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Beware of Jeep Hire

July 24th, 2013 | Posted by Salad Daze in Advice - (Comments Off on Beware of Jeep Hire)

Many people visiting Haad Salad consider renting either a motorbike or a jeep to explore the other beaches on the island. It makes a great day out when you can drop in on some of the 20 or so other beaches on Koh Phangan. Life is such is that a person might never get back to Koh Phangan and so they feel compelled to explore the island, to make the most of the experience.

However, beware that vehicle hire is fraught with problems in not only Haad Salad but all over Koh Phangan, and indeed all over Thailand. There is a common scam with motorbike hire, jeep hire and jetski hire that all tourists should be aware of. Sadly, the police and other government officials will do nothing to stop the scams. Rather than go on, the easiest thing is to quote Pamelita22 from Trip Advisor. She wrote the following in March 2011. Please don’t imagine that anything has changed in the meantime:

I am an English teacher in Lopburi Thailand, and recently travelled to Ko Phangan for short holiday. Haad Salad Villa was a decent place to stay, located directly on the quiet and beautiful beach of Haad Salad. The bungalows were comfortable and the restaurant on the resort provided great food.
BUT IF YOU ARE GOING HERE, PLEASE DO NOT GO NEAR THE TRAVEL SHOP LOCATED ON THE RESORT.
On my final day on the island, and myself and one of my friends I met there decided to rent a jeep to explore the island. We saw a sign outside the Haad Salad travel shop (it is attached to a shop selling food goods and items of clothing) We enquired about renting it, and the cost was 1000 BHT for 2 hours. We thought this was great…..500 BHT each and a great way to get around and see some of the other beaches on the island. They ask you to fill in a form and give them your passport. Right away I felt uncomfortable doing this, and asked to see where they would be keeping it- they showed me a safe, and I agreed.
Whilst driving around, I had a SMALL accident, where I scraped the car whilst reversing out. Now, when I say a small scrape, I really mean, it was just a scrape. None the less, I am an honest person, and when we returned the jeep that night, I showed them the scrape, apologised and said I would pay for the expense. The ‘boss’ went mental and said she had to call a ‘mechanic’ 20 minutes later, 2 men showed up who examined the car, and presented me with a bill for 16,100 BHT! The lady then went on to say that it would take them 5 days to ‘fix’ the car, and so for these 5 days she would be loosing 5,000 BHT, and so added this onto the bill…..a total of 21,100……
I said there was absolutely no way I was paying that,, to which she replied if I didn’t then I would not get my passport back.
I have lived in Thailand for a year, and I can tell you honestly that this woman was scamming me. These so called mechanics she called no doubt worked for her, and were not legitimate. I spoke with some other people at the resort who said they were a BAD COMPANY who are known for ripping tourists off…..if anything, they WANT you to have an accident so they can charge you over the odds. After an hour of deliberation about what to do, I decided that if I was going to get my passport, I would have to pay her. When I told her I had spoken to people who had told me about their reputation, she said she would take 2,000 BHT off the price if I told her the names of who had said it……this just goes to show how corrupt this company is.
PLEASE DO NOT GIVE YOUR BUSINESS TO THESE PEOPLE. DO NOT RENT A MOTORBIKE/JEEP from them……if I can make just one person read this and not go, I will be happy.
Please pass on the message to anyone else who is thinking of going.
Thank you

It is tempting to say that all travel agents and indeed all companies that rent out vehicles are prepared to do exactly the same thing. This would be wrong. However, I have heard far more stories of people being fleeced than being charged a reasonable sum for damages. Even foreigners renting jetskis in Koh Phangan do the same thing.

If you do have a scratch on a bike or car the best thing is to go to a mechanic on the island and get the problem fixed. If they can fix the damage and leave no marks then the rental agent will be none the wiser and will hand over your passport. This is the cheapest option.

It is impossible to rent out a vehicle without giving up your passport. A photocopy will not do.

If this post worries you then the best thing to do is to take taxis. They are pricey but not as pricey as being scammed. Such an experience ruins a holiday.

