For 2008

April – June 2008

koh-chang-rescue4 April – ATVs . . . at the start of this high season the one ATV rental place was shut and the dream travelling to a distant land and racing around on a patch of roadside dirt was one that looked destined to remain unfulfilled. However, over the course of the past few months the original ATV operation has re-opened as have three others.

Hiring an ATV used to be a bit pricey, however thanks to some cut throat competition you can rent a small Chinese made ATV for 250 baht for half an hour (if it lasts that long without breaking down.) You’ll find ATVs by the roadside at Chao Chet, Klong Prao Airport and Pearl Beach, around 450 – 500 baht/hour or 900 baht for a larger buggy which has a rollcage.

One day, this will be a pavement but until then visitors to White Sand beach just have to walk in the road, taking care not to trip over the piles if sand, paving stones and ‘Safety First’ signboards. The entire length of the pavement through WSB is being dug up, some areas have been concreted, in preparation for the paving stones to be laid. One bonus for shop owners is that when it rains these areas fill up with water, thus making a nice water feature through which tourists must walk in order to reach their chosen shop, restaurant or hotel.

Anyone want to share a transfer to Koh Chang at 0900 on 1 May from New Siam Riverside Guesthouse, near Khao San Rd. Ron & Sophie are staying at our place and have booked a private transfer. If you’d like to share the ride, please let me know.

Eagle eyed visitors will have noticed the petrol bombs that are for sale on small roadside stalls the length and breadth of the island. It’s not only wannabe arsonists who stop to pick up a couple of half-filled whiskey bottles of 91 octane gasoline, motorcyclists too find the convenience of being able to stop and empty half a litre of fuel into the tank outweighs the fact they’re paying an 80% mark-up over prices in a gas station.

But with the development & infrastructure on Koh Chang rapidly entering the late 20th Century, it’s not surprising to see that several coin & note operated, automatic petrol pumps have been set up. The only thing missing is any reference to the price per litre, which kind of points to them also charging a relatively high price for fuel.

Focus on Marine Safety. If you get in trouble on land you all know who to call – the Tourist Police. Not known as ‘Tourist Police’ simply because they are here more for a vacation than a vocation, from their HQ in a portakabin at Kai Bae viewpoint they also act as a shoulder to cry on for tourists who have done something stupid and aren’t getting sympathy from the real police. The Tourist Authority pays most of their salary, so whilst you won’t get any assistance in investigating a crime of any kind, you will get a smile, tips on how to avoid being scammed by a tailor and recommendations for good restaurant or bar where you can go and drown your sorrows.

But how about if there’s an emergency at sea? Who would you call? What’s Koh Chang’s equivalent of the Coastguard or RNLI? Cynics will automatically assume that the island has nothing in the way of marine rescue craft . . . but they’d be wrong.

From this command and control HQ, volunteers vigilantly monitor their CB radio for ‘Mayday’ calls. The centre is manned 24 hours a day, except during mealtimes, screenings of live Premier league matches, the hours of darkness and when it’s just too boring to be stuck by the main road waiting for something to happen.

Having received an emergency call, the message is quickly relayed to the crew of the rescue craft. Within a couple of hours, less if no-one has to dragged out of the ‘Somchai’s Video Karaoke’, the crew are all aboard and ready to sail. So, what type of vessel will be steaming to your aid?

At first glance it may look like a fishing boat, but look again – it’s been painted with a ‘Rescue’ logo and has lifejackets, what more do you need? And after being saved, you can even get back to work on your tan on the sundeck.

Hotels. Planning a holiday to KC in the next month or so? Don’t bother coming to Koh Chang in late April, wait another week until after 1 May and you’ll find that you’ll get low season rates at many good hotels. Some are around 50% cheaper after 1 May. Some offers for Dewa, Tropicana, Aiyapura, Ban Pu Resort etc bookable through Evolution Tour, Koh Chang are in the hotels section.

Road deaths. Another couple of Thais killed on White Sand beach last week. One on a motorbike in broad daylight, the other whilst sitting eating a bowl of noodles by the side of a road when a speeding truck ploughed into him. Road safety activists are praying for the day that a photogenic young female tourist, ideally with crusading parents who don’t take shit from the local authorities, meets her demise on the island’s roads – as that’s the only way anything will get done.

Never ceases to amaze me how businesses throw up large signs without reading them first . . .”Our atention two detale is secund too nun.”

15 April – Following on from previous years’ road safety campaigns which included the philosophical “Drive don’t drink.” and the cautionary “Don’t drink drunk.” This Thai New Year saw a warning aimed squarely at scuba enthusiasts who are renowned for their love of a few beers ‘Don’t drink and dive.’

