For 2008

October – December 2008

koh-chang-road-sign06 Oct – Last weekend’s choice of how to fill my time presented me with a bit of a dilemma. On one hand, I could have stayed on Koh Chang and volunteered to teach English to a load of snotty nosed local kids (a.k.a. the island’s future) at a summer camp in Klong Prao. On the other, I could have gone to Singapore to watch the F1 night race. Putting myself in the shoes of an under privileged nine year old, I asked myself “How would I prefer to spend my weekend?” Singing the ABC song ad infinitum? OR having my eardrums bleed courtesy of Lewis Hamilton and co?   So I had a great time and that’s what’s important.

How the other half live. What does 200 million baht buy you nowadays? Koh Kham (below), just off the north west of Koh Mak, was sold recently for this amount and will soon be home to some seriously luxurious pool villas that will be available for rent to the super rich or anyone else who can afford the rumoured 100,000 baht/night price tag.

Island Hopping. New schedule for ‘Siriwhite’ and ‘CP’ speedboat services between the mainland – Koh Mak – Koh Kood

Leam Sok Pier – Koh Mak (Ao Nid) – Koh Kood

Departure from Leam Sok 9:00 am and 13:00 pm cost is 450 Baht to Koh Mak & 600 Baht to Koh Kood including transfer from Trat bus station.

Koh Mak (Ao Nid) – Koh Kood

Departure from Ao Nid at 9:50 am and 13:50 pm cost is 350 Baht.

Koh Kood – Koh Mak (Ao Nid)

Departure from BangBao bay at 9:30 am and 12:30 pm cost is 350 Baht.

Koh Mak (Ao Nid) – Trat (Leam Sok)

Departure from BangBao bay at 10:30 am and 13:30 pm cost is 450 Baht including transfer to Trat bus station.

Fancy a walk? New trekking schedule for this high season from Tan the trekking guide on Koh Chang:

Mon & Fri – Medium Difficulty Trek
Tues & Sat – Medium Difficulty Trek & Elephant Trek
Wed & Sun – Khao Jom Trek, you’ll need to be fit for this trek to the top of a mountain
Thurs – Half day Family trek, suitable for young children & the less nimble

Koh Chang – Preferred island of deposed Thai Prime Ministers. Having been forced out of office, ex-Thai PM Samak Sundaravej opted to take a well earned break on Koh Chang, according to Thai newspaper reports. Whether he whiled away his days listening to Jack Johnson and sipping from a bucket of Vodka+Redbull wasn’t mentioned.

Get rich quick . . . Local Politics (yet again). I can confidently predict that there will not be any vote buying on Koh Chang during next weekend’s elections. There are two reasons for this. One is that vote buying usually only works if the electorate are dumb enough not to realise that once they are in private, in front of the ballot box they put their ‘X’ wherever they like and not necessarily next to the name of the guy who paid them 200 Baht. All they need do is lie when they come out of the polling station. The second reason is that one of the two political groups on Koh Chang has opted for a variation on the above theme, this is ‘Not Vote’ buying.

How does this work? Hypothetically (of course) . . . Say your party had hoped to win the election. However, one thing not in your favour is that whilst your years in power have proved that although you may be adept at amassing a small personal fortune, you happen to be pretty crap at running an island. Unfortunately for you, many of the locals, who aren’t your blood relatives, have cottoned onto this.

Everyone who is entitled to vote has already been sent an official ‘invitation’ which states their name, address, which polling station they have to vote at etc etc. In order to vote, you have to bring this document, along with your ID card, to the polling station. However, lose or forget your official letter and you can’t cast your vote.

So, whilst paying someone to vote for you can’t guarantee a positive outcome, paying someone who supports the opposition, not to vote is worth doing. This is achieved by swapping 5,000 Baht for the paper document which is then shredded, thereby making it impossible for that person to vote, but possible for them to pop out to the shops and buy a new Nokia. A win-win situation.

Budget Koh Mak. There are a few new resorts opening on Koh Mak this high season, one is Ao Pong Resort, a budget hut hangout run by a young Thai couple on Ao Nid Bay.

Caveat Emptor. Thinking of buying property on Koh Chang? This is from the website of one real estate agent in Bangbao, it would be hard to write so much incorrect, misleading & scaremongering information in a single paragraph even if you tried, so I’ve no idea how they managed it:

‘The biggest economic risk about buying property in Thailand is when you have to pay the money. You have to pay at least 30% as a deposit, then the original owner of the house is committed to you. If the amount is less than 30% there is a risk that the house will be sold one more time; even though you thought you had bought the house!! It is not necessary to pay the whole amount at once – wait until you are at the chartered surveyor office and the same day get the house or land transferred to the name of your firm.’

08 Oct – In brief. If you are on Koh Mak tomorrow you are invited to join the Bicycle Rally to Stop Global Warming. Meet at 0800 at Koh Mak School, free bikes available. And by lunchtime Global Warming should be history. Job done.

Congrats to the new owners of Funky Hut, Julian & Cheryl who moved in yesterday. If you need a quiet place to stay on Koh Chang, take a look.

16 Oct – The rainy season is hopefully over on Koh Chang as the prevailing wind has now switched around and is (usually) blowing from a more Northerly direction, bringing with it drier and slightly cooler air plus hazier skies.

A sure sign that many visitors to Thailand are cancelling their holidays here due to the political troubles is when the overnight London to Bangkok flight on Thai Airways is barely half full. As was the case a week ago when some of our guests made the trip. But one couple who weren’t put off were Jack & Muriel from Seattle. An American couple travelling independently is rare enough in Thailand, even rarer when they are in their late 80s – Jack being 87 years old and on his first trip here. A remarkable couple who have led a life of adventure, from Jack working with Jim Thompson in Burma in WW2, to looking for pirate treasure in Costa Rica to simply sailing around the south Pacific for a few years in a homemade yacht. For his 88th birthday Jack plans on sailing solo from Mexico to Hawaii. Muriel thinks he should start to act his age. A real pleasure to meet them and an inspiration to anyone who thinks once they hit middle age it’s downhill all the way.

Kai Bae Beach. It just occurred to me that although I go to Kai Bae pretty regularly to eat lunch, as there are two excellent, cheap Thai food places are in the village I rarely wander along the beach. So the other day I wandered along the beach.

