Koh Chang, August 6th
After a brief night stay in the city of Trat we set our day's goal on the jungle island paradise of Koh Chang. Before boarding the ferry we met a couple from England, Adam and Georgia, who became our travel companions for the following three days. As we sat on the open-aired upper deck of the worn out ferry we were greeted by a fierce monsoon, which is exactly where one would like to be when a monsoon storm hits!
Traveling through Asia during the off season has led to some interesting weather but this one stands out as one of the most intense - we'll post a short video clip of the storm when we find a solid internet connection. Put it this way, we all had bits of chipped paint on our clothes because the wind was so powerful that it blew off the paint from the ferry's hand rails! The rain was so strong that the four of us were drenched before we could even get our jackets on, and the passenger deck had a roof on it!
We chose Lonely Beach as our new home for a week of rest and relaxation. Koh Chang is a very big island, the second largest in Thailand, with lush rainforest and steep mountainous terrain. We didn't realize just how big the island was until we had to take a pick-up truck taxi to Lonely Beach. It took close to an hour with a few stops along the way, and that only covered about a third of the island's circumference. The island taxis are quite interesting; they are more like a mini-bus service that the passenger has very little control over. The taxis stuff 12 people in the back of these covered pick-up trucks before leaving at a time of their choosing, a very frustrating and uncomfortable experience that all travelers are unfortunately forced into using (and at 100 baht per person it's not cheap either!).
We teamed up with Adam and Georgia to find budget accommodations and, after what seemed like over an hour, we finally found a great bargain - a large private bungalow with new furniture, fridge, cable television, air conditioning, hot water, and a massive bathroom with stone floors and double sinks, and all for only $17 CDN per night! It was one of those moments when travelling in the off season worked in our favour (its regular rates were $50 per night). We were happy to have worked for that rare find because our time on the island was intended to be very tame and mellow.
The first few days seemed to go by very fast. Before we knew it we were saying goodbye to our new friends, who were heading north to Chang Mai. Our time on the tropical island was spent walking along the beach, eating Thai food at beachfront bamboo restaurants, playing cards and drinking Leo Beer at sunset, and sleeping in until late hours of the morning. We hadn't realized how much our bodies needed some down time, and this was the perfect place to unwind.
That said, Koh Chang wasn't exactly the island that we expected. We're not exactly sure what we expected; I guess we were expecting something similar to the typical southern islands. Koh Chang has a different feel to it, it is more rugged and spread out. You almost felt isolated to the beach that you decided to stay on. The island and beaches were quite dirty in some places, it seemed as though nobody was interested in keeping the island looking beautiful. We were also visiting during the off season, so the wind continually stirred up the water making it cloudy and less aqua blue then during peak season. Nevertheless, we were still on a tropical island in Thailand so times were quite good!
Prior to arriving on the island we had visions of scuba diving, snorkeling, late night parties with other foreigners and jungle treks to numerous rainforest waterfalls. When we arrived we were given a completely different agenda. The island was empty and the weather was cloudy and rainy. It wasn't exactly the type of atmosphere that the postcards illustrate, yet it seemed to be a blessing in disguise. It forced us to actually relax and slow down our pace; within a few days we had no desire to do anything that required energy! The fact that it was so expensive to travel around the island also contributed to our lack of desire to explore. Although it wasn't exactly the tropical island paradise that we had expected, it was exactly what we needed and we thoroughly enjoyed our time together on the island.
Before we knew it we were at the tourist agency booking our ferry and bus back to Bangkok. Our seven days on a Thailand Island had come and gone much faster than we would have liked, but I guess it's always better to leave on a high note!