Koh Chang in December
A somewhat belated update since we’ve been getting our high season issues together. But they’re with our printer now – and the electronic versions will be online in the next few days. So we take a breath and bring you up to date on what’s been happening on Koh Chang.
It’s hot on Koh Chang at the moment. Unseasonably so. Usually by November you cfan expect strong, relatively cool, breezes coming from land to sea over the island but apart from a couple of false start, that hasn’t happened yet. It’s been like this before, a few years ago the “winter” winds didn’t come until January. So in the meantime it’s hot (about 33 degrees max in the daytime) and there’s hardly any rain.
As December progresses Koh Chang is getting busier although it certainly isn’t packed – certainly quiter than this time last year. During Christmas and New Year the island should be full as usual but after that it’s hard to estimate how the high season will progress.
There’s a new Korean restaurant just about to open next door to Anna Store at the top of the hill out of White Sand Beach. Can’t tell yet whether this will be genuine Korean food or just yet another Korean Barbeque where you pay someone and then cook your own dinner – never understood the appeal of that.
And the supermarket battles continue. It looks like the opening on the 23rd of December of the new Macro supermarket in White Sand Beach will be narrowly beaten by the Big C across the road from our office in Pearl Beach who open their doors this Saturday the 19th. This seems to have been achieved by a frantically fast build – see below – and a design aesthetic that draws inspiration from 2nd World War bomb shelters. But in Lime Green.
Koh Chang Nature
Physignathus Cocincinus – Image Copyright สุธนัย ครุพานิช
This is our mad scheme to try and record all of Koh Chang’s wildlife. Yes, all of it. No-one else is doing it so why not do it ourselves? We’re inviting visitors to send in pictures of animals they spot on Koh Chang and we’re adding them all to our online database. There are currently 82 pages and counting (and a big backlog that I need to add!) 22 People have already contributed their sightings and some amazing photos which you can do via the Facebook Page or using a submission form on www.kohchangnature.com. Or just take a look and marvel at the amazing beasts that live here!
Large sections of road have been re-tarmacked, notably the hill out of Klong Son and also White Sand Beach. They’ve done a good job (with the exception of the lane markings guy who seems to be trying to write his name in the middle of the road). But sadly a Westerner lost his life in a motorbike accident involving a truck a couple of days ago. That serves as a reminder of how dangerous the roads can get especially at this time of year. Be careful and at the very least wear a helmet.
We’ve just put all of our up-to-date maps on the site so if you want to find your way around Koh chang then this is the place to go.
The Chinese/Thai Je Vegetarian Festival
Monday the 1st of October 2016 sees the start of the annual Thai-Chinese religious festival commonly known as “Je”. This is Taoist religious festival of self-denial and purification in honour of the Nine Emperor Gods. According to Taoist belief the Nine Emperor Gods govern the movements of the stars and heavens and comprise seven main stars of the Ursa Major or Big Dipper constellation as well as two fainter nearby stars.
Commencing at the beginning of the ninth Chinese lunar month, The festival goes on for nine days, one day for each of the Emperor Gods and participants in the festival must refrain from a number of activities during this period.
Observers of Je are prohibited from eating meat, fish or dairy produce. In fact the dietary restrictions also prohibit any “strong smelling foods” so even vegetables like garlic and onion may not be consumed, nor can coriander. Ginger is OK but shallots aren’t. it’s pretty hard to figure out what’s allowed or not sometimes.
Additionally participants may not drink alcohol or have sex, and strict observers wear only white clothing. Individuals are prohibited from taking part in the festival if they are in a period of mourning or are pregnant or menstruating; unclean apparently.
The Thai interpretation of the Je festival that is practised in Phuket is the best known around the world. There many people volunteer themselves as “Ma Song”, effectively offering their bodies as vessels for divine possession. They enter a trance-like state during which their bodies are often pierced with skewers, knives, spears and all manner of pointy things. There is much bloodshed and the images can look as if the “Ma Song” are suffering but the trance state is apparently so intense that they report feeling no pain. Preparation is meticulous, all involvement is voluntary, and those who take part report feeling a calm and serene state of mind in the period after the festival. It sure makes for a great spectacle though. Interestingly this physical side of the festival is only practised on Phuket and it is thought to be an amalgamation of the original Chinese festival with the Indian festival of Thaipusam, which has similarly spiky observances.
Fortunately or otherwise depending where you are situated on the squeamishness/bloodlust continuum you won’t see such extreme acts by Koh Chang’s Je celebrants. What you are more likely to spot are a large number of local restaurants offering special Je menus. They use the striking yellow and red symbol pictured to advertise the fact and local shops and supermarkets will display similarly marked Je-friendly produce. The food on offer is worth a try. It focuses strongly on Chinese tastes and flavours. There’s lots of shitake and other mushrooms, fermented soy beans add complexity of flavour, meat-textured tofu features in place of meat and of course there are vegetables galore. Why not give a Je meal a try for a change? The break from meat consumption undoubtedly has positive health effects in common with the fasts that are a part of so many worldwide religious observances.
Chilli is still allowed of course. This is Thailand remember, the home of spicy food. Nobody here could ever deny themselves Chilli could they?
More Thai Holidays and Festivals