Sunday, 24 August 2014

Kids Club and Indian Buddha House Raksa Website – Gone

Things often disappear without any fanfare in Thong Nai Pan.  The exception perhaps is the finishing party for Baan Pong on Noi beach. This, however, was not much of a swan song, since Better Than Sex was all ready at the time of the party for Pong to move to. This is different to the silent disappearance of Hideaway, Jungle Bar, White Sands, Star Huts, Otto Bungalows, Que Pasa, the original Luna Lounge, The Rock Bar, the Doors Bar and Tipi Cantina. The list could go on to fill this entire post.

The reasons places shut and websites are taken down are numerous. Sometimes it is bad planning, sometimes the competition have too much money and clout, and sometimes what seemed like an easy way to make money turns out to be far too much work  for those concerned.

Kids Club

The Kids Club in Yai might be in the latter category. They set it up and had some initial success in terms of attracting paying customers; providing fun for children (both Thais and foreigners); and getting publicity. They set up a Facebook page and posted pictures and garnered a respectable amount of likes. Yet, the page soon announced that they were looking for a buyer. Sadly, no buyer was forthcoming – after all what is there to buy? Rented accommodation with a handful of toys is not much of an asset. It is the teachers, carers and qualified staff that make a playgroup valuable.

It is a shame because the big hotels in Thong Nai Pan do far too little for children. They are more concerned about ripping families off by charging for a compulsory breakfast for kids who stay with their parents. In the case of Rasananda it is 1,500 Thai Baht. That is outrageous. None of the hotels offer organised events for kids or qualified child minders. They want to think of themselves as ‘5 star’ but can’t be bothered trying to offer child-related services that are normally offered by real 5 star hotels. When a hotel says they have ‘babysitting’ services they mean they have a cleaner or bar tender who will look after your child while you go down the beach for a meal.

Indian House Buddha Raksa

This beach side place on Yai beach hasn’t closed down. They seem to be doing quite well. There was also a wedding in the family recently. So congratulations are in order.

What has changed about Indian House Buddha Raksa is that they have let their website slip. Obviously the foreigner who set it up (and never finished it) gave up in the end and let it slip into oblivion. I suspect that the Thai owners are happy just using Facebook. It is simple and seems to do an adequate job in promoting a business and announcing events, improvements etc. There is very little money in website design anymore thanks to content management systems that make coding skill unnecessary for making a web page. Moreover, Facebook is free whereas renewing an URL costs money.

The only thing I would mention is that Indian House Buddha Raksa used to be simply ‘Indian House’. It is less of a mouthful to say and makes more sense than the present moniker for the business.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Dolphin Bar and Café Becomes Siam House

Dolphin Bar and Café have made the decision to end the confusion between their bar and Dolphin Bungalows on the beach. They continue to receive emails addressed to Dolphin Bungalows. Visitors looking to book a bungalow online are confused. This is because Dolphin Bungalows have never bothered with a website. It was only last year they bothered to tell anyone their email address.

The solution has been for Dolphin Bar and Café in Yai village to rename. It is now Siam House. However, for the time being they are still reminding people that they were formerly known as ‘Dolphin Bar and Café’. This is because they have numerous glowing reviews on Trip Advisor under their old name. It takes a while to change these things.

The website address has been kept but the website has been completely changed. The header shows the new name but also explains that the place was once called ‘Dolphin Bar and Café’.

It is hoped that over time the new name will stick, the TA reviews will be updated and that the website will move to a new address. Then the confusion will finish.

As an aside, the new look website is particularly cool. It uses great photos taken by Myscha Oreo and has a stylish and easy to navigate feel. A big improvement on the last website design.

It is expected that the original and funky Siam House will go from strength to strength as visitors to Thong Nai Pan now have greater expectations. Accommodation prices have increased and people now want something more than the standard Thai / Western menu. They are looking for places with a bit of originality and good customer service. The days of just opening up a basic business on or near the beach and watching the money roll in are going. Those who ignore review sites do so at their peril.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Jetskis in Koh Phangan

I stumbled upon a free website made for Phangan Jetski based in Thong Nai Pan Yai the other day. The site is really bad and obviously ignored by the person who made the site as it is full of spam comments. Moreover, the website is misleading in the extreme as in the video section they have a video of jetskiing with dolphins. Unless you click through to YouTube you won’t discover that the video was actually taken in the Maldives not Koh Phangan!

