Wet but not Wild
by Duncan Stearn
September on Koh Chang is wet. It’s the last of the four peak months of the rainy season. According to the Thai weather bureau, rain in September averages about 24 of its 30 days. That said, only six or seven of these rainy days will be heavy enough to make an off-season tourist stay inside reading a book, watching TV, or sitting in a nearby bar attempting to drain the last of whatever alcoholic libation takes their fantasy.
So, if you’re the type who likes to spend all your time soaking up the sun’s rays prostrate on Koh Chang’s many beaches then this is not the time to be here. Yet, if you are perhaps considering a change of lifestyle and investing in Koh Chang or any of the nearby islands, then this is a perfect time to visit.
After all, if you’re thinking about relocating from another part of Thailand, or from overseas, then it’s not much good thinking you’ll only be here during the best of the weather.
In terms of temperature, Koh Chang is pretty much the same all year around: kick off at about 28°C and most days will be into the 30°C-plus range. As with the rest of the country, the coolest time is December and January when the mercury can drop to the low teens at night.
Ever since the ousted government of prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra decided, more than a decade ago, to turn sleepy Koh Chang into the next tourist paradise, the island has undergone massive changes. Thankfully, because most of it is a national park, the rampant excesses of development have been kept, mostly, to those bits that don’t form the national park.
So, what to do when the rain is falling? If you’re a scuba diver, then getting wet is hardly a big deal. Yes, the underwater scenery might not be quite the same as you’d find on a bright, sunny day, but with so many fewer tourists to compete for space, chances are you’ll get a large swathe of ocean pretty much to yourself and any others who happen to be on your dive boat. And I doubt the average stingray happens to give a Bluefin tuna that the weather on the surface is a little overcast.
Of course, you might want to remain above the water, so a spot of either yachting or sea kayaking could be the task for a day. With the former, you don’t necessarily have to do a great deal; with the latter you’d want to be reasonably fit.
Elephant trekking, hiking to the myriad of island waterfalls, or golfing are other activities that can be done, as long as the rain is more a drizzle than a torrent.
If you take your own vehicle by way of the car ferry to Koh Chang, be warned that the roads are steep. Good brakes are essential. For example, if you arrive on Koh Chang, exit the ferry and turn left, you’ll be heading in the direction of the beach where the battle of Koh Chang memorial is situated. The road to this spot is, even paved, more suited to mountain goats than the average vehicle. If you turn right from the ferry and head into the main tourist area, once again as you get closer and closer to the end of the island, the road becomes steeper and more winding. The Beatles’ hit ‘The Long and Winding Road’ could easily have been written about the main byway of Koh Chang. It wouldn’t surprise me if that song gets played more than ‘Hotel California’ in the beer bars of the island.