For 2007

April – June 2007

car-for-rent

4 April – You’d have thought a wooden barrier and the sight of a 50 metre drop would have been enough to get the message across.   Apparently not, as this sign shows.

This sign is located outside the Tourist   Police’s portacabin, they also have a small table with a small water dispenser sitting on it with another handwritten sign saying ‘Free’. Locals and tourists alike are invited to avail themselves of a glass of lukewarm water from the single unwashed glass.

I know there was no ‘April Fool’ update, but when you’ve got stories in the papers such as this one about the government wanting to defeat terrorism in the south of Thailand by banning the possession of 3 inch & 5 inch nails – it’s hard to come up with something better.

Ex-Prime Minister Thaksin’s ‘Man on Koh Chang’ was on Koh Chang again last week.   He’s been spending a lot of time here recently checking out various bits and pieces and asking questions. The problem is that because the guy’s a well known public figure in Thailand his own right, it’s hard for him to be incognito and do things discreetly (He even phoned me which shows how desperate he is for info.)

You’ll see lots of Thais on the island this weekend as it’s the ‘Chakri Day’ holiday – which for the uninitiated or ignorant is kind of like a Thai Easter holiday only without the Oxford-Cambridge boat race, Jesus and the chocolate eggs but with a commemoration of the current royal dynasty. But if you see any Buddhist monks out and about on Good Friday morning give them a chocolate bunny, they’ll appreciate the thought and it may well convert them to Christianity.   I have a sneaky feeling that the popularity of   any religion is based more on the availability of novelty confectionary during religious holidays than any theological ideals. And there isn’t a lot of chocolate animals in Buddhism – hence the relative lack of popularity in Europe.   QED.

The Elephant Kayaking fund raising thing is back again.   If you’re   a couple and have 3 days to kill between 20-22 April then you can kayak around Koh Chang and save an elephant or two from ending up in a 99 baht all-you-can-eat BBQ buffet or whatever they do with unwanted elephants nowadays.   The event is usually contested by teams of hotel staff eager for a couple of days off work, but if you’re the active type then it’s a far more interesting way to spend your holiday than lazing by the pool. And who need’s PR firms when you’ve got the Tourism Authority of Thailand to help spread the word of the event, this is the email I received from TAT Global HQ:

“We would like to inform you that Koh Chang Kayak Marathon 2007 will be held at Koh Chang National Park on April 20-22, 2007. For activities as follow ; 1. Kayak Rally of rapidity type 2. Kayak Rally of tourism type 3. Painting Exhibition of elephant. For more information, you can contact at ; Tourism Authority of Thailand central Region Office : Region 5 (Trat) Tel. (66)39 597 559 – 60”

In terms of usefulness, the phrase “chocolate teapot” springs to mind.

But if you aren’t a rapidity or   tourism type, then you can get the same pleasurably moist, dewy eyed, feel-good kind of feeling by joining the 3rd Annual Underwater Clean Up on 18-19 April.   Think of this as atoning for the sins of the high season.   The idea is to fish out as much of the garbage   that’s been thrown into the water in the past 5 months as possible. It’s kind of like giving a dollar to a beggar on Christmas Day after you’ve ignored them every other day of the year, it makes a difference, but it’s more   a chance to make one feel as though one’s doing one’s bit for a good cause than anything else. Plus you’ll get a free t-shirt with “Come to Clean Underwater for Sustainable Tourism at Moo Koh Chang and Adjacent Areas.” which you’ll never wear in public again as you’ll feel a bit of a knob walking down the street wearing something with such an awful attempt at English emblazoned on it.

The clean up is organised by DASTA a.k.a. D(is)ASTA which recently had it’s budget slashed and sole responsibility for overseeing the development of sustainable tourism on Koh Chang revoked by the new government – on the grounds that they were pretty crap at their job.   The presence of DASTA has been one that a lot of vocal locals have been whinging about to the newspapers for a few years.   Now that’s it’s effectively gone, and with it any kind of plan for the development of the island, there’s no overseeing body in place to control the development of KC and so the idea of having KC as any kind of sustainable tourism destination seem a bit of   a non-starter now which is a pity.

Back to talking of t-shirts, there are now some quite nice souvenir t-shirts for sale in Bangbao at the first shop on the right as you walk on the pier.   The better ones have the obligatory elephant on the front but it’s a stylized outline and the design is something that even I’d wear.   Not wear on Koh Chang, of course, but elsewhere as I adhere to the old concert goers’ motto of “You don’t wear the t-shirt of the band to see the band.”

Our guesthouse is now full for next Christmas & New Year, the larger beachfront hotels are also filling up quickly so if you’re planning on spending the festive season on KC book sooner rather than later or be left with the places that well-organised Scandinavian families and Russian tour groups have rejected.

If you’ve got a few million baht handy you can live near me on scenic Klong Prao river estuary as there’s a couple of small houses for sale.   Pretty high price but that’ll keep the riff-raff out, so I can’t argue with it.   Of course there’s a place for rickety bungalows, karaoke restaurants and beer bars, and that place is anywhere except near where I live.

