Thailand

Koh Chang – what a bummer

“Koh Chang – vilken nit” was first published on my Swedish Blog.

koh chang

 

Well, without lying or exaggerating I can safely state that Koh Chang isn’t quite what I expected. I expected a “something-close-to-paradise-island”, but basically found just an island with an ordinary main road, which leads from the southern most point on the west coast – the fishing village Bangbao – to the southern most point on the east coast – the fishing village Salakphet. The road doesn’t go all the way around, but from one point to another.

 

3rd largest island

 

Koh Chang is the 3rd largest island in Thailand, counting Phuket, which actually is a peninsula, and has approximately 5000 inhabitants. Chang means elephant and the island has gotten its name because it has the form of an elephant head.

 

Swedes’ new paradise island

 

Before I left home I googled the island on the internet and found, much to my fear, that it was supposed to be the ”Swedes’ new paradise”. Yikes, I thought, and imagined another Koh Lanta.

I don’t like Koh Lanta at all actually. I don’t really know why; sometimes you just arrive in places and you just don’t like them, but can’t really explain why.

 

Nothing is really “wrong” with Koh Chang, I just don’t like the island

 

That’s also the case here. Everything just feels wrong. I’ve actually not run into that many Swedes, so that’s in any case positive, and I have been able to be on my own most of the time, which is also, at the moment, very positive. I’ve been able to focus on me, and that’s extremely positive, since that is why I came here.

 

Built for tourists

 

However, I imagined, since the island isn’t as exploited as for instance Samui or Phuket, I would find some culture, a little bit more of Thailand. Men no, sirreee.

 

koh chang

 

This is an island completely build for tourists, and I hate that. Sure, I like to sit here in my tiny A/C-room and enjoy the cool while I’m surfing on the net, I can’t deny that.

But I also enjoy sitting down in a shabby restaurant where they serve real thai food out of a menu I can’t even read, or having the pleasure not having to see all the indian tailors sitting by the road saying: ”Tjena, hur e leget?” (=Hey, how are you?) in perfectly perfect Swedish.

Or being able to enjoy my lunch at the beach without having a bunch of salesmen harassing me on my own sarong, who want to sell everything they’ve got for a ”special price for you, my friend”.

 

Another negative thing with Koh Chang – it’s almost disturbingly hard to find a restaurant on the beach.

 

WHAT??? I thought that was somewhat the Thailand thing. But oh no. On Kai Bae, which is the beach I’m staying at, there is nothing on the beach. It’s hardly not even worth calling a beach anyway, but since it’s been pouring down since the day I came here, I haven’t really cared about the beach.

On White Sand Beach – Had Sai Kao in thai – I found restaurants and bars on the beach, so it’s a bit cosier over there actually. But also so much more of a tourist trap. The beach there is shallow and really beautiful, so I can hardly complain about it.

 

ko chang

 

There are a lot of rip currents here; there are warning signs everywhere, because of all the currents dragging you down. Warning signs and tips on how to get out if you get caught. Yeah, makes you really want to thrown yourself out there after reading one of those. For real!!!

 

rip current warning

 

Off I went to Bangbao

 

The other day I took a ”taxi” – more like a tuktuk, or those cars driving around on Samui – to Bangbao. I wanted to see if it was the kind of place I could see myself staying in for a longer while. It seemed cosy enough; the little I’ve been googling, so off I went.

It cost me 200 baht to get down there, since aaaaaah, it is soooo far away, and nobody wants to go there, and yadayadayada. I agreed to the price. The drivers were pretty sweet, a thai couple, because when they let me off, they made sure I knew what time I could take a taxi home, how much they were and when they stopped going. I had 2 ½ hours before the taxis stopped going. No problem, I thought positively.

 

Bangbao – the tourist trap

 

Bangbao was a great dissappointment. Only tourist shops everywhere, and exclusive restaurants. Of course they served seafood, and probably really tasty seafood too, since it is a fishing village, but when you don’t like to eat it, it doesn’t matter how tasty it is. So no food there for me, and after barely 15 minutes I stood by the taxistand, wanting to go home.

 

I went to Lonely Beach, which is supposed to be a Backpacker paradise. Well, what a disappointment that one too. I managed however, to find a decent restaurant, and then I went home.

 

Deep fried chicken and Som Tam – favourite food!

