Travelling is freedom - Basti´s global journeys

Nasty Cockroaches and Unforgettable Sunburns

Hey guys

With a few days delay we are finally back in Bangkok to sort out some stuff and get ready to go to Laos. According to our plan we wanted to be in Laos already, but due to David getting the sunburn of his life our timetable changed slightly, which doesn’t bother any of us, as we got to spend more time on wonderful Koh Chang.

The sunsets of Lonely Beach

Our bungalow and our babies on Lonely Beach Basically when I left you we were on our way to the southwest of Koh Chang, which is the backpacker area of the island, Lonely Beach. The American couple we met in paradise (Long Beach) recommended a very cheap place to us and we drove all the way there. This place was indeed very cool, as we got the cheapest accommodation so far in Thailand, around 70 cent each per night, and what you got was a bungalow entirely made of bamboo right next to the beach, sounds very romantic, well it is only to some extent. We had at least 25 cockroaches during our stay, sometimes in nice little families and of all shapes. Then you didn’t even have to look for holes where mosquitos would come in as the bungalow was full of them anyway. And it was lifted 2 m from the soil and after the first monsoon rain we found out why: the hole ground turns into a muddy, stinky place full of Unforgettable sunset right in front of our bungalow insects and since the bungalow is right above it is not spared from both the smell and the insects. But nevertheless we loved it, I mean we are used to all this stuff already after 2 months and we can always remember places where something was worse, therefore 100 Baht for that bungalow was perfect.

This place, Lonely Beach, is at the west coast and you get the most amazing sunsets ever, I don’t know how many pictures if have taken, probably 200, but it looks breath-taking, as it rains during the day from time to time, then the sky clears up and the setting sun lights up the left clouds in all imaginable colours. Unfortunately you can’t go swimming too much, because Koh Chang is plagued by rip currents during the monsoon, which kill several people every year, and as I am far from being a good swimmer I just enjoy pretending to swim in areas where even a little child could stand up.

Prostitution in Thailand

We booked a snorkelling trip for the next day and then chilled in the restaurant of the place we stayed at, a nice terrace right at the sea where they have bbq BBQ every night! every night, and as it was Friday it was party night. We are all not really in party mood and were happy just looking at other people party and realized that even here, far away from all the hassle of Thailand’s most touristy areas, prostitution is ever present. We hate it. I mean that’s the one thing which will affect negatively our memories of Thailand. It was obviously in another dimension than in Phuket, but still half of the dance floor was filled with prostitutes.

There are three kinds in Thailand. First, one night only prostitutes, then those you can “rent” for a day or up to several weeks and they accompany you 24/7 (of course with sex services), and then those you can just buy, marry and bring home. In Koh Chang it was mostly the middle section. It’s just so sad to see. You have these relatively wealthy western 30, 40 year olds who work 340 days a year in an office doing a random monotonous job, then they come to Thailand and rent a hot Thai woman for a week and they feel as if they were awesome, handsome, rich people. It’s just sad, and on the other hand of course Thai women, who sell not a part of their day, but the entire week to one ugly horrible guy. this picture will stick in my hat and I just hope that Thailand will at some point realise that the damage to their reputation due to sex tourism is maybe not worth the revenues they get every year (although it’s around 15 present of their GDP) on the long-term. But one thing I read is very surprising, and I read it in different sources, apparently it’s not only rooted in western American sex tourism in the 60s, however, 70% of the sex industry is domestic. There are brothel villages a tourist will never see in rural areas, and it is normal that a Thai husband will just whore around in these brothels. I don’t know, it’s just a fucked up aspect of such a beautiful country.