High season is coming to an end and anyone who’s made a few baht is making a trip into Trat to eye up a new pick-up truck.   Even the guy who drives our boat has just bought a new one and his income is derived from selling ice cream on the beach when we’re not paying him 500 baht/day to play captain.

13 April – There’s not a lot of interest happening on Koh Chang at the moment as high season draws to an end and hotel owners look forward to one final weekend of high occupancy at Thai New year.

Therefore, I might as well mention Coconut Bay Villas Koh Chang’s newest, and smallest, luxury housing development.   Only three villas will be built on 2 Rai (3200sqm) of land on the shore of Bangbao Bay. The houses are very similar to those at the million dollar Dhevatara Cove, Samui.   The main difference being that they wont cost you over US$1 million to buy, they’re around a third of the price and come with 175sqm of indoor living space, a private pool and are on a minimum of 680sqm of land.   Information including 3-D models and plans can be found here.

Need a book? Need several hundred of them?   Whatever your requirements take a look at the new site for Lonely Books, www.lonelybooksasia.com. Koh Chang’s largest second hand bookshop with branches in Kai Bae and Lonely Beach. If you’re on KC and need a book or supply of books for hotel guests etc, search their database, order online and they’ll deliver to any poolside sun lounger within 24 hours. With several thousand titles in stock they should have something that takes your fancy.

Budget Resort for Rent on White Sand   Beach.   A long established established resort catering to backpackers and those looking for good value accommodation in a quiet location just 2 minutes walk from the beach is now available for rent. It’s a business that is currently family run and without changing a thing would generate a good return on your investment.   With White Sand   Beach rapidly going upmarket this 28 room resort has   wide range of options from basic 200 baht/night huts to 1500 baht/night AC, ensuite family rooms to suit anyone looking for quiet, good value accommodation only 200 metres from the liveliest beach on the island. Email me for more details.

At then annual ‘Changy’ awards – Koh Chang’s equivalent of Crufts, only it’s for tourist related businesses and not inbred pooches, the hotly contested   ‘Naive attempt at online promotion‘ award went to the management of Koh Chang Grand Lagoona in recognition of their attempts to promote their floating hotel, named Titanica on a web site about the ship Titanic.   Commenting on the post a judge noted that it was as though the marketing staff went to the cupboard where all their photocopied handouts from a decade of marketing seminars were stored to look for ideas only to find it bare.   They therefore skipped Plans B to Y and went straight to Plan Z which unfortunately was to assume that anyone interested in whether Jack could have survived in the icy waters or if the ship really did break in half as shown on screen, would be interested in booking a couple of nights aboard a converted decommissioned American troop carrier currently moored on an island in Thailand. Other awards presented included ‘Best attempt to remodel an old fishing boat to make it look like a tour boat by painting it in funky colours and adding a toilet‘ An ‘Outstanding Achievement Award‘ for the one small business in Kai Bae that managed to operate for 12 months or more without being put up for sale by it’s owner, and the old favourite, the prestigious ‘Tailor of the Year‘ trophy which, yet again, went to every single tailors shop on the island.

Also on the real estate theme, Asia Property Report included an article on emerging locations in Thailand, entitled ‘Set to Boom?’ the article features Koh Chang, Krabi and Koh Pha Ngan as being the next places that will experience   a property boom as has already happened in locations such as Samui, Phuket, Pattaya, Hua Hin etc

The new Soneva Spa on Koh Kood got a rave write up in the Daily Telegraph newspaper recently.   The full article is here.

Speedboat for Sale . . .ours.   The boat and half the engine are outside our house in Koh Chang, the other half of the engine is in Trang getting a mechanical makeover.   We’ll take the boat down to Trang in late April and sell it there unless anyone on KC wants it.   Built 18 months ago, it’s a unique design as it was made especially for us by Palian Yacht, Trang. Fiberglass with some teak wood fittings, 7.2metre, 200HP Yamaha 2-stroke motor, registered & insured.   Trailer, lifejackets & snorkelling equipment, CD player, spare battery included. Genuine reason for sale – I want a new one to use next high season and I’m not allowed to have two boats outside the house as that would indicate some kind of mid-life crisis.   Price 450,000 baht. Email me if you’re interested.

21 April – Thai New year came and went with the traditional traffic jams.   I feel obliged to take a few Songkran photos but as the novelty of getting a bucket of ice cold water thrown over me as I’m walking down the street kind of wore off about eight years ago, these pics were taken from the air-conditioned comfort of my car.

The first photo shows what can happen to your motor if you go through the year pissing off your neighbours kids.   Songkran is the one time of year they get to have their revenge. Mix a bit of caustic soda in with the talcum powder, sit back and just watch the metallic paint flake off.