 

Sightseeing towards the other end of the island

 

Yesterday I went on sightseeing again. It was the first rain free day, so I wanted to make the most of it. I was going to Salakphet – the fishing village on the eastern side. The taxi driver said: “well, you can go with a taxi at 3”.

 

I thought ”what a load of crap”, so I got in the taxi to the pier. I thought I could get a taxi from there anyway at any time.

 

Once by the pier the driver said he could take me for 1000 baht. Well duh!!! No, thank you, I said, it was far too expensive. He showed me a price list on the wall in one of the taxi stands. It actually said 1000 baht!!! But at 3 o’clock there was a taxi which would take me for 100 baht. It was now 12 o’clock.

 

Who had the energy to spend 3 hours by the pier, with absolutely nothing to do?

 

koh chang boat

 

 

After a lot of thinking I decided to go back home again. “Well, now you have to wait for more people.” We were only 2 people who wanted to go. That was not enough, we had to be 12 or we had to pay 700 baht. The boat from the mainland came, but still not enough people. We waited and waited. I almost fainted because of the heat. I haven’t really gotten used to it, since I’ve only been inside my A/C-room, which is very cool and nice.

 

I offered to pay 10 times more than the rest of the bunch, as long as we got going – but no, the others wouldn’t hear of it!?

 

Finally I got sick of it, so I told the driver I could pay 400 baht, if only the thai people paid their 60 baht each; which would make 640 baht. I thought the driver could give us 60 baht discount. The driver discussed it with the other passengers who simply shook their heads. No, it didn’t seem as if this was something they wanted to do.

 

Someone got picked up by family members and the rest of us were just sitting there like the 3 idiots.

 

I got even more sicker of the whole thing and decided to walk. It is only, hm well a lot of km, probably 30 or something, and in this heat and hilly landscape I could hardly get anything else than heatstroke after a km or two. But I was so annoyed I didn’t give a frack. I started to walk and ended up on a small hill with a chinese temple of some kind. I ran around here for a while, or sat mostly. It was a beautiful place.

 

 

And then I walked down again, and continued my walk. I’d probably been walking for about half an hour when a taxi showed up behind me. I could now go home for only 100 baht. YEY!

 

 Sometimes it pays off to be stubborn and cheap – a better alternative always shows up around the corner.

 

And the point of this story was simply that I can’t even go on sightseeing on this island, because I will get ruined, alternatively die of heatstroke.

 

SparaSpara

SparaSpara

SparaSpara

SparaSpara

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6 replies »

  1. Charnette,

    Perhaps S.E. Asia is not a good destination for you. I have traveled in Thailand for 9 years. I find Koh Chang a wonderful place. You complain about heat and taxi mishaps. This is S.E. Asia! You must take charge of your transportation. You cannot take a taxi to a strange rural area and expect local transportation to mirror Bangkok. Either rent a motorbike or join a tour to a specific area.

    The food on Koh Chang is delicious and cheaper than Koh Samui or Phuket. This is Thailand…..eat thai food….it is the best. If you want western/european food go to the biggest tourist areas.

    Many thai families spend their holiday on Koh Chang because it is not a heavily western tourist oriented destination like Samui and Phuket. White Sand Beach has reasonable and high end hotels and bungalows and the best beach seafood restaurants.

    One must adapt to what they find in any destination, not struggle against the reality that you find.

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    • Dear Rand,
      Thank you for your comment, but I’m sorry to say, you misunderstood me completely and didn’t really “hear” my irony.

      First of all I love Thailand. That’s why I’m here, of course the main reason is my fiancee, but I believe the country and its people are simply wonderful, inside and out.
      Second, of course I complain about the heat, when writing this particular post I’d just arrived in Thailand so I experienced the heat a lot worse than now, and the complaining isn’t really meant to be in such a serious kind of way, it’s more of a joke. That’s who I am, making a lot of noise, not really too serious about it, though.
      Third, the point was I did expect to find Koh Chang not as exploited as Samui or Phuket, BUT I didn’t. I felt that Bangbao was completely build up for tourists – souvenir shops everywhere. I wouldn’t really call Bangbao “a strange, rural area” either. It’s a tourist village! As is the whole island. Of course I don’t go running around in rural Buriram expecting everything to be like some tourist island nor do I there expect to find taxis around every corner. But this wasn’t rural, it was Koh Chang.
      Fourth, I don’t know why you got the impression I was interested in eating western food? When I refer to decent restaurants I mean THAI restaurants – real local cheap THAI places. I mostly found tourist places serving western-like food; after quite some time I actually managed to find a cheap thai restaurant and ate there whenever the rain didn’t stop me from venturing out too far from home. I stayed in Kai Bae, because I thought it would be “better” there, or less touristic anyway. I’m not in Thailand to search for things I can get at home, nor do I want Thailand to be like home. What would then be the pleasure of travelling? Or the pleasure of trying new food?

