Travelling is freedom - Basti´s global journeys

The Lonely Beaches of Koh Chang

Hey guys

Finally back in an internet cafe. When I am not writing it can usually mean two things, either something really bad happened or, which is the case, we have found paradise, and in paradise you do not have an internet connection. We are in Koh Chang now, an island close to the border with Cambodia, in the east of Thailand, around 1500km from Phuket, the hell from where I last wrote to you guys. Lots has happened since. Most importantly, we got a grip on our health issues, the antibiotics worked, the spray sausage stopped and we are just generally feeling better.

Thailand´s nasty tourist buses

But coming back from where I left you. We were in Phuket for one more night and had an upcoming 14 hour bus drive, which actually turned out to be even longer, but as far as bus rides are concerned after Nepal nothing can shock us. The buses are just so comfortable in Thailand, you can lean back, spread your legs, and the roads don’t even have potholes, just great, a part of two features. We had to take a tourist bus, because in Thailand it´s basically the same price to take tourist or local buses and the infrastructure for the former is so well developed that you kind of always end up taking a tourist bus. But they are just nasty, they turn on the ac and it has probably 10 degrees in there. I literally put on every single piece of clothes I had plus blankets and was still freezing. The second annoyance is that they just make you get out in the middle of nowhere; you don’t have a ticket and have to hope that another bus will come and pick you up without a ticket. It has always worked out so far, but it’s just very annoying.

Moreover, they look through your bags at the bottom of the bus while you are inside and don’t notice it, and if you don’t know it and leave anything valuable in there, well you will not see that stuff again, but as I knew this already we never have anything even slightly valuable down there.

5 times a day, every day - same scene We met some really cool people in the bus, especially an English guy from South London, Robbie, who we met again several times in Bangkok. And I went to the police in Phuket, to ask whether somebody gave in my passport, but as I expected nothing was handed in.

Pad Thai overdose

So arrived in Bangkok around 5am and had to meet David around 7am. We decided to stay in Khao San Road; who has been there knows what it means. It’s just a crazy road. Not even that popular some years ago, it´s now booming and every single backpacker coming to Southeast-Asia passes through this 500m long road. I never stayed there before, just visited it, but I have to say for a few days it’s really cool. It’s very cheap, and they sell food on the streets 24/7 Amazing Khao San Road Pad Thai with fresh orange juice - together 1 € and for good prices, especially the typical Thai dish, Pad Thai (egg fried noodles), which I had 9 times in 48 hours, true story.

When we arrived in the early morning we had two options: looking for a place or going for a beer. Guess what we went for? At 7am I walked to the meeting point and there he was, David, our beloved French. With short hair and he looks so tall now. Melanie and the other girls will probably hate it, but don’t worry, I am going to cut that hair down to 3mm when he is asleep before we leave :).

Cruising the Chao Phraya

We dropped our stuff in a hotel and decided to do a little city tour and go to the embassy. I know Bangkok quite well as I have been there already a few The Chao Phraya in Bangkok times. Bangkok and Singapore are the main economic hubs of Southeast Asia. The last times I came here I was annoyed by the smell and traffic of the city, this time I just marvelled at how clean and calm this city is. Well I guess this is normal after having been to India for a month. So we took the ferry on the Chao Phraya, huge river of Bangkok, and went to the German embassy. I have to pay around 70€ for a new passport, which is already waiting for me in Bangkok, it´s valid for a year and I can travel with it, very happy about that. But I also have to go to the immigration office in the middle of nowhere and get a new visa and when we go back to Bangkok I will have some more shit to sort out.

A burstling city that never sleeps We walked around a lot, and it´s amazing how in Bangkok all the people eat on the street, there are food stalls everywhere selling the most peculiar stuff. But we are not trying too much, because at that point the diarrhoea was still pretty nasty. I brought them to a hotel I stayed at last time, the Atlanta, which was set up by a Germany guy in the centre of Bangkok, a little bit remote, and it has an amazing swimming pool in a tropical garden. You can’t imagine how nice that is at noon in a city like Bangkok. So we chilled there for a while before heading to the MBK, the biggest shopping mall in Bangkok. I just wanted to see what I can or want to buy at the end of the trip, as the possibilities are just endless. It’s different from shopping malls in Europe and they would literally have 50 shops selling exactly the same item at the same price.

