I spent last week taking the BCU 3 Star Sea Kayaking course – with the only sea kayaking company able to offer it in Thailand. Fortunately for me, they are based at the Amari Emerald Cove on Koh Chang. So, aside from paddling down to the Amari every day, I didn’t have to travel far. I’m one of those people who can paddle in a straight line but don’t have much technical ability. So, although I’m probably the only person to have paddled a sit on top kayak to all the islands in the Koh Chang Marine National Park this just means that I’m reasonably fit & have a high boredom threshold, it doesn’t mean I really know what I am doing. So, for me, the aim of taking the course was to learn a few skills that would allow me to build up to doing more of the fun stuff , i.e. playing in big waves and around rocks, that having a sit inside kayak allows. Madi & Chadel, a couple of experienced Malaysian kayak guides and outdoor enthusiasts, came here specially for the course as it isn’t possible to take it in Malaysia and for them the aim was to fine tune their skills and also obtain a certification that is the first step in being able to take other far more advanced BCU courses. Our group was rounded off by Idun, a Norwegian woman with a taste for adventure who just wanted to learn more about kayaking and possibly use it as a new summer pastime. Big thanks to Andy, the instructor and boss of Kayak Chang, who’s an excellent trainer & motivator and who ensured we all got way more than we expected from the course and had a very enjoyable week.
I’ll do a proper write up with lots of photos soon – as it’s a great way to spend a week on Koh Chang and the course will be held three more times this High Season, but for now here’s a few photos. A couple are taken from Kayak Chang’s Facebook page. Head over there for more pics.
The embryonic Koh Chang Sailing Club have now moved a couple of their boats over to the Amari Emerald Cove where they are available for rent. A laser, and optimist and a 16′ Hobie Cat. These are used for short sailing trips around the bay. The owner ‘Mo’ is on hand throughout the day and visitors can either hire the boats to sail themselves or have one of two , young, but capable sailors teach them the ropes. The sailing club originated as an idea to get local kids involved in sailing and was originally based on the east coast of the island. The local sailors have already competed in regattas around Thailand and in Hong Kong. Income from renting the boats and lessons will be used to teach more youngsters how to sail and also to help those who can progress further and enter more competitions. The winds here aren’t ideal for sailing but if you notice a stiff breeze and fancy a fun day on the water – pop down to see them. Or contract Mo through Facebook.com/KohChang.SailingClub
Now is the best time of year to be out on the water. Last week the sea was as clear as I have ever seen it. It looked how it looks on those photoshopped images you see on postcards of the island and some resorts’ websites. This won’t last much longer though. By the middle of the high Season the water will return to normal. not murky by any means but you won’t be admiring seashells on the sea floor whilst standing chest deep in water unless you head to islands south of Koh Chang on a snorkelling trip.
Salakphet temple have recently announced they play to build a 21 metre high white, Buddha statue on a hillside overlooking Salakphet Bay. It should look stunning when it’s completed and will be able to be seen for miles. But before that happens there’s the small matter of raising the 45 Million Baht required to build it. At present a road up to the land where the statue will be built, above the monastery on the western side of the bay, has been completed – but that’s it. Nothing to see except a cleared patch of land.
Elsewhere around Salakphet – down on Long beach, the Treehouse, which closed in April is being fixed up by the landlord and I guess will be re-opening in a month or two. There were only a couple of guys working on repairing the restaurant and the old bungalows all need some work doing to them. Some have already collapsed. A few recent photos from around Salakphet below.
By now you have probably seen that protesters linked to Thailand’s opposition Democrat Party are trying to force their democratically elected rivals out of office. This is leading to demonstrations and some isolated violence in certain areas of Bangkok. Outside bangkok it’s life as normal in 99% of the country. So don’t let a few idiots shooting each other put you off visiting, although if you’re nervous you may want to reduce or eliminate time spent in Bangkok and head straight to your holiday destination. Bus & railway stations and airports are all unaffected.
3 December – It’s all peace and love in bangkok now – for the next few days anyway. So nothing to worry about there.
Good story from one of the snorkelling boat operators. A bit of background, a month or so ago the new boss of the National Park declared a month ago that all snorkellers and divers would have to pay the National Park entry fee if they went to the main dive sites south of Koh Chang. This was non negotiable and would happen, starting 1 December. So, on 1 December the National Park guys went to Bangbao and got onboard one of the snorkelling tour boats. The boat owner said they could come aboard but they wouldn’t give any assistance in getting money off their customers for entry fees, as that wasn’t their job. Fun ensued when the guys from the National Park could barely speak English , let alone Russian, and then had to explain what they were doing, why they should pay – and not people on other boats etc etc. Needless to say it was a big failure. But the National Park weren’t finished. When the boat got down to the main snorkelling spots people in the water were hounded by a RIB manned by National Park staff from nearby Koh Rang, who tried to persuade them they should get back on the boat and as they hadn’t paid to see the fish. The boat staff were rightly concerned as having a boat with an outboard buzzing snorkellers isn’t a good, or safe, idea. Then today, after a meeting with the boat companies, the National Park boss did what they always do and backed down. No fees to be introduced until June 2014. Which gives everyone 7 months to forget this ever happened.