No Thai holiday would be complete without some kind of parade which is put on purely to give the local ladyboys a chance to decorate an old pick up truck so that it resembles an oversize Interflora bouquet.   I’m not sure if it really was   a parade or not, there were half a dozen old pick-ups that appeared to have been tarted up specially for the occasion but they might just have belonged to people who like to pimp their ride using dayglo colours and mock vegetation.

Anyone with a Yamaha Mio step through scooter. can now get their bike souped up in Klong Prao.   The motorbike shop near the gas station specialises in aftersales parts for Mio’s.   This mainly consists of changing all the silver coloured metal parts on your bike to red, purple or blue coloured metal parts, adding a set of alloy wheels, a front disk brake that wouldn’t look out of place on a Hayabusa, a small blue light or two for that ‘The Fast and The Furious’ look and removing the shopping basket and rear view mirrors for better wind resistance. For my part, I went for a 29 baht helmet hook in silver.   So now I have two places to hang a helmet or I can hang a helmet and a plastic shopping bag or two bags.   It’s opened up a whole new world of possibilities and increased the resale value of the bike by around 29 baht.

As I was heading to the ferry pier I was wondering why the traffic was backed up a couple fo kilometres from the piers.     Then it struck me . .   numerous retards, some pictured here driving an old Jeep Cherokee, mint green Golf and two Bangkok Airways minivans decided that the right hand side of the narrow two lane road should be put to use – thus blocking all oncoming traffic and just adding to the New year fun.

Fruit season is now well and truly underway on Koh Chang.   You’ll see pick up trucks laden with durian, mangosteens, pomelo, rambutans, longans and even the odd orange or two parked all along the roadside.   Most of the fruit comes from the mainland and is delivered by middlemen who sell it on to the streetside vendors – hence the prices being pretty much the same no matter where you buy.   However, there is good money to be made – especially at the weekend when Thais visit and like nothing better than to fill the car up with fruit to give to their friends at work on Monday morning.   Mangosteens are the best buy at the moment – there’s a glut of them this year and so prices are very low, so if you’re buying a few kilos you should be able to get a good discount.

Back to the New Year revelry . . .fortunately the local police were on hand to monitor the situation, and what better place to monitor traffic jams from than under a nice shady tree.   No point getting all hot and sweaty by rushing out into the road and directing traffic when it’s 35C and your shift ends in an hour or so.

Will there be another Koh Chang Triathlon this year?   Odds are there won’t, but there may well be   a marathon instead.   The reason being a triathlon can attract a maximum of 250 participants whereas holding   a marathon could attract 3-4,000 runners plus their families & friends which would be   a nice little earner for hotels outside the main tourist season.   The only problem at the moment is convincing runners that it’ll be fun to go up and down all those hills . . as if 42km wasn’t far enough.

29 April – I had an email asking me to do an update including some more information about the exotic fruits that are available on Koh Chang at this time of year.   However, that’ll have to wait as I managed to find something even more exciting than photoshopping together a montage of a large banana and a couple of dangling durians to stick on the main page.

It’s time to put the ‘anal’ into ‘analysis’ and check out the curves in Koh Chang’s vital visitor statistics which have just been released.   If you visited Koh Chang last year you’ll be pleased to know you were one of a staggering 199,000 foreigner visitors to do so.   Numbered visitor certificates would be a novel souvenir.   “Congratulations on being the 137,369th person to visit Koh Chang in 2006!” The good news is that foreign tourist arrivals to Koh Chang were up a whopping 39% on 2005 figures but there’s still a way to go to match Phuket’s 2.9 million foreign guests in 2006 and it’ll be a few years yet before foreign tourists outnumber Thais, as 445,000 of them hopped in the back of the family pick-up and followed Highway 3 down here.

But although double the number of Thais than foreigners visited the KC – the total expenditure by Thais was only just over 10% more than that of the foreign visitors.   So for small business owners there are way more potential Thai customers but they ain’t going to part with their cash – unless you happen to run a   7-eleven minimart in which case you’re raking it in, as they attract Thai visitors like a moth to a flame.

The Russians are coming . . . in 2004 there were no stats specifically for Russian visitors to KC, in 2005 a total of 6,654 comrades landed and by last year this risen by 65% to 10,893 sun worshippers from the steppes. In other words, the number of Russian visitors is double the total of Chinese, Singaporean, Japanese, Korean and Taiwanese visitors combined.    Expect to see vodka on the breakfast menu at Koh Chang’s 3* hotels next year.   If you’d prefer to avoid Eastern Europeans on your travels and have the idea of heading to Koh Kood to achieve this aim . . . don’t as Russia supplies more foreign visitors than any other country to the island.