Internet / Deli shop on White Sand beach for sale. Nice little turn key business, everything you need to run the business, plus a motorbike, included in the asking price of 350,000 baht. Won’t make you rich but it will give you and/or a ‘significant other’ a place to sleep and a ready made little business that will more than pay for your day-to-day living expenses on the island.

A few interesting tourist stats . . .
* Foreign visitors to Koh Chang in 2007 – 228,000 up 18% on 2006.
* Foreign visitors to Koh Mak were up 111% in 2007.
* March, April & May, were the months with highest room occupancy rates on Koh Chang.
* Last year more Russians than British stayed at the most expensive resorts.
* The country with the most visitors to Koh Chang in 2007 was Sweden, with just over 30,000 visitors – a whopping 85% increase on 2006.

More lies, damned lies and statistics from the TAT next update.

Thanks to Dimar for smuggling a bottle of the finest Belarusian pine cone flavoured, grain based, white spirit into Thailand for me. The ideal accompaniment to any meal, especially such Belarusian staples such as Roast Pine Cone, BBQ Pine Cone and Pine Cone a la carte. What’s more it’s endorsed by that well-known connoisseur of pine cone tainted firewater, Hulk Hogan.

If only all this garbage was in the sea and not 20 metres from it on White Sand Beach, then it would be removed in 11 days time. The reason being the 26th April sees the Fourth Annual Underwater Clean-Up. Organised by DASTA, the hypocritical folks responsible for doing nothing to clean up the island itself; and Koh Chang Marine Park, who manage to turn a blind eye to the pollution and illegal building work in places such as Bangbao but will happily come down hard on a local fisherman who wants to rebuild his crumbling home.

Anyhow, if you want to make the world a better place, or simply want a free t-shirt, meet up at Coconut Beach Resort, Klong Prao at 7am on 26th April. Or contact to one of the dive operators who are taking part.

Reasons to visit Koh Chang in mid-May. Number 1 (In a series of 1)
Are you ready to rock & roll to a variety of world music styles?
Are you ready to binge on seasonal fruits?
If the answer to these two questions is a resounding ‘Yes’, then make a date for the World Musiq & Fruit Festival taking place on May 17-19 at Klong Prao Resort.

At first this may not sound too promising. However, the event is organised and run by Todd Lavelle, one of the few foreigners to made a name for himself in the Thai music scene. Not as a member of a boy band but as a kind of travelling troubadour with his band of musicians blending all types of music from traditional Thai to rock, reggae and African beats. “Real music for real people” as their slogan goes. It will be worth seeing. Prior to Koh Chang they’ve have a few nights playing in the plaza outside Central World in the centre of Bangkok, from 7-11 May
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No photos of the water throwing revelry of the past few days New Year celebrations as once you’ve seen one photo of people shooting water pistols at each other you’ve seen them all.

26 April – Any Vets reading this? Not the slightly twitchy, Hot-diggity-damn-I’m-a-coming-home-in-a-box ‘Nam type, but the happy-to-stick-their-hand-up-a-cows-arse type. If so, Lisa the Vet on Koh Chang would like your help if you have any free time whilst visiting the island. She’s snowed under with removing various non-essential organs from the island’s dog & cat population and needs help from people who have experience in the field. (Practical experience is far more important than a gold trimmed certificate from Vetinary school – so if you’ve never actually snipped a uterus before, she doesn’t have time to teach you.) Contact Lisa through Koh Chang Animal Foundation website if you’re handy with a sharp knife and scissors.

Cambodians. Have you got your immigrant worker registered? A few days ago the police raided one of the camps where numerous Cambodian workers live and carted around 100 away, to be sent back across the border. Apparently, it was quite a scene with Cambodians running off into the jungle with the boys-in-brown in hot pursuit.

Anyone missing a family member on KC? If so, massacre by wild boar is the probable cause of disappearance, as is proved beyond reasonable doubt here . . . . Americans – love ’em or merely tolerate ’em, regardless, they’re often good for a laugh when they leave their home shores for the first time. This from a couple’s recent blogpost about their adventures on Koh Chang’s and the perils they faced:

We drove to a place with hiking trails, but when we got there it was closed. Everyone except for me wanted to go hiking in the jungle anyways, despite the following obvious reasons why we shouldn’t: 1) The signs said in English, “Danger, no hiking” 2) We didn’t have a guide 3) We left our GPS at the hotel 4) A few months earlier 4 tourists went missing in the same jungle and were never found. When we finally made it safely back to our guest house, we asked the owner why they had “no hiking” signs up. He told us that it was the dry season and the wild boars didn’t have any food. They hunt in packs and tear people to pieces before eating them.

