make fun of.

23 Nov – Phase 1 of the new Tranquility Bay development is now on sale.   If owning a fully furnished, luxury low rise condo or   beach villa with superb sea views and easy access to the islands south of Koh Chang sounds like an enticing prospect     . . .that’s because it is.   Leave Phuket, Samui & Pattaya   to the masses and consider Koh Chang for a second home in paradise a.k.a. Thailand.   Click for Photos, plans, information and gentle persuasion as to why you should buy a place here.

Tip for anyone thinking of getting married on Koh Chang, bring your own music.   Whilst the couple who had their ceremony on Klong Prao beach recently may have been lost in the moment, onlookers were forced to put up with dirge such as ‘The Power of Love’ , ‘Take my Breath Away’ and other 80s synth & drum machine driven romantic ballads.   These give anyone within earshot – (or was it only me?) – flashbacks to a night of embarrassing fumbling and fondling at the 6th Form disco.   So, have some consideration for other beach users and bring your own CD of decent tunes, preferably those which illicit fond memories in the mind of listeners and not flashbacks of teenage angst.

The weather has been great, the sea is calm, avoid the weekends and the tour boats aren’t busy. (Avoid the tour boats and you’ll have islands to yourself.)   The Marine Department had their big boat from Bangkok out the other day surveying boat captains to see how many people were on the boat, how often they took people out, how many people visited the snorkelling islands per day etc.

What are they watching?   A) Tom & Katie Cruise sunning themselves whilst honeymooning on Koh Chang?   B) A troop of sea gypsies who play impromptu jazz concerts for passing boats in return for loose change?   C) A   showing of the James Bond film ‘Moonraker’, that’s being projected onto a cliff face as part of the Koh Chang International Film Festival D) Something else.

It isn’t A), as eagle eyed readers will have spotted Tom & Katie are in disguise and on the boat.   You think that’s a grey haired woman who really should know better than to wear   a bikini at her age.   Think again. B) As this photo was taken on a Thursday – the traditional day of rest for sea gypsies of Burmese descent – this cant be the correct answer.   C) A trick question, as, having won the Best Foreign Film category for the past 26 years, ‘Moonraker’ wasn’t entered into this year’s celebration of celulloid due to fears of possible explosion of immorality on KC caused by exposing Thai youths to the wily western charms of ‘Dr Holly Goodhead’,   which only leaves D).   See the new ‘Day on the Boat’ Photo Gallery for the answer.

Down in Bangbao there’s a very nice fisherman’s house for sale in excellent condition and for a very sensible price.   See the photo to the right.   If you’ve ever fancied a dive school or simply a house where you can walk out of your living room and into your boat then this is it. The asking price includes all furniture, fixtures & fittings including AC unit, satellite TV, phone line etc   More photos & info

Paulo and his girlfriend are looking for anyone who’s interested in sharing a private hire minivan from Siem Reap to Koh Chang on 5th January.   If you’d like to share the cost, please email Paulo direct.

Finally, a nice story from a   family who took a tour organised by their hotel to see how local people live.   They were packed off in a minibus with a young Thai woman who they assumed must be a fellow guest at the hotel as she never said a word to them.   It was only half way through the day that it clicked that she must be the guide.   So with that misunderstanding out of the way the family went off to see how local people fish.   This entailed spending 3 hours on a small boat bobbing around in Klong Son bay.   Needless to say the novelty wore off and so they asked the guide “Do your customers ever get bored doing this?” The reply was “I don’t know, this is my first time here.” The moral of this story is not to automatically expect your guide to have any knowledge about where you are going other than what they have been told by their boss.   Also don’t assume just because you’re paying a small fortune for a room that the guide provided by the hotel isn’t a tourism student from Bangkok here for their   work experience.

30 Nov – Who needs White Sand Beach when you’ve got Klong Kloi Beach near Bangbao?

Two days ago martial law was lifted from the majority of provinces in Thailand, leaving the populace free once again to lead their lives without fear of waking up one night to the sound of a tank being parked in their back yard and having their house stormed by soldiers intent on confiscating every last Thai Rak Thai souvenir ‘Election 2005’ t-shirt in the land. But, here on Koh Chang martial law is still in place as several areas of Trat province, including Koh Chang & Koh Kood, are apparently considered potential hotbeds of political unrest and subversive activity.   Do your bit to help. Next time you see illegal gatherings of half a   dozen beach vendors chatting away by their motorbikes or a group of massage women huddled together under a palm tree, feel free to approach them, brand them insurgents and reprimand them for not doing their bit to bring peace and harmony to the nation.

