We’re definitely deep into the hot season now with maximum daytime temperatures on Koh Chang up into the high thirties. At this time of year a kind of lassitude settles on Koh Chang. The madness of the Songkran festival is over and whilst there are still plenty of visitors on the island you don’t see much of them by day – probably because everyone is sleepily sweltering under any shade that they can find. This year water is becoming an issue since lower than average rainfall has led to many provinces of Thailand suffering drought conditions. Fortunately Koh Chang is saved by the occasional quick thunderstorm – just hope that we get one today. But the monsoon rains aren’t expected until around the end of June – it’s going to be a long hot two months.
(confession – this article was written in aircon)
We spent a couple of days in Trat’s neighbouring province of Chanthaburi this week. Chanthaburi is a pleasant little riverside town that thrives on Gem trading and fruit farming. In an alarming outbreak of spirituality we managed to visit both a cathedral and a temple on the same day. Chanthaburi has Thailand’s largest church in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception which has stood beside the river in the centre of town for 105 years. It has some nice stained glass and interior decor and is all the more impressive for being such an unusual feature in a Thai provincial town.
Then there is Wat Sukim, a huge temple perched on top of a hill about 20 kilometres out of Chanthaburi. You get up there either by climbing 350 ornate steps or, as most of the other visitors seemed to be doing, riding up on the the small railway beside the steps laughing and pointing at the silly people walking up the steps. They had a point. The view from the top is great though.
This construction work is going on at the end of the pier in Salak Phet. Apparently this is going to be a toll gate so that anyone who wants to go onto the pier will have to pay a (200B?) National Park entry fee in the same way as visitors to Than Mayom and Klong Plu waterfalls. Apparently the same thing is due to happen at the much busier Bang Bao Pier. For years the Koh Chang Marine National Park have been trying to increase their revenue from visitors to the island. They tried to take money as people arrived at the ferries. Then they began boarding boat trips and demanding payment from confused tourists. This latest step may work. Of course it isn’t equitable and unfairly punishes boat trips and tours that leave from Bang Bao whilst doing nothing to collect payments from the customers of boats that leave from elsewhere. Of course the National Park is Koh Chang’s greatest treasure and should be preserved. Most people would agree that 200 Baht per foreign visitor is a small price to pay to look after the environment. Perhaps people would be a lot happier to pay the fee if there was better evidence that the National Park was actually re-investing this revenue in the protection of Koh Chang’s unique environment?
We also have some interesting new property listings. The new Hummingbird Residence is now underway in in Bang Bao. It offers some very nice and affordable apartments with fantastic views. Another interesting new listing is a backpacker resort franchise in Bang Bao. Most of the hard work has been done so it offers a great opportunity to enter a new business with the benifit of a good marketing and management support structure. And then there is a well-etablished Koh Chang dive business for sale. Live the dream!
We’re now in the process of taking delivery of our new printed guides – but you tech-savvy devils can read them online right now. There’s a bumper crop this time since we have brand new issues of the Koh Chang Guide, Koh Chang Restaurants and Bars and also of our Koh Chang Treasure Map. You will notice that with this issue we’re celebrating 50 Issues of the Koh Chang Guide. You can view the new publications in our Guides section here or simply scroll down the page to see them nestled snugly down at the bottom there.
The Tides of March
If you are interested to find out about high and low tide information in March, or in any other month for that matter then check out this useful site. The closest information to Koh Chang is Koh Mak but that’s close enough to help you to plan any tide related activities (in this case today’s 4pm game of beach cricket by Lay Lay Tong at Chai Chet beach – standards low, amusement high, all welcome).
Things have quietened down a little on Koh Chang over the last week or so and roads, beaches and resorts are slightly little less crowded than over the last few months. The weather is finally heating up with daily maximums of around 34-35 degrees. And it remains dry. The protests in Bangkok seem about as far away as those in Ukraine. The island will fill up again next month for the Songkran water festival.
Having friends over to visit is always a good reason to do some proper touristy stuff. There are some good organised boat trips on the island but a bigger treat is to hire a speedboat for yourselves and do some island hopping at your own pace. It’s not quite as much of an indulgence as you might think. If you can get a group of 8-10 people it works out at about a thousand baht a head – a bit more for fuel if you want to explore the distant corners of the archipelago. Our recent trip took in a few of the nearer islands including deserted Koh Klum, Koh Wai with its great snorkelling and couple of little resorts and Koh Lao Ya with its stunning picture-postcard beach and strangely neglected resort. We also visited the isolated beach of Wai Chek in the south of Koh Chang. You used to be pretty much guaranteed this beach to yourselves since there no road access. But on this visit we encountered Chinese tourists on ATVs, Italians camping beside the lagoon and a few simple beach huts seem to have sprung up and then been immediately abandoned. But it’s still a beautiful and atmospheric little spot. You can hire speedboats from Nor Nou Kai Bae Speedboat in Kai Bae and from Bang Bao Boat in, you guessed it, Bang Bao.
Having visitors over also gives you the (scarcely needed) excuse to eat out frequently and extravagantly. Recent dining highlights have included the following: Max’s Place on the top of the hill leading to Chai Chet does an all-you-can-eat barbecue from 7pm on Fridays. For just 300 baht it is one the best bargains on the island. On offer are four kinds of roasted home-smoked meats and home-made sausages, home-made bread, soup, duck-liver-pate and salad. Make sure you’re hungry!
15 Palms in White Sand Beach have got some comfy new sofas and some pretty cool lights, their Pizzas are really good at the moment too.
Iyara Seafood in Klong Prao continues to be our go-to place for Thai seafood. The seafood is fresh and tasty and the lagoon setting is splendidly atmospheric.
Ciao Italian on the hill out of White Sands remains excellent, as does Marco and Jo’s in V.J. Plaza.
Bam and Tam in Klong Prao village does excellent roast ‘dancing’ chicken and Thai and Issaan food. Their Laap and sticky rice is a winner.
Paradise Resort in Chai Chet is worth a mention becuse after realising that their guests weren’t prepared to pay extravagant prices for meals they took the sensible step of dropping their prices and thereby re-filling their beach restaurant. The food’s pretty decent and the beachside location is, well, beachside.
The ever-popular Monkeys in White Sand Beach does a cracking burger as well as pages and pages of other stuff.
Barrio Bonito Mexican in Kai Bae are doing occasional Sunday afternoon buffets involving course after course of Mexican delights.
And if we haven’t mentioned your restaurant then our apologies – we’ll be round soon – after we drop a few kilos.
You realise that you might be living in something of a backwater, albeit a very beautiful one, when the biggest news on the island is the opening of a supermarket. But there was great excitement round the island as the doors of the new Tesco Lotus Supermarket opened in Hat Kai Mook a couple of minutes walk from our office. There’s not much else to say about it really. It’s large. it’s convenient. it can be a symbol of soulless corporate expansion into a tropical paradise if you’re that way minded. But it’s cheap. And it’s not going away. And they have Avocadoes!
We continue to hear about and list interesting land, properties and businesses for sale. Our latest listing is this large plot down in Chek Bae in the South-East of Koh Chang. There will be more stuff up there soon and some updated maps and new content on the site too. We’ll keep you posted.