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Published: April 12th 2007
Lonely Beach Kris:
No Heartbreak Hotel in sight though
I know...on our last entry we said we took a holiday from the elephant camp and spent a few days in Trat....well, we honestly have been working on the elephant camp since then, but as it's nearly time for us to start our teaching course, we had to take more time off to do a visa run to Cambodia (our visa has to be renewed every 3 months - which means crossing a border into another country). And, you know, as it's on the way - we thought we'd drop by the beautiful tropical island of Ko Chang to hang out on beaches and soak up some rays! Just for a week mind. This gives us one more week at the camp before we part with the elephants (sniff) and go teach kids English. Never work with children or animals...so they say...
White Sands Beach
We arrived on Ko Chang aboard an enormous ferry across the narrow patch of sea between it and the mainland. It was around teatime and, bizarrely we had the boat practically to ourselves other than 2 other blokes. The ferry port took us by surprised at how undeveloped it is. There's practically nowt
The view from the toilet
In our guesthouse at Lonely Beach. No roof on the bathroom! What fun.
there really, except a few taxi pick-up trucks hanging about and a long road winding off into the forest covered hills. All very Jurrasic Park. We took off, sat in the back of pick-up on a very hairy road. I'm sure hairpin bends aren't also supposed to be at 45 degree gradients as well....
With several beach resorts to choose from we decided to spend the 1st night at the one nearest the port - White Sands. This actually seems to be the most developed part of the island. Not only are there lots of big, posh looking resort style accommodation, there are also bars with hostesses in short skirts called things like "Love Bar" and even "Lick". On top of that there is an unfeasibly large number of tailors - just like in Bangkok - all of which hang around outside the shop and leap out at you asking where you're from, exclaiming "lovely jubbly!" if you say England, and then attempting to drag you inside. I haven't bought a suit as yet, I'm glad to say. They always seem a bit power-suit-esque with huge lappels and shiny fabric. Best to keep a wide berth....
lonely Lonely Beach
Anyway, given we were trying to get away from such environments as we live in Pattaya we stayed only one night, then moved on the next day to Lonely Beach. According to the guidebook, the backpacker area. Guess what??? We made the night of the Full Moon Party....and didn't go cos we couldn't be bothered. Aw well. We managed to get a room in a small line of bungalows to the far south of the beach and avoid the noise. Boring old codgers that we are.
Lonely Beach, though not as lonely as the name implies, wasn't as crazy as we thought it would be. It was pretty chilled and still pretty pretty. Though daytime on the beach could be a bit unbearable due to the crazily high temperatures and almost zero shade. We figured we'd got a nice spot, walking distance to the beach (probably about 300metres), but a wlk there on the 1st day almost killed us. There we were, literally dripping with sweat, dehydrated and staggering over the sand in no time. Sometimes there really is "hot and then there's too hot!" - and too think I used to laugh at lovable OAPs
Holiday Beach Resort on Ko Mak
our bungalow is just behind this first row of houses, behind the pink bush.
who said that in England as soon as the temperature rose above 20 degrees C....aw well, that'll teach me.
One night on Lonely Beach we popped into one outside bar right next to a boxing ring. It being Monday night, it was thai boxing (or Muay Thai) night! We grabbed a drink - as well as a very sociable sheep-like dog (see pictures) and watched the show. Two young lads entered the ring and proceeded to kick seven sorts out of each other. Drinking beer and spectating violence! Just like a night out in Leeds or Sunderland town centre! Oh how I craved a kebab afterwards.
You may need a Mac on Ko Mak...
Well, Ko Chang was just a little too bustling for us quiet souls, so we grabbed a boat after a few nights to the neighbouring island of Ko Mak. This is a small, cute island that only recently got electricity. We got a really nice bungalow right by the beach at the Holiday Beach Resort and settled in fo 2 nights of doing nowt but sitting in the beach, swimming in the sea, playing guitar and eating squid. Well that was the plan...Then on
our 2nd day we realised we had run out of suncream. A stupid lack of planning I admit. We decided to walk to the shop shown on the map and took off up the jungly road after breakfast. The 1st shop we came to was tiny and only sold beer, crisps and noodles, so we soldiered on. All the time becoming hotter and more uncomfortable. In the end we did find a shop that sold suncream and went back to the room to collapse - but it was a lesson in how much the heat can really affect your day! We were absolutely exhausted and dehydrated by 11am. As well as a bit burnt. I guess that's why no one walks anywhere in Thailand...
