Saturday, 11 April 2015

Car Bomb in Koh Samui

On Friday 10th April, 2015 a car bomb exploded in Koh Samui. Although no one was killed an Italian girl and six Thais were injured. Police are investigating the bombing and are reticent to draw any conclusions.

The bomb went off in a Mazda pick-up truck late on Friday night. The car was parked in Central Festive Mall on the Chaweng Beach Road.

The attack clearly shows the intention of impacting the busy tourist trade on the island. Central Festive Mall describes itself as 'the most complete and largest lifestyle shopping complex in Samui’. It covers 90,000 square meters of retail space. It draws a large number of tourists as well as Thais. It is located in the biggest tourist center in Koh Samui.

You expect a bomb that explodes in such a location is intended to send out a clear message of shock and terror, and to effect the local economy which is heavily reliant on tourism in Chaweng.

Police have found the vehicle where the bomb was planted. It was registered in Yala Province in the south near the Malaysian border. It is an area that has seen a long time insurgency by Muslim separatists. Over the years they have set off bombs in southern Thailand as part of their insurgency.

Bomb deposal experts and forensic staff have covered the area. So far the police are refusing to commit to any definitive explanation of the event or mention any possible suspects. Since the world media scrutiny over the case of the double murder in nearby Koh Tao of two British tourists last year Thai police are keen to stick to following due process to avoid any more criticism.

Read Guardian report -

Thursday, 9 April 2015

New Online Booking for Koh Samui

For those enjoying just a few days holiday in Koh Samui planning is essential to make travelling as stress free as possible. The biggest change in travel in Thailand has been the internet. People have access to lots of information about travel routes. And now has opened up some routes for online booking; these include the bus and ferry route between Koh Samui and Bangkok.

It used to be that you had to take time out of your holiday to get down to a travel agent to book tickets in advance for your journey in Thailand. I invariably got stuck in Khao San for the night because the Lomprayah coach and ferry was always sold out by the time we cleared international customs and got to their office in Khao San. Those days of having to either arrive on the day and take pot luck on getting tickets or having to go out of your way to organise tickets in advance are slowly disappearing.

Naturally you can book airline tickets online. Thai Air tickets are easily purchased online through their website. For a while you could use the Thai Rail site to reserve sleeper tickets. That only lasted a few months before the IT collapsed.

Luckily a private company has stepped into the breach. offers online booking for various journeys in Thailand. It is a modern looking website that is easy to understand. It clearly shows the prices and the times of departure and arrival. You just type in the route you are interested in along with the date of travel and the site lists available tickets for sale. You can buy tickets by credit card or by PayPal.

It is still early days for Many journeys are not available. In many cases the website lists transport options but do not offer online booking. You can book a train from Bangkok to Suratthani City or Suratthani Airport but not the reverse journey. The best coverage is from Bangkok to various places in Thailand.

One of the problems with offering universal travel booking in Thailand is that there are so many small service providers. For example the Haad Rin Queen is not going to join anytime soon or the Thong Nai Pan Express.

I guess if they can improve the coverage for train journeys in Thailand and internal flights then that would be a massive step in the right direction. It allows holiday makers to reserve seats in advance so that they don’t have to worry about missing their flight back home or having to spend half a day booking tickets in advance.

Here is a brief list of links for booking travel tickets:

Book Lomprayah and Bus Koh Samui to Bangkok
Book Lomprayah and Bus Bangkok to Koh Samui
Book Train from Bangkok to Suratthani

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Koh Samui Meter Taxis

 First time visitors to Koh Samui are frequently left with a nasty impression of Koh Samui as soon as they decide to flag down a taxi. People generally accept that taxis from airports are an exception, but when they discover that island-wide taxis are a total rip off they ask themselves, "Why do the taxis have a big sign on their roof saying 'meter' when they refuse to go on the meter?"

It is a question that everybody has asked. The answer appears to be that the taxis on the island are run by mafia cartels. The high fares are fixed; market forces are not allowed to apply. Any driver using the meter would soon be out of a job. It thus came as some surprise that in 2014 the NCPO (National Council of Peace and Order) announced that Koh Samui taxis must go on the meter. They would be allowed to start at 50 THB and also add a final 50 THB to the final meter charge, but that must use the meter or...

Or else? While the military junta has shown its executive teeth in Bangkok, Pattaya and Phuket, it seems that their edicts are ignored by the Koh Samui police force. It is easy to draw conclusions about why this is. Some points of consideration. Firstly, there are too many taxis on Koh Samui. Supply completely outstrips demand. This balance could be changed by setting up a license system just for Koh Samui that worked to a quota. Moreover, cheaper taxis (on meters) would soon encourage lots of visitors and ex-pats to use taxis instead of private cars, bikes and songthaews.

Another point of consideration is that most drivers don't own their own vehicles. They have to do as their employers tell them. While they risk being fined or having their license revoked for not using the meter, they risk losing their job if their employer get wind of them using the meter. The pricing fix will only work if no taxis break the monopoly.

There is a telephone line that unhappy customers can use to report taxis in Koh Samui charging too much. There are no official figures for how many calls they have received. At present a journey that would cost 100 Thai Baht in Bangkok costs 400 or more Baht in Koh Samui.

While costs are slightly higher for fuel etc. on Koh Samui this represents bad consumer value. The issue of low cost short journeys on a relatively small island penalises drivers that take customers short distances. The airport is privately owned and has done a deal with certain transport providers. They have another fixed price scheme that is also poor value for private taxis.

Thailand has always attracted people because of its air of freedom. It is a country that is famous for its gentle Buddhist manners and lack of regulation. The downside of this is that unscrupulous elements can embed themselves in seemingly secure positions in the ‘white’ economy. The new rulers in Bangkok are finding it difficult to overturn this state of affairs – making pronouncements and getting things changed are two entirely different matters.