Koh Chang is officially open, so we decided to go to the island for a couple of nights to celebrate Katae’s 30th birthday.
Originally, at the beginning of the year we were making plans to visit Italy, tour around for a couple of weeks and eat lots of Italian food (our favourite) and drinks copious amounts of fine red wines. The world’s governments response to the coronavirus put the kibosh on that little plan.
Is Koh Chang Open?
We had a day trip to Koh Chang back in May to see a few friends and share the fruit bounty from our farm. As we are Trat residents we were allowed on the island after jumping through a few hoops to comply with the restrictions in place.
Here’s a short video of that little escapade:
On arriving at the Thammachat ferry pier around midday (on a Wednesday), we had a wait of around an hour to board. All the other cars we noticed were from Bangkok. The crossing took its usual half an hour to arrive on the island.
On arriving, there was no screening or temperature checks. We drove straight off and caught up with some friends in Siam Royal View.
We booked 2 nights at AWA in Kai Bae as it’s in a central island location and close to our favourite restaurant, El Barrio (formerly Barrio Bonito). This allowed us to walk to and from our sea view suite, have a few drinks and get home safely. On average, Thailand has 45 road deaths every day, we don’t want to be a statistic. For comparison there have been 58 Covid-19 related deaths in Thailand to date. Make of that what you will.
AWA wasn’t at full capacity, but it was certainly busy. All the hotel guest were Thai, taking advantage of the reduced rates and government incentives. This is great for Thais to experience their countries beautiful holiday destinations without dirty ferrang stinking up the place. Okay I was the exception, but I showered at least twice a day, I swear!
The level of service wasn’t what was expected. The staff (not enough) were however over worked and stressing, doing as good a job as could be expected. It can’t be easy trying to work in a mask for 10 hours a day with a substantially reduced oxygen intake.
As there are very few flights in and out of Thailand at the moment (Trat Airport plans to opens in October), foreign tourists are virtually non-existent. We noticed that the Thai’s didn’t leave the hotel and visit the local bars and restaurants
. There are only a handful actually open.
In Kai Bai there was a Russian restaurant, I forget their name, Morgan’s, El Barrio, Cabana and The Wine Gallery. The last restaurant on the list we dined at on the second night and we had the place to ourselves all evening. There was hardly any footfall past the restaurant and very few taxis.
There have also been a new government strategy in the last few weeks saying in effect that they are taking this time to reassess and reset tourist demographics which will be gear toward only attracting high net worth individuals. If this is the case, Koh Chang is going to be hurting big time.
Will the wealthy elite favour a beach hut or nice hotel over-run with Thai families to St. Tropes, Monaco or the Bahamas? I don’t know…
We pay top dollar to stay at exclusive hotels or resorts to relax. We certainly couldn’t do that on this trip. Okay, so we shelled out about a third or the usual price to stay, so I guess you get what you pay for. From my experience, I personally think hotels who have gone down this route have potentially destroyed their brand. Time will tell.
If we went back to Koh Chang again for a couple of relaxing days any time soon, we would probably stay at a place like Tiger Hut on Klong Prao Beach. It’s quiet, the beach is beautiful, clean and empty and I’m sure the local owners would benefit more from our patronage.
On our second day on Koh Chang we arrange to have lunch at LE JaoJom near Pearl Beach. Unfortunately when we got there they insisted we had to pre-book. Obviously we didn’t want to wait several hours to lunch, so we drove to White Sand Beach and had a very satisfying Irish stew and a drop of the black stuff at 15 Palms. Splendid!
In Thailand, it seems every second shop is a massage parlour. We’ll no more! If you’re in the massage game there seems to be no happy ending in sight. We walked down the road in Kai Bai looking for a spa to get a good rub down and only found one open.
Fortunately, anti-social distancing rules/laws/orders were not in force or ignored and we both had a relaxing massage. Go-go gadget arms! (If you never heard of Inspector Gadget, that will be lost on you).