‘These small shop units in Kai Bae were built in late 2007 and were rented out to eager business owners almost instantly. Less than 12 months later ten of the twelve units have ‘For Rent’ signs on the shutters. Guess the old adage about ‘Location, location and location’ still holds true.

Three new housing developments on Koh Mak. Two below and details of another one coming in the near future.

Island Suites. Four pool villas each with over 300sqm of living space & private pool and each set in 1,000sqm of landscaped private garden. Located a couple of minutes walk from the sea with sea views from every villa. These 3 bedroom, 4 bathroom villas are sold fully furnished. Under construction now.   Buy before the end of 2008 and save 2,000,000 Baht on the purchase price.

The Bay. A unique beachfront development like nothing else in Thailand. This beachfront residential resort development combines seven, 5-unit low rise apartment villas which are available for purchase plus pool villas which are for holiday rental only. Apartment sizes range from 55sqm-85sqm and are ideal as a holiday home or as an investment, as a rental management program will be run by the developer. In addition, this is the first residential development in this area of Thailand specifically designed to be eco-friendly with energy and water saving features. Freehold ownership for foreign buyers will be possible for some units. Own your own ‘piece of paradise’ from around 4,400,000 Baht (88,000 Euros). More Details, perspectives etc

The Koh Mak Bicycle Rally last week was a fun day out for local kids. And if you want to explore the island by bicycle you can get a bike from Koh Mak School, near the junction in the centre of the island.

What could be cooler than getting a tattoo done whilst on holiday? How about a tattoo done the old fashioned way using a sharp piece of bamboo rather than a needle. Whether it be a dragon on your back, a gecko on your arse or a ‘unique’ tribal tattoo remarkably similar to everyone else’s on your upper arm, see www.bambootattookohchang.com for some designs you’ll like.

27 Oct – So much for the end of the rainy season – that was a bit of a false dawn. Past couple of days have been rather damp to say the least, although the sun has shone in the morning.

The Promised Land.   The new ‘Zion Bungalows’ at the southern end of Long Beach, Koh Chang. Rather odd name, but I guess the target audience are Jewish fans of the Matrix trilogy. These ensuite huts are a slightly more upmarket alternative to the cheap & cheerful Treehouse shacks at the north end of the quietest beach on the island. Only a handful of bungalows and a restaurant in very peaceful beachfront surroundings.

On the subject of backpackers . . . A backpacker decides to head off on an exotic Asian adventure. He finds himself on a ferry which unfortunately sinks and he is washed up on the shore of an island with no other people, no supplies, nothing, only bananas and coconuts.

He’s is lying on the beach one day when the most gorgeous woman he has ever seen rows up to the shore. In disbelief, he asks her, ‘Where did you come from? How did you get here?
She replies, ‘I rowed from the other side of the island. I landed here when my ferry sank.’ ‘Amazing,’ he says. ‘You were really lucky to have a row boat wash up with you.
Oh, this?‘ replies the woman. ‘I made the boat out of raw material I found on the island. The oars were whittled from gum tree branches. I wove the bottom from palm branches, and the sides and stern came from a Eucalyptus tree.’
But, where did you get the tools?’
On the south side of the island’ she explained ‘a very unusual stratum of alluvial rock is exposed I found if I fired it to a certain temperature in my kiln, it melted into forgeable, ductile iron. I used that for tools and used the tools to make the hardware.
The guy is stunned.
Let’s row over to my place,’ she says. After 15 minutes of rowing, she docks the boat at a small jetty. As the man looks to shore, he nearly falls out off the boat. Before him is a walkway leading to an exquisite bungalow painted in blue and white. While the woman ties up the rowboat with an expertly woven hemp rope, the backpacker can only stare ahead, dumb struck. As they walk into the house, she says casually, ‘It’s not much, but I call it home. Sit down, please. Would you like a drink?’
No. No thank you,’ he says, still dazed. ‘Can’t take any more coconut juice.
‘It’s not coconut juice,‘ the woman replies. ‘I have a my own still. How about a Pina Colada?
Trying to hide his continued amazement, the man accepts, and they sit down on her couch to talk. After they have exchanged their stories, the woman announces, ‘I’m going to slip into something more comfortable. Would you like to take a shower and shave? There is a razor upstairs in the bathroom cabinet.
No longer questioning anything, the man goes into the bathroom. There, in the cabinet, is a razor made from a bone handle. Two shells honed to a hollow ground edge are fastened on to its end inside a swivel mechanism. ‘This woman is amazing,’ he muses. ‘What next?’ When he returns, she greets him wearing nothing but vines, strategically positioned, and smelling faintly of gardenias. She beckons him to sit down next to her.
Tell me,’ she begins suggestively, slithering closer to him, ‘We’ve both been out here for a really long time. You must get very lonely and I am sure there’s something you really feel like doing right now. Something you’ve been longing for all these months?
She stares into his eyes. He can’t believe what he’s hearing.
You mean……’ he swallows excitedly and tears start to form in his eyes ‘…..I can check my e-mail from here?

(Thanks to ‘Cha-Am Roy’ for that.)

Sitting, Waiting, Wishing.   Not had a cute ‘dog & kitten’ photo on the site for a while mainly due to lack of kittens. This one is free to a good home, or 100 baht if you want it as live bait.

Buy land, bye life savings.   Thinking that land on Koh Chang is a marginally more tempting investment than shares in Icelandic banks, we just emptied our piggy bank and bought a nice ‘Chanote’ titled riverfront plot, ideal for a(nother) house, on Koh Chang. This will be the view from the verandah, should we ever save enough money to build a home here.

Sheer Art Attack.   The island’s first installation piece entitled ‘The Paradigm Parable in a time of Crisis’ was unveiled to Koh Chang’s artistically deprived proletariat recently. The asymmetrical balance is simple, yet complex with seemingly random pillars providing visual stimuli to remind people to take time to simply look at one another and see through layers of a complex personality to the core within. What you take away from this exhibit ultimately resides within you all along. Open daily from 9am-5pm, roadside on Pearl Beach. Or simply ask your hotel receptionist or friendly tour agent for more information. And next week I’ll be pickling a sliced gecko in formaldehyde and putting it up for auction.

