Sep 06

A Tour of Dan Mai – Koh Chang East Coast

Dan Mai village on the Koh Chang east coast is not going to feature too heavily on any tourist maps of the island but those that do find time to drop in when out and about exploring, will be rewarded with a very real slice of local island life.

It’s found about 8km down from the second ferry pier, Centrepoint, with the main local hospital on the right hand side just as you enter the area and next door to that, for any anglers out there, a tiny but more than serviceable fishing tackle shop. Round one more bend, you enter the village proper and your first stop should be the waterfall, Klong Nonsi. dan-mai-koh-chang-klong-nonsi-waterfall The turning for this is clearly signed, with a small and very popular Issan cafe, just a few tables really, perched up on the slope above the road. The somtam and sticky chicken here is good, though the service is slow and it can get pretty busy at lunchtimes, when the local government workers venture out for something spicy. Dan Mai is the administrative capital of Koh Chang, so nearby you’ll find the tax office, the local land registry, the head police station and even a fire station. At the end of the little street running alongside this cafe, you can park up, just put your 10bt in the pot and from there, it’s about 10 to 15 minutes through the orchards until you reach the river. On the opposite bank, you’ll find some useful steps to get you going and then you can climb up the tiers towards the top. It’s not a waterfall to set the pulse racing, but there is a lovely calm to the area, and depending on the time of the year, you might be able to have a swim in one of the plunge pools.

dan-mai-koh-chang-east-coast After visiting the waterfall, head back to the main road and a few hundred metres further on, a small left turning opposite the police station, takes you further down into the village. You pass the main school on your right, now made of concrete after the old wooden structure burnt down a few years back and next to it, the local temple. At the crossroads immediately afterwards, head off to your left where the narrow little street takes you past the backs of the houses fronting onto the sea. Along here, the Chinese temple is an obvious place to pull over, and inside you’ll find some fascinating faded black and white photos of the local community up on the walls, as well as lots of kitsch little deities in front of the shrine. Outside, the old delapidated pier leads out rather forlornly into the bay and there is a fund running to restore it to former glories. If you chat to the residents, they also talk excitedly about a new pier for Dan Mai which may come in the future. Koh Chang does get incredibly busy on peak holidays, with queues onto the boats taking 3 to 4 hours to board, so yes it may well warrant a third ferry service, but you can’t help thinking that it would change the atmosphere of this particular area irrevocably, so better to put it nearer to the two existing piers back up the coast.

dan-mai-koh-chang-east-coast As you potter around, you’ll also see small information banners outside some of the houses, there’s one that gives you the history of the Chinese Temple for example, one for a Batik House and one for a housewives group which makes kapi or shrimp paste, an essential ingredient in Thai cooking. The boards are a part of a charming idea, whereby you rent a bicycle for 50bt and then follow them from one to the next, learning about the village and local life as you go. Dan Mai Seafood restaurant is also located along here. It’s much less of a tourist spot than the diners in Bang Bao on the west coast, probably because no one knows it’s here but the food is very good and the views from the little sala on the wooden jetty an added bonus. At the end of the road, there is a small Thai resort and a three house western development, only partially constructed.

dan-mai-koh-chang-east-coast Back at the central crossroads, head next straight towards the sea, past the fishing boats in the inlet until you reach the old fish sauce factory. Up until relatively recently, Koh Chang was producing its own bottled brand, by all acounts a good one too, but the larger nationwide producers ultimately took over and the battered old buildings and creaky floorboards open to the waves beneath are all that remains of this local industry. However, the pier here is still in use by various small boats and the chedi continues to bestow its blessings on the fishermen.

You can leave the village by going past the bottom of the temple over the bridge. The street goes in a loop back to the main road but you can make some detours to explore the undeveloped areas by the sea, and there are houses dotted here and there under the trees. Back on that main road, a few more administrative buildings and another entrance to the waterfall complete the tour of Dan Mai.

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