Have a look at this YouTube video of a jetski scam operation in Pattaya. As with the above experience everyone who joins the incident are ‘in’ on the scam and will be paid when the tourists pay up.

If you do want to rent a vehicle to use in Koh Phangan the safest option is to use a recognised car rental company such as Avis or Hertz that provide insurance and do not ask for a passport deposit. You can find more information about this at Koh Phangan Car Rental.

When to Visit Haad Salad

July 23rd, 2013 | Posted by Salad Daze in Advice - (Comments Off on When to Visit Haad Salad)

One of the most commonly asked questions about Haad Salad and also Koh Phangan is: when is the best time to visit? The answer really is any time except for during the monsoon in October and November.

For many visitors to Haad Salad their trip is timed to coincide with a Full Moon Party. Remember at this time many places insist on a minimum stay of between 3 and 5 nights, so it is important to allow nearly a week if you are coming from Bangkok to allow for travelling and resort stay restrictions.

Another consideration when people plan a trip to Haad Salad is the tidal variations. As with all the beaches on the west coast of Koh Phangan, the water recedes far out during the low tidal months between May and October. If you take out the rainy season months this means that the best months for swimming in Haad Salad are December, January, February, March and April. Out of these 5 months December is the most expensive (it’s peak season from mid-December to the first week in January), and January is high season. If you want to get a good deal on accommodation and a high tidal weather system the best months are therefore February, March and April.

Naturally, most people with jobs cannot choose when they have a holiday, especially people with kids. On the island July and August are very busy. These are the two months when most people in Europe and the USA take their summer holidays. It is also the time when the resorts, hotels and bungalow outfits put up their prices.

The most important festival in Koh Phangan is Songkran or Thai New Year. The date of the festival used to be based on the Thai lunar calendar but is now always held from April 13th to April 15th. All over the island people are having water fights and enjoying the holiday atmosphere, but the best place to experience Songkran mayhem is Thongsala. The main road packs out with party goers drinking and drenching each other.

Resources

The graphic below gives information about average rainfall and temperature on Koh Phangan.
Koh Phangan weather
Follow this link to find out the dates for the Full Moon Party as well as the Half Moon and Black Moon Parties.

Party schedules for Koh Phangan

Reggae in Haad Salad

July 22nd, 2013 | Posted by Salad Daze in Bars and Restaurants - (Comments Off on Reggae in Haad Salad)

reggae village front
Reggae isn’t as dominant as it used to be. In the 90s it was the music genre of choice for countless backpacker bars and restaurants all over India and South East Asia. Bob Marley tapes and CDs were played over and over.

Tastes changed in the early 2000s. Countries like Thailand embraced mid and high end tourism and the wheelie suitcase replaced the backpack for many travelers both long and short term.

And of course with the money coming in from non-budget tourists the need arose to supposedly crack down on reggae cigarettes.

One place you will still hear the occasional bit of reggae music is Reggae Village in Haad Salad. The Welcome sign on the outside of the building has the rasta colours. Inside the bar is not an alter to all things reggae but there are a few Rastafarian touches. The staff are friendly and laid-back but they don’t sport huge dread bundles.

If you were really into reggae and Jamaican culture you might be disappointed by Reggae Village.

Otherwise you might enjoy the place. There is a good selection of food and drink on offer at reasonable prices for a tourist spot in Koh Phangan. They play a good selection of music.

Moreover, there is a pool and table football to enjoy. The entertainment doesn’t stop there. They also show films every day for those who just want to lounge around.

In the evening the atmosphere becomes a bit livelier: they play some good music or show live sports. On occasion it is possible to catch some live music at Reggae Village. There is often a happy hour early on in the evening to get people in the mood.

The owner hails from the small UK island of Jersey. He makes sure the Western food remains authentic and enticing. He has recently added to his reggae empire with the neighboring Jay Jay Pizza Restaurant next door.