Store Wars.   At last a shop, that isn’t a total rip off. Prices in supermarkets and wholesalers on Koh Chang tend to be quite a bit more than on the mainland. But it looks like a price war might be in the offing as this new Cash & Carry has just opened at the southern end of White Sand beach. Not a lot of stock yet but what they have got is way cheaper then the adjacent Anna Store. I’m pretty sure it’s the only place on the west coast of the island where you can get 3 large bottles of Beer Chang for 100 Baht. FYI ‘Low Back’ is a failed attempt at the words’ Roll Back’ a phrase made popular by Tesco Supermarkets when they would advertise, through the medium of singing & dancing shelf stackers in adverts, they would ‘roll back’ prices i.e. reduce them.

The Second Coming.   ‘Crust’, formerly the best bakery on the island has just re-opened a few days ago with a new baker and some revamped offerings. At present not a large selection and to be honest the croissants did look a bit iffy when I popped in the other day. But, give it time and hopefully it will once again be up to old standards. If you’re passing through Klong Prao village stop and see if there’s anything you fancy.

Live, Fast, Die Young.   Who are the most dangerous drivers on the island? You might be surprised to learn that it’s guests at The Spa. Koh Chang’s premier (and only) spa resort. The poster reads:   ‘The number of road accidents from motorcycles is very high every year, so is the number of deaths and injuries. Our guests have been involved in many of those accidents . . .‘ An implicit admission that fasting, whist it maybe good for your body, does nothing for your riding or driving skills. Maybe The Spa should issue their guests with ‘Keep your distance, I stay at The Spa‘ t-shirts as a way to warn other road users.

Hey, hey they’re The Monkeys.   The troop of macaques that hang around Lonely Beach used to only make very rare appearances outside the rainy season. Usually to scavenge for food at the garbage bins near Bhumiyama Resort. However, it looks like feeding the monkeys outside the fruit stall near Siam Hut has become a bit of a daily tourist attraction. Stop by the side of the road, buy 20 Baht of bananas which will be cut up for you and throw them, or if you think they look cute, hand them to the monkeys. It’s an accident waiting to happen as although the monkeys still stay on the inland side of the road, sooner or later they will get braver and will start to run across the road without looking right, then left, then right again. So either don’t go down there to feed them, as this should ensure they live longer. Or, if you do want to feed them, go soon before they end up as exotic roadkill.

5 Nov – The beginning of the end. Koh Chang’s first ever branch of a fast food chain will open in the coming months. Chester’s Grill (a kind of healthier version of KFC.), is a franchise that has branches throughout Thailand, and that caters to chicken lovers. The Koh Chang branch will open at the new shop units being built opposite Mac Resort on White Sand beach apparently.

There were a couple of great sunsets last week. I missed the best as I was around on the darkside of the island, but the one below, two days ago, wasn’t too shabby.

The future of Koh Chang.   One developer’s dream. One day everyone will be able to afford a 24sqm studio apartment in paradise*. (*Paradise subject to availability. Definitions may vary.) It could be worse, not sure how though.

Shoot to Kill.   Inside Koh Chang’s newest tourist attraction, the terrorist training camp experience. Fun for all the family as you take on members of Koh Chang’s very own resistance movement in a life or death battle by BB gun.

Probably only of interest to people with no shares or mortgage.   New condominiums for sale on Koh Chang. Construction underway and with prices from only 5,000,000 Baht for a home by the sea. Perspectives, layout and prices added to the site.

What can 20 million baht buy you on Koh Chang? A question I don’t often find myself asking as I’m about 19 million short. But it could almost pay for a couple of beachfront plots plus single house at Siam Royal View. Alternatively, you could spend it on 6 Rai of Chanote titled land + 3 Rai of mangroves + 2 fisherman’s houses + safe boat moorings with easy sea access. All with views over the luxury Siam Royal View. Ideal for your own ‘Siam Royal View’ View development.

Loy Krathong.   Next week see’s the Festival of Loy Krathong being celebrated throughout Thailand. From Wikipedia: ‘Originally this Brahmanical festival was adapted by Buddhists in Thailand as a ceremony to honour the original Buddha, Siddhartha Guatama. Apart from venerating the Buddha with light (the candle on the raft), the act of floating away the candle raft is symbolic of letting go of all one’s grudges, anger and defilements, so that one can start life afresh on a better foot. People will also cut their fingernails and hair and add them to the raft as a symbol of letting go of the bad parts of oneself. Many Thai believe that floating a krathong will create good luck, and they do it to honour and thank the Goddess of Water, Phra Mae Khongkha.’

Still awake? I know it sounds dull, but it isn’t as there is also lots of beer and fireworks and a good old temple fair. Play inane games with the locals, eat too much, drink too much and watch a bit of Likay or Thai dancing at Klong Prao Temple nightly from 9-12 November.

Swimtastic. KC Grande’s new lagoon pool. Very nice & no doubt very crowded in high season. More good news, the resort’s new rooms nearby also come with a jacuzzi bath for two on the balcony. Bad news is that until the foliage grows you wont get much privacy.

Hindsight, a wonderful thing . . .
Ever wondered what happens when you try to squeeze just one more truck onto a ferry? (Thanks to Derrick for this photo.)

16 Nov – A belated update as I’ve been away for a couple of days, it was a choice between seeing the Christmas decorations at a shopping mall in Bangkok or a ‘Miss Koh Chang’ beauty pageant at the Loy Krathong temple fair. The previous day there had been a Miss/Mr Ladyboy contest at the same venue so the ferry to the mainland the following morning was full of contestants who had been brought in from Pattaya for the occasion. And prior to that, on the first night of the fair, it was the turn of the children. A chance for parents to live their lives vicariously through their oh-so-cute kids by having them parade on stage.

The beginning of the end (2).   The sign for Chester’s Grill is now up and a branch of the not particularly popular or good ‘Chester’s Coffee’ chain will also open in a corner of the lobby of Changburi Resort. If that doesn’t attract the high rollers looking for 5 star comforts I don’t know what will.

If I was a rich man . . .Last week we looked down on the type of people who might be interested in what a miserly 20 million baht will get you on Koh Chang. Now let’s see what 59 million baht will get you if you showed up, cash in hand and were looking to retire or simply escape arrest warrants or the mafia back home. You could be the proud owner of the nicest villa, actually two separate houses, on the island and the only one with low tide boat mooring in the sea at the bottom of your 1,000sqm beachfront garden.

