Tropicana Koh Chang - surprisingly loved it!
To Koh Chang - yet again! I keep on going to Koh Chang. I think it is the best island in the whole of Thailand. Even writing about it is dangerous - I am afraid too many people will come to discover it and will turn it into Phuket. The island is simply beautiful, it is covered with lush greenery, scenic mountains, mangroves and wide deserted beaches. Every day we looked at yet another dramatic sky and the forever changing colour of the sea and sand - this is simply a perfect place to be in. If you created your own heaven, that how you would want it (I will also add an antique market and a video shop).
We have been to AANA, to Amari, to the Spa Koh Chang and now to the Tropicana Resort. Overall reviews were ok, but I was afraid that it will be one of those large faceless resorts catering for huge groups of moderately well-off tourists from Eastern Europe or Scandinavia. This time I had my old mum and my overworked sister with us, so we wanted this to be the ultimate cure for them - and it was
The room. We booked a room in a block (around $130), but you can have a more expensive villa. Is it worth it? Not to me. I went to look at it and it was only slightly larger, however if you get the right position, it can be very romantic - at the sea side or facing a charming canal. The room was reasonably large and reasonably well appointed. The touchy moment was when we discovered that there are no shelves or drawers to put clothes in. There were also only 5 hangers for myself and Brian, however when the receptionist saw my displeasure, they supplied an extra table and 20 hangers. My more patient sister, Olga, took a girl scout attitude and unpacked on the floor in the closet. This was the only dark cloud in our 8 day long stay, however I do hope they will stop taking the mickey and fit some shelves in. After all it is not a dirt cheap guest house. The bathroom was fine, and there was a hot shower with a very good pressure, always a nice surprise in hotels. The balcony was large and comfortable and there was enough light to read - another luxury that we, the reading travellers, can't get enough of. Just a week before Tropicana, I was getting blind in the Heritage Silom in Bangkok and writing for the 8th time to the management (they must be laughing at me by now).
The cleaning standard was fine, staff was friendly and helpful and a never ending stream of towel arrangements on beds was mind-boggling
I can never decide if I should start discouraging staff wasting time sculpting swans and elephants from a large number of towels and serviettes, covering them with flowers. Am I the only person who thinks that a set of snow white towels in the bathroom is so stylish....?
The swimming pools. Tropicana has two lovely pools. My favourite is the furtherst from the sea, a large Turkish-style basin boasting several jacuzzis with strong jets, which were positioned in just the right places and which you can switch on and off individually. A genuis design. After 6.30 this pool was lit from inside and there were never many people around it. My sister and I swimming alone mentioned to each other that this is as private Hollywood as you can get without being Angelina Jolie.
The pool near the sea is also lovely, and although it does not reach the Amari's 50m Olympic stretch, it is of a reasonable size and has an infinity edge which allows you to look at the sea and the sunset. The kids pool is not far enough, so when one 8 years old girl decided to bark as a dog for a couple of hours - we were not able to escape, but then most of the time she was sitting quietly painting plaster rabbits (sold by the pool) in green and purple colours.
Good news - there are enough sun beds everywhere and there is natural shade under the trees
Quiet pleasant traders pass by to the delight of Russian tourists who call them to their beds, then sit for hours in large circles choosing cheap beads or sarongs. Exactly at 12 noon there is a commotion related to the first happy hour of the day (12 - 2 pm). We all dutifully bought fruit shakes at B93 for 2 (about a dollar per glass).
The sea and the beach. Tropicana is in a middle of a large bay with hills behind and a few big rocks sticking out of the water in the distance. The landscape is absolutely beautiful. The Klong Prao beach stretches for miles in both directions, it is empty and is full of natural life - dogs running, shells and little stones are varied and interesting, tides are in and out, palms are hanging in the water and there is sand to walk on looking at unpopulated resorts here and there.
Sunsets are dramatic, so you need your camera between 5.30 and 6.30pm, to photograph the changing by the minute sky and sea, clouds and birds. It is difficult to imagine a better beach. We have been to the beautiful and boring deep sands of Caribbean, to Australia, Papua New Guinea and South Africa, Philippines and the Mediterranian
I loved the Tropicana beach most of all.
However, if you want to wade into the water without cutting your feet on sharp stones, move a 100 metres to the right, the bottom is much smoother. You can try and test all the resorts along a couple of miles - jump into the Dewa and the Amari pools, have a look at the Panviman's manicured lawn, at the huts of KP resort, sit under the blue umbrellas of Barali, pick at everyone's spa and partake in happy hours from place to place.
Massage. I am a massage junky and my mother and sister are new converts - we had at least a massage a day. Thai massage is B300, oil - B400 - all excellent. All masseuses are good and several are outstanding, among them Bua and Pinpan. The women work from 8am to 7pm (yes, insane) but I was delighted to see them busy, they deserve their seasonal fees. Have manicures and pedicures, but beware of facials. Both varieties satisfy Thai dream of having a completely white face, so if you are planning to boast your sunned cheeks in the snow of London and New York, do not let the whitening masks ruin your expensive tan.
Food. Food in Tropicana is not delicious, as simple as that. breakfast is adequate - lots of cooked dishes, fruit, eggs, etc. but these guys have no idea what good food tastes like. We tried them for lunch a couple of times, but their salad was dry, their pizza was made of a reheated tasteless pastry, carbonara was ridiculous, sushi - hard and chips - disgusting. The one delicious dish was a fresh seafood spagetti cooked in front of you in a wok. This is occasionally available at B120 (plus service and VAT). Food in Tropicana needs to be addressed
They clearly want customers to have variety, so they are not stingy in their selection. They simply need a chef who knows how to cook.
If you want to eat well, rent a car and go to Bang Bao (about 40 min depending how safety-conscious you are) and dine in the Bhudda View restaurant. Every single dish is delicious. We tried Barali next door and it was not much better than the Tropicana. The Caesar salad was miniature and had nothing but a few lettuce leaves in it, drowned in dressing. However, the ice cream in Barali is very good (unlike the rip-off at the Amari). The closest good restaurant is the Koh Kitchen outside the Amari's gate. Have a large plate of steamed vegetables, steamed lemon fish and a mixed salad - you will swallow your fingers together with your food - simply divine.
We had some Thai curries here and there - they were ok, but nothing out of this world. We like spicy, but beware - spicy means very spicy in Thailand.
Tropicana is about 15 min walk from the village. It was too far to stroll casually with my old mum, but there are stalls with food available there and a few restaurants that we have not tried.
One of them is a Russian outfit called "Eo-moe". This is an untranslatable expression only Russians can appreciate. Again, I know it was popular for the New Year, but I am not going to Koh Chang to try some Russian fare.
Cats in Tropicana. You have to read my entry with a few Olga's pictures attached. Our huge garden was full of wild life and cats were hunting and lazing about, looking so elegant.
Will we go to the Tropicana again? I have no doubt about it. We are back only two days and I am missing it already.