Royal palaces and suits

On the way back we had to get out of a few tuk tuks, as they were all trying to pull off the standard scam “just one stop at shop, you don’t have to but, just look” blablabla. Get out, don´t pay, and take the next. In Khao San we had quite nice nights out, well not really clubbing, but just having a few Changs (the cheaper beer in Thailand, quite decent, founded by a German of course) and looking at the masses of backpackers coming through Khao San.

The Royal Palace in Bangkok The next day David and Yassin decided to go visit the royal palace, I skipped that one, as I have already been there twice. They went there and walked around while I took care of something very important: my first tailored suit! There are so many tailors around Khao San and most are bad quality, so I had a look in literally 30 different tailors, stayed, asked questions for ages and then took off. In the end I found a really nice one and I am getting a full suit plus 3 tailored shirts for around 100 euros. Just feels so good to stand in there while they take all the measures and just getting your first tailored suit!

Later on we met again and I succeeded in getting a hold of Kevin, a friend of ours who studies ESPS with me in London, and happened to be in Bangkok as well. We met him and he has just done the classic English itinerary: full moon party in Phangan, then Phi Phi, then tubing in Laos. Sounded really cool everything and he seemed to have had the time of his life, and it’s just nice to meet friends on the other part of the planet. He is leaving for England, or better he already left, so we saw him for just one night.

Koh Chang – sunset paradise

Having an unforgettable swim Next morning we had a bus to Koh Chang. David had the idea of going there as it is the second biggest island of Thailand, but at the same time being off the classic trail in the far east next to Cambodia, most people do not go there. Ten years ago they didn’t even have paved roads here, well now they have but it’s still pretty amazing.

But we needed to get there: the bus ride was just sooo chilled; I fell in love with these buses. So 8 hours of bus, ferry and then to the next town. When we got here we wanted to do a diving licence, but it’s quite expensive, around 250 euros, which is all right but the weather is not that good and its monsoon time, and we do not know if it’s worth it at the moment.

Sunsets in Koh Chang We decided to stay in the most touristy part the first night, just because we did arrive and not know where to go. Also because the same night Bayern Munich had their first league match, which I will not talk about any further in this mail. We dropped our stuff and went to the beach and saw a sunset which was just breath-taking, it´s definitely among the top 5 I have ever seen and just swimming in the sea, with some nice sand below you and palms all over the beach and this amazing sunset which changes the colour of the sky and clouds every minute. Amazing.

The Gang hits the road

When I looked at the map of Koh Chang I saw that the western part is quite populated, the eastern less and there is one little peninsula at the south eastern- The Gang edge which seems kind of abandoned, but with some sort of accommodation. I told that to the other two and we decided that that was the place we wanted to go to!

Next morning, hop on some scooters for 3 euros a day and off we go. The other two have never been on one, and I have been only once, but it’s just the best. 35 degrees, a road without traffic and a scooter, that’s all you need. I could drive around like that for days, and the road is always along the sea and once around the island. So you drive there, feel the breeze and just gaze at the sea. Beauty.

Also Koh Chang (chang means elephant) has a very lush vegetation with loads of jungle and waterfalls. We stopped at one where we had to walk up the Waterfall fun in the jungle of Koh Chang jungle for a bit and then you end up at this beautiful waterfall with a pool at the bottom and crystal clear water. This is an advantage of the rainy season as literally nobody is there and there is just so much water. We went swimming in the nice, cool water (as the sea is not really refreshing, being 25 degrees warm). However, when we got out, Yassin noticed that he had left his scooter key inside the pocket of his shorts while swimming and that it was gone.

We really didn’t know what to expect, whether they would have a spare key or just how much we needed to pay. So me and David went back, and fortunately they could give him another one and pick his scooter up for around 8€, which is nothing compared to what we had expected. After this little annoyance the gang kept on driving! The big road at some point turned into a very small paved road, then into a dirt track and we kept on driving on it for an hour.

