A chronicle of Alison and Ron's trip around the world in 2009-2010.

"Not all those who wander are lost"
- Tolkien

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Island of Koh Chang

We took the slow boat (not dissimilar to the slow bus), a 3 hour ride on a wooden boat to the nearby island of Koh Chang (pronounced more like “chong” than “chang“). Landing at Bang Bao dock, a fishing village that smelled nauseatingly fishy from the first step to the last. Winding down a maze of docks past little shops selling all the crap the tourists can’t get enough of: seashell wind chimes, overpriced spf 30 suncreen, and horrendously ugly t-shirts of elephants. The latter, at least relevant, as Koh Chang means Elephant Island.

We climbed into a Sawngtheaw (no, I don't pretend to be able to pronounce this word) which is essentially a pickup truck with wooden benches along the bed to carry as many passengers as can squeeze in. It’s fun for a short, cheap ride and really the only transportation on the islands other than walking and the deadly scooters. They are not without action. Ron once had to stand on the back bumper and cling to an outside rail, white knuckling it up the hills, probably not the best for his ailing back. And I got in once and sat back into a blunt Allen wrench type doohickey that punctured a hole into my backside. I was literally bleeding profusely and had to sacrifice a handkerchief to stem the bleeding during the half hour ride. What we do for adventure.

We went to Siam Huts that proclaims itself as the cheapest huts on the island, but didn’t go for the rock bottom 290 baht ($8) huts instead opting for the”luxury” of what 560 baht ($17) would buy. It had AC which is quite unusual for a backpacker beach hut but was little better than camping out. The entire interior was sandy and you could see through the big gaps in-between the wooden floorboards to the beach below. The concrete bathroom, although attached was essentially outside and totally funked up so you didn’t dare enter without sandals. Why you ask would we stay? Well, there was one spectacular ocean view from our picture window and from the bamboo chairs with our feet up on the front porch. Exactly as you imagine a Thai beach hut to be.

After checking in and settling in, we got lunch and then swam at Lonely Beach, a lovely stretch of sand only a couple hundred feet away. Lonely Beach is a misnomer in every sense of the word. There is nothing lonely about it.

Our first night we decided to live it up. We had cocktails at the restaurant bar, which was a wooden deck strewn with triangular pillows (called Mon Khwan) and pads to lounge on. We struck up a conversation with a couple Brits, Nigel and Petra, and the night took on a whole new spin. We ate dinner down the beach and came back for several Samsong, a local spirit, served not in a glass but in a bucket. Yes, at some point we were drinking buckets of Thai whisky. We stumbled back to our hut and passed out around 2am with the party going full throttle (not that we would have noticed).

The next day I had a good level 8 hangover. Somewhere between the level 5 after New Years Eve and the 9.5 after our party in Paris. I was illin from the first moment I opened my eyes. It took all my strength to drink some water and venture out for some breakfast. Normally I relish breakfast but these runny eggs and stubby hotdog sausages were most putrid and nauseating. A nap and lunch and another nap later, I was feeling pretty good but we vowed to lay off the booze awhile and were in bed by 10:30pm like responsible adults.

At 10:31pm the techno kicked in at 115 decibels shaking our shack on its stilts. Oh shit, we thought. Last night we were at the party and tonight we get to see what its like to try and actually sleep here. We didn’t sleep more than 5 minutes for 5 hours. Not only was the noise from the bar unbearable but we were on the main walkway between two bars so we had frequent drunken revelers hanging out on our porch yelling retarded things into the night like “Australia!” over and over at 4am. For the record, the young travelers we have met from Australia are giving the whole country a bad rap. In my simpleton brain that longs to stereotype and generalize they are all loud, obnoxious idiots that I wish to bound and gag into submission.

We lasted exactly 3 nights before we were driven away. The view couldn’t make up for the lack of sleep so we took a share taxi to a quiet area known as Pearl Beach (really pearl is a nice way of saying rocky). We found a great little 7 room guesthouse called Saffron by the Sea. The rooms are usually 1200 baht but we got in for 900 baht (our absolute limit) for 5 more nights. It was really lovely amongst a well cared for garden on the ocean. The food was absolutely amazing. Not the speediest service but the portions were generous and oh-so-tasty. Our morning fave was muesli with fruit and yogurt.

Geckos, in these parts, are numerous. They are crawling all over every ceiling, light fixture, and hotel room you stay in. Like spiders, these are welcome little critters, who are likely eating all the nasty "skeeters" who antagonize you relentlessly. In an epiphany, we realized that the birdlike sound we kept hearing were actually geckos. It had sounded like a sort of large, nesting bird that made 6 to 7 consecutive eh-ow sounds. These little lizards can really project their sound! I got pretty good at mimicking it, and one came running towards me like I was making the call of the wild.

One night we had a traditional date night, a dinner and a movie, at Magic Garden. Not just any dinner and a movie but possibly the best cheeseburger on the trip with a bucket of whiskey to wash it down (okay, okay, we had some booze again, but only one and we shared it). We watched Into the Wild, an inspiring movie about traveling in the US, that ends tragically in the Alaskan wilderness. Alright, the end was a bit macabre, but the traveling portion was inspiring. There is so much to see and do right in our own backyards.

There is a lot of infrigement of the 7 eleven brand here with poser 7 day mini-marts full of half stocked shelves of nothing you want. But then we ran into a real bonafide 7 eleven and spent 45 minutes perusing the goods to shockingly loud Thai heavy metal that was surprisingly appropriate in the wee hours and certainly enticed us to buy more iced coffee and, of course, more chocolate covered pocky.

Another night, we walked down to southernmost point of White Sands Beach (the busiest and nicest beach on Koh Chang) which was beautifully sparse of tourists. The soft sand stretched into the water in such a subtle decline that you could walk straight out for 10 minutes and still be only waist high. Floating weightless enveloped in a perfect slate tinged baby blue from here to the heavens, the water only distinguishable from the sky by the faintest horizon line. A fat neon orange sunset stretched across the reflective canvas of the ocean for what seemed like hours before finally being swallowed up.


amit January 27, 2010 at 7:27 AM  

missing u guys!!!!!!

be safe!!!!!



PAPA RICH February 26, 2010 at 11:16 PM  



Koh Chang Thailand April 11, 2010 at 7:44 AM  

Koh Chang in Thailand was our travel highlight on our Southeast Asia Tour. Nice beaches, pleasant scuba diving and beautiful sunsets from White Sand Beach!

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