This flagrant misrepresentation sums up the jetski experience not just in Thong Nai Pan and Koh Phangan but throughout Thailand. If you don’t believe me Google the term ‘jetski Thailand’ All 10 entries on the first page catalogue the numerous scams perpetrated by jetski companies. Operators are meant to have a captain’s license, but the police never check. In Phuket the mafia control the jetski business. You can see a YouTube video that shows a scam in action. A very minor scratch is treated as major damage – Thais crowd the foreigners and start shouting in order to scare the money out of the tourists. A cop then turns up and arranges a small discount. He is in on the scam.

I was going to post pictures of jetskis in the water in Thong Nai Pan, but thought this will just encourage people who look at pictures without reading the text. Don’t hire jetskis in Thong Nai Pan.

Here are the reasons why:

  1. They pollute. You can smell the petrol fumes from the jetskis.
  2. They are noisy.
  3. They are dangerous. Jetskis coming and going pose a threat to people swimming in the sea, especially children who are harder to see and who don’t instinctively get out of the way. Going out to sea in a jetski is also dangerous as the coastal waters contain lots of rocks just below the water.
  4. It doesn’t matter if you rent a jetski from a foreigner or a Thai person the result of scratching the jetski is the same: they will refuse to return the passport until they have $1,000 in cash. A scratch costs only a few hundred Baht to fix, and can be done simply.
  5. The police won’t help you. Your resort manager won’t help you. The only thing that will help you is having 2 passports!
  6. Most people don’t go anywhere on a jetski. They simply circle around the bay and then come back. People stop to stare at you jetskiing not because they think you are cool, but because they are wondering why any idiot would want to make so much noise and cause so much pollution in such a lovely spot.

Please save yourself heartache – don’t rent a jetski in Thong Nai Pan. It is illegal to demand a passport as a deposit in Thailand, as a foreigner should have his or her passport nearby at all times. Saying this won’t help you when hiring a jetski but it should alert you to the fact that the really precious thing is the passport not the jetski.

In fairness to Phangan Jetski they claim to offer the option of buying insurance. Who underwrites the insurance is not revealed. It is just stated that 80% of damages are covered. Whether that means the amount asked for is only $200 instead of $1,000 is unclear.

Also in fairness to Phangan Jetski they have some good reviews on Trip Advisor – indeed 19 good reviews. However, the bad review mentions paying 900 Euros for a jetski that sank – the tourist was picked up by a fishing boat!

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

More Road Improvements

One of the longest running sagas concerning Thong Nai Pan has been the road. Until the 1980s it was nothing more than a footpath from Baan Tai to Thong Nai Pan. In the 90s it was a dirt road traversing mountainous terrain that became treacherous after heavy rain. In the early noughties the big hill was paved and then in 2012 the road from Than Sadet to Thong Nai Pan was put in. Now they are working on completing the job.

Work is currently underway to concrete the last section of dirt road between Jungle Flight (at the top of the big hill) and the Than Sadet turning. As can be seen from the photos the preparatory work has been done flattening the dirt. Next up is the road laying team who will lay the road in sections.

Such is the nature of road building in Koh Phangan that it seems unlikely that the road from the Baan Tai turning to Thong Nai Pan will be entirely finished but it looks like 2014 will see 90% of the road finished.

The road is of a quality that exceeds any other on the island. The decision to do such a good job is no doubt down to the airport on the same road. If people are to be encouraged to fly to Koh Phangan they will want to be able to quickly get to their hotel once they land.

The saga is not over, but the old fears of being stranded on the Thong Nai Pan road have become a thing of the past. There is more reason to worry about other roads on the island such as the road to Than Sadet or the big hill separating Baan Tai from Haad Rin.