How we ended up in paradise – Long Beach

At the end we arrived in a bay and talked to the first guy and asked him for a room, answer “no room, no food”. But he pointed to another hut and there we The view from our bungalow - a pristine, deserted beach met Joe, who runs a little “resort” (which means 10 shabby bungalows for 3€ per night). He had a room, but still no food. Basically we had landed in a place which hadn’t seen a foreigner in 1 month. A lonely long beach with white sand, some bungalows on a hillside which are kind of falling apart, some jungle and that’s about it. The same day, 2 other couples made their way to that beach, a Russian and an American couple and we all decided to stay there. Joe has a wife in charge of the “restaurant”, but because it´s low season she is not there at the moment and his cooking skills are very limited, so he left the kitchen to us and offered to drive us with a pick up to the market the next day. Sorted.

Our bungalow was very very basic. One mattress without sheets lying on the floor, that’s about it. To make up for this we had a terrace with a hammock, but Joe´s chill our area you could not stand in some corners as the wood was breaking. But it was beautiful. View on the sea, sound of the jungle. And Joe built a bigger hut with kitchen and chill out lounge (definitely a euphemism, but it had hammocks which qualifies it as a lounge for me). That night we just tried to make the most out of whatever he had, so simple rice dish. At night we chilled on our terrace for hours and decided to stay in this magical place for at least 4 nights.

Living the dream

The next morning we went shopping with Joe and his pick-up. Russlie, from Texas, suggested to have a massive bbq and we bought vegetables, meat, squid, prawns (giant prawns for 4€ per kg) and after a lot of persuasion, I convinced the others to buy 100 eggs, as eggs are just the most invaluable Barbecue lesson from a Texanian ingredient for omelettes, snacks, fried rice, everything! The bill for everything, so food and drinks for 4 days was 5€ each.

I prepared a happy omelette, which was amazing. And we spend the entire day in hammocks, cooking, talking, swimming, chilling, playing chess, reading, just veryyyyy chilled stuff. The two Russians were not that communicative as they could not speak English very well but the two Americans obviously could. They are TEFL teachers, so teaching English as a foreign language, and have been teaching in loads of different countries mostly in Asia. They met in South Korea, where they are right now. Very cool 30 year olds and we just had a great time there.

The anticipation reaches a climax We also decided to have a massive bon fire down at the beach after sunset and collected a lot of wood. When we lit it, however, we realised that it was far too much wood and had to throw sand on it all together as otherwise the vegetation of this beautiful bay would have been in danger, but once it was smaller we could just enjoy the fire, go swimming in the moonlight and chill on this remote beach. As always, this has only shown, that the further you go, the more you get off the beaten trail, the cheaper and especially nicer everything you will encounter gets.

Well you have to make some sacrifices of course. Like we had one nasty mattress for three people, so we turned it 90 degrees and slept with our feet hanging from the mattress. Then there is just one toilet 50m away from the bungalow, you have to cook for yourself and so on, but for me that’s exactly what made this place so special.

The bbq was simply amazing. Everyone prepared what he or she could prepare. So some Russian beans, squid filled with lemon grass, limes and chilli, then bbqed prawns, a yellow curry, rice and just lots of stuff. We had an amazing feast all together and basically spend nothing, as we bought everything for Our paradise beach Thai prices on a Thai market.

Free of worries and full of eggs

Next day same thing, during the day we made some scooter excursions, although that day it rained a lot turning the roads into an even bigger challenge (accepted!) and apart of these excursions, classic: hammock, eating, chilling, talking, swimming, and so on. And we had a happy coconut porridge, amazing taste.

To Joe, he is a Thai guy, who runs this place and is just very nice, he has an American father, but somehow ended up here and is definitely more Thai then American. I am guessing that he is the product of Vietnam War sex tourism in Thailand, so American GI´s going to Thailand to come down from the horrific Scootering on the beaches of Koh Chang war, having sex with prostitutes without contraception, and there you go. When talking about women Joe got very precise: in his view “sexy woman, one two years, then change. Cooking woman, no change.” Good guy.

Obviously one main challenge of these 4 days was to finish the 100 eggs. That was rough. Especially because the others didn’t really help us with that one, they ate 10 together maybe. But 15 eggs omelette for breakfast, 15 during the day boiled, and I am proud to say we did it!

Weather-wise it rained quite a lot these days, which doesn’t really matter if you are in such a place, and we also went swimming during such a heavy storm, beautiful. I have been to 7 Thai islands, but I didn’t think that you could actually find such a remote place in Thailand, it was just perfect, cheap, and beautiful and you just get everything you really need.