Indeed Reggae Village has become something of a village of services and facilities on offer. They have a tour counter to buy tickets. They also organize taxis as well as bike and jeep hire. Unlike most places they will not only take you to the Full Moon Party but also ferry you back.
room
That is not all. There is an English scuba instructor to teach scuba or take people out on fun dives. There are also a few rooms available for rent. You can book online at Hostelbookers. I suppose it could be classified as a ‘hostel’ but the rooms are no cheaper than the budget bungalow operations. I really hope the banality of hostel culture never takes hold in Thailand, and especially in Koh Phangan.
Perhaps the oddest and least ‘reggae’ activity on offer is the rifle range out back. They have a basic wooden range and an air rifle for rent.
rifle range
Reggae Village is located on the road leading down to the beach. You can’t miss it, and if you do, ask anyone – they will point you in the right direction.

The reggae golden age might have passed for Koh Phangan, but it lives on in a slightly new format at Haad Salad’s Reggae Village.

Making the Most of your Time on the Beach

July 18th, 2013 | Posted by Salad Daze in Places to Visit - (Comments Off on Making the Most of your Time on the Beach)

Many of the people who visit Haad Salad want to do two things: have a beach holiday and go to the Full Moon Party. Chances are they have spent a couple of days in Bangkok, if it is their first time in Thailand, seeing the sights; and now, they feel there is no need to do further exploring. This attitude is fully understandable, but I feel, somewhat wrong. Once they get back home and look at their holiday pictures there is a high probability that they will regret not making the effort to see more of Koh Phangan.

It is an easy trap to fall into. I have willingly fallen in this trap too many times to count: I read books, swim in the sea and smoke and that is much as I can manage. At the weekend I might manage to drag myself to a bar to see a footie match. I have been a couple of times to the Full Moon Party, and now it seems too much effort to head to Haad Rin from Haad Salad. The body paint, the crowds, the haggling with taxi drivers – it all seems too much effort when you only have two weeks beach time.

Over the years I have visited Koh Phangan many times. I now make the effort to try different beaches and go to the various places of interest on the island.

Haad Salad is well placed in this regard.

Koh Ma

Mae Haad
Just up the coast is Koh Ma. It is a short ride to Mae Haad and from there a short swim to the coral reef. It is easily the best snorkeling spot on the island. Moreover, it is a great beach and normally deserted. You can spend a pleasant morning in Mae Haad and be back in Haad Salad for lunch.

Chaloklum

Chaloklum
If you stay in Haad Salad it is worth checking out the two big beaches nearby – Chaloklum and Haad Yao. Chaloklum is like the Bophut of Koh Phangan in that it has several old wooden fishermen’s houses that make the village picturesque. It is a curious mixture of backpacker places, traditional fishing village and boutique bars, restaurants, shops and hotels. I find Chaloklum a lot more interesting to wander around than Thongsala.

Another plus for Chaloklum is Malibu Beach. It is an impressive sand bank and a good spot for swimming in the sea. Unlike Haad Salad there is no coral reef off shore and so the sea-bottom is soft underfoot.

Haad Yao

Haad Yao
Haad Yao is one of the longest beaches in Koh Phangan. Its sand gently curves over 1 km and is fringed with palms. As with Haad Salad it has a coral reef off the coast which supplies the focus for water activities.

In the evening the bars in Haad Yao are livelier than at Haad Salad. I like to have a few drinks at Jack’s Bar or Eagle Bar. If there is live music on, I will make it over to Rasta Home. It has more of a raw Koh Phangan feel than Reggae Village in HS.

I am not that bothered about Laem Son Lake. To my mind, Wipeout is a bit daft. I also suspect that the lake is poisoned by zinc from the old mine. You never see locals swimming in the lake.

Chinese Temple

Chinese Temple
What is more interesting to visit is the Chinese Temple. Apparently built on the behest of a dream, it is an impressive temple in an even more impressive location. The view over the jungle is one that makes memorable photos. I also like the fact that the temple has very little going on. I have never seen a monk or any type of obeisance to Buddha. I guess it is too hot.

These are just a few things near to Haad Salad that are worth checking out. They don’t take long to get to, and are free. Just a few hours away from the beach or the resort pool will reveal some of the treasures of the island and help you connect with the place on a deeper level.