Does KC need more resorts?     The average for KC as a whole during 2006 was down on 2005 with 44% occupancy, only January and March, April & May (the   three Thai summer holiday months) averaged over 50% occupancy.   An average resort in a well established holiday island averages 60% – 70% over a year. The cheapy resorts with rates under 500 baht/night on KC had an occupancy rate between 22 – 32% which seems rather low as a pretty high percentage of visitors are in the backpacker age group, so maybe some resort owners aren’t declaring all their guests (I know the TAT never asked us who we had staying.)   So, wishes of good luck to the owners of those resorts in out of the way locations or that aren’t by a good beach – as, if you haven’t already guessed by looking at all the empty rooms you have, things won’t be picking up next year unless there’s another tsunami down south.

The average length of stay in 2006 for foreign visitors was down by half a day from 2005, 3.22 days compared to 3.84 days.   That’s barely time to get your bags unpacked, what’s the rush to leave?   There’s plenty to do on Koh Chang – snorkelling, elephant trekking and a cookery class and . . . on second thoughts 3.22 days is about right.

If you’re unfortunate enough to be in or around Trat town, which around 30,000 foreigners were last year, then you can ease the pain by dining at Pier 112.   Friendly place with excellent food, located by the river on  Thana Charoen Road, not far from the local government offices.   Located almost directly opposite, there’s a also a good little   guesthouse, discovered by Soren who stayed there last week.   Called ‘Basar Garden‘ it has a handful of ensuite fan rooms for 250 baht/night.   English is spoken and the phone number is   039 523 247 / 089 903 5127   – worth noting down in case you need a place to crash.   The owner has a car for hire and a nice sense of humour as the photo opposite shows.

14 May – A couple of photos from the new Kooncharaburi Resort, located in the south east of Koh Chang.   They’ve been building this for almost 3 years and it’s now partially open, although there’s still loads of work going on.   The accommodation is very nice in low rise hotel rooms and very large suite bungalows.   Looks like the pool will have pretty impressive views too. A good 3-4 star standard.   However, it’s also in a very out of the way location with nothing in the way of shops, restaurants or amenities of any kind within 2 kilometres.

Just over a week ago a delegation from the Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources and Environment visited Koh Chang,   Writing in his blog, one member of the delegation wasn’t particularly impressed, noting that ‘Due to the rapid haphazadous development of Koh Chang under the DASTA program initiated during the Thaksin regime and fueled by greedy characters from all over, I found Koh Chang, especially the western side, to be a pile of junk.’   A bit of a sweeping statement but it’s hard to disagree when you see areas such as the road to Klong Plu waterfall which is now a real eyesore along most of it’s length.   It used to be a nice walk from the main road to the entrance to the waterfall.   Now the road is a microcosm of all that’s wrong with Koh Chang; lined with a hotch-potch of garish orange concrete bungalows, slum housing for Cambodian labourers, chipboard backpacker huts and uninspiring restaurants.

One little insight from the blog entry is that there are no less than five organisations responsible for the roads on the island, which may go some way to explain the amateurish attempts at road repairs that are currently ongoing in a couple of places between Klong Prao & White Sand   Beach.

Coming soon . . . the start of a ‘How to build a fisherman’s house in the south-east of Koh Chang with hopefully minimal hassles and minimal bribes to local officials’ guide which will continue through the rainy season.   Cheap low season hotel rooms on Koh Chang, free nights and prices way lower than any of the big online booking sites.   And, last but not least, some new ‘Thai Symphony‘ villas on Koh Mak.   I don’t know what that means either but it sounds upmarket and I’m off to take a look this week.

Whilst perusing   ‘Journal of an Embassy from the Governor General of India to the Court of Ava in the year 1827’ by John Crawford, I noticed a that despite the less than thrilling title it did include a few items of interest.   The book was written in a time when life was less politically correct and all non-Europeans were labelled simply as ‘savages’ but fortunately could be loosely divided into two camps, savages who kill the white man and savages who don’t.   Looking down on the quaint traits of Johnny Foreigner aside, the tome throws up some interesting facts and insights into life in old Siam.   For example, back then there were only two roads in Thailand, and one of them lead from Chantaburi to TungYai, indicating the importance the eastern seaboard of Thailand to trade in those days. The islands of Koh Chang, Koh Mak, Koh Kood and Koh Maisee are mentioned in passing as having inhabitants from several races – Chinese, Siamese, Cambodian & Cochin Chinese, whereas the village of Nam Chieo (on the river a few kilometres south of Trat) is noted for being populated by Malay Muslims – you can still see the mosque by the river today.   Download the PDF file of the book at Google books for free.   It’s worth reading even if you aren’t a history buff.

Other notable early European visitors to Koh Chang were the Danish botanists Rosstrup and Massee who visited in 1902 on an expedition looking for rare types of fungi and later also wrote a book about their trip as blogs weren’t going to be invented for another 90 years and they couldn’t afford to wait that long before publishing their .