Looking forward to amazing Laos

But this morning we had to leave, because we have big plans coming up. Having read a bit about the surrounding countries we changed our plans. Instead of going to Cambodia now and then to Vietnam we decided to skip Vietnam and go straight to Laos. Laos seems just the most amazing place I will have seen in my life. The guide says that in the whole country they have 1 ATM, which gives you 60 dollars max, that’s it. There are no paved roads in most parts, no electricity, some sort of bus service, and the most amazing jungle nature, with hills and the Mekong as the dominant feature. Unfortunately, most people go to Laos just for tubing, which you may have heard, or will hear more after we have been to Vang Vieng, where they do it. It’s just a western perversion of such an amazing country. People go there, party for a week, come back and say they have been to and seen Laos. We want to do it differently and try to get as far off the beaten track as possible. This will also mean no internet for quite a while.

Southeast Asia – relicts of the past and hope for the future

Having read about the history of Indochina, I was shocked to learn that the biggest air raid ever conducted by any state against another was not Germany in WW2, not Vietnam, but Laos. The Americans dropped 2.2 million tons of explosive in 600000 missions on the north and northeast of Laos trying to kill Vietcongs hiding in those regions. Well, one third of the explosives (mostly landmines) did not explode and as they have the form of a blue football, every year, thousands of children play with them and die or loose limbs. In these regions you cannot go of the road, because it’s too dangerous (well we are not going to that region anyway). It’s crazy. These imperialistic  Americans.

Reading the history of all of these countries you ALWAYS find the involvement of the Americans trying to prevent communism in the most remote areas and by intervening in a brutal violent way destroying a country for centuries. I mean in a country like Laos, they can’t maintain fields or anything and loose population every day just because of an insane bombing, which was kept “secret” for years after it btw, and I can’t believe we didn’t study it at school.

But some more history. Basically once upon a time you had the English in the west, occupying Bhutan, Nepal and India, and the French in the east, occupying Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and so on. Thailand was in between and was never colonised and I don’t know exactly how, but they even managed not to be torn apart in WW2, where they fought with the Japanese. And just because of this lack of western influence, Thailand is the most prosperous country today in the region and the most “stable” one while all these other countries are messed up.

There were general elections in Thailand a month ago, and the sister of the expelled billionaire Thaksin won. It’s the red shirts party, the ones who demonstrated last year and it seems to be more stable than ever, but still only 350 of 500 MPs have entered parliament, because everyone is pressing Turquoise water and jungle, Koh Chang´s east charges against everyone, even the prime minister is not allowed into parliament as he still has a trial because he sold noodles on an electoral event, and apparently to some that’s blackmailing, well Thailand. Still compared to Laos and Cambodia it is highly developed. But I want to go these countries to see the difference, and we think that in Laos these differences will be very clear.

Time to say good-bye to Koh Chang

Well today we took the scooters and left the magical bay of Long Beach to head to the other part of the island to see some more amazing sunsets and visit a few places the Americans told us about. On the way we stopped at another waterfall, which was amazing, and this time without the scooter keys in our shorts. Just at one point I saw this thing under water and told everybody to stop shaking the water so I could get a good view. And once I could see it, it The southeastern peninsula of Koh Chang was a snake head under water, right in front of us, crawled together in a hole. Well that was the last time I touched the bottom of that pool.

Now we are back in White Sand Beach, the bigger village on the island and sorting out lots of stuff. Mails, getting back to Bangkok, customs problems with our pack back in Munich and lots of stuff.
Well that’s the delayed update. The last days have been amazing but now we will head back to Bangkok soon, to pick up my passport and to get the night bus up north to the Laos border. I can’t wait to go to this country which seems 100 years back in time, let’s just hope that the rainy season hasn’t destroyed the few dirt tracks and that we can travel around on up there in the jungle mountains.
Hear you soon guys

Sawadikap
Basti

4 Responses to The Lonely Beaches of Koh Chang

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  4. […] the people and the atmosphere is. This has been the case when I drove to the most remote spot of Koh Chang in Thailand, when I went hiking in the Himalayas in Nepal or when I went to the deep jungle of […]

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