Thailand: Part one - Koh Chang

January 24, 2011 - Ko Chang, Thailand

 

We’d been waiting for this one for a long time. When we finished work for the Christmas holidays we were so excited to be going to Thailand the very next day! We arrived in Thailand around midnight and went straight to an airport hotel to grab a few hours of sleep before heading back to the airport in the morning to catch a bus to Koh Chang. The bus journey was quite long and we were pretty exhausted so slept for quite a lot of it.

When we got to the port the bus had more than a few problems getting onto the ferry, making quite a few dents on the front of the bus. We all had to get off and take all our luggage off the bus and sat on the ferry which was already late leaving for at least 30 minutes while they tried to get the bus on. It was all to no avail though and eventually the bus admitted defeat. By this time the next ferry had arrived in the port and so we all transferred to that ferry and somehow the bus managed to get onto that one with no further problems. A bit later than planned we arrived on Koh Chang and our holiday could finally start.

We were picked up at the bus station and taken back to Baan Rim Nam, the guesthouse we were staying at which was beautiful. It was on the river, a five minute walk from the beach and it was perfect for our Christmas holiday. Our room was simple but comfortable and I could feel the relaxation setting in.

We walked down to the closest beach and had our first cocktail of the holiday. The sun set while we were at the beach bar and afterwards we walked along the beach and then up to the town/village. It was a long enough walk along a (very dark) dirt track to make us decide that we’d hire a scooter the next day.

We woke up to a beautiful sunny Christmas morning with stunning views of the river. Our scooter had arrived so we had a little practise and then headed to a beach restaurant for breakfast. After that we went back to the guesthouse, got changed into our beach stuff and prepared for another new mode of transport: canoes. We paddled the five minutes to the beach on the other side of the river, getting wetter than anticipated in the process!

We had a lovey lazy morning on the beach, swimming in the clear blue sea, sipping cocktails on the beach and enjoying being lazy. We decided to have massages later in the day, so we drove round to a massage spa place and booked ourselves in for the evening. We went for a drive south to a lookout point where we had been told there were great sunsets. Unfortunately we were a bit early and didn’t have the camera, and as sunset approached it started to get really crowded, so we left. We intended to go back another day but somehow that never happened.

In the evening we went to a restaurant next to the massage place, which was just across the river from our guesthouse. The food was nice but we were in a bit of a hurry because we had our massages to go to. We’d booked 2 1/2 hour massages – real indulgence! I had a very physical Thai massage and head massage – despite it being so physical I still managed to fall asleep a bit, especially during the head massage. Ed had hand and foot reflexology massages and a head massage and said that his were really relaxing.

By the time we finished we were quite sleepy, but we had Christmas pudding (bought from an import supermarket in Japan and taken out to Thailand especially for a Xmas day treat!) and a bottle of champagne we’d bought at the airport. We fell asleep before finishing the champagne and were absolutely stuffed after eating the pudding, but it was all worth it as we had had a great Christmas Day!

Boxing Day way even better and considering I usually hate Boxing Day, that’s saying something! We woke up early and had some breakfast by the sea before being picked up and taken to the elephant camp in the jungle in the middle of the island. We waited and ate some fresh fruit and then were taken to the platform from which we were to mount our elephant. We were the last ones on, but I think we got the best elephant. The trek was about 40 minutes through the jungle. Each elephant had a keeper who rode on the elephant’s neck while we sat in a kind of box on the elephant’s back. I couldn’t believe how big they were and it was a fantastic experience. Halfway through the trek the keeper let one of us (that’d be me as the braver half of this couple!) climb out of the box and take his position on the elephant’s neck while he walked along next to the elephant. It was kind of terrifying but really amazing too, feeling the elephant’s body move underneath m, his ears pinning my legs against him. This elephant was a really clever one and his keeper had taught him to pose for photos and do little tricks, so we have hundreds of pictures of us on the elephant with him posing!

After the ride we fed the elephants bananas and had a coconut juice to refresh us before heading down to the river to bathe two of the elephants (ours, being the smartest elephant there, was one of them). Sitting on the elephant as he plunged his head underwater and squirted water into the air was great fun and finished the trip off nicely!