English gap-year tourists

Ok but back to other things, as I think I wrote at least 10 pages already on sex tourism alone. So back to my second favourite topic: English tourists in Thailand :) Our neighbours were 4 English girls who did the standard trip (Full Moon, Phi Phi, Tubing in Laos) and now somehow ended up in Koh Chang. this one girl even travelled back with us to Bangkok and I mean she was a nice person, but I want to quote a few of the various stories and things she told us, just to show you what these tourists do in Thailand, it’s just crazy: 1. she woke up with a turtle in a plastic bag in Bangkok, and couldn’t remember where and how she bought it and she “freed” it on the streets afterwards. 2. “In Bangkok you can feed dolphins with valium for 150 baht”. 3. I said “I really need some breakfast” her answer “I am just gonne have some valium for breakfast” 4. “The mushrooms here make the mushrooms in England look like mushrooms for babies” and I could tell many more. I don’t need to say that she and the other English girls drank mushroom shakes every night and kept on A man and his boat talking nonsense until 8am (the bamboo walls were not thick enough to let us sleep…) they are just so crazy, and they do nothing which is even slightly related to authentic Thailand. And the worst part, they are all 18, maybe 19. They finish school, and either do a gap year or summer holidays, and their parents probably give them the money as a gift to go to Thailand, obviously not knowing how fucked up their children´s holidays is.

A snorkeling trip with consequences

But now really too nice stuff we have done :) So we booked a snorkelling trip and in the morning got picked up and brought to the pier. I have done these tours before in Thailand and expected a classic small longtail boat, well what we got was a huge (around 150 people) boat full of Thai tourists who would all David showing off his diving skills put on their lifejackets the moment they got on the boat.

The weather was horrible as well and once on the sea the water got really rough which made us all seasick, not the best start. But when we reached the first of 4 islands after 2 hours and jumped from the top of the boat into the water (a nice 7m jump, which not a single other passenger tried, although it was the funniest part of the whole trip) it got amazing. the reefs where not as nice and lively as some I have seen around Koh Tao or Koh Lanta, but nevertheless it was just amazing. Parrot fish, corals, doctor fish, nemos, squid and barracuda schools. Beautiful. Yassin has never been snorkelling and enjoyed it so much. we had only 45 minutes in every spot and as 4 boats of our kind always stopped in one place we tried to swim as far as we could from the boats to avoid being trapped in between of 500 Thai tourists (who by the way just jumped in the water with their snorkels and masks, but did not move and therefore did Beautiful sea around Koh Chang not even get a glimpse of the reefs, it looked as if you throw 500 sausage dogs with life vests into the sea).

I just love snorkelling, you immerse into another world, and the sounds and things you see are just so different from the world above the surface. Moreover, it’s just calming and chilled and I could do it all day. It was quite annoying that we had to go back every 45 minutes, as 45 minute underwater is nothing. Well still it was really amazing. It also stopped raining and we climbed on the roof of the boat and had the entire roof to ourselves and chilled up there while waiting to get to the next stop.

The sunburn of our lives

The last two stops were even sunny and we got to see more, what we didn’t think about was putting sun screen on our backs. Whoever has been snorkelling knows what this means. The sun is even stronger than usually, as it passes the water which increases its power, moreover it was noon as well. Aloe vera session, 20 times a day - pain We got the bill once at home. I mean we all got sunburned and it hurts a lot, but David was just feeling horrible, he went home and when Yassin and I got there he was puking and got high fever.

The next day we learned that the preventive malaria pills he is taking daily (Yassin and I decided not to take them due to the horrible stories of side effects we have heard) make you hyper sensible to sun. The night was really bad and we all had to sleep on our bellies.

We obviously changed the date of the bus as we wanted to take off the next morning and David was feeling slightly better but his back looked horrible. We all couldn’t lean against anything, nor go swimming, nor stay with shirts in the sun for even 5 seconds. We decided to treat ourselves with some good old The stylish bars around lonely beach western food, bacon cheese burger with French fries. No words can describe the feeling when you bite into that juicy beef burger and feel the crackling crispy bacon and the melted cheese after 2 months of “no meat please, veg only”. Delicious. I mean it didn’t heal the back but it definitely improved our state of mind.