‘Crust’ has recently opened down in Klong Prao – opposite the temple and is making real bread i.e. bread with texture & taste, which is a bit of a novelty for Koh Chang.   I tested a wholegrain loaf on customers at breakfast and they loved it.   Well worth a stop if you fancy making sandwiches yourself for a picnic lunch.   Open 7am-10am & 4pm-7pm.   The chocolate croissants are good, the ones with marmalade on top must be an acquired taste though.

It’s not only the locals who drive way too fast on the island’s narrow roads, last week an expat woman living & working on Koh Chang was knocked off her motorbike and killed by a hit & run driver.   The driver was a European instructor working   for a dive school in Bangbao.   He quickly left the island before he could face   any charges.

Quite a few people who email me looking for houses on Koh Chang have a budget of around 4 million baht or so.   On KC this would get you a three storey shophouse by the main road with no garden, no sea views, and not within easy walking distance to the beach.   On Koh Mak this would get you a teak wood villa on 800sqm of land with sea views, and 5 minutes walk to the beach.   If that isn’t a big enough garden area, buy a house on 1600sqm of land for another million baht.

If you’re looking for a hotel room from mid December until the first week of January, you’re going to have big problems.   Forget about New Year – everything that’s worthwhile booking on, near or in the vicinity of a decent beach has been booked.

It’s Christmas soon, I know this because I had to spend a couple of days in Bangkok and met up with a friend in Starbucks.   It took me a while to figure out why the place was bedecked in red and green and the staff were wearing red hats.   I just wanted a mug of the ‘Coffee of the Day but couldn’t bear the embarrassment of being the only person in there not to be drinking a designer concoction – so a Gingerbread Latte with whipped cream it was.   And with that I sat back and joined the ranks of those sniggering at anyone standing there befuddled by the choice of drinks that vaguely resemble coffee.

7 Dec – Eight black foods, complete with black candles, served to the spirits at 10pm on three consecutive Wednesdays . . . and even that couldn’t prevent both our boat and our pick-up from breaking down this past week.

Supposedly high season has begun but Koh Chang is still pretty dead.   Hotels are all full from Xmas to the first week of January.   But it’ll be interesting to see if the busy period ends by mid-February as it did this year.   If so, most shopkeepers only have   a couple of months to make the majority of their income for the year. Not a surprise really but another example of the 80:20 rule in action. Bullish news though from a man with   a very lengthy title ‘Chairman of the Koh Chang Subdistrict Administration Organization’.   Apparently there are 3-5 applications per month for building new hotels on Koh Chang and demand is “skyrocketing” with tourist arrivals up 10% year on year. (Look there are some figures floating past, I’ll pluck them out of the air and use them as statistics.) Dull News story here.

Tracy with the dog – your email address isn’t correct.

Got  a copy of the Sunday Times brought over for me by a visitor to KC last week.   The magazine cover asked readers what they’d do with 50 pence, buy a bar of chocolate or save the sight of a child.   That hit home and certainly made me think. I didn’t realise the price of a bar of chocolate had risen so much back in the UK.

Koh Chang’s got the tail-end of Typhoon Durian at the moment, choppy seas and quite a bit of rain last night.   Back to normal sunshine today though.