There’s been a lot of rain recently and theories as to why abound, many blame global warming, the El Nino effect or the deposed former Prime Minister Thaksin.   On the left you see the Agriculture permanent secretary Banphot Hongthong, acting as Lord of the Ploughing Ceremony and dressed in an outfit that even the gang from ‘Queer Eye for the Straight Guy’ would describe as being “a bit gay“.   Last weekend he presided over the ancient ceremony where two sacred oxen predict the weather, harvest and general state of the nation for the coming year. Terd & Tun, two oxen plucked from obscurity for their 15 minutes of fame, chose   rice, maize and grass to eat from among the various food offerings. Each offering has it’s own attributes. As a result of the rice, maize & grass combo, the court astrologer predicted there will be crops, grain and livestock in abundance this year, as well as sufficient rain for farming.   Had the cows supped from the bowl marked ‘alcohol’ this would have foretold a more efficient transportation system, good trade relations with other countries, and prosperous economy.   So, not really any good news for those of us not involved in farming – rain, traffic jams, declines in exports and economic meltdown.   But at least we wont be hungry.

7 May – One of the good things about the rainy season are the views when the clouds break after a deluge and the peaks of the mountains reappear. This photo was taken yesterday morning about 15 minutes after   a mini-storm passed over the west coast in Klong Son.   The devastation wreaked even made today’s Bangkok Post: ‘In the Southeast, in Trat, gusty winds blew roof tiles off shophouses on Koh Chang yesterday. Damage was initially estimated at 200,000 baht.’ This says far more about the standard of construction of shophouse roofs than it does about the strength of the gusty winds, as the palm frond thatches of beachfront huts survived intact.

Bangkok Airways, purveyors of short haul flights at long haul prices, have made Koh Chang an even more exclusive destination.   This has been accomplished by cutting the number of daily flights from three to two during next high season, thus making travel by air to the island, known to locals and high net worth individuals alike as ‘The last paradise of natural in Thailand’, just that little more exclusive and unavailable to the masses. For anyone not already booked on one Christmas week flights – there’s always the bus.

Keereeta Lagoon, Koh Chang’s newest boutique ‘resort’ is now open 100 metres from our house.   The owners bought a couple of ramshackle houses, knocked them down, and built a rather cosy, upmarket guesthouse in it’s place.   It’s all very white with furniture in bright primary colours, so obviously there was an architect, an interior designer with a dog eared Habitat catalogue from the late 80s involved in the construction.   There’s even a water feature that looks like a large birdbath / small pool in the lobby which itself overlooks the river. Wait a month or two until the rooms are listed online and it’ll make a nice alternative to large resorts for anyone looking for stylish accommodation in a low key location.   Although it doesn’t exactly blend in with it’s surroundings.   But worth checking out for Xmas or New Year accommodation if you want to get away from the faux festivities the large resorts lay on.

A couple of partners from Magic Garden Bungalows in Lonely Beach were on the island last week.   They’re into the ‘Burning Man’ scene which for the uninitiated is a big party in the desert with a large fire, lots of   youngsters with tribal tattoos, and old folks with far too many piercings in places that the over 60s shouldn’t really have pierced.   Magic Garden is therefore a bit of a pyromaniac backpackers wet dream with the Burning Man theme carried over into flame lit garden area and fire breathing elephants.   Upmarket ensuite huts, including some with DVD players – handy for the rainy season, are available for visitors who like to party on Lonely Beach.

As there’s nothing of interest happening on Koh Chang at the moment – or for the next few months for that matter –   unless you enjoy counting raindrops, here’s a story from elsewhere in Thailand you might have missed:

Tourist Kidnaps Elephant (IsraelInsider)

A hostage negotiation team was called in after an Israeli tourist kidnapped a baby elephant while being pursued by Thai police, Ynetnews reported Tuesday. According to the report, Yoram Ben-Hamo, an Israeli tourist, was suspected of driving drunk when he crashed into three vehicles on his way to Bangkok, injuring one.

After fleeing the scene, Ben-Hamo reportedly acquired a knife and stole a baby elephant from a nearby neighborhood yard and held it hostage, threatening to hurt the elephant should police not leave him alone. Hostage negotiators were called in, and Ben-Hamo was captured while lighting a cigarette given to him but the police.

Ben-Hamo claimed he fled the car accident for fear of being arrested, and captured the elephant to avoid being so. Ben-Hamo was convicted of capturing, holding hostage and endangering an elephant, and received a fine of 500 baht.

20 May – Nice view to the right looking south across Bangbao Bay to the islands of Koh Klum in the foreground with Koh Wai and, if you squint, Koh Mak bringing up the rear.   This view can be yours, well probably not yours, dear reader, as you don’t have need for this 57 Rai plot of land or the cash to afford to pay US$5 million for it – but for some corporate entity it’d make a nice site for a housing development.

Taking a leaf out of the Volvo / Pirates of the Caribbean, Treasure Hunt it’s time to proudly announce Koh Chang’s first quest for bounty.   One reader emailed to tell me that after a night of over indulgence at a local beach bar he had the notion of hiding his wallet in order to keep the contents safe from his recently rented girlfriend.   The plan was 50% successful, come the morning, he bid a fond farewell to whateverhernamewas and headed off to retrieve his stashed cash.   And, here’s where you come in . . . there’s a black mock leatherette, Pierre Cardin wallet buried somewhere on White Sand   Beach.   Whoever excavates it up is entitled to what our forgetful whoremongering alcoholic friend calls a handsome reward of several thousand Lao Kip.   The first clue is that the wallet is under the sand somewhere.   This also happens to be the second and all subsequent clues.   Good luck treasure seekers!