In the news, a reporter from South Africa’s ‘The Sowetan’ newspaper visited KC and recommends the island thus: “With its fine white sandy beaches and blue marine waters, Ko Chang, accessible by ferry, is the sort of island retreat I’d recommend for any brother eager to win favours with the missus.” Despite spending a couple of days here that was all he a had to say about the island, more column inches were devoted to the Thai ladies “. . .the weather in Thailand comes in three seasons … hot, hotter, hottest! How I wished the same could be said of the women, who, in their conspicuous panty lines you’d think have never heard of the sartorial wonder of thongs!” He also visited Rayong: “On the beach in Rayong, I caught myself looking for signs of the tsunami. There was none.” (Possibly because Rayong’s on the opposite side of Thailand to where the Tsunami actually hit.) Needless to say he visited Thailand free, courtesy of the Tourism Authority of Thailand.

4 May – Rain . . . it’s pretty wet across most of central and northern Thailand at the moment. In an ideal world Koh Chang would be spared from the downpours and tourists would flock here knowing that a sun kissed paradise awaits them. However, it isn’t a perfect world and it’s pretty bleak here after 24 hours of virtually continuous precipitation.

Until only a couple of days ago most of the rain had been confined to nightly thunderstorms and isolated heavy downpours, which you expect on a mountainous island at the hottest time of the year. But thanks to us getting the tail end of a cyclone over Burma, the thought of Koh Chang as a sun kissed paradise is not one that springs to mind right now. The good news is that the heavy rain should ease off in the next couple of days though which will give the mudbath which now masquerades for our access road, a chance to dry out and also allow people to venture out of their hotel rooms. But until the rain stops I’ve been compiling a list of wet weather activities:
1) Seek solace in Beer Chang
2) Download torrents of the new series of ‘Have I got news for you’ and ‘The Colbert Report’
3) Err. . . that’s it. Apologies to any teetotal visitors who don’t have a laptop and their own wi-fi connection. You must be bored.

Thai Met Office site: http://www.tmd.go.th/en/

Looking for some of the white stuff, let me know, i know a guy who has some. Grade A, not cut with anything. Nothing but pure 100% home grown, Thailand’s finest rice. The same as they used to sell abroad way back in February when there was enough food to feed everyone. Or maybe we all just ate less in early ’08.

Food price hikes . . . the price of a 2 bar Kit-Kat is holding steady and durian is 20 baht a kilo. Here on Koh Chang where we don’t really care what’s happening elsewhere in the world.

A recent ad from one of Koh Chang’s free guides was aimed squarely at eco-loving visitors with guilt complexes. For a mere US$100, tourists are offered the carbon allowance for a Cambodian worker based on Koh Chang. The ad goes on to state these worker’s low carbon credentials ‘We house six or eight into a room, load 20 or more onto a pick up to take them to work, and don’t allow them to use more electricity than is necessary to run a 12″ TV and 60 watt bulb.’ Contact details are given simply as ‘the foreman at any construction site or HR Dept at any 3 star hotel on the island’.

More from 2007’s official visitor stats. Not good reading for Bangkok Airways as the number of visitors flying into Trat airport decreased by a shareholder worrying 31%. Also where have all the old people gone? The number of visitors to Koh Chang rose, but the number of over 55’s – often those who like their comforts and stay at the better resorts, decreased by a whopping 61%, from nearly 50,000 in 2006 to 17,500 in 2007. Most importantly, the average length of time for a visitor on Koh Chang shot up from 3.11 to 3.18 days – what did you do with your additional 100 minutes on the island?

The Bangkok Post reported last week on a cunning plan drawn up on the back of a beermat one boozy lunchtime, when the top brass from the Transport and Tourism and Sports ministries got together for Nong the secretary’s birthday bash. As part of the masterplan the ministries will promote the use of speedboats, such as hydrofoils, to ply between the eastern and western coasts of the Gulf and between the region’s tourist destinations. Recommended routes include Koh Chang to Samui and Cha-am to Chanthaburi. ( Speak to any local in Chantaburi and you’ll hear them all complaining at the lack of a high speed hydrofoil service to run-down western gulf beach towns.)

A Hua Hin – Pattaya boat service has never taken off, despite both places receiving millions of tourists a year and a Samui – Pattaya overnight boat was mooted, and advertised a couple of years ago but again, never ran. (The old cruise ship that was to be used was last spotted capsized in the Chao Praya River after it sank during repairs that didn’t quite go to plan.) So, having a Samui – Koh Chang service anytime soon only seems possible if Elvis is captaining the ship.

Dolphins off Koh Chang. There’s a pod of dolphins that show up almost every morning at the south eastern tip of Koh Chang between KC and the island of Koh Ngam. Not that I have got up at the crack of dawn to see them – it was on a recent Thai TV show – ‘educational’, not a word often associated with Thai TV. The guy travelled to Koh Chang, with his Labrador, they went mangrove canoeing in Salakkok, saw the dolphins and then climbed a couple of peaks overlooking Salakphet Bay. Made a nice change from the usual travel shows that just highlight the beach / elephant camp / snorkelling blah, blah, blah.