After being dropped back at the guesthouse we hopped on the scooter and went out for lunch. It turned out that most places on the main road were only open for dinner but we found one very cheap little restaurant and had a good lunch there. Then we headed on to the south of the island to a nice beach where we relaxed for a few hours until sunset. The drive back in the dark was a bit nerve racking and I was glad when we finally got to Khlong Prao village which was the closest village to our guesthouse – just another 10 minutes down a dirt track and we were home! The guesthouse owner recommended a restaurant that had good vegetarian options so we thought we’d try it out. It was by far the best food we had on our whole trip and we ate far too much. There were loads of vegetarian choices and plenty of meaty options for Ed too. We headed home feeling very satisfied that night and lazed on the deck above the river until we were sleepy.

The next morning we got up early and went to a waterfall not too far from where we were staying. It was a 20-30 minute walk through the jungle from the car park and it was a nice walk and a pretty waterfall once we got there.

After that we canoed to the beach just across the river from the guesthouse and spent the rest of the morning there, having a light beach snack lunch as well. At 3pm we went to the Thai cookery lesson that we’d booked and which turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip. We sat down and were asked by the friendly and knowledgeable teacher what we wanted to cook that day – I wasn’t prepared for that at all but luckily Ed and the other girl who was taking the lesson that day had plenty of requests and we made Tom Kha soup – a coconut soup which was delicious, fried and fresh spring rolls – (I’ve made fresh spring rolls a couple of times since being back in Japan and they’ve been fantastic!) Pad Thai noodles and various different curries which we made from scratch using loads of very exotic ingredients.

The lesson was fun, relaxed and a really great afternoon/evening. It was like learning to cook in a friend’s kitchen rather than having a full on lesson, but we got a nice little recipe book to take away with us. How likely we are to find the ingredients in Japan I am not sure but it was the experience that was important that day. We cooked and ate and cooked and ate until about 10pm when we were all so full we could barely move! The curries we made were so delicious but it was just impossible to finish them.

The following day was our drive to the other side of the island day. The west side of the island is quite developed for tourism, but on the east side there is almost nothing at all. After driving for at least an hour we stopped at a small fishing village which was pretty and it was possible to hire canoes there to explore the village, which was all built on stilts above the river but we wanted to keep going on to a small beach resort at the very end of the road. The paved road ended not long after the fishing village and it was a very bumpy dirt track for the last 20 minutes or so to Long Beach.

It was a little busier than we’d imagined but still very pretty and with soft white sand and shallow blue water to paddle in. We relaxed, drank cocktails, swam, and enjoyed lazing in the shade of a palm tree. We had lunch at a little restaurant on the beach and then I went and had an oily massage on the beach which was very relaxing with the sound of the sea lapping gently under the little beach hut the massages were given in and the gentle breeze on my skin. Not long after that it was time to get moving if we wanted to get back to the east side of the island before dark. In the evening we went back to the really great restaurant from two night previously as there were so many dishes we wanted to try the first time and hadn’t been able to!

On our last full day on Koh Chang we went hiking to the second highest point on the island through dense jungle. We went with a guide which was 100% necessary as the paths were not easy to see and we would’ve been lost within minutes without him. There were poisonous spiders but I was brave (ish) and just looked away when we had to walk past one or when the guide pointed them out. We also saw a little green viper and other jungle wildlife.

The hike was quite long, steep and sweaty but it was a great day, the views from the top were really nice and at the end of the hike we swam in a pool in the river. It was really cold but being very sweaty and dirty by that point it felt wonderful! We were quite tired in the evening but went for dinner at another restaurant the guesthouse owner recommended. It was ok but not a patch on our favourite restaurant. We browsed a few touristy shops after dinner and then had our final massage of the holiday at a small massage place on the main road. After a day of hiking it was very relaxing and soothed our aching muscles.

The next morning we woke up super early so we could take some photos, buy some souvenirs and have a final breakfast at “Tiger Huts” the closest beach bar/restaurant to where we were staying and the place we’d had breakfast most mornings next to the sea. Then it was time to say goodbye to the scooter, our lovely room and Koh Chang itself as we headed for the port and took the ferry back to the mainland to catch a minibus to Bangkok.


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