We decided to make the most of our visa run into Thailand and spend the weekend hanging out on one of the country's beautiful islands. Koh Chang was an easy choice as it known as one of the more laid back islands, and is also conveniently close to the Cambodian border.
After leaving Phnom Penh, our aim was to get as close to Koh Chang as possible. The border crossing was much more civilised than the Vietnam-Cambodia crossing. This was probably because Thailand do not charge for their visas, so there is less opportunity for the locals to take advantage of the confused tourist. Unfortunately, this will not be the same returning into Cambodia...
Our main problem was that we crossed the border after dark, so there were no more mini buses going to Trat (the closest major city and ferry terminal for Koh Chang). We ended up paying a little extra for a taxi, which in this part of Thailand happens to be a covered tray on the back of a ute.
Waiting for the ferry to Koh Chang the next morning required patience. We soon learnt that ten minutes in Thailand could actually be as long as two hours. Instead of having a departure time, transportation simply waits until it fills up. We left our guesthouse at 9am and arrived in Lonely Beach, Koh Chang at 3pm. Not bad for a one hour ferry ride!
Koh Chang turned out to be worth the effort and we could have happily turned our weekend away into a few weeks away if it weren't for our love and commitment for the village.
The island was full of lush mountainous forest with new things to discover around every bend. We took a scooter for a day to ride the 30 kilometer circuit. We saw many amazing things, including elephants, waterfalls and the most impressive fresh seafood restaurant ever. This restaurant was built on a wooden platform over the water, together with a collection of nets containing the menu, which even included some decently sized reef sharks.
As the reputation goes, the Thai people really were very laid back and hospitable. With a scooter at our disposal, we thought it would be a good idea to escape the hoards of backpackers to find lunch on a more obscure part of the island. With luck, we stumbled across a neat little German restaurant, owned by a Thai woman married to a German bloke. Although her food was nice, we were more enchanted by her generous, warm and super friendly demeanor. She spent our entire meal telling us all about her family and she introduced us to her little puppy. She even gave us a young coconut to drink for free and then shared with us a durian fruit from her backyard!
Keen to get under the sea again, we decided on a snorkeling adventure. Later we realised that the cheaper option meant sharing our boat with a few hundred other tourists. Nevertheless, we cruised and snorkeled our way around some of the smaller islands surrounding Koh Chang. It was very refreshing to spend a whole day in the water swimming with tropical fish. Sadly, a lot of the coral was dead, once again demonstrating the sometimes negative impact that tourists are having on the environment.
We spent our evenings being social, dancing to reggae music and even found time for an amazing acrobatic Thai massage!
Although we kept ourselves busy, we had a very relaxing weekend. The only downer was that we couldn't find any chocolate Easter eggs to celebrate Easter with. Instead we settled with some ordinary chocolate and a couple of sentimental phonecalls to our folks ;)
Relaxed and refreshed, we are about to face the border crossing balagan (an important word in our new cambodian/hebrew influenced vocabulary) for another month in Cambodia.