There’s a ‘pop-tabulous’ music festival, organised by a Bangkok radio station, planned for the region on May 10th on Koh Mak with several fairly well known (if you’re Thai) bands playing plus T-Bone, a band worth seeing who also played on Koh Chang recently and Kai Jo Brothers – a one hit wonder who had an infectious reggae tinged Thai/English summer hit, “Let’s go to the sea”, a couple of years ago , which they’ll no doubt be playing at least twice during their set. The rain and mud will no doubt lend a more authentic festival atmosphere to proceedings.

Need a place by the sea for the green season? Two spacious, fully furnished houses are available in Kai Bae for the next few months. There’s also a spacious covered deck outside built over the water. (If you have a small boat you can moor it right outside your house.).

April 29/30 saw ‘Songkran 2’ the sequel to the original Songkran – Thai New year – which is held on 13-15 April across Thailand. The reason for this belated new year party was to allow all staff from hotels and other businesses that had been working over the regular new year to have a bit of a party. Very good idea and one that could also be turned into a tourist attraction. A day of making offerings to monks and other Buddhist stuff was followed by a day of beer fuelled festivities. These took the form of a parade of vehicles decorated in palm fronds and banana leaves, carrying people dressed in everything from traditional Thai outfits to street clothes to bikini tops and hot pants (one of the more popular floats).

Most of the water fights were centred around White Sand Beach and in the evening, VJ Plaza in Klong Prao was packed with people – which is a first in itself – all enjoying the dirt cheap beer laid on by the sponsors ‘Beer Chang’. Most people made it home safely, although I noticed a couple of motorbikes and one pick up in a ditch the morning after. But what’s a New Year without a few fatalities?

This week’s ‘Gift from the East (of Europe)’ came once again from Belarus – home of the world’s finest pine cone flavoured grain spirit. This time it was ‘Spartak’ brand chocolate, courtesy of Dmitri from Minsk. The chocolate has won awards, mostly domestic (I’d guess) Not quite in the same league as Cadbury’s but there again Cadbury’s don’t make tractor parts.

17 May – Koh Chang has been pretty dead for the past couple of weeks, the saving grace for hotels having been the three long weekend holidays – including this current one, which has allowed them to fill rooms with guests enjoying team building trips paid for by their company in Bangkok.

The sea has been a bit choppy recently, at first glance the waves look fun to play in. However, they hide a strong undertow. The first drownings of the rainy season occurred last week off Klong Prao beach.

What happened at the Paradise Island Music Fest that was to be held on May 10 on Koh Mak?   Not a lot – as the event was moved to Rayong at the last minute due to the iffy weather. Still the locals on Koh Mak and a small number of people who had gone there expecting to hear some live music had a bit of a party on their own instead. The good news is that the organisers plan to have another crack at organising another ‘Music Fest’ in November when better weather is guaranteed.

Music lovers on Koh Chang still have the ‘World Musiq and Fruit’ Festival to look forward to. This party by the beach is being held on land adjacent to Klong Prao Resort and is still on for this weekend 17-19 May. It’s free so no excuse not to head on over – other than rain and the FA Cup Final.

Fishermen haven’t been able to gout to sea much recently due to the weather, so if you look in some of the areas of the island where fishermen still live you’ll find them fixing their nets. This was in Salakkok last week.

I’m currently slowly going through the site and updating various sections. Been making Google Maps for the various beach areas on the island so that you can see where you will be staying and get an idea of the places to eat, drink, shop nearby. Hopefully they will be of use. It’s something easy to do but pretty boring so is the kind of thing that takes me a lot of time as I’m easily distracted. But I also have an idea for another Koh Chang site that will be useful to visitors and which doesn’t exist at present, so providing it keeps raining and I don’t take too many holidays or get bored doing it, I might get that finished in the next couple of months.

I get quite a few people emailing me, especially at this time of year, asking about ideas for small businesses on Koh Chang. I try to put people off investing their life savings in a get rich quick / deal of the century type of scheme that they have heard about in a bar on KC whilst here on holiday . . . simply because that type of opportunity doesn’t exist, and logic says that if it did, the guy who is telling others about it would already be doing it themselves, wouldn’t he?  So, as I have half a page to fill, off the top of my head, here’s something to ponder . . .

You might think that people move to Koh Chang to set up a business to make money. Some might have also convinced themselves that they are doing this. They don’t. What most people are doing is moving here for the same reasons that tourists visit – the lifestyle, the weather, the food, the girls (or boys) etc. Then realising they need to earn some money to finance the lifestyle, they set up a business of one kind or another to pay for their rent & living costs. The vast majority of foreigners you see here, or anywhere in Thailand, who are oozing wealth made it in their own country first, rather by running a business out of a rented shop unit in a Klong Prao shopping plaza.

