Trapped on Koh Chang
Arriving on Koh Chang Island and first impressions were great to say the least. My only concern was a fact that I couldn’t ignore. Disembarking the ferry surrounded by the inevitable pack of package holiday makers. To be expected of course, not everyone can be an ‘awesome’ long term traveller like myself. We focused with haste at the few pickup trucks / glorified tuk tuks and the race was on to secure a seat. By seats of course, I mean the benches that had been nailed on the flat bed, nailed perfectly well no doubt. Tossing our backpacks (rolly cases for those holiday makers) on the rooftop racks, the journey continued.
Thankfully we headed over the steep winding coast road west bound and one by one all the holiday packers hopped off at their crowded package destinations. Nothing left but me and one other ‘hardcore’ traveller bound for the more remote resorts down the ever narrowing road and viola, “Paradise Cottage” the driver announced. Moment of truth as I penguin walked my flip flops down a steep incline engrossed by the Island’s jungle and there it was. Like stepping into another world was that dark wood decking stretching right over the sea edge, disappearing into the horizon. Equipped with a crystal clean pool, well stocked bar/kitchen, covered hammock huts and barely a soul in sight. The sound of chilled deep house music, begging that question, “shall I have another beer”. While that kind of vibe isn’t to everyones taste it certainly keeps the residents to a certain type of traveler. Run independently by a nice charming couple who clearly paid attention to all those little details making it that extra bit special. While it wasn’t the cheapest it was my first beach stay away from my western life style so a little bit of unwinding and self indulgence was in order. It worked a treat and of course I extended my stay repetitively.
Koh Chang has several sides to it all begging to be explored. Head into the near by village and you’ll find a host of shops, restaurants, bars and clubs. Hop into the western style pizza joints and you’ll soon find yourself paying close to western rates for a half baked pizza. Or follow the locals just down the lane and you’ll find yourself a top notch feast from the local cuisine paid for with what loose change hangs in your pocket. As the sun falls you’ll notice a constant thump thump from the local ‘Ting Tong’ nightclub and having teamed up with my new amigo Tom from the resort, those beats inevitably drew us in like moths to a flame. What seemed like the following morning was of course three days later and it was time to rent a bike and head further south for an authentic Island experience. On with the helmet, camera pack over the shoulder and off I went.
The beauty of Koh Chang is that unlike other popular Islands such as Koh Samui, it only caught the Western eye for tourism 10 years ago so is yet to fully develop. Evident in the fact that Koh Changs coastal road is yet to circulate the entire Island. Leaving the southern tip practically uncharted. With what is known as and would soon become my new Paradise, Wai Chek Beach. Still untouched and only reachable by a 1 hour (either way), smooth Kayak ride around a sea of calm coves.
Alternatively you can rent a motor bike and venture round the entire islands east side. Onto treacherous roads, paths, trails and what eventually became a jungle ride including deep rocky river beds, with no path at all. I of course went with the latter and braved the treachery. Although I do like myself a challenge this no doubt came to fact that no way, is my splash proof camera pack going anywhere near a Kayak. Thankfully having spent part of my young adult life in Southern Spain, where off road motoring was a daily occurrence, I revved ahead with joy. My recommendation however, is unless experienced on 2 wheels with an engine between your legs, avoid at all costs. Not only did the rent a bike constantly over heat, suddenly shutting off in need of a downhill start - almost EVERY time. It was those narrow, F1 style no tread slick tyres and brakes that won’t actually stop you while going down hill. It takes a little confidence in what your doing to make the trip successfully. On a positive note, the local hospital is on the East side, close by indeed. So by all means go ahead but good luck finding someone to carry you out of there.
Finally I arrived and there it was. That notorious small beach, with a calm cove, silky sands, palm tress overhead and not a soul in sight.
Top travel tip! Don’t be a silly tourist, while the shade beneath the palm trees might seem like a safe haven, when that coconut inevitably falls, it will fall with the crashing weight of a bowling ball. Striking your pinball head with instant death, a high probability. So please avoid when possible.
Having braved 5 minutes under the sun I came to a realisation that close to equator mid day sun isn’t suitable for sunbathing. So after a dip in the sea I retreated to the shade of some coconut free trees. Set on removing my camera, like that of a forensic scientist, trying my best not to contaminate the scene with thee devil that is the sand. After capturing the beach I was a little tempted to wait for sun down and that golden hour light. However, with a little forward thought in the realms of self preservation. I decided even I was not brave enough to attempt that off road journey home, guided only by the stars.
Having been drawn in by Island life making my next move wasn’t easy but I raised what little courage I had left and booked my next venture. Not yet ready to venture inland I deiced to crawl the beach further south, along the east coast line of Thailand bound for the Cambodian border with Otres Village in sight.