Been back to ‘Crust’, the new bakery in Klong Prao, several times this week simply because it’s hands down the best place for bread on the island.   Mam got a 5 baht discount there earlier this week, so hopefully it’ll be up to 10 baht as a result of this mention.   Who says opinions cant be bought on this site?   More seriously, anyone thinking of opening a business on KC should take note of what this place does   – it satisfies an unfilled need for a good product at a good price.   Simple.   There are too many small businesses thinking only about profit and neglecting quality, coming up with ideas that there obviously isn’t a demand for or simply copying everyone else – what Koh Chang really needs is yet another western owned beer bar.   The American diner in VJ Plaza is a good product (Real burgers, creamy shakes etc) – but has only very limited appeal to visitors to Koh Chang, it’d go down well in Pattaya or Phuket though.   The island’s only Irish pub fills the need but falls flat as soon as you walk in the door. All the atmosphere of a barn and none of the charm any good pub possesses.   It the future it may well do well . . . providing none of the hotel owners with land on the main stretch of White Sand Beach decide to build their own Irish pub; and they get some staff who can take down an order correctly.   I’ve met several owners of east coast resorts all of whom have built small resorts which offer a good standard of room for a good price.   You can get a lovely AC bungalow with TV, fridge, breakfast for well under 1,000 baht.   But there’s no demand at all from western visitors, there’s no need to be met.   I get asked how they can get more customers and the best I can come up with is give a way a free beer in the restaurant with every room or when that fails, a free room with every beer.   Or failing that,   sell the resort to a sucker as a long term investment.

The Elephant motif I understand.   But the cock ???? A few photos of three of the most popular resorts on Koh Chang, all located at the north end of Klong Prao beach – Paradise Resort, Koh Chang Resort, Klong Prao Resort.   Photo gallery added as a public service so that visitors to two of the resorts can snigger at the poor souls who booked into the other – the one with a big cock on a pedestal.

Hotel owners who read this site, something for you . .   . I’m already getting emails from your guests complaining about the differences between what they actually want and and what you think they want. The majority of these emails relate to music and the reason why hotels think it necessary to have evening meals accompanied by pretty bad live music or schmaltzy CDs.   This type of ‘entertainment’ may well be classier than an scale model of an Italian farmer’s cottage built entirely from international cheeses but it doesn’t mean that it’s a good or sensible idea.

One hotel in Kai Bae has a wandering Filipino minstrel strolling along the beach serenading/annoying diners.   Why would this be attractive to guests?   Others stick a ‘Best of Lionel Ritchie’ CD on and subject diners to this night after night after night.   Live bands, or more commonly two or three guys and a Casio organ, are also apparently a winner.   But when either half the diners can’t hear themselves think due to the thud from the base & drums or the restaurant empties every time the band comes on, surely it’s time to rethink evening entertainment when this happens.

The majority of guests don’t even want live music when they’re having a quiet dinner.   Sure a little music is nice if peace and quiet isn’t a viable option, but how about some Thai music – not the ‘Saw-U’ Thai violin that makes a sound not dissimilar to that of a of a rusty cat being gang raped, but a nice bit of ‘ranad’ – wooden xylophone – which can be quite mellow.   Volume can even be set low, so that it isn’t intrusive.   Now, there’s a novelty.   Your guests aren’t travelling half way around the world to hear   ‘My Heart will Go On’ beaten into submission by a   bargain basement cover band.

Christmas is on the way and what could be more festive that Christmas lights.   Oxford Street has them, Bangkok’s shopping malls have them, so why shouldn’t Koh Chang have them? (Money and no one being bothered to put them up aside.) Kids will be delighted to see an Xmas tree in the hotel lobby, but as doting parents you’d probably like to take your little ‘uns off to see the best & brightest lights on Koh Chang.   The place to visit is Koh Chang Entertainment Plaza,   a collection of near empty beer bars in Chai Chet, just north of Klong Prao beach.   Stop by the roadside after dark and feast your eyes on the garish combinations of primary coloured neon and fairylights.   Your kids will love it.   But be prepared for the possibility of a few awkward questions if they’re over 4 years old:

“Mum, who’s the fat old guy with the red face sitting on the chair.”
” Err, that’s . . . errrrm Santa. He’s come to Koh Chang for a holiday.”
“Wow.   Can I say hello to Santa, Mum?”
“Not now he’s busy. See.”
“It’s not fair, that lady has been sitting on his lap for a long time. I want a go.”
“Not tonight.   There’s a long queue of other ladies waiting their turn, I think she’s one of Santa’s special helpers.”
“She looks very happy.   Do you think Santa promised to give her something special this year?”
“Yes dear, I’m sure she’ll be getting her stockings filled tonight.   Now back in the car.”