Chantaburi Detour.   There are tours to Chantaburi available for visitors staying on Koh Chang, however the aim of these is usually to visit the dolphin show and then kill some time at a temple, waterfall and/or gem factory. This is a bit sad as Chantaburi, in particular the Laem Sing area, has a lot of historical sites, ranging from a 300 year old boatyard to fortifications built by the French troops during their occupation long stay vacation 100 years ago. Plus there are quiet beaches to laze on and mangroves to explore by kayak. For more of what the area has to offer see www.laemsing.com and for a good source of local info and lunch by the beach, pop in to see James at Marine Cafe www.marinecafe.net

Restaurant for sale.   Located on the main road within easy walking distance of several large resorts. Asking price -1,000,000 Baht (negotiable), includes all fixtures & fittings. For sale as a going concern, new owner can take over immediately.

Tourist arrivals up over *3,500%.   Things look like they are picking up on Koh Chang after a very slow start to the tourist season. However, many small business owners already seem resigned to having the worst high season since their memories began i.e. 2-3 years ago. Hotels across Thailand are reporting occupancy rates 20% or more lower than last year with very few new bookings coming in at the moment.

This was a pattern I noticed. More people booking earlier than normal, then a drop off in July/August and hotel enquiries and emails in general went very quiet when everyone lost their life savings thanks to Billy Bob in Hicksville, USA not repaying his mortgage in early October. But since then the number of emails has bounced back to normal and last week I had a lot of mail from people who look like they have suddenly decided they need, and can afford, a holiday in December and are now desperately trying to find rooms.

* The figure of 3,500% is the increase in the number of South Korean visitors to Nakhon Nayok province, an hour’s drive northeast of Bangkok, from Jan-Jun 2008 compared to the same period in 2007. They must have had a convention or something as there’s no reason to go to Nakhon Nayok unless your company is paying you to go. On Koh Chang the actual arrival numbers were down for this period, due to a 24% decrease in the number of Thai visitors to the island.

Food & Drink and more drink.     The past couple of occasions we’ve been out for a meal it’s been to the Texas Steakhouse, by the roadside near the northern end of White Sand beach. To be honest, not a place that I’d normally bother with as I’m not a great steak fan. So, the first time we visited it was because of the offer of a free meal. It’s nice spot, around 10 tables with open air & covered seating on the first floor up above the noise down at road level. And the steak and ribs really were very good. So no complaints about the food, plus we noticed that they also offer a nice Thai food set meal, which gives people the chance to try several Thai dishes that they may not have tried before. A simple idea for visitors who can’t tell their Pad Thai from their Khao Pat or for anyone who isn’t a pork/beef or chicken steak fan.

The second time we went there was of our own free will. But we didn’t go back specifically for the food. We went for the cocktails as the restaurant is home to Khun Mook, a middle aged Thai woman who has an encyclopaedic knowledge of cocktails and can make all kinds of wierd and wonderful concoctions that don’t appear on the menu. Go for the food, stay for the cocktails and you’ll discover that sweet basil leaves and egg white plus numerous types of alcohol can be combined to make something rather special. Or if the desserts on offer don’t take your fancy, try the dessert cocktail instead. If you’re on the island longer, you’ll be able to sample a cocktail that is made to order. Until we had one a week ago, the last time she made this drink was 6 years ago in Phuket. It has to be ordered well in advance as it takes about a week to make. A process that involves fermenting a fresh coconut, adding whisky & cherry brandy, apple pulp and various other ingredients on specific days to make a beverage you shouldn’t drink too many of unless you have someone to carry you home.

Adopt a bulldog.   I was at the vet’s last week and saw they were looking after a female bulldog, Nina. This dog had been rescued from a Spanish guy living in Bailan who had been using it as a sparing partner for his pitbull to fight. When Nina was brought in she was covered in infected bites and open wounds but is now fit & healthy and is a very affectionate dog although one covered in scars and so doesn’t outwardly appear cute and cuddly. Contact Lisa the vet if you can offer Nina a home.

Getting High. The fixed wing ultralight is back at Koh Chang airfield so once the wind settles down you’ll have a choice of trike or small plane to take your sightseeing flights in. They’ll also be a website – www.ultralightthailand.com which is coming soon i.e. no content has yet been written.

Royal funeral ceremony headlines.   Two versions of yesterday’s solemn occasion, see if you can spot which is the official line and which is subversive commie propaganda: Whole nation plunges into grief as HM presides over cremation of his eldest sister OR Thais Instructed To Pretend They’ve Been Following Princess’s Life All Along

24 Nov – The world of advertising is a complicated one. Designing an ad means knowing your target audience and appealing to them in a subtle but yet convincing manner. Let’s put the art of advertising to the test.

How many of you suddenly feel the urge to buy a condo?

Ok, not so many. But how about the new improved version?

Fair enough, you still might particularly not want to buy a condo but if living your dream also includes the chance of hopping into a hammock with a bikini clad babe then pop down to Tranquility Bay Residence and enquire about making a deposit on your dream (home).

If you’re interested in what the development actually looks like, and it does look very nice, you’ll find new photos here.

Optimist of the week.   From an AFP report. Bear in mind he’s paid to talk things up and promote tourism in the region.

We will probably have a very bad high season,” said Oliver Martin of industry body the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA).

You’re going to have it across the board. It’s going to be everyone — from the luxury resort right down to a small tour operator, a mom-and-pop shop or a restaurant,” he added.

Thailand is suffering from what Martin calls a “double whammy,” as bloody anti-government street protests in Bangkok also make the news worldwide, worrying potential holiday-makers.

Next week, Oliver ‘Merchant of Doom’ Martin encourages visitors to consider selling a kidney rather than cancel this year’s winter sun vacation due to lack of funds. (Not that Thailand’s desperate for visitors or anything like that.) This simple act will afford them the chance to enjoy their dream holiday and also give hope to thousands of kids plugged into dialysis machines the world over. Everyone’s a winner.

Desperate time, desperate measures.   The lack of visitors had led to individual areas of the island doing their best to attract tourists and also dissuade them from visiting or staying in other areas of the island. Here’s one new road sign I spotted in Bangbao, the fishing village at the south of Koh Chang.

Preserving the past.   Some people may not want to be reminded of their fashion disasters of yesteryear but on Koh Mak Michael is busy archiving digital copies of the old photographs in the possession of islanders. It’s not all flares and Hawaiian shirts though. The photos offer a rare insight into life on a Thai island in the not too distant past. See the first batch of 70+ photos to be uploaded on Flickr.