There are three types of expat business owner:
1) The Originals. Those who discovered Koh Chang well over a decade ago, long before many Thai business people or politicians saw the potential, and so were able to get land at a dirt cheap price and set themselves up for life. Whether they realised this at the time, when the island was without vehicle ferries, a road also on the west coats, electricity & phone lines, and saw the potential is debatable. Good luck to them, they took a risk and, for most, it paid off handsomely.

2) The Chancers. People who arrived 4-8 years ago, probably having seen that island was slowly emerging or heard of the government’s plans to begin developing the island; and decided to take a chance on Koh Chang, in the main, without investing big bucks. At this time, land prices were already rising too quickly due to well connected Thai speculators. The new influx set up small businesses, mainly on rented land due to the price rises – but often in good locations and providing they found their niche, have grown as the number of foreign visitors has more than doubled during their time living on the island.

3) The Followers. Lots of people have the dream of living on an island and are on the look out for new places to visit or consider for a home. It can take a while for an island to get on the tourist map and Koh Chang is still only slowly getting there, so for many it is still a ‘new’ island and as such is attracting people for whom Samui or Phuket is are now too developed or lacking in opportunities. Koh Chang is starting to see more of this type of small business owner. They have more money to invest and will happily pay whatever rent the landlord asks for a small shop unit or will venture into partnerships that have high overheads and need a critical mass of visitors to succeed. Either that or they fell in love with a girl, and since she is so wonderful, they invest money in opening a bar, beauty salon, restaurant, or any other type of business that she presented as having a huge potential.

Still to come in any numbers are the really wealthy individuals ( the golden rule is never to ask how they made their money ) who will bring business know-how; offshore accounts piled high with funds to invest without worrying about immediate returns; and have enough knowledge and high up Thai connections to enable them to eat the small fish for breakfast. Fortunately the sharks haven’t arrived in significant numbers yet, and there are still opportunities for people with big dreams and limited funds but if Koh Chang follows Samui and other islands this may not last long.

30 May – The ‘World Musiq and Thai Fruit Festival’ on May 17-19 was one of those extremely rare examples of a well organised event with good musiq (aka music) and a professional stage and sound system plus catering from the Amari Emerald Cove Resort insured there wasn’t a Pot Noodle or skewer of deep fried fishballs in sight. The fruit, which I had feared might take all the plaudits, wasn’t bad either. A second, larger event from the same organisers is now pencilled in for January 2nd 2009. An annual event of this type would be more than welcome on Koh Chang.

Despite the planned May 10th ‘Music Fest’ being cancelled on Koh Mak. Monkey Island Resort and RS Promotions, one of the main record labels in Thailand, are planning an event in October.

Employing crack team of well armed, ex-SAS guards to patrol your business premises has often been seen as a highly effective, but also expensive, deterrent to burglars other miscreants. However, one Koh Chang businessman may have stumbled across a solution that he believes offers the same level of deterrent but at a fraction of the cost. A simple combination of a US Army surplus uniform, Worzel Gummidge and second hand Uzi, is all that is required to deter all but the most hardened of criminals. The current prototype is in a trial phase but if successful expect to see the welcome presence of these uncannily lifelike ‘roboguards’ outside bars, hotels and private homes island wide in time for next high season.

WTF? A 50% increase in price for a transfer from Koh Chang to Trat Airport. Krungthep Limousine run a minibus services between Trat Airport and the hotels on Koh Chang. If you’re flying into Trat then you simply get your ticket when you land. And if our guests need to get back to the airport we just call the company and confirm a seat in the minivan for them. It’s a good, efficient service and the price is 320 baht, passengers pay the driver. But now Krungthep Limousine is selling red & black pre-printed tickets to hotels that will cost 470 baht for the same transfer. As prices rises go, 50% is a bit steep. But the real price hasn’t increased, you can still call the company and get a transfer with them for 320 baht. Of course, if you call, no commission is paid. The 470 baht includes 100 baht commission for the seller. Keep an eye out for the red and black tickets. If you are offered one when you want to book the transfer bear in mind you’ll be paying 50% more than other passengers on the me minibus simply because your hotel has a commission grabbing approach to customer service.
(Of course, you could book the same service in advance, using Evolution Tour, for only 300 baht here. And yes, I get a commission, but I’d prefer to make a small commission on a sensible price rather than a large commission on an ticket price that’s 50% higher than it should be.)

Luxury Homes on Koh Chang. A unique, environmentally friendly 15 villa development on the southwest coast. The show home is under construction now and due for completion in September.