17 Dec   – The only pool on Koh Mak is now in use, but only for guests staying at Koh Mak Villa or   Goodtime Resort.

No update for a while as I’ve been busy writing all the things I miss about Xmas on the back of a postage stamp using a marker pen.   That’s not actually true . . .I’ve been busy trying to think of anything I miss about Christmas which I would write on the back of a postage stamp, if I had a stamp or could think of anything to write.

In keeping with the spirit of Christmas, and in the name of nostalgia not laziness,   I’ve dug into the archives and rehashed something from Christmas past.   This is something I wrote about Xmas for ‘The Nation’ newspaper a few years ago, it might raise a smile as you sit in your office cubicle on a dull rainy day wishing you were somewhere else.   It was that or add a falling javascript snowflake effect to this page, but I couldn’t bring myself to go that far, and I’ve a feeling Jesus wouldn’t have wanted me to do that either.

Last weekend was a holiday weekend in Thailand, like most people I expected the island to be packed with cars as Bangkokians, with their end of year bonuses already in their pockets, took a 2-3 day break.   However, the only places that saw any increase in customers were the well established beachfront places such as Klong Prao Resort & Koh Chang Resort plus the 7-eleven minimarts.   Although it isn’t politically correct to say so, most small business owners on Koh Chang are now relying on a tsunami, earthquake, meteor or wayward North Korean nuke to strike Samui, Phuket or preferably both as the only way of ensuring a profit this high season.

Three contractors are bidding to build the road around Koh Chang . One from Bangkok, another Trat and one from Koh Chang. They go to meet the local officials in charge of handling tenders for the contract. The   contractor from Bangkok takes out box load of documents, plans and engineering reports. “Well,” he says. “We’ve calculated that this job will cost 270 million baht. 200 million for materials, 40 million for labour and logisitics and 30 million profit.”   The contractor from Trat whips out a looseleaf binder and calculator and also comes up with a similar figure as the guy from Bangkok. The contractor from Koh Chang walks in empty handed, but leans over to the local official and whispers: “370 million.” The official, incredulous, says, “What? You didn’t even inspect the site like the other guys! How did you come up with such a figure?” “Easy,” the builder explains, “50 million for you, 50 million for me and we hire the guy from Bangkok to do the work.” Not based on a true story at all.

Muay Thai boxing at Bangbao Stadium tonight.   350 baht ticket say the English language flyers, which is more than a ticket for a professional fight at one of the Bangkok stadiums – which actually are stadiums in the sense that they are structures with seating, costs.

Festive thanks to Marshall for the wine, Tapio for the wierd Finnish liqueur, Mary for the single malt and Andrei for the cognac from Dagestan which I’m reliably informed is almost as good as the brandy from Kazakstan.   All I need now is a cocktail recipe that includes them all.

Phuket’s tourist numbers are up 85% since last year, which rather puts the 10% increase in visitor numbers to Koh Chang, that the bloke in charge of tourism last week used the adjective “skyrocketing” to describe, in perspective.

If you’re in a bar and a well dressed Thai guy comes in, orders a martini shaken not stirred, and then proceeds to aim a few well rehearsed chat-up lines as sultry damsels he’s probably an undercover cop.   How do I know?   Because today’s Bangkok Post has a story that you couldn’t make up.   Entitled ‘Undercover Officers told to look less obvious’, the story regards undercover officers who have been told to make themselves less obvious to criminals

Pol Col Thitiratch deputy commander of the Crime Suppression Division said the policemen should blend in, not stand out. “Sometimes, it’s a neatly-pressed shirt and trousers they want. Or they could don a suit if need be. Wear whatever is necessary to get to the criminals. But they should avoid wearing clothes that tell people they are police. Look at James Bond. He’s a classic example of someone who can be as smartly-dressed and a capable secret agent,” he said (really).

22 Dec – It’s that time of year when our thoughts turn to one man.   A man who’s actions benefited mankind and who, from humble beginnings, rose to lead a legion of followers whom eagerly waited his every move and his every word.       I am of course talking about Bono.   Professional Irishman, all round musical genius and I-pod salesman.   Bono has an I-pod, he even has a nice brushed aluminium limited edition line with his own name on them.   I don’t.   He also goes out of his way to help charities, even those that go to the aid of unpopular causes where the victims aren’t particularly photogenic.   And, errr, I don’t.