Leaving Koh Chang
Friday soon rolled around and it was time to start planning the great escape from Koh Chang. But first, a pit-stop at Crust Bakery to pick up some fresh cinnamon rolls, donuts and pastries. Armed with our stash we pointed our truck in the right direction and then took a detour to the Elephant and Castle for a catch up with Chelsea John over a brew.
When we finally headed for the ferry we met the end of the line long before the Chinese Temple near Klong Son. We knew this to be a minimum of a 2 hour wait so we drove on to Koh Chang’s second ferry, Centerpoint. There was a two hour wait there as well. We finally set sail at 3pm.
Skin in the Game
A lot of people are online asking what’s it’s currently like in Thailand and if Koh Chang is open to tourists now the lockdown is supposedly been lifted. It’s hard to get a true picture, everyone has their own take. Some have no skin in the game, and others are heavily invested, so opinions vary widely.
We fall into the former category, we have no vested interest in the tourist or hospitality game besides wanting what’s best for our friends who do.
So I guess this post is just our experience of Koh Chang during the last week of June. It’s a short account of our experience, interpretation and ultimately just another opinion.
I lived there nearly a decade ago and more recently for a couple of years until about 3 years ago. We live close by and visit regularly while friends pop over to the mainland to see us. So I’d like to think we have a good handle on what’s going on.
During the last few years we have noticed the high season getting shorter and tourism slowly fading but in peaks and troughs rather than a steady curvature. This would be consistent with the world economy contractions.
So with the onset of ‘the virus’ and the over-supply of bars, restaurants, massage parlours, and travel restrictions, it’s only natural that the weakest hands would fold first.
Is the Thai Dream Over?
I do think it’s time to face reality. There has been a massive paradigm shift, and there is a war being waged by the banking elite and their cronies to suck up all the loose change from us mere mortals. Unfortunately, small businesses and especially the tourism and hospitality industry are the sectors hardest hit. I didn’t even mention the Thai Baht at an all time high!
Those who are able to adapt, may survive but those who live in hope or are still doing the same thing expecting different results will lose everything. If you are able to get out, I would do so now, cut my losses. I wouldn’t hang around praying for a good high season. It may never emerge. I hope it does, but hope doesn’t pay the bills and put food on the table. What’s going to happen after this long delayed Songkran weekend and the domestic stimulus packages stop? Do you have a plan B?
It’s proposed, in August there will be 5 provinces allowed to open for ‘travel bubble’ group tours of 1000 people per day only in phase 1 of three. Trat is not one of the five provinces. So the lockdown is essentially lifted in name only.
No country is admitting US citizens to their country, meanwhile Australia has no outbound flights until 2021 (no actual date set for next year). In 200 years and it’s gone full circle back to a penal colony!
This is all before ‘the 2nd wave’ hits that has been baked into the cake from the off and programmed into our psyche by Bill (not a doctor) Gates and the World Hell Organization.
So if you think Koh Chang is really open (or anywhere else is for that matter) think again. Maybe it’s time to acknowledge tourism as we knew it is over and freedom of movement is and will be very restrictive for the foreseeable future. Maybe it’s time to start growing your own food, appreciating what you have and cherish every moment with those you love the most.
Not to finish on a downer, I am by nature an optimist, yet a realist, if you do get to travel anywhere, especially Koh Chang, and you are like us, you’ll find countless pristine, empty beaches and safer roads, reduced accommodation rates, warm welcomes and cold beers. In a word, Bliss!
Support Local Business on Koh Chang
Oh and support local business, forget about those fancy pants resorts. Here are some of our friends resorts and luxury villas and rooms at affordable prices on Koh Chang we thoroughly endorse.
Tell them Perry and Katae from Thinglish Lifestyle sent you and they’ll look after you like a good un!
Want to share your experiences, great restaurants, resorts or bars on Koh Chang post lockdown with our readers? Use the comments section below and let’s support local businesses. Khop Khun Na Khap!
Is Koh Chang Open? (Sort off)