Gary and Sarah Girotti/Jones|
Southeast Asia, here we come!
Koh Chang: Paradise Found!
Adventures in Decision-Making
After leaving Steve and Claudia in Chiang Mai, we took a flight south to Bangkok: destination ???? We had five days and nothing but R&R on our minds (to escape all the stress, haha!) How to decide where to go? We heard about a small island called Koh Chang, in the Gulf of Thailand near the Cambodian border. Sounded promising except for ease of access: to get there would require a taxi to the bus station, finding a bus, taking a bus for 6 hours (give or take, they're never really specific about these things), taking a taxi to a ferry, ferrying to the island, and then taking a taxi to a hotel...sounded like a lot of work to relax on a beach.
After collecting our luggage in Bangkok, we flipped a coin: heads--Koh Chang, tails--wherever the next flight south was going. Tails it was, so we tromped to the ticket counter, only to discover that there were no open seats to anywhere south that day. Well then...let the adventure begin!
Taxi to bus station: check (crazy driver, almost died). Finding bus: check (albeit with some caveats--VIP or First Class? Or Second Class? or...) Take bus 5-6 hours: check (great ride, except for the constantly streaming karaoke videos...there is no escape in Asia). The fun ends here for the day though--too late to get a ferry to the island. We stayed overnight near the ferry, caught an early one the next day, and basked on the upper deck for the hour-long ride to the island.
Koh Chang ("elephant island") is about 40km long and 15 km wide, and is part of an archipeligo in the Gulf of Thailand. It is incredibly mountainous and lush, with 85 percent dedicated to national parkland. The best beaches are on the west coast, so we took a taxi to White Sand Beach to find a hotel. [There is only one road on the island, looping around the coast. In parts this is a two-lane road, sometimes a one-lane road, and, well, it becomes a dirt path down at the southern tip.]
The beach is dotted with small bungalows hidden behind large palm trees, mangrove trees, and (well, others we couldn't identify---Fran, help!), as well as several beachfront restaurants and tiki bars. We found a bungalow to call home for the week, and settled in. The 30 degree water was about 6 meters from our front porch at high tide...delicious! The most amazing thing is that the beach was nearly deserted---apparently Koh Chang has not yet been fully discovered (read: ruined) like it's southern Thailand counterparts.
But this is not likely to last. The locals described how (even though we thought the place was deserted) tourist traffic has increased 10 fold in the last few years. [We did see a marked increase as the weekend approached-- as the Bangkok weekend travelers arrived.] There is also a lot of talk of putting in a airport either on the island or nearby mainland. The bottom line, I guess, is if you what to see it in a quiet state, you better hurry.
What we did
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