Looking through the collection you will notice how Westernised everyone appears. You might also be surprised that islanders were busy snapping photos of themselves partying 50 years ago. It’s doubtful that the equivalent photos are in existence on Koh Chang as the islanders here were mainly relatively poor fishermen, rather than descendents of a wealthy traders as on Koh Mak.

We’re not worthy.   I managed to avoid Chester’s Grill for 6 days, then succumbed to temptation. But, at the risk of sounding like I have been paid to say this, it is by far the best fast food franchise on Koh Chang. The opening ceremony was presided over by Khun Jaran Chiavaranont, second right, Honorary Chairman of CP Group Thailand.

How auspicious an occasion was it? The number of balloons at the opening ceremony should give you a clue. To put it in perspective, when Kofi Annan visited Koh Chang he had an archway of 12 balloons, all the same colour.

Inside a range of delights are on offer, everything from spaghetti to chicken sandwiches. What more could a homesick visitor ask for? Actually, the food isn’t bad, especially when compared to McDonald’s or KFC.

The management at Chester’s Grill have thought of everything. Computerised monitors on the cash tills playing adverts and music videos while you queue are just the tip of the technological iceberg. Outside, in front of the restaurant there are signs that are only visible to certain nationalities. For example when Scandinavians walk up it displays ‘Welcome. Shirt and shoes are optional. Our staff will do their best not to smirk or look down on you in a too obvious manner.’

When elderly Russian visitors pass by a ‘Don’t worry we love our diners to be wearing only speedos, saggy bikinis and a scowl. Feel free to leave a trail of sea water and sand behind you as you enter.’ sign flashes before their eyes. (Photo not suitable for public viewing.)

When English couples wander by they see ‘Feel free to use our toilet, but try not to make it obvious that you aren’t interested in buying anything here. Just loiter by the door when you enter, then stroll towards the counter, surreptitiously looking for the Toilet sign. Once spotted by the staff, put on a bit of a mime with your partner to indicate that you are just off for a pee and they should peruse the menu and decide what to buy. Upon your return, look at your watch, pretend you have an urgent appointment and indicate by a faint smile and nod in the direction of the staff that although you would really love to eat there you simply have to dash. Turn and quickly walk out without looking back. Once outside, congratulate yourself on successfully using the toilet intended for paying customers only and thereby getting one over on ‘The Man’. In this case ‘The Man’ being the 16 year old girl on cleaning duty who will now devote the next 30 minutes of her young life to ensuring that Cubicle 2 is fit for use once again.’

As a side note: The photo of the ribbon cutting, above, was kindly sent to me by the GM of Changburi Resort. The signature file on the email I received looks like this:

Mr.T.Watt Seaside
General Manager

For the past couple of days the one thing on my mind has been trying to figure if Mr “What seaside?” is intentionally ironic or just plain ironic, considering the hotel’s location.

The tide is high.   Not much more to add, the past week has seen some of the highest high tides of the year, more will follow at Christmas. Beaches will disappear under water but it makes our estuary look nice.

Man vs Monkey.   A battle of wits ensued when a pet monkey got loose and made it’s way to the hotel breakfast buffet. He cunningly tricked hotel staff into throwing him his bodyweight in fruit before allowing them to pick him up and carry him back home.

Building the dream.   Koh Chang’s Young Architect of the Year award is coming up. It’s time to look at the contenders. This four floor tribute to cubism in it’s most simple form was designed by Miss Nongluk Somsawat, aged six and three quarters who used Lego as her inspiration and, quote, “My Daddy said it combines modernity and simplicity in a manner not seen anywhere since the demise of Stalinist Russia. And I like squares. My Daddy says his builders can nearly do squares correctly and that uPVC doors and windows are the gateways to hell.”

26 Nov – We were here, live blogging, when demonstrators didn’t take to the beach and tanks didn’t roll into Koh Chang during the September 2006 coup; and are on the spot now when, yet again, nothing of interest is happening here.

Bad News. Anyone who isn’t living in a box under a flyover in Harare will now know that Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok is closed and the Thailand’s status in the world has been reduced to that of a Venezuelan daytime soap opera.

Good News. Klong Prao airfield on Koh Chang is still open for sightseeing microlight flights as normal. As is the new driving range, located at the airfield, where 100 baht will get you a golf stick and a bucket of 40 balls to whack with it.

Latest. Swedish media is reporting that a Swedish PhD student is on Koh Chang today, and . . .. errrr, that’s about it. Full story (in translated Swedish) Keep your head down Elin. Hope you make it off the island safely.

27 Nov – Stranded tourists being bussed to the “sex capital Penyata”. Sympathise with British tourist Harry Bedford interviewed on BBC Radio in oine of the unintentiaonally funny interviews I’ve heard.

28 Nov – Bad News. Due to the political chaos in Thailand, the Bt70 million Kpop concert “SM Town Live ’08 in Bangkok” featuring South Korean heartthrobs Dong Bang Shin Ki and Super Junior has been postponed.
Here on Koh Chang, still nothing of interest has happened. This is bound to lead to thousands of frustrated tourists who will suffer the inconvenience of delayed flights and still not have any ‘I was there when the tanks rolled in’, stories to tell when they get home. Here’s hoping for some action today.

29 Nov – Bad News.UK’s Daily Telegraph gets a tad melodramatic when it lists Thailand as one of the 20 most dangerous places in the world – sandwiched between Sudan and Columbia. But there again, you can’t imagine those two nations allowing a bunch of housewives and unemployed factory workers to take over their airports.

Good News. Die Hard star Bruce Willis is apparently in the airport’s air conditioning system having been in transit when the airport was taken over. “Bruce really can’t believe he is in this situation again but he is eager to help,” said police spokesman lieutenant Sombat Sreephathep. “We will see if he can infiltrate the PAD from inside the airport. On behalf of the entire Royal Bangkok Police force, I would like to say, ‘Yippee-ki-yay, Bruce.’ More on this story at NottheNation.com Thailand’s most trusted news source.

30 Nov – Good News. Some flights are leaving U-tapao Airport near Pattaya. This old military airfield is protected by soldiers but as the Bangkok Post reports today ‘U-Tapao’s only other selling point was when female employees from one enterprising Pattaya hotel, taking advantage of the captive audience, put on a traditional Thai dance performance. The women later donned red and silver dresses with feather boas, singing: “You’ll fall in love in Pattaya. There’s no better place to be.