Reminiscences of   a simpler time . . . when was the last time you saw kids playing marbles?   There were a couple of local kids flicking glass balls around on a patch of dirt near our house the other day, the first time I’ve seen that this century.

Totally unrelated to Koh Chang, but Todd in Xian has a hostel there, where a warm welcome is guaranteed for anyone wanting to visit the terracotta army and whatever other delights Xian has to offer.   Take   a look at www.hqhostelxian.moonfruit.com and contact Todd for a full rundown on why Xian isn’t the worst place to visit in China.

Koh Chang made the TV news last week.   TITV, which used to be   a privately owned mouthpiece of the former government but following the revolution is now a state owned mouthpiece of the current government, had a 2 minute expose of a dodgy land deal in the south-east of Koh Chang a few days ago.   The plot in question was Chanote number 881 in the ‘Moo 4’ area of Koh Chang.   Which for anyone with a bit of knowledge of the island you’d expect to lie somewhere on the north-western or western side of the island.   Turns out that the land was previously in Moo 3, the same as all other land in the area, until two years ago when the title deed was upgraded.   Somehow ($$$) it jumped into a different area of the island, on paper anyway, and a token investigation by the TITV team revealed that no-one at the Land Office knew how this could possibly have happened.   The land in question is the 8 Rai of hillside that’s been quarried to shit in the very southeast of Koh Chang, opposite Koh Ngam.

FYI – There are only a couple of sunset beachfront plots available in the Lagoona Phase of the Siam Royal View housing development.   If you’re looking for a holiday home on KC, you’ll find photos of the plots and details here.

Last Saturday morning, Koh Chang featured yet again on another Thai TV station, one more aimed at more at making viewers feel bad about having tan skin and not the milky white complexion they really should aim for, than serving the national interest.   On this show a couple of young, hip presenter guys (I knew they were ‘with it’ as they were both sporting the Thai equivalent of the ‘Flock of Seagulls’ coiffure) were driving their Ford Ranger pick-up along the sand on Kai Bae beach in a show of cool, hipness that mere mortals can only dream to aspire to.   They also made a trip to the treetop walkway in Bailan in order to high-five each other and allow their mid-20s manliness to shine through their fresh, UV protected, faces.

Finally, pictured left, a nice little ‘Thai style’ beach.   We were at Ao Tan Khu yesterday for lunch when I took this photo – as proof that it isn’t raining all the time just yet.   Ao Tan Khu is a small bay with great views of a Koh Chang in the distance.   Along the 100 metre long beach are a handful of restaurants, which rent out inner tubes for all the non-swimmers to bob around in the waves on and a dozen or so covered decks built on the sand where diners can sit and eat in the shade.   It works out about half the cost of an equivalent meal in of Koh Chang’s beachfront restaurants.   If you’re driving around the area and want stop for lunch it’s a nice little place.

2 June – No update for a while due to the Cambodian workforce who put together this front page piece every week or so, downing their chalk boards and heading back to the rice paddies of Sisophon.   The dispute was over wages – apparently they were expecting some.

Approaching Koh Chang, you turn off the main Highway 3 and follow the meandering road through rural villages and hamlets observing local life as you go.   You’ll see markets and temples roadside but it’s as you near the ferry pier, round a corner, clear the rise of a hill and the impressive skyline of Koh Chang comes into view that the most impressive sight comes into view.   You stare in awe at the sight of the jungle cloaked mountain range rising majestically 700 metres up from sea level and only one thought enters your head . . “Hey, that hill looks like a giant tit, albeit an A cup.” (Or is it just me?)

A couple of months ago I noticed that when I was out on the beach with the dog in the evening the sound of extremely bad karaoke was wafting through the late afternoon air.   I assumed that it was coming from some beach bar.   Turns out that it wasn’t. It was from a resort and this was their preferred method to drum up business.   The resort in question was about a kilometre down the beach from our house, which gives you some indication of the volume that was being used.   Last night they had the karaoke turned up again and apparently always ignore all requests from their neighbours – the 5 star Amari Emerald Cove, for the volume to be turned down a tad.   So if you’re looking for a quiet place to stay avoid Grand Cabana Resort (and unfortunately any resorts nearby unless their owners can exert some influence to limit the volume of these karaoke sessions before next high season.)

What do you mean you’ve never heard of Welu Wetlands?   If mangrove forests are your thing then here’s a quick photo guide to the largest protected area of mangroves in the area and only about 30 minutes drive from the mainland ferry piers.   Why Koh Chang’s Marine Dept didn’t copy this non intrusive design for the walkway through the mangroves for their own piss poor attempt at a walkway in Salakkok is a mystery.

