Ko Chang

May 18, 2009 at 11:45 am Leave a comment

We had some trouble hitchhiking on the way to Ko Chang – the total distance was about 300km but we started out late and by sunset we were still a long ways from it. Worse still, no one wanted to pick us up. We had already accepted that we wouldn’t make it to Ko Chang today because the ferry that takes you onto the island makes its last run at 7. Than a driver stopped, a long haired hippy looking Thai and offered us a place in his home by the sea not far away. We accepted and slept well. The next morning we got lucky when the driver who stopped turned out to be going to Ko Chang also. We finally arrived at our destination – Lonely Beach – by sunset. It was a magnificent one, full of oranges and reds against the darkening bluish sky. Although Ko Chang suffers from no lack of pretty sunsets, this one was the most grandiose.

We settled into a bamboo cabin for 150 baht a night (approx. $5) It was the sort of cabin one of the pigs from the 3 little pig’s story could have built… and then the wolf came and blew it away leaving the little piglet to scurry elsewhere. But we had no such problem. Throughout its 9 days of occupation it sustained all the thunderstorms and lightnings and when I left it was still standing cheerfully upon the bank of a stream waiting for the next human life to enter it.

Ko Chang is located in Trat province (which is only 1 hours drive away from Ko Kong in Cambodia). Its the biggest one of an archipelago of islands most of which are covered in lush rugged rainforest. Ko Chang is also extremely mountainous.

kochangforest

The ferry from the mainland takes about 15 minutes and drops you off at the tip of the island from which you need to take a share taxi (or hitchhike) to your destination on the island. Walking is unreasonable because the distances from beach to beach are grand. Lonely Beach, where we stayed, is in the middle of the island and considered the backpacker hub. It was probably the cheapest and most fun place to live on the island.

sunset

There is also a beach called Long Beach, also popular with backpackers for its beauty and seclusion. But the road to Long Beach requires expert navigation and gets very little traffic, so visiting it just for a day was unrealistic and I never got around to packing my bags and going to stay there. I did visit some of the other islands, the most beautiful of which was Ko Wai because of its warm transparent waters and golden sand. It would have been really nice to set up camp on this island, hammocks and mosquito net somewhere amidst its forest. We could go snorkeling every day (it has really good snorkeling sites).

Besides the guesthouses and restaurants, Ko Chang is full of dive centers (offering PADI certification and more) and tattoo shops. Actually all the areas where foreigners conjugate in Thai cities are full of tattoo shops (Khousan Rd in Bangkok, Pai, Ton Sai)

mebook

In Ko Chang, I spent most of the day time on the beach, swimming and reading. I completed 4 books, a strange Japanese novel called Sputnik Sweetheart, 2 books in a series about a lady detective in Botswana (highly recommended for its simplicity, elegance and abundance of interesting ideas and questions), and Hesse’s Narcicuss and Goldmund. Dmitry left on the 3rd day. At this time he’s somewhere in China hitchhiking his way home to Moscow. I stayed by myself another 6 days. I wasn’t ever really alone though. One of my new friends shaved my head:

He shaved lines in my head.... Reminds me of rice rows.

Reminds me of rice rows

I left Ko Chang on a Friday. Hitchhiked my way to the ferry and then to the center of Trat. I spent the night in Trat, visiting its lively market and food stalls. I bought myself lots of fruit – mango, dragon fruit, mangosteens, durian. Thai markets are one of my favorite attractions in Thailand, I love the activity and people and the overabundance of cheap tasty food of all kinds, from fruit to desserts to buffets to fried things…

I only paid $1 for one of these...

25 baht per kilo ... I paid only $1 for one of these...

I decided to hitchhike to Bangkok from Trat. By 11, I was on the main road, prepared with my list of cities I needed to ask the drivers about, and all the enthusiasm I needed to hitchhike such a long distance by myself for the first time! But no one stopped. And I stood there in the sun, my hand painfully heavy from waving it, perplexed. Was it my strange haircut, my clothes, my glasses? Was the area I selected not good enough and did I need to walk another kilometer away from the city? No I was just unlucky.

The man who stopped first was a sales man of some sort. He was on the way to Chanthanaburi and gave me a ride the 60+ km there. His English was fair and we chatted briskly along the way. It was pouring rain as we approached Chanthanaburi and I worried about hitching in this storm. Who’d want to pick up a soaking wet girl with a soaking wet bag? Fortunately, we were out of the reach of these stormy clouds by the time I left his car. My next ride arrived a minute later. It was a lorry with two non-English speaking Thai men inside – they were going to Bangkok. And so I rode with them the rest of the way. They were kind and fed me green mango. In Bangkok they left me in some section I’d never been to, 20 km away from the part of the city I wanted to go to they said, so I decided to take a public bus there which took 50 minutes and delivered me expertly. I couldn’t have ridden better had I taken a taxi; in fact, I would have been deprived of the chat-mate I acquired on the bus. And so for only 22 baht (about 65 cents) I traveled from Trat to my destination in Bangkok.

On the way we passed a lot of cars transporting durians and other fruit. It's harvest time!

On the way we passed a lot of cars transporting durians and other fruit. It's harvest time!

In Bangkok I met Asya, my friend from New York, the only childhood/school friend I have who also likes to travel. I looked at her passport – like mine she’s had pages added – it is almost completely full, there are only 3 empty sheets left.

Tomorrow I’m going to China. I’ll arrive in Guanzhou late at night and will go to my host’s (from couchsurfing) place. Today I need to take my things out of storage here in Bangkok – I’ve decided to mail the things I no longer need but want home. The cheapest way to mail is by sea – so mother, expect a big box of crap in 3 months.

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