1 Dec – Guest comment on the current political situation from the new government spokesman, Mr ‘V’:

“Voilà! In view, a humble vaudevillian veteran, cast vicariously as both victim and villain by the vicissitudes of Fate. This visage, no mere veneer of vanity, is a vestige of the vox populi, now vacant, vanished. However, this valorous visitation of a by-gone vexation, stands vivified and has vowed to vanquish these venal and virulent vermin van-guarding vice and vouchsafing the violently vicious and voracious violation of volition.”

4 Dec – (In)Security Update.   Some of the tourists are on the plane, they think it’s all over. It isn’t yet . . . . more protests of some kind are expected in Bangkok next week. Especially as all protestors, and their leaders, managed to evade police and disappear into the night, pausing only to give press conferences to the world’s media. Thus leading to exactly zero arrests being made in connection with the hijacking of one of the world’s largest airports – but hopefully they have learnt their lesson and won’t do it again. As Monty Python once said “You’re not mafia, you’re a naughty boy.

Australia warns it’s citizens to “avoid non essential travel to Thailand” because they will surely die if they do come here.

Thai Airways sues the demonstrators for 20 billion baht in losses i.e. just under double its entire profit for 2007. (The majority shareholder in Thai Airways is the Thai government and they aren’t happy bunnies at present.)

But who really cares about all of that when the real news of the week was that Venus, Jupiter and the moon aligned to make a smiley face in the sky over Thailand. (This is a real photo, not Photoshopped.)

Eco Friendly Koh Chang – you never know it could happen. ChangSpirit.com

Learn more about our island and how we are trying to protect it. Join the gang on the 1st and 15th of the month at Big Elk Restaurant & Resort, Klong Prao. Good Friends, Good Atmosphere, Good Music and Good Food. Save money on your trips and tours with discounted tickets on sale that aid the Chang Spirit Fund. Free transfer for groups of 8 people or more. For more information, please call Khun Pittaya on 081.919.3995

T-shirt slogan of the Week.   You see a lot of English language t-shirt slogan’s around, for example a couple of years ago no waiter in a beach bar would be seen dead without having ‘Fuck off wankers’ emblazoned on his fake punk t-shirt. But this old one, worn by a teenage Thai girl eating with her family in a restaurant in Kai Bae last week, made me smile: ‘I’m not gay but my boyfriend is’.

Beachfront Land For Sale. 1,600sqm, Chanote title, with 40 metres of beachfront, yours for 5 million Baht. More photos

Khao Rakham Reservoir.   15 minutes or so drive inland from the mainland ferry piers is a large reservoir. The last time I went there was a couple of years ago and the purpose of the detour we did last week was to take a few photos and say what a nice place it was to rent bikes and ride along the shore, picnic at etc – which was possible in the past. But unfortunately the main entrance is a huge construction site and you cant get to the water . . unless you follow some dirt tracks nearby and just keep driving until you end up in a bemused fruit farmer’s back garden by the water. Like we did.

Local Politics a.k.a. Spitting the Dummy. There were local government elections on Koh Chang a month or so ago, the incumbent mafia were voted out and replaced with a new group who hadn’t yet had the chance to line their pockets. What always happens is that the losers now have to try to garner sympathy and paint themselves as victims. The large poster, below, appeared at Koh Chang Ferry pier for only a couple of days before it disappeared. Basically the losers posted this saying that the new guys in charge were trying to force one of their friends who was a good, honest guy, out of a job.

Another way to look at it is that the losers had one friend who could still help them to milk their cash cow and the winners wanted him gone too. Time to spit the dummy and indulge in juvenile PR stunts to get some attention.

Pruebe algunos alimentos de México durante sus vacaciones.   Being from the north of England I didn’t grow up with any real desire to sample Mexican food or come to think of it anything that hadn’t been boiled for an hour. However, I ended up spending a bit of time travelling in Mexico years ago and sampling some good food there. I vaguely remember ‘Senor Frog’s’ burgers in Cancun, and having a good ‘Sopa de Lima’ somewhere around Palenque. But whilst in Thailand I have never had the urge to rush out for a quick Chimichanga.

It’s probably similar situation for you if you are holidaying on Koh Chang. You want a change from Thai food but Mexican might not be considered as you don’t know anything about it and what to expect. However, it is worth trying.

Last week we were invited to ‘Zigamar’ Mexican restaurant in VJ Plaza at the north end of Klong Prao Beach.

Run by Martin & Kate they make authentic Mexican dishes as good as you’ll find anywhere on Klong Prao beach and with key ingredients imported from Mexico. Martin lived in the US and also Mexico for 17 years and it was there, rather than England, where he developed his knowledge and love of Mexican food. He also knows that most diners won’t have this type of knowledge of Quesadillas, Enchiladas and the like. So, he’ll happily talk you through the menu. But the best option is to go for a sampler that includes several types of Mexican favourites rather than pick a single dish from the menu. Once you know what you like you can go back again for more of the same. Western & Thai food is also available, so you’ll find something to suit everyone including the unadventurous.

If you are staying in the Klong Prao / Chai Chet area then it is within walking distance of your hotel. Try something new, you might be surprised. I was.

Visa Hassles.   With the tourist industry thriving, the Immigration Dept. has decided to limit the length of stay for anyone arriving overland from a neighbouring country to 15 days from the current 30 days. This is effective from today – 4 December – onwards. Those flying in are still able to get a 30 day Visa on Arrival when they land in Thailand.

Ideal Home. For some their ideal island home looks like this. If you are wondering why there is no yellow or purple paint, there is, around the other side.

For others who don’t originate from ‘The Land that Good Taste Forgot’, their ideal island home might look something like this. And by pure chance, this house on 50 metres of private beach, is for sale.

If that’s out of your price bracket then there are some new 2 bedroom houses in Kai Bae priced from 2.6 million. Also available for long term rental.

The Koh Chang Wall. Our dog marks his territory by peeing everywhere. This isn’t always successful as whilst other dogs may be able to sniff his odour for days after the event, folks wandering down the beach can’t and so find themselves sitting on a nice tree stump where he emptied his bladder less than 24 hours previously.