Anyone want to share a private transfer by minibus with Sue and her husband from Koh Chang to Siem Reap on 3 January, let me know and I’ll put you in touch. I know it’s a long time in advance but If you haven’t already booked your accommodation for Xmas / New Year then you’re going to have problems finding a good room available.   I’ve had a few emails from people who can’t get into their first or second choice of resorts.   So get your travel plans sorted asap or you’ll end up staying in the boondocks of KC.

They’ll be sightseeing flights operating from Koh Chang ‘airport’ next high season.   A range of aircraft will be available from small fixed wing planes to microlights and you’ll also be able to take flying lessons in these machines should you so desire.   The sightseeing trips will guarantee amazing views for around 1000 – 1500 baht/person, if the proposed prices are implemented, which is a pretty good deal and sure to be popular with visitors to KC. Maybe not so popular with people staying directly under the flight-path who will get buzzed regularly.

Things to do on Koh Chang during the rainy season, No. 16:   Watch TV – tune into KCTV to see this cracking advert for the bizarrely named Stank Shop, Bangbao

Things to do on Koh Chang during the rainy season, No. 24: Visit the fair.   Now on in central Kai Bae, Koh Chang’s equivalent of Disneyland, only without the rides and with more plastic household goods on sale   is currently wowing the easily impressed.   Just follow the gaudy multicoloured strip lights and you’ll find it, worth visiting under certain circumstances, those being if your TV’s broken, the internet is down and you just happen to break down whilst driving by or you ‘re Thai.

A week or so ago I went to Koh Mak, a very flat chested island in comparison to Koh Chang.   Lovely weather but the island was virtually deserted, so I had fun exploring a bit.   A couple of photo galleries added – The East of Koh Mak and The Southwest beach

Coming soon to Koh Mak will be a kindergarten, tennis court and mountain bike routes – all things which Koh Chang doesn’t have.   How can all this be managed on a small island when the powers that be on Koh Chang would require the setting up       Probably because the people who effectively run the island don’t look at everything from the point of view of “How much can I personally make out of this deal?”

13 June – Are you cut out for a life at sea?   This guy isn’t making much progress against the tide, can you spot any flaws in his rowing technique?

Totally unrelated to Koh Chang, the extraordinary life story of a 34 year old Thai woman who’s now planning a move back to her home country after living abroad for most of her life.   Vilai Holaban-Brown’s autobiography, due out at the end of the year, looks like it will be a must read for anyone who has ever wondered what it’d really be like to lead the type of life only ever seen in a movie.   But after reading just the brief introduction on her new blog – http://adaughterofthailand.blogspot.com you’ll probably be thankful that you live in a quiet street in a quiet town with a regular nine to five job.

New Discount Hotels page.   There are some good deals to be had if you are planning to visit Koh Chang before the end of October.   From 1 November we’re in high season and prices, in some cases will double.   So visit in mid to late October, enjoy the same weather but take advantage of cheap rooms and in a couple of cases free nights as well at several of Koh Chang’s better hotels plus BanPu Resort.

More hotels also added for the upcoming high season.   You can book your accommodation on Koh Chang through this site.   I don’t handle your booking or credit card details, that’s done by professionals as if most banks won’t trust me with my own credit card, why should you trust me with yours? However, it means that I get the commission on anything booked through this site rather than some anonymous corporate entity.

Whilst I was looking through the room rates at various hotels I noticed the prices for the compulsory gala dinners, basically a buffet with one turkey to serve 200, an additional ice statue or two and large bowl of fruit punch, have shot up over the past couple of years.   It’s a good way for hotels to make extra cash.   It’s just as well no guests resent having to pay the equivalent of a night’s stay for two adults to eat a meal of someone else’s choice whilst enjoying ‘entertainment’ of someone else’s often dubious choice.   So, if you’re looking for a place to avoid staying over New Year Aiyapura Resort is in number one spot so far on Koh Chang as they’re charging 4,600 baht per head on New Year’s Eve.   In second and third places are Gajapuri Resort with 4,100 baht per person and Amari Emerald Cove that are charging a mere 4,000 baht each.   Diners at these hotels might also like to put this cost in perspective by pondering the fact that they’re paying the same for a meal as their waiter earns in a month and you can bet they aren’t getting much in the way of OT for working on NYE.

For Sale – Price Reduced . . . Just under 1 Rai of land in Klong Prao, by the roadside & 400 metres from the Amari Emerald Cove, price now reduced to 6.2 million baht.   Good for small commercial development. Photos & info.

Shades of grey . . .the rainy season looks something like this, not all day every day thankfully but when it does rain it pours down a vengeance.   I get quite a few people asking me if they should visit KC over the next 3 months or so.   It basically boils down to what type of holiday you’re looking for.   If you only have one week in which to get a tan and love snorkelling in crystal clear waters then forget it.   If you want to escape from the big city, stay in a posh hotel cheaply, see lush tropical jungle and walk along a deserted beach – then it’s a good time to visit.

