For the past 7 weeks I have been isolating from this pandemic on Koh Chang, away from my normal home in Pattaya. I have to admit I am dreading having to leave the island now as it has been an absolute pleasure. It has got me thinking, why do not more expats – especially retired – not choose to live on an island rather than inland Thailand?
(1) Lacking in Health Facilities
It is probably best to start with the reasons why they don’t. Possibly the biggest issue is that islands offer the bare minimum in health services, although larger islands like Samui, Phuket and Koh Chang do have hospitals. Samui and Phuket has the best equipped of all the islands I have visited, but I struggle somewhat to class ‘Phuket’ as a real island experience.
Koh Chang, the third biggest island in Thailand, maintains the most rugged, authentic island experience – and has a public hospital and basic private one. If you need to find a hospital like a Bangkok-Pattaya version you would need to travel inland to the province of Trat. But it is only a 30minute drive inland once you have done the ferry crossing. If you were to fall seriously ill the island has a ‘ambulance-speed boat’ service that would set you back 20,000 baht to use.
There is a simple sliding scale at play, the smaller the island the less health facilities. To live on Phuket or Samui you would be fine and next down the list, Koh Chang, for any serious health issue you would need to travel inland.
To be honest, the same rules applied to health services apply here too. Phuket and Samui is acceptable for schooling younger children whereas on Koh Chang you do not have anything near like an International School – there simply is not the demand. And with any of the smaller islands, you can forget about decent schooling for your kids.
But, these are changing times. During this pandemic I think the rules to life can change. We are too accepting of the way things were always done. I don’t agree that schooling is the only option for socialising and educating my kids. I know for well I can give them a very decent education through online teaching or finding a tutor for one-on-one tuition. International schools in Thailand are expensive too, so to trade some or all of that spend into online teaching and taking your kids to other lifestyle classes is very possible. On an island they could learn to scuba dive, go trekking and so on.
I have certainly been spending a lot of time questioning the structure and path we routinely obey to family life all across the world. We just don’t need to obey this structure and should be exploring alternatives. Whilst on Koh Chang I have found an exceptional tutor who has been teaching my kids 6-days a week. The class size is only 5 children, and I have noticed how quickly my kids are learning from her. I have been very satisified and my kids enjoy the classes.
I want my kids to be well educated, rounded and have a grasp of what is possible in life.
On balance, as things stand, I would reluctantly still choose Pattaya for us as a family to live due to my kids though. In Pattaya they attend gymnastics 3 or 4 times a week and also have a private Russian tutor they attend after regular school finishes. It is the laziest and easiest solution for now, but – trust me – I am reviewing this situation.
For many of us working expats there is a need to meet customers and our teams, but I get the feeling it will only be a few more years before approaches change. Has the pandemic not shown us that we can stay equally well connected online through Skype/Zoom type conference calls?
I would argue I have never been so well connected during this lock down. When you have face to face meetings you introduce the burden of travel. In Bangkok the most I can hope for is 4 meetings in one day, and that would mean a late finish into the evening. Here I am one click away from a new meeting – I have found it very productive and efficient.
If you are management then you can spend more time at your computer – which could be anywhere. When you need a face to face set of meetings you plan a few days each month in Bangkok or where ever.
…But these are the only drawbacks!
OK, we can say there is less things to do. Less restaurants, less attractions and shopping malls and the likes. But, do we need this? I have enjoyed the more simple life and being around stunning nature and clean air. If you want to do shopping just go inland for a long weekend, it is no problem.
Here is how I look at it. What is more important to you: Having lots of shopping options nearby or being in a stunning location with insane natural beauty?
I still love larger cities like Bangkok and Pattaya, but what I don’t like is the traffic, the large crowds, the poorer air. It is a clear trade off choice between what larger cities offer to what islands can offer.
Islands offer far more provisions and services than most people realise. I even had a message from one reader to ask if Koh Chang had ATMs – which of course it does, not only that but all the main banks have branches here. Food shopping also is easy with a Makro, Tesco and Big C on the island.
For now, my life will return to normal as I head back to Pattaya again. The experience of spending so much time on Koh Chang has been useful though. I never tired of waking up to a glorious sunshine, walking along a tropical beach and swimming in clear waters. Koh Chang has relaxed and de stressed me – but shouldn’t our life be more simple and relaxed anyway? I have been relaxed yet still working to my optimum and delivering some very good results in business. My mind has been very alert and it has enabled me to make sound business decisions – all online from my computer.
This blog is not designed to be antagonist, it is merely one of observation and food for thought. We do not need to live the life we had before and there are alternatives that can enhance our existence! But we are all responsible for driving this change, so we should consider all options.
My days spent on Koh Chang have been some of the finest I have had in many, many years.