Trat – Chantaburi triathlon. This will take place tomorrow, May 31st. Competitors won’t actually race on Koh Chang but will be required to stay here for a night so they can get up at the crack of dawn in order to take the ferry. But instead of taking them all the way to the mainland, they will jump overboard around 2.5km before they reach Ao Thammachat pier. Anyone making to he pier then has to hop on a bike and pedal 90km to Chantaburi, Then jog for another 20+km. This is roughly double the Olympic triathlon distance. And all so the competitors can get a souvenir t-shirt and share of the advertised 4,000,000 baht prize money.

Hang on . . 4 million baht in prize money???. If this is true, this is over five times the total prize money offered by the well established, internationally broadcast, Phuket Triathlon, which currently advertises a US$20,000 prize money purse for the 2008 event to be held on 29 Dec 2008. The totally unknown, un-televised and poorly promoted Trat-Chantaburi Triathlon has a prize purse of 4 million baht? Sure does, with 300,000 baht to the winner.

Koh Mak needs YOU!
It isn’t often that foreigners are invited to help plan and develop a Thai island. But here’s your chance if you have specific skills and want to spend a bit of time working with the locals on Koh Mak. The islanders’ goal is to develop the island in a sustainable way in harmony with nature.

If you are an expert in an area that is useful to the overall development of the island, the locals would like to hear from you. Here is a list topics that are important for the future of Koh Mak, however, if you have any other areas of expertise that you think might be useful for, your input is welcomed.

Planning/Zoning. So far, everyone just did whatever they wanted, wherever he wanted to do it. It would make sense to come up with a development plan that looks at the island as a whole in order to ensure a sustainable development. Having a 10 year Masterplan would help. Do you have experience of this type of planning and setting out a roadmap for its success?

Environmental Protection. Koh Mak is a beautiful island and in order to keep it this way there need to be policies that protect the environment both on the island as well as in the sea around it. How has this been done successfully elsewhere?

Value Added Processing. On Koh Mak rubber and coconuts are grown. So far, most of the produce is shipped to the mainland unprocessed. In order to create value for the island, the rubber and coconuts could be processed locally on Koh Mak. Building big factories is definitely not an option. But if you can think of a idea how value can be added to what is grown in a sustainable way, get in touch.

Human Resource Development. The key to building a future for the island is the people. They need to have the knowledge and expertise in order to sustain their life on the island. Sustainable tourism as a key economic driver of Koh Mak’s future. Can you help people learn the necessary skills (English, hospitality management etc.)?

Marketing. Koh Mak is a great little island and it should appeal to visitors from around the world. We want it to be known as “Thailand’s Family Island”. The importance of attracting visitors is appreciated by resort owners and locals. we would like to share the island’s beauty with visitors from all around the world. One thing lacking is a large advertising budget. But if you have experience in web marketing and think you could use your skills to promote the island and attract the right type of tourists, your help is appreciated.

Logistics and Transportation. Koh Mak is quite remote. This means that transportation and logistics can be a bit challenging at times. Therefore, we are looking to come up with a plan for managing transportation to and from the island as well as implementing eco-friendly transportation on the island itself.

Waste Management. Most garbage an waste is shipped back to the mainland. Glass & plastic is separated on the island so there is an opportunity to recycle this type of waste on the island. But how to approach this? If you have experience of small – mid scale recycling projects it’d be good to hear from you.

Natural Resource Management. Koh Mak has a lot of natural resources both on the ground as well as under water. The island’s natural beauty is a key driver of tourism. However, if these resources are overused it could harm the island. Anyone out there with experience in managing natural resources on a tropical island?

Art. Koh Mak is an inspiring place. If you are able to use some of the local resources and turn them into stunning, unique artwork, you would be welcome on the island. There are lots of places and spaces here where art could make a really nice contribution.

So, if you think you have what it takes to help us make Koh Mak a better place to live and visit, please get in touch. Whilst no salary can be paid, your accommodation will be free for the time that you are on the island.
Just send your CV and a brief description of your ideas how you could help develop the island in a sustainable way to Khun Yodchai at < Yodchai@kohmak.com >

11 June – Kate Moss to visit Koh Chang! Sadly, No! Kate Mosse to visit Koh Chang! Yes!
But if you don’t know who Kate Mosse, with a ‘e’, is then you won’t be interested in signing up for Koh Chang’s literary event of the year which takes place at Aiyapura Resort from Sept 23 – Oct 2. This workshop for wannabe authors and people who wear cardigans and Crocs can be booked through www.literaryadventures.co.uk. Looks like publishing houses can look forward to a slew of: (Take a deep breath . . . )

