sleepy Koh Chang

Posted from Ko Chang, Trat, Thailand.

2014-07-09 14.20.14

The only reason I’m posting this photo is to prove a point – I love cities! This in Toronto at Dundas Square.

I need to face facts. While I do love the country and being in the wilderness, the city-girl in me can only go so long without my bright lights and chaos before I begin to wonder if civilization has imploded. After one quiet, relaxing and mosquito bite-filled week in Koh Mak I plotted my escape to the urban landscape of Koh Chang, an island to the north that promised to be filled with ATMs, huge resorts, hordes of 7-11s and an unrealistic amount of Russians. Ohhh was I excited.

I took a two-hour slow boat ride for an astounding 400Baht, but being that I didn’t want to swim to the island, I really had no choice but to board that boat. It did include a taxi to my hotel.

The boat boy on our way to Koh Chang. Yes. Those are penises.

The boat boy on our way to Koh Chang. Yes. Those are penises.

Once we got to the mainland I had to think quick about where I wanted to stay. Lonely Beach was cheap and close to the southern pier Bang Bao that we had docked at, but it’s also the party place filled with hippies and happy shakes. Part of me thought it would be a bad idea to put sober me in that environment, so I opted to try out a new hostel, Pajamas, that had opened up in Klong Prao Beach.

At a discounted rate of 390B/night, the hostel wasn’t cheap. But it had a pool, AC, hot showers and was a quick five-minute walk to one of the nicest beaches on the island. After my rustic experience I felt i deserved a bit of comfort. And I’ll say this for Pajamas, it was probably the best hostel I’ve ever stayed in, hands down.

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Koh Chang is an interesting island with a real easy feeling, apart from the very costly s0ng-taews that up their prices ridiculously at nightfall. But one can still find 300B/hour massages and 40B coconut shakes. Some of the beach restaurants were heavily over-priced by Thai standards, but this is a common occurrence in any beach area. You can still find gems along the shore though and I had a few good nights watching the sunset whilst sipping on a coconut shake.

One day I took a song-taew down to Lonely Beach and walked around. The place was quiet. Like too quiet. I wondered if people were still sleeping from the party the night before, but I couldn’t be sure. When I read reviews on Trip Advisor and Travelfish it stressed that this place was packed and often over-crowded with hippies and backpackers. Now, I know it’s low season, but I really didn’t see anyone. The more I see of Thailand right now, the more I’m convinced the military coup has had a real effect on tourism here.

Lonely Beach. Yep. Livin up to its name.

Lonely Beach. Yep. Livin up to its name.

Tattoo anyone? Not only was there no one around, there was no one to watch getting a dolphin tattoo. Bummer.

Tattoo anyone? Not only was there no one around, there was no one to watch getting a dolphin tattoo. Bummer.

The next day I took a journey up to White Sands, the more expensive and more Russian-area of the island, but it seemed exactly like every over-developed beach area in Thailand. There were ATMs, 7-11s, huge resorts and more Russians than at a designer discount sale. The beach, however, was lovely. Unfortunately, everything is far too over-priced. I did find some cheaper bungalows heading up side streets towards the jungle, but then you start getting into monkey, snake and scorpion territory.

White Sands. The beach goes on for a while.

White Sands. The beach goes on for a while.

Oh yes. Most of Koh Chang is a protected national park. There are daily tours to many of the area water falls and one can even hire a guide to take them for day-long treks in the jungle. If your guide is good he’ll show you where some of the creepy crawlies live, i.e. tarantulas, snakes and scorpions. I did encounter monkeys and you can also go for elephant rides and treks through the jungle, that is, if you have no conscience.

These little scavengers were picking through the garbage on the side of the road.

These little scavengers were picking through the garbage on the side of the road.

The pretty lady was eating before she had to work. It made me sad to see her chained up.

The pretty lady was eating before she had to work. It made me sad to see her chained up.

Another thing to worry about is Dengue. This mosquito-borne illness has a high incidence rate on this island. A few years ago some old doctor at a travel clinic in Thunder Bay told me I should take anti-malarials if I was going to be in SE Asia. Malaria is the least of my worries here. I’ve met far too many people who have gone through Dengue. The illness is bearable the first time you get it, if you’re reasonably healthy – basically a fever, headache and muscle pains, much like a real bad case of the flu, which means you might not even know you have Dengue unless you get tested. It’s the second or third time you get it where it can turn deadly.

Once I invested heavily in bug spray and appreciated my decision to stay in AC, I really started to relax and enjoy my time on Koh Chang. The pool helped. The beach helped. The cheap seafood restaurant next door helped. And Mary Massage across the street helped so much by making the pain in my foot somehow disappear. Even the wasp that stung me three times in the back after I laid down on it whilst sunbathing couldn’t ruin my time. It tried, but the pharmacy also helped with some good anti-histamine cream.

Klong Prao Beach. When the tide comes in much of the beach disappears, but it's not over commercialized, so it's rather enjoyable.

Klong Prao Beach. When the tide comes in much of the beach disappears, but it’s not over commercialized, so it’s rather enjoyable.

Klong Prao beach was my element. Not overly developed, cheap enough but definitely with a bit of casual luxury. It’s a pity that many think it will go the same way as White Sands, and by the looks of things in the area, the development has started. Some even say Koh Chang will be the next Phuket. Sad, really.

After eight days nursing my bug bites back to health I had to leave. I had to make my way up to Bangkok to catch a flight to Phuket. A few weeks earlier Air Asia had a sale and I got a return ticket to Phuket, including a 15kg bag for 2,600B – that’s about $85. Say what you want, but the convenience of flying at the point was way more attractive then saving $10.

So having made the decision to exodus Koh Chang I discovered there’s not much info on how to leave the island. One can easily take a minivan, but I found them all far too expensive. How does one leave this island?

You catch one of these. A car ferry.

You catch one of these. A car ferry.

This is how I did it:

In the morning I waited out front of the hotel for a song-taew that had a yellow sign in the dash that said it was headed to the pier. This ride should only be 50B. I was assured it was 50B. But the man wanted 70B, to my dismay and the dismay of the Thai people also on the taxi. I guessed he was either hurting because business was slow or he felt he could take advantage of the couple of farang on his taxi.
Next I bought a ferry ticket for 80B to the mainland. There are government buses that pick up from the Center Point Pier at 2pm and 4pm, but this was 11am, so I then had to catch a song-taew to the bus station in Trat for another 70B – it seems everything has gone up, as I was assured this trip was also only 60B.
Next I caught a bus with Cherdchai Tours (whom I never wanted to ride with) but the guy at the counter told me it was The Transport Company (a more reliable bus company) but it wasn’t, for 260B. The bus was literally falling apart. And they sat me under the leaky air-conditioner just upwind from the toilet. Gee. Thanks.
But when we finally, after stopping at every little town along the way, got to Bangkok six hours later, I jumped out at the first opportunity and got on the BTS. it was rush hour and we were going nowhere fast. This last leg of my trip cost 41B to the MRT interchange, and then 27B to Hualamphong station where my hostel was.
So, in total, rather than pay for a 650B speedy minivan straight to Bangkok in five to six hours, I ended up leaving the hostel at 8:30 a.m. and arriving at the hostel at 6:30 p.m., a good 10-hour travel day for a savings of … less than $3. This is how things are when one nickels and dimes in Asia. I’m very ashamed. Perhaps I shouldn’t be travel blogging.

My next adventure would be a four-day/four-night liveaboard diving in the Similan Islands, but more importantly, diving Richelieu Rock.

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