The village around our bungalow had the most amazing bars I have been to so far, all set up by chilled westerners and basically open air (with a bamboo roof),  hammocks hanging around everywhere, pillows, wooden floors and walls, pool tables, jazz music, just nice. You can stay there the whole day while it’s raining heavily outside. Well David couldn’t. He got a rash with blisters on some parts of his back and that’s when we realised that our aloevera The only thing David could do with his sunburn - pool treatment (applied 5 times a day on all 3 backs) was probably not enough for him. We went to a doctor who told us that he had a first degree burn and needed to take some medicine and a special cooled gel. Moreover, he had to be careful not to get an infection. We also went to a hospital 70 km on the other side of the island in the middle of the night, but they couldn’t help us any further. Don’t worry guys, he is fine now, the rash is nearly gone, and the back is just pink as a pig. But these days we needed to put the cream on his entire back with a small cotton stick and he just suffered incredible pain all over his back, couldn’t lean against anything and felt quite dizzy and sick. It’s those damn malaria pills (and our lack of reason of course). Every single person who took them will tell you some horrible side effects, from diarrhoea to high fever or even a neurosis. Bad stuff.

Scooters and storms

Apart of that we got to drive our scooters so much and I think we can proudly call ourselves experienced drivers now. We did everything, nearly 400km, night rides, two on one bike, windy mountain roads, dirt tracks, driving in the middle of a heavy monsoon rain, passing rivers with them, sand, everything. And it´s just soooo much fun. We had them for the entire period on Koh Chang and the freedom you have with them is amazing, even for the shortest journeys the scooters were always with us.

As we couldn’t swim we did other stuff, read books (“The Old Man and the Sea” by Hemmingway, damn good book), had fruit feasts, drove around the island, watched sunsets, talked to some very cool backpackers, played lots of cards and ate, ate, ate. The weather was also not that great, but I am convinced now that all that “don’t go during monsoon season, too much rain” talk is Quatsch. It has so many advantages. I mean the storms are really beautiful and just so powerful (as long as you are not on a downhill road on your scooter when it starts :), prices are cheap, less tourists, the air is purer, the vegetation green and lush. Monsoon is overrated.

Ah and one more thing we did in Koh Chang, we had our first real coffee. I found this place which seemed to have a real Italian coffee machine, and after 2 months without proper coffee every sip was just paradise!

Back in Bangkok

Yesterday we took the bus back to Bangkok, as David could finally lean against something a little bit again. First thing we did once arrived: compulsory Pad Thai immigration centre, where I had to spent several hours Thais in Khao San road. We are staying in another place now, even cheaper, with rooms without windows and it looks like a prison, but to be honest I think it has character and kind of like it, and the internet is cheap and good. Moreover, I went to the tailor to have my first fitting for my suit, feels nice.

Today I got up early and went to the embassy to get my brand-new passport, yeah baby!!! It´s valid for one year and I can travel with it, perfect, but before everything was sorted I had to go to the immigration office which is basically 15 km north of the northeast tube station. Took me 2, 5 hours to get there but now I am holding a new passport with a valid visa in my hands, I am finally legally in Thailand again!!!!

Laos is waiting for us

The other two went to the bus station and got the tickets for tonight: LAOS BABY!!! We have a local (finally not those damn tourist buses) bus to the Golden Triangle of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar. There is a quite popular border there and the bus drives all night and arrives around 6ish. But the interesting part is what happens on the other side of the border. Most people (that is to say 98% of the tourists who cross that border) take a slow boat straight to Luang Prabang, as its most uncomplicated and close to the tubing. But we want to check out if there are any local buses going northeast towards the remote parts of Laos and then try to get via road to Luang Prabang within a week or so. We will be in Vientiane, the capital of Laos, in around 2 weeks I guess and I really do not think Laos has a very developed internet network, and this is already a euphemism, therefore don’t expect any news anytime soon.

I can’t wait to go to this remote country and we are taking off soon! And after 1 month I will finally put on some washed, clean clothes. I have 2 shirts and 2 shorts which I washed last after the trekking in Kathmandu, and now it is ready for being picked up here at the reception, I never ever looked forward to clean clothes so much in my life! Guys keep writing me, it’s always nice to hear from you, and at the moment I get internet and would love to read some stories!

Sawadikap
Basti

One Response to Nasty Cockroaches and Unforgettable Sunburns

  1. […] decided to rent mountain bikes (we wanted scooters, but here they are so much more expensive than scooters in Southeast Asia, around 11 euros per […]

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