Retired insurance salesman, Geoff, swaps the cotton mills of Wakefield for the prawn farms of Salakkok, his heart set on seeing out his retirement years in an tropical island paradise. Geoff quickly realises that all is not what it seems in the Orient when a chance encounter with a mysterious stranger whilst on a ‘4 island’ snorkelling trip comes back to haunt him. Little did he realise how his whirlwind romance with simple, heart of gold hooker, but in later chapters devious and possessing a knowledge of the inner workings of the CIA gleaned from hours chatting on MSN with a Pentagon mole, Lek, would lead him on a journey of unimaginable implausibility. One where the bumps, twists, turns and potholes of the west coast road act as a metaphor for the bumpy, holey, twisty and turny things in life as Lek sets off hot on the trail of a renegade Iranian nuclear scientist with an unpaid bar tab. Ensuing events see Greg setting his desire for Thai teen minge aside as his relationship with Lek turns from one based solely on lust and money into one of early mornings, heroism, life and death struggles and the occasional 5 minute boom-boom after a shootout with the Kai Bae taxi mafia, as the odd couple race against time in order to prevent a catastrophe of biblical proportions engulfing the island in this new novel set against the backdrop of the seedy underbelly of modern day Koh Chang.‘ type of manuscripts clogging up their email Inboxes before the end of the year. Yes, before you ask, I did take the workshop last year and can have my novel written within a week if someone stumps up a good sized cash advance.

It’s back . . . from outer space. Over 18 months ago I posted a photo of a futuristic rocketship shaped postbox that magically appeared at Kai Bae viewpoint. Within a week of positing, the powers that be removed it. But a couple of weeks ago I noticed that this marvel of modern art, that sums up the achievements of Thailand’s space program in one simple 1.5 metre tall, fiberglass mould, is back. It’s a slightly brighter shade of red and now brandishes a jaunty white stripe. If you can explain it’s relevance to Koh Chang or the Thai Mail service, please let me know.

You could be one of my near neighbours. There’s a 1 rai plot of land with two old waterfront houses, planning permission for two new luxury homes already granted and with mooring for boats for sale on the river estuary near us. We’ve been out culling the locals and so prices in the the area are on the rise. No karaoke, no beer bars, ideal spot for anyone looking for a home with a sunset view and boat mooring, only 100 metres to the beach. Be within shouting distance of my house for 15 million baht.

Cultural insight. If you see large handwritten billboards in Thai script by the roadside they are probably signs advertising what the natives call a ‘Cambodia Fair’. This is a motley collection of market stalls plus a bouncy castle and one of those booths where you pay 10 baht to throw darts at playing cards in order to win a small plastic doll worth 5 baht, that will disintegrate as soon as your child puts it in their mouth. Why ‘Cambodia Fair’? Because so many Cambodian workers go there, as compared to what’s on offer in downtown Cham Yeam of an evening, it’s a veritable Disneyland. “Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined the wide variety of items that could be made from lime green injection moulded plastic until now.” gushed 16 year old hotel maid, and mother of three, Miss Soeu Sotheara as she and her co-workers joined the queue for 10 minutes of fun aboard ‘Rolling Thunder’, Koh Chang’s sole thrill ride (below).

Free Drinks. Euro 2008 is underway with barely any fanfare as 1966 World Cup Champions and potential quarter finalists Eng-er-land didn’t make it past the qualifying stages this time round due to having to play bastard cheating foreigners for a place in the last 16. It’d be far better if all teams that don’t contain at least three players called Wayne, John, and David were banned from the competition. Fair enough we still might have to beat Wales, but I’m an optimist. Anyway, if you’re stuck for something to do at 2am and/or are homeless, then Breezes Bar at the Amari Emerald Cove is the place to be for all the big screen action.

Koh Mak Weekend Break Offer.
Pavilion Villa Package, 3 days / 2 nights @ 2,250 baht per person. Available every weekend, from 1 June – October 2008.
This package includes aircon accommodation – twin sharing, breakfast and return transfers by speedboat from Laem Ngop. Choose to stay at any of these resorts:
GoodTime Resort
Lazyday Resort
Koh Mak Villa
Koh Mak Cococape
Maka Thanee Resort
Baan Koh Mak
Koh Mak Resort
Koh Mak Buri Hut
Baan ChaiLay
This package is for a minimum of 4 people per booking. For more info contact :  ball@kohmak.com
Getting to Koh Mak in the rainy season . . .you wont be doing it from Koh Chang. But from the mainland is still possible every day.
Slowboat – Departures every other day at 3:00 pm and the boat returns from Koh Mak at 8:00 am.
Speedboat – Leelawadee speedboat Daily departures at 2.00 pm and return from Koh Mak at 08:00 am. The journey time is 50 minutes. (450 Baht.) Pa Nhan speedboat departs on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday at 4.00 pm and returns from Koh Mak at 08:00 am. 50 mins / 450 baht.