So in a a bid to put me in Bono’s good books, it’s time for the IamKohChang.com ‘Dig deep and give’ Christmas charity appeal with all proceeds going to charity, in case that wasn’t blindingly obvious by the time you reached the end of this sentence.

Deciding how to raise cash wasn’t easy, collecting half a ton of bottletops that can be smelted down and sold to   Mick the metal merchant wasn’t an option, neither was a ‘Bring & Buy’ sale, so I opted for the online version of the begging bowl – Paypal.

Having done that narrowing down the nominees for Charity of the Year wasn’t easy.   Nominations ranged from ‘The Association of Koh Chang East Coast Hoteliers‘ a barely known minority group frequently shunned by foreign visitors to Koh Chang and in need of all the financial assistance they can receive, to the ‘A bargirl isn’t just for Christmas Appeal‘.   Set up to ensure that long after their Xmas flings are over, Koh Chang’s bargirls will receive a new Nokia phone and gold bracelet to lessen the emotional pain of separation.   As their spokeswoman said when contacted for a comment for this site “Some man no good, promise money but no send, buffalo sick, mama papa need new house,   no have phone, sister baby in hospital, many problem in my life, but I no complain. I alone in the big world. You have good heart, you like Thai girl?”

Persuasive as both of the above are they didn’t make the cut for the final   two options.   Those of you who enjoy reading this site and are sitting at home with Christmas bonuses burning a hole in your pocket read on.   Have your kids really done enough good this year to justify the expense of a new Nintendo Wii?   I doubt it.   Does your spouse deserve that slap up festive meal or could they do with skipping the dessert and donating the saved cash to a worthy cause?   (OK probably not, I’d go for the Toffee Banoffee pie over a pock marked Darfurian child too – but you get my drift.)

Here are two Paypal buttons.   They accept credit card and Paypal donations. On the left is the 60GB Ipod that I’ll squander any money you give to me on.   On the right is a cute kitten.   He’s alive and well and lives at our house.   If he gets sick the only guys who can treat him are Lisa and Carla from Koh Chang Animal Foundation.   The Foundation exists entirely on donations and there are a growing band of pet owners on KC who are very thankful for the efforts of Lisa who set up the foundation and who has ploughed over US$90,000 of her own money into keeping it going for the past few years.

Weather – There’s   been a strong cold NE wind blowing for the past few days which means all snorkelling trips and speedboats trips have been cancelled.   The forecast for the next 2-3 days at least is more of the same.   If you see white capped waves when you cross over to Koh Chang on the ferry, you wont be going diving or out on a boat for a   couple of days at least.

Coming soon . . . is Koh Chang ready for ultra modern, million dollar villas?   One German developer thinks so and has 19 of them planned on Koh Chang’s newest luxury development ‘The Edge Village’ near Bangbao.   More info and photos coming in the New Year.

Anyone following the financial markets will have seen Thailand stock market soar over 10% in a single day. (Ok, so this was after it plummeted over 15% the previous day.)   The reasons are the military government’s cunning new plans to stop evil foreigners bringing cash into Thailand and tricking banks into selling them their entire stash of baht at dirt cheap rates.   But this ruling has a big effect on anyone wanting to transfer money into Thailand to buy a condo freehold . . . as those buying freehold condos, will see the Bank of Thailand retain 30% of foreign funds remitted, interest-free for one year. (So you need to transfer 130% of the purchase price.) BUT, under the new rules, foreigners who want to buy a leasehold property in Thailand will have no problem doing so if they can bring in Thai baht for the purpose.

Visas . . . if you’re living on KC and doing the 30-day visa runs and expecting to get 3 consecutive visas and then head off and get a 2 month tourist visa from a neighbouring country in order to stay longer, bear in mind that some people who have just got their third   30 day visa have also had a note written in their passport saying that once it expires they cant re-enter Thailand for 90 days – at all.     If this happens your options are to try to get a new visa in Malaysia, if they decide not to give it, bearing in mind the written note in your passport, then getting a new passport before coming back into Thailand is your only ‘Plan B’ option.

Merry Xmas etc