No such problems for the Thai Navy though. They are in the process of marking their land, not with bio-degradable bodily fluids but by building a large wall to keep everyone out of their land. And to stop anyone touching it or even looking at their land in a disrespectful way. This wall is going up north of Centrepoint pier on the east of Koh Chang and I’d expect to see another at the far south of White Sand beach where land has been cleared and a temporary fence erected.

15 Dec – Caught by the Fuzz.High Season only truly starts when the critical mass of visitors is such that it’s worth the effort for the police to start setting up checkpoints to stop motorcyclists who aren’t wearing helmets. In the past couple of weeks I’ve seen a few of these. The places to be on the lookout are on top of the hill between Klong Son & White Sand beach. At the southern end of White Sand beach between Alina Resort & the 7-eleven and at the north end of Klong Prao beach at Paradise Resort. If you are riding a bike in these areas and notice Thais wearing helmets or locals just sitting on their bikes by the side of the road, you can be pretty sure there’s a checkpoint ahead.

Coming soon – professionally guided sea kayaking trips around Koh Chang and outlying islands. Keep an eye on www.kayakchang.com for more details.

How quiet is it now?   This photo taken at 4.30pm yesterday on Klong Prao beach. Perhaps everyone was on a snorkelling trip? But our guests who were on one yesterday reported only 12 people on a boat that can hold over 50.

Last night we went to Kai Bae with a plan to try a restaurant we hadn’t tried before. Drove through the village at 7pm and the busiest restaurant by the roadside had four customers. We drove back again at around 8.30pm and although there were more signs of life, but most restaurants only had a couple of tables occupied.

The restaurant we ended up in was ‘Rock Sugar’, near the southernmost 7-Eleven. It’s a nicely laid out place, in a ‘U’ shape with bar and kitchen on either side and big TV / stage for live band at the rear plus seating in the centre of the ‘U’. It’s a bit of a tourist trap and the prices reflect this as it’s no cheaper to eat here than in a good beachfront restaurant. The food itself was OK; the BBQ kebabs were very nice, pizza was acceptable but some seafood definitely wasn’t as fresh as it should be. This could be a place for a good night out if it were busier and didn’t have the cartoon channel playing on the big screen TV, but probably not a place I’ll visit again.

What does Koh Chang smell like?   Find out here. Given that the laundry is located next to large seafood restaurant in Bangbao, I reckon it is slightly fishy with a whiff of eau de toilette.

New Year Fun.With many resorts now having rooms empty over New Year, business owners donned their festive thinking caps to come up with an attraction so attractive it would attract the attention of thousands of attraction addicts and lure them to the island. The end result of their deliberations is the ‘Koh Chang New Year Countdown and Seafood Festival’ which will be held from 29-31 December. As far as I can gather this means that you can eat seafood at a beach restaurant and on 31st they will have some fireworks and a band or two somewhere. I may be jaded or perhaps this concept isn’t too far removed from the Loy Krathong Seafood Festival, the Songkran Seafood Festival, the Queen’s Birthday Seafood Festival or the ‘Let’s try to make money from selling overpriced Tiger Prawns to tourists’ Seafood Festival which is always eagerly anticipated . . . . by restaurant owners.

Pretty pictures.   You can download a PDF of ‘Koh Chang – The Magazine’ Some very good photographs for anyone planning a visit but unfortunately coupled with no real practical information and cloyingly sycophantic ‘interviews’.   Toning down the saccharine just a touch would add an element of believability to the text. So like most things in Thailand it’s very nice to look at but lacks any real substance. However, all is not lost as it does include some gems such as ‘You don’t have to be in the Caribbean to experience a Maldives-like vacation.’ Geographic quibbles aside, what’s more worrying is that this was describing Bangbao, which only has one thing in common with The Maldives, and that is that they are both full of Russians.

The authors of the more practical, but less colourful, Lonely Planet & Rough Guide to Thailand were on Koh Chang last month to update their guides, so only a year to wait until the ‘Up to date’ versions come out.

Money Saving Guide.   You may be able to afford the flights but once on Koh Chang many visitors will be looking to stick to a budget and not splash out as much as normal. This has affected British tourists the most with the pound now about as desirable a currency to hold as the Zimbabwean Dollar. What that means in reality is that a family of five from the south-east of England now have to remortgage their house to afford a snorkelling trip. With that in mind, a few ideas to help kill time on a budget . . .

Wreck diving for beginners.   Want to amaze and astound your friends back home with photos like this but don’t want to spend a couple of thousand baht on a dive trip or even more on actually learning to dive in the first place? No need to hand over all your hard earned cash to a tanned Scandinavian divemaster, simply look for remains of old boats lying in river estuaries at low tide. This could be the hull of a 17th Century Spanish Man o’ War, or Uncle Somchai’s fishing boat circa 1998 – your friends will never know

Cheap drinks.   Bailiey’s Irish Cream is popular Christmas tipple. However, a bottle of ‘Meiji’ brand coffee flavour milk, some crushed ice and a measure of white rum makes a very acceptable alternative. (This is the voice of experience talking.)

Take time to enjoy the views.   Try sitting motionless staring at a point in the distance for as long as you can. You’ll be amazed at just how quickly the minutes, hours and, in this guy’s case, the days fly by. For best results do this on a beach populated by backpackers as they will think you are doing something spiritual and you aren’t simply crazy.

Be at one with yourself.   Another zero expense way to kill time is to practice Yoga on the beach. Again it helps if you are doing this in an area populated by impressionable travellers. But if not, try dressing in white linen and wearing a few wooden beads. You may not have a clue what pose you are striking but no-one else need know that.

Koh Chang Motor Show at Kai Bae viewpoint.   Here visitors can see the newest eco-friendly models from Koh Chang’s largest car manufacturer. This fully varnished sportster is made entirely from sustainable wood, buffalo parts, blood, sweat and tears. It even comes with a handy bottle opener and splinter removal kit as standard.

Almost Forgot . . .The all new refurbished, renovated and more relaxed Funky Hut is now open on the East of Koh Chang. If you want a peaceful getaway or simply a quiet spot for lunch whilst touring the island, then Julian & Cheryl look forward to welcoming you to their little haven.

24 December – The Christmas spirit seems a little subdued here with barely a santa hat in sight. I went out looking to see what the resorts had done to put a Jesus-like smile on people’s faces. A few have token trees and a bit of tinsel in the lobby but the only one that made an effort to put something by their main roadside entrance was Kacha . . . .feeling festive now? Or just even more depressed.

