Sawadee Pi Mai - Happy New Year :)! I've been so busy train-setting over the country the last fortnight or so that I haven't even had chance to write about my Christmas beachy shenanigans until now (today is Wednesday: the day of eight hours with no lessons and wearing of ghastly sports trousers).
The last day at school before Christmas holidays was fun, we had a big party with a silly amount of food, lots of fun games, and, more importantly, no lessons. But I did have to give P4 a spontaneous presentation on the meaning of Christmas, luckily I'd prepared some themed wordsearches and crosswords to dish out when I ran out of things to talk about. Some of the kids amazed me with what they knew, especially Balloon, who said a lump of coal when I asked what bad children got at Christmas. One asked 'what about the fire' when I said Santa came down the chimney, hehe!
I headed to BKK straight after school and, after yet another very squished hair-raising trip in the minivan, met Kristine at Siam Paragon (the uber posh shopping centre). We perused the expensive book shop and I spent far too much money on a trashy girly book for the beach, which typically I ended up reading all of two chapters of whilst there. I justified it as my Christmas prezzie to myself, but it cost more than our accommodation that night! Looked in vain for mince pies in their food hall but to no avail. Luckily my wonderful brother and his wonderful girlfriend had sent me a huge box with supplies of FairTrade chocs and lots of gorgeous jewellery - the things I've been missing most - so I had some tasty choccie treats for Christmas Day.
We found a nice hostel right near the bus station we were leaving from first thing the next morning, only 300b (just over a fiver) a night. It was eight girls to a room although wasn't full, I had top bunk woo, and the showers were amazingly nice and very clean WITH HOT WATER! Wandered out for dinner that night at the local night market and saw a teeny baby elephant go past, it was very cute but it's so wrong having it on the roads in that smoggy city.
We were up bright an early on Christmas Eve to catch our 7.30am bus, decided to 'go Thai' so ate some rice for breakfast to keep me going. It wasn't a bad journey, as far as five hour bus rides go, and we were on the ferry to Koh Chang by 1.30.
We stayed on Lonely Beach the first night, which is a backpacker's haven. Found a bungalow at the far end of the beach for 200b each a night. Cheaper than chips. The bungalow itself was a bit shabby and the outdoor shower didn't really compare to the one in Hua Hin, even if I shut my eyes and tried to pretend whilst using the shower gel I'd taken from there in my mini bottle. But the selling point was that there was a gorgeous decking with hammocks there overlooking the sea.
We decided to make the most of the hammocks and, after I struggled to find a comfortable position where I didn't feel like I was about to topple out, we ended up in them for ooohh about seven hours!! We started our Christmas Eve of relaxation with cocktails... I had my first pina colada and it lived up to all expectations of being tropically scrumptious.
We did touch upon the idea of scoping out the rest of the area, but decided it was too much like hard work to leave our heavenly hammocks, so ordered food there. I had pasta with mushrooms and cream sauce, probably my all-time favourite pasta dish, as most of you well know. After the first mouthful I vowed to have a full-on-no-Thai-western-binge whilst on holiday. I washed it down with a glass of wine, my first sip of vino since leaving England, although I think there was some false advertising going on as it definately wasn't Californian... it tasted like bbq'd sticky rice. Got rid of the taste with beer and chocolate.
We finally managed to part with our hammocks shortly before midnight and navigated ourselves up the wonky wooden tree studded pathway to our bungalow. Didn't get to sleep for a good hour or so as still found so much to talk about, plus I had post-hammock swaying feeling and was lying in bed convinced it was moving from side to side... maybe mixing drinks didn't help this.
Woke up Christmas morning to gorgeous sunshine and a crystal calm blue sea. Although there were some clouds, shocking! Put my bikini on and we returned to our new friends (the hammocks) where I decorated the table with tinsel and we had brekkie... I gorged on pancakes, muesli with fresh fruit and yoghurt, and a thick coconut shake. I opened my pressies :)!