Lonely Planet have recently launched their own online booking service ‘Haystack’ presumably as in Finding-a-Needle-in which consists entirely of places that they recommend in the printed and online travel guides.   So once I get round to it you’ll be able to book a room at the smallest guesthouse on Koh Chang through their site, but why would you when you could do so through this site instead?

29 June – Apparently there’s been loads of rain on Koh Chang recently – fortunately I’ve been off in Singapore, Malaysia & The Philippines for a couple of weeks and missed it all.   Ah Well. Back to reality now though.

However, whilst flying around I was struck by how keen the flight attendants were in stressing the ‘No mobile phone’ rules, as apparently they can interfere with the navigation equipment on the plane.   So insistent were they that I can only conclude that all it would take to redirect a plane nowadays is a group of half a dozen zealots switching on their Nokias as soon as their 747 left Heathrow.   This happens and the next thing you know you’ll be touching down in Baghdad instead of Bangkok and there’s not a thing that the Captain can do about it other than order strip searches of all passengers to see who has a phone secreted on, or possibly in, their person.   Keep a close eye on anyone fiddling in their trouser pocket onboard your flight.

Something for anyone thinking of visiting Koh Chang to look for a second home either as an investment or for personal use. From now until 31 August myself & the guys from Tranquility Bay Residence are offering a Free Inspection Trip to Koh Chang to see the luxury condominium development first hand.   Of course, there is a catch. The cost of your trip – up to a value of 150,000 baht – is only refunded if you decide to purchase one of the remaining condominiums in the first phase of the development which is due for completion by the end of 2007/early 2008.

Staying with Tranquillity Bay for a moment, their new website is up an running now and contains this gem “Tranquility Bay offers just 10 stunning Contemporary Thai style Villas set mere metres from the beach and even closer to heaven.” Want a near death experience? Tranquility Bay is the place.   Or maybe I misunderstood the marketing talk ;-)

And if I cant interest you in a condo, I’ve got some t-shirts from KohMak.com and GoodTime Resort, Koh Mak to give away sometime soon.   Freesize which they means they wont fit anyone particularly well.

Koh Chang made it into the Bangkok Post today, usually the only time this happens is when enough people drown to make it newsworthy or there’s   a bad weather on the way, and this time was no exception.   As with all reports centering around the local authorities response to a problem there is the obligatory paragraph that somehow manages to combine total nonsense and state the obvious in the space of a couple of   sentences: “Itthipong Thanujitmethi, Chief of Region 6 Water Resources Office, expressed concern over the increased risk of landslides on the tourist island of Koh Chang, where forest encroachment was widespread. He feared repeated natural disasters would drive away tourists.” True, you don’t see many places using the chance of being buried alive while they sleep as a selling point.   But what’s more likely to deter tourists   are folks from the Water Resources Office who forget that the odds of someone being hit by a landslide whilst staying in a beachfront hotel on Koh Chang are very slim; and also forget that no one has actually perished in this manner, yet they open their mouth to any reporter who asks for a quote and make it appear to be a distinct possibility.

It may be dawning to people in the KC planning office that if too many trees are cut down, too many hillsides levelled and too few provisions for adequate drainage made then the chances of getting mudslides and flooding will increase annually.   But somehow I doubt it as the livelihoods of the planning officials and members of the local authority aren’t usually affected.   Those who suffer the most are the small shopkeepers and resort owners who’ve been there for years and, through no fault of their own, now have   a river running through their premises as soon as the heavens open.

Whilst on holiday I had three emails from people asking me to do different types of business with them on KC.   A couple were actually pretty good ideas and I initially saw little $$ signs flying through the air.   But whilst I was away I also had time to think about the meaning of life, the universe and everything. So much time in fact that I was contemplating taking up angling and buying a new pick up truck.   Both clear signs that I must be heading towards 40 rather too quickly for my liking.   When the idea of bobbing around in a boat drowning worms for hours on end starts to seem an attractive proposition and the thought that what your life really needs to make it complete is a black, 4 door, 4WD truck to cruise the highways of KC in, you know you have either too much time on your hands or are at a point in your life when it’s time to take stock of what’s really important, put everything in perspective, make lifestyle choices such as ‘Should life be all about the pursuit of wealth or the pursuit of happiness?’ and sell your soul to Paul McKenna or Tony Robbins, depending on which side of the Atlantic you live on.   The upshot of all this introspection was that whilst there are possibilities to make good money on KC, it’s more important for me to be able to take the dog to the beach every afternoon, go off in the boat whenever I want to or simply add nonsense to this site from the comfort of my deck over the river than it is to be stuck in an aircon office all day or be dealing with people who I have no real interest in dealing with.   So I turned the offers down.   “A Simple life is a happy life.” may sound a bit too Forrest Gump, but I guess it’s true for me at least.