Yes, you can really buy a t-shirt featuring what I have always considered to be the island’s most underrated tourist attraction – the rocketship postbox at the Kai Bae viewpoint. Available only at the viewpoint itself, just wake the guy who is manning the souvenir stand up and you can be the proud owner of a ‘one size fits no-one’ cotton crewneck for 180 Baht.
From tomorrow until 14 November, the birthday of ‘Chao Po Koh Chang’ is being celebrated. He’s the Godfather of Koh Chang who answers the prayers of business owners in return for them making merit and paying homage at his shrine – which sits atop a small hill at the north of the island. There’s no point me going into the complexities of idol worship, but in layman’s terms it’s a barter deal. Eg. I’ve given you a roasted pig’s face, half a dozen oranges and a bottle of green Fanta and now you grant me at least 80% occupancy during high season. A ‘win win’ situation.
But more seriously, it looks like being an interesting event and worth popping along to. Although it hasn’t really been promoted as an event for tourists, it has been widely advertised amongst business owners and at the village meetings across the island with invitations being handed out to pretty much everyone who lives here. It’s all being done in a Chinese style, as the original settlers on Koh Chang were sailors from the south of China. . They’ll be lion dance, outdoor theatre, dancing etc plus ceremonies giving alms to monks. Souvenir statues and coins will be for sale, prices from 99 Baht, and the funds raised will go to constructing additional buildings at the shrine and tweaking the feng shui.
Stories making the Thai newspapers about Koh Chang in the past week or so consist of an article in one of the biggest dailies ‘ Thai Rath’ about the ‘bio balls’ from Salakkok, which are used to purify brackish water, and how they are proving to be a money spinner for the local community. Nice to see something positive about the island highlighted.
The Governor of Trat announcing she wants to find a solution to the island’s garbage problem. Deja vu, as this story pops up every year with the phrases ‘sustainable development ‘ ‘recycle waste’, ‘raise awareness’ ‘multiple strategies’ etc always prominent.
Bangbao Sea Huts got a mention too, as they were due to be demolished on 2nd November by National Park contractors, as they were built illegally, but the owner got a 20 day stay of execution and permission to keep one of the huts as a house, but the other 14 have to go. Let’s see what happens on 22nd.
And the local business association reckoned that the recent landslide cost business owners about 40 million baht in lost earnings due to people cancelling trips here. Fixing the road will take about 6 months due to the amount of work involved. ( Heavy machinery is currently digging away the hillside, which is slightly ironic given that the official cause of the landslide was given as soil being removed from the area. )
So it was left to a British paper to provide the most interesting Koh Chang related story. This was regarding Channah, a drugs and alcohol rehab place in Bailan, Koh Chang which got a few column inches in the The Sunday People newspaper last weekend simply because the boss was videoed taking methamphetamine with a hooker in a Bangkok hotel. He resigned, even though there weren’t any impressionable junkie clients in the room at the time. Fortunately the story coincided with a review of policy at Channah, which changed the home page of their website to announce that ‘After 3 years and extensive research Channah has found that drugs and alcohol need to be treated differently. We have learned that separating the two gives an alcoholic the best chance of recovery.’ Good info for alkies to have, and also good to see a rehab centre acting in such a responsible fashion.
But at the end of the day, there wasn’t really much interest in the story and Google didn’t pick up on The Sunday People article in it’s search results for ‘Channah Thailand’. By a stroke of good fortune, this also coincided with another change in policy at Channah and you’ll be pleased to know that the 3 years of extensive research perhaps wasn’t as extensive as first thought and Channah’s homepage was changed back again and it is, once again ‘ the leading international destination for alcohol and drug rehab treatment in Asia.‘ Good to know, and also good to see a rehab center accept that their 3 years of extensive research was actually a total waste of time and effort. Looks like the ex-boss was right all along, drugs and alcohol do mix after all.
After all that excitement, time for a drink, and quick hit of Ice, and then to get back to more island news from the Thai media. Here we have an 8 minute long local news report of a recent ‘Shrimp Paste Seminar’ held at Klong Prao Resort. If you think this is dull, try to imagine life without a shrimp paste seminar to attend.
(One interesting local story that didn’t make it into the Thai papers was regarding a mahout that was killed at one of the elephant camps by an elephant a few days ago. This is the second mahout, that I know of, to have died this way on Koh Chang in the past few years. But probably best not to say which camp this happened at.)
I spent a couple of days last week trying to think of 1,200 words on a ‘back to nature’ theme encompassing Koh Chang, Koh Mak and Koh Kood for a glossy travel magazine. So there should be a big article in print in December’s issue of publication that probably no-one will read. The highlight for me, was when googling for some additional info I found this on a resort’s website. 22 words in a random order:
Refection of our authentic touch of sea is combined with our luxury life style. Harmoniously synchronized seclusion and modern among unpicturesque paradise.
Round our way, ie. 100 metres down the estuary, Nick and Breeze have re-opened the island’s smallest restaurant. ‘Sea Breeze‘ Only a couple of tables and an open kitchen where you can see your food being prepared. You can also try your hand fishing for dinner off the deck. Open for breakfast too if you fancy a proper English fry up amongst other things.
The number of resorts, even some crappy ones nowhere near the beach, now insisting on a minimum of 7 days stay over New Year seems to have increased dramatically this year. Desperation? The sign of the owners being good businessman? Or simply a way to deter Thais guests from staying over New Year – as they have much shorter holidays.
A couple of small businesses for sale on Lonely beach. Info and photos here. You probably won’t be interested, but you never know, the locations are pretty good.
Kayak Chang, purveyors of fine kayaking expeditions, have updated their schedules and itineraries for trips for the 2010-11 season, these take in everything from a half day paddle to full on multi-day expeditions which include camping on remote islands. Visit their website here or click on the blindingly obvious large ad for them on the right hand side of this page.
And on the subject of kayaking, a couple of our guests learned the hard way that if someone who knows what they are talking about (i.e me) tells them to take care and to turn back if the wind picks up, then they should. When the couple weren’t back I went to look for them, guessing something might be wrong and I found them shipwrecked on an island. So I then had to paddle to Kai Bae to get a speedboat to come and rescue them. I’m now thinking of introducing a ‘common sense’ test before accepting guests.