Something else I forgot to mention a while ago . . . Leng, who used to run the cooking school at Blue Lagoon and also the nearby Pumpkin Restaurant relocated to Koh Mak to open the island’s first cooking school at Pano Resort. Price 1,200 Baht. Email: < smilekohmak@yahoo.com > or Call her on 081.901.9972

If you prefer to eat fancy food and have someone else make it while you are on Koh Mak, ‘Pasta e papaya’ at GoodTime Resort is the island’s first Italian/Thai bistro complete with European chef.

But it isn’t just Koh Chang that’s suffering. CB Richard Ellis, seen as having credibility in the property world and winner of ‘Best International Agent’ award for 2007 & 2008 at the corporate love-in known simply as the ‘Thailand Property Awards’ came up with this statement in mid October: “Thailand’s property market is well insulated from the global financial crisis” How these presumably well paid, well educated folks figured that Thailand isn’t part of the ‘global’ is anyone’s guess.

In November, the Chairman of CBRE Thailand, said “ . . the Thai political situation may be messy right now, but this is not new and will not result in the market crashing“.

And yesterday, the MD of CBRE (Thailand) stated “Thailand’s property market cannot be expected to recover from the present slump until 2011” Why 2011? Well, why not? Maybe Thailand will be re-insulated from the world by then? A mere six weeks from ‘Nothing to worry about’ to a slump? They don’t provide any reasoning in their press release which lends the casual observer to think that they really don’t have any more of an idea than you or I do, but they just hope people have short memories and don’t actually read everything the PR Dept churns out.

As I have said to a some emailers in the past few months, if I had a decent amount of cash on hand I’d be waiting for property prices to go down further in Europe & US in 2009, especially if you are from the UK as the exchange rate isn’t in your favour now. A house on an island is a nice dream, but remove sunshine from the equation and, as much as I’d like the commission, buying at home makes far more sense at present. Look for desperate sellers in 6-12 months from now. Things should bottom out within this time with house prices beginning to stabilise as economies gradually improve. Wait a couple of years for the feel good factor to come back to the middle classes and then you sell your property for a tidy profit. Then use this money to buy in Thailand. So next boom here will be in 3 years in Q4 2011, and on a Tuesday, if my calculations are correct. Now, where can I buy my ‘Thailand Property Award’?

The Great Fire of Koh Chang. I got a phone a call at 4am:
“There’s a big fire at VJ Plaza”.
“How big?”
“Very big, lots of people here.”
“Where are you?”
“In the car driving to my friend’s house.”
“Did you take some photos?”
“No.”
“Turn round and go back then.”

With the benefit of hindsight, I should also have mentioned, check you know how to use ‘Night’ mode on your phone cam before taking any pictures.

It was quite a large blaze and destroyed several shop units. According to gossip, the fire may, or may not, have started in the only unit that was insured by it’s occupier. Which around these parts is more than enough to apportion blame. It could also be that only one person was sensible enough to take out insurance for their shop unit, something that would seem sensible, rather than suspicious.

Island logic thus runs something like this . . . when you check into your hotel, ask if they are insured against fire damage. If they are, don’t stay there as the owner will inevitably plan to torch the place sooner or later.

The Great Koh Chang Fire Sale.   I’ve noticed quite a few more businesses coming up for sale. For example, a very large restaurant with lounge bar for 20 million baht. Been established 5 years, covers over 500sqm on two floors and the owner is moving to Indonesia according to the advert. Doesn’t say which restaurant it is but I’d hazard guess that it’d appeal to someone who knows their way around an upmarket Italian menu and ideally doesnt drink as much as the current owner.

Nearby you could get a rental contract for five old fan bungalows by the roadside for a mere 2 million baht per year, but that doesn’t include a license to print money, which you’d need in order to turn a profit.

In Kai Bae, a single payment of 2 million would buy you one of the island’s longest established dive schools, and that might not be such a bad deal. On Pearl Beach a small supermarket that has been in business since the last business occupying the premises went bust, is a snip at 1.25 million, which gets you shelves lined with stuff that obviously isn’t selling very well.

The moral of all this is, if you have got cash on hand wait till after the ‘High Season’, which is what we used to call the period between now and March, and you might be able to pick up some turnkey businesses for a good price i.e. far less than the examples above, providing of course they haven’t burnt down.

Koh Chang has a public library

More accurately, a closed shop unit with a sign saying ‘library’ on it. Now if only the kids could read, then they could make use of it. ‘Having a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, so better to have none.‘ (Motto of the Koh Chang Education Dept.)

Special price for you, sir.   (Relatively) Cheap deals on rooms at the five star, Amari Emerald Cove after New Year. Superior = 4,400 Baht/night Deluxe = 5,900 Baht/night. Booking enquiries.

Not everyone is deterred by the downturn. The spot of land that is probably the most ideal for a luxury resort on Koh Chang will soon become home to, unsurprisingly, a luxury resort. Plans are being drawn up for a five star resort that will be built on the site of old Thale Bungalows on Klong Prao beach.

Check your notes. There are a lot of fake 1,000 Baht notes around at present. I haven’t heard of any on Koh Chang yet, but it’s big news on Thai TV and in the papers. Money taken out of ATMs will be fine but avoid changing your Dollars or Euros for a good rate with some bloke in a pub.

31 December – Will Koh Chang make it into the Guinness Book of World Records? (Deep down, you know the answer to that already, but read on.) From the Thai Govt. Public Relations Dept:

Biggest postcard in the world from Koh Chang. Thai and foreign tourists participate in writing New Year greetings on the world’s biggest postcard in Koh Chang Island.

Post Office Chief in Koh Chang Thaweesak Wongwilat said that the province, in collaboration with the Trat Tourism Association and the Tourism Authority of Thailand Trat Office, organized “Koh Chang Countdown and Seafood Festival 2009” at Hat Sai Khao beach in Koh Chang district. During the festival, the participants wrote New Year greetings on the biggest postcard of 18X13 meters.

The festival would last until the last night of 2008 and the Koh Chang post office would send the postcard to Guinness Book of Records for approval.

Somehow, my sixth sense – the one that tells me that anything organised by the TAT will be pointless – guessed that no-one would have bothered to check the record for the world’s biggest postcard before embarking on an attempt to beat it. If they had spent 10 seconds Googling it would have revealed a Russian postcard sent in 2007 that was over 400sqm in area.