Last update for a while as I’m on holiday till the end of the month.

29 June – It’s around 9 months since the high speed catamaran service between the mainland, Koh Chang and Koh Mak should have begun. After a few changes to specifications & designs the boat is now nearing completion in a Pattaya boatyard, where this photo was taken, and should begin service this coming October and run daily thoughout the year.

Koh Chang Carbon Traders Ltd (formerly Lek’s Charcoal and Noodles) recently opened their doors in Kai Bae, providing locals with the tools for creating a comprehensive carbon trading or carbon management strategy for their business or home. Don’t run short and keep an adequate supply “just in case”, that’s the message from Lek who has seen how the price of oil has risen 100% in under 12 months and predicts the same will happen to Carbon. But at present there is an over supply of Carbon, a raw form of Charcoal, so why not take advantage of the great opening offers this week at Koh Chang Carbon Traders Ltd and stock up for the future. Below, a sneak peek inside the vault:

Plots of Land for Housing.  From under 500,000 baht with Chanote title. Long lease available for foreign buyers. 10 mins walk to local shops & ATM, 10 minutes drive to White Sand beach. 40% of plots already sold. Remaining plots have mountain views but two riverfront plots still available. Construction service, choose from a selection of house plans offered by the developer or build your own house.

Large West Coast Resort For Sale. Well known luxury resort with over 60 rooms situated on 13 Rai of land. 2 F&B outlets, Meeting room, swimming pool, Parking spaces for over 30 vehicles, 950sqm Spa and Fitness area plus sauna/jacuzzi. 76% occupancy rate in 2007-08 High Season with room rates averaging 2,300 baht/night. Agency agreements with over 700 travel and tour agencies worldwide including Go Vacation (LTU), Agoda, Sawadee, AsianTrails, TransOrient. Scandinavian & German visitors comprise 50% of guests. Price: 195 million baht. If you’re interested email me and I’ll put you in contact with the owner.

Red Sea. Why’s the sea a murky red/ brown in some areas? You get long stretches where the wave crests are white, then a brief stretch where the water and crests turn to an odd colour. Our neighbour’s kid reckons it doesn’t taste very nice either. (Well I wasn’t going to try it.)

New hotel booking partner program. Ido24.com is a new affiliate program for anyone with a tourist related website, not necessarily for Koh Chang but for pretty much any location in Thailand. It’s an alternative to Agoda, Sawadee etc. The only reason I mention it is that the company who owns it also owns a couple of hotels here on Koh Chang. Take a look if you have a travel site and want to provide hotel bookings to your visitors.

Focus on Safety. Koh Chang and Koh Mak are currently locked in a battle that will decide which is the safest island for visitors. Which island will ‘out-safe’ the other?

Down on Koh Mak, a new paved road has been laid from Makathanee to Goodtime Resort and Fantasia to Koh Mak Villa. Thus making life easier for people not wanting to get covered in red dust or mud whilst riding their rental scooters. But the island still lacks road signs – unlike Koh Chang. Here, I just noticed that the local authorities seemed to have got hold of a job lot of ‘No overtaking’ signs while I was away. These signs have been placed at locations where no one in their right mind would overtake such as on a blind, downhill left hand corner. Nice idea but the type of person that overtakes on corners such as these – where the double yellow lines also hint that it might not be a good idea, probably doesn’t pay much attention to road signs.

So, score one for Koh Chang. But out at sea, swimmers on Koh Chang are left to their own devices. Get into difficulties and you’d better hope that there’s someone on the beach willing to rush into the water to save you as there’s no lifeguard service of any kind.

Things are a little different on Koh Mak, where a new Emergency Rescue Centre is currently being set up in preparation for next high season. The building below, in Ao Nid, will be rebuilt as the HQ.   Beachguards will be employed and trained in life saving techniques and First Aid and will be on patrol on the beaches and on call around the clock. Equipment at the centre will include: Buoys and Ring Buoys, Life Jackets, Oxygen Tank, Rescue Board, Surfboard, Rescue craft, Scuba Gear, Spinal board, Collar, Head Immobilizer, Restraints, First Aid Kits, Dive Lights, Heavy Duty Lights, Walkie Talkies, Hospital bed, Wheelchair etc. All paid for by private donations and sponsorship.

The question is . . if a small group of people on Koh Mak can get this organised and set up within a matter of a few months from start to finish, why are the people who run Koh Chang incapable of finding even the budget to pay for even one lifebelt or warning sign on any of the islands beaches; yet felt that what the island really needed in order to make visitors sleep safely at night was a Disaster Warning Tower. Great if you’re staying at the nearby Sea View Resort, but as much use as a chocolate teapot if you happen to be elsewhere on the island when the next plague of locusts, volcanic eruption, blizzard or Bird Flu outbreak hits.