Back to Thailand. Since we had already spent a few weeks in northern Thailand when we first came to Southeast Asia, and our flight back to the States was leaving from Bangkok, we planned to spend the remainder of our weeks abroad in the south of Thailand along the coast and on some islands.
We decided to start at Koh Chang, mostly because we were leaving Cambodia via the border crossing west of Siem Reap and we could go there directly without having to go all the way back to Bangkok to connect to other transportation. From Siem Reap, it was a two hour minibus ride to the border town of Poipet, three hours waiting in line at the border, another six hours in a minibus crammed to the max with bodies and luggage, and an hour ferry ride. The ferry ride was actually not what we had in mind; we wanted to spend the night in Trat and then take the ferry over to the island in the morning. But as we approached the outskirts of Trat, our driver announced that he wasn’t stopping because if he did, the rest of the passengers would miss the last ferry to the island. So on we went.
It was dark by the time we got to Koh Chang, and about 20 of us crammed in the back of a waiting songthaew. The overloaded truck careened around the steep and winding jungle road that skirted the coast and somehow none bags fell off the top. Since it was late and we didn’t have reservations, we decided to try to find a place in White Sand Beach, one of the main tourist areas. We spent an exhausting hour wandering up and down the strip looking for a guesthouse that had rooms we would afford and… well, vacancies. We walked past bars pumping loud music to solo white male patrons who were flanked by local girls in tight dresses and heavy makeup.
Eventually, we settled for a place a bit out of our price range that was set further back the trees. We woke up the next morning, paid for an additional night, rented a motorbike and went in search of a cheap little bungalow far away from the lights and vibe of White Sand Beach.
Almost as soon as we took off, it started to rain. Just a little cloudburst, but enough that the steep hills and hairpin turns might as well have been coated in ice. After seeing the intense concentration on the local drivers’ faces and witnessing two motorbike accidents happen right in front of us, Tony decided to pull over and wait for the pavement to dry. As we sat on the side of the road, a Russian couple slid into a slow-mo crash right next to us. They decided to clean up their bleeding scrapes and wait it out, too.
After less than an hour, the roads were dry again and we were on our way. For the next several days, we ended up trying out a few different bungalows on different beaches and exploring different areas around Koh Chang. Tony piloted us all over the island and kept us upright at all times, even when we had both of our bags on board.
We eventually settled in at Lonely Beach in a row of cheapie bungalows with cold water showers and a bucket-flush toilet. They weren’t the most picturesque and the bars next door were noisy all night but we liked the Thai staff and the food at the attached cafe.
And the hammock. The hammock was good.
We borrowed a big woven mat from the cafe and spent long afternoons at the beach. The water was as warm as the air and we were well aware of how lucky we were to be on a beach in the middle of February. Our biggest problem was that the masks and snorkels we were renting for $1 were a little leaky and the blues bar next door was just as loud in our bungalow as when we visited in person.
After much discussion over what island we should go to for the rest of the month, and what was going to be different there than laying in hammocks and drinking coconut shakes and picking up seashells, we decided we were done. We didn’t need any more beach. We already had that a few weeks prior in Cambodia, and we had our fill here. We sent some emails and headed back to the mainland with a plan. And the oldest, rustiest ferry we had ever seen carried us back.