      But, anyway, it was the unexploited thing that was bugging me with my experience of Koh Chang – everywhere I read about it, it says the island is not exploited, people telling me it’s not exploited, that’s why I wanted to go. And when I finally get there – some places are IMO worse than Samui! – Koh Chang is not unexploited anymore. And that’s the main reason why I didn’t like it. Not really anything to do with taxis nor the heat.

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      • Hi Charnette,

        Thanks for your last post. I must apologize for being too critical of your first post on Koh Chang. I, like you, recognize that the exploitation of the beaches and islands is on going. The fault lies not with the Thai people, but with the demands of many of the tourists that flock to Thailand (22 million in 2013). Many want 5 star hotels on the beach and they will pay “big money”. One only has to look at the lineup of luxury hotels on Chaweng Beach on Koh Samui that have been overbuilt in the last decade to capture this market of high end travelers. At least on Koh Chang there are still many reasonable bungalows and “huts” on the beaches for those looking for a more modest choices.

        Bangbao, IMO, is not a tourist trap. One does not have to do business there. The pier provides access to a variety of crafts and services in one place. It also provides a living for the Thais that own and work in the shops. The beauty of such places is that you can politely
        bargain for a price you feel comfortable paying. This is part of the culture in Thailand. Of course, the restaurants are more pricey than the mobil street vendors, but many want the comfort and atmosphere of a more traditional setting. I have had many fine meals on the streets of Bangkok for 40B to 60B. Many “sit down” restaurants in the same area would be charging 120B to 200B.

        Koh Chang is far more of a family friendly destination than Patong Beach on Phuket or Pattaya. There is a small cluster of bars with girls along the road in the White Sand Beach area, but nothing to approach the glaring sex industries found in many tourist destinations. I have no problem with these wild areas as they are responding to specific demands of a certain type of visitor. There are more rural areas than Koh Chang, I agree. Along the coast below Chumpon, the Andaman coast below Ranong, Issan, some of the smaller islands below Koh Chang, etc. It just depends what a traveler is looking for and what he or she is willing to give up for a more rural experience.

        Good luck on your future travels Charnette. I will be going back to Koh Samui on my next trip as I met my Thai wife there in 2004.

        Regards,
        Rand

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      • Hi Rand,

        No, please, you must not apologise. 🙂 In fact, your comment made me aware of the need for me to think a bit ahead while writing. It’s a new experience for me, this having people who doesn’t really know me reading my writing. Everybody who knows me know that I can be extremely cynical, judgmental, negative and a regular fan of irony, so I’ve just kind of took this for granted, that everybody understood me. That everybody understood it’s not meant to be that serious. But it’s not that easy, is it? 😉

        Another thing – it’s very hard writing funny stuff, or ironic stuff for that matter, in a language which is not your own. I’m practicing every day, but I guess I still have a bit to go. 🙂

        I appreciate your comment, since it did teach me something of value, and I felt eager to explain myself (hence my loooong, looong reply). I wouldn’t want anyone to misjudge me now, would I? That’s my job. 😉

        Best regards,
        Charnette

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  2. Hi Charnette,

    I wish all Americans could write and use english as well as you do. We are lucky (you & I), we enjoy traveling and experiencing what we find. I think it helps me keep a healthy perspective and expands my tolerance and knowledge.

    Do you have any future tripos planned? I hope so.

    Warm regards,
    Rand

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    • Thank you for your extraordinary compliment :), it’s really nice to know English natives understand my writing. 😉

      Yes, you’re right, travelling is a very good experience – you really learn to appreciate what you have, and understand how lucky you in fact are, although you didn’t have enough money to buy 3 TV’s in one month. For example. 😉 And my tolerance is indeed tested every day (and I’d like to think expanding too).

      Since I’m in Thailand at the moment, the only trip I’m planning is the one back home, sadly. Looks like I’m leaving paradise in late March, maybe April. Planning on coming back in September though. 🙂 When are you coming to marvellous Samui?

      Best regards,
      Charnette

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