Decided we wanted a bit of luxury so took ourselves around the corner to Bailan Bay and found ourselves a 'luxury' bungalow with a lovely hot INSIDE en suite, the comfy-est beds ever, telly, dvd, air con, shower caps, the works. Bliss. It was just over 20 quid a night for both of us, so big splurge!
Mooched around to the beautiful sandy beach where we stayed for a few hours before I headed off to a herbal sauna for a massage. They offer massages down the beach for half the price but I think that's a wee bit public, and seeing as it was Christmas and I hadn't had a massage in the two months I'd been in Thailand, I though I'd treat myself, and it was still only 350b (I know write down the prices all the time, it's just so you can be equally amazed at how cheap everything is!) First I hit the sauna, then showered off under a fresh-mountain-water shower, then went for my massage. And boyyy was it a good massage. It was in a little wooden hut in the woods with incense and candles. It was an hour and a half of sheer luxurious heaven, and I felt incredible afterwards, maybe a bit too incredible as found it quite challenging walking home as my legs felt like jelly.
Got tarted up for dinner in my lovely yellow dress and slapped on some of my new mascara sent by my parentals as a stocking filler. We decided to go for a Mexican. Started off our Christmas dinner with a mango margarita, quite possibly the best cocktail invented. I thought I'd go for a full on cheese feast so had cheesy fondue and then enchilladas. It was scrummy, and I'm not that fussed about turkey anyway. It was probably the most expensive restaurant at Lonely Beach, and we still paid exactly... wait for it... 9 quid each! Afterwards we went to walk it off a bit, then popped into a coffee shop where we played Jenga - a good post-Christmas dinner game. So, Christmas Day was pretty different to normal, and didn't really feel like Christmas to be honest. Obviously missed everyone at home loads, but had such an enjoyable day or sheer relaxation.
On Boxing Day we went round to Lonely Beach, the best strip of palm-tree fringed white sand on the island. I was in my element, soaking up the sun and dipping myself in the lovely water in idyllic surroundings. The only hard part of the afternoon was choosing what the eat (no leftovers this year), and settled on Pad Thai and beer. That night we went to another beach called Kai Bae where we found a sweet little Thai restaurant with low tables and lots of cushions on the floor. I'd already broken my western-food vow at lunchtime so decided to stick with it and have a proper Thai red curry as I still felt like I hadn't had a really good one (largely because I can't pronounce it properly in Thai so never order it at the market). It's a lot more high-class than Lonely and we went for a walk along the beach afterwards and checked out all the posh hotels, and used their bathroom facilities. Grabbed a mango and sweet milk pancake on the way back which was divine.
On our last day we went on snorkelling trip from Bang Bao in the South. It was a fun day chilling out on the boat and topping up/starting my tan, but their promise of going snorkelling to 'four islands' actually consisted of two piles of rocks the size of a bus, a bit of beach where the water was far too shallow to swim, and a bit by a pier. But, nevertheless, it was amazing seeing all the fish, and I'd never seen any like them before. Obviously loved wearing the sexy snorkel and mask. Met a Dutch guy who convinced me that jumping off the top of the boat together was a good idea. Wearing contact lenses and a strapless bikini I wasn't convinced, but after chickening out on about 5 countdowns, and with an audience gathering, I decided just to go for it. It was actually quite exhilirating. The bikini stayed in place. We had a bbq on-board, didn't compare to our family ones, of course. That night we went back to Kai Bae and I had a pasta fix and another pancake, love them.
Then came Sunday morning and it was time to leave. It was so hard saying goodbye to the lovely beach, partly because of not knowing when I'd see the sea again, and partly in the knowledge that it'd about a 9 hours until I got back to my apt. The bus-ride back was far less pleasant than the one there, it left at 11.30 and didn't stop for lunch/loo til 4pm. Got back home early evening and had enough time to unpack, repack, and do the maths questions for the lesson I was covering the next day - it may well be primary school maths, but I still haven't done fractions for about 8 years so figured I should brush up!
Next stop: Chiang Mai...