Other than the above, Ko Mak was beautifully relaxed, sleepy place, and apart from some spectacular storms later in the day (one resulting in us eating in a restaurant by torchlight due to a short powercut - I guess we could have escaped without paying...), the weather was fantastic and the sea was as warm as bathwater. But two days in and fearing we would run out of cash (no ATMs on the island!), we
Ready for snorkelling
life jacket done up tight....safety first.
hopped on a speedboat and headed back to Ko Chang.
Safety first snorkeling
This time around we decided to stay in the fishing village port town of Ban Bao. The place is almost entirely built over the sea on stilts. It's odd, the streets are narrow walkways about 10 foot above the water, as are the shops, bars and restaurants. It means that if you drop anything as you wander around, it's most likely to disappear into the water below. This made Kate very paranoid about me dropping our room key like I'm some clumsy oaf. I'm not sure why the entire village is built over the sea when there's plenty of island left - maybe it's tax evasion..? - but it's pretty and novelty and I guess it leaves more of the rainforest intact, which can't be a bad thing.
During our time in Ban Bao we booked a snorkeling trip. There are various tiny islands around Ko Chang that are uninhabitated and many of them support coral reefs in a marine national park. Consequently, there are quite a few tour companies that provide snorkeling trips to them, equipment included. So early one morning, we boarded a
Bang Bao stilt village
we had a room for two nights in one of these buildings on stilts.
big tour boat from the main jetty.
The 1st thing we noticed was that it was going to be much less of a serene trip than we'd thought - the boat was huge and packed, the 2nd was that we were the only foreigners on board. It was a holiday weekend so the place was full of Thai tourists, which, although meant that the guides had a tendency to forget about us and give monologues solely in Thai, also meant that we had a great insight into a "grand day out" for your average Thai family!
For a start, they don't seem to be very sure of the sea. Which is odd on a snorkeling trip. The boat was huge and the weather was beautiful, yet as soon as we got on board, before we'd left the jetty, everyone securely fitted their life jackets. We were worried we'd missed something and looked around for the approaching tornado/submarine or something. Also, despite the millpond smooth waters, they all hurriedly took sea sickness pills. All this seemed health and safety too far for people who would be no doubt perfectly happy to fly along some of the most dangerous roads
Get out the way of the beautiful sunset!
in the world on a tiny moped, with 5 passengers hanging off the back and the handlebars and without a helmet between them.
Anyway, 20 minutes out of port and despite the smooth journey, the woman behind us started to be sick. She was ill for the rest of the day. I think she'll be staying away from boats for a while to come.
The tour was of 3 coral islands. Well, actually it was meant to be 4, but it being Thailand, they decided to just do 3 in the end and no one was that bothered as you don't really have to stick to itineries here. The funny thing was that, it being a national holiday, every other tour boat in the area was at the same islands...so the sea was a veritable human soup of thrashing limbs. As you can see from the pics - everyone snorkeled in both their clothes and a life jacket. I must have seemed an extremely reckless crazy fool when I stripped down to my trunks and tossed my life jacket aside. This did give me the advantage at some of the islands that I ould get a little bit
I'm joking of course! Sunset. Again. They happen every day here...
away from the bobbing crowds to get into some deeper water, and despite all the people, the fish and coral were beautiful. We've never seen real living coral before and it is amazing - beautiful different patterns and colours. Plus the trip wasn't marred by the arrival of any sharks, which also helped.
The trip as a whole was great fun and it was especially nice being taken care of by two Thai families sat next to us who thought it a great novelty to have some foreigners to feed fruit too.
Holiday in Cambodia
After one more night in Ban Bao we headed back to the mainland and on to Cambodia, to spend one night in Ko Kong (the border town) to renew our Thai visa. Crossing the border in daylight was much less bizarre than our previous nightime crossing and we stayed at Otto's guesthouse - a place run by a german guy called Otto, surprisingly. We had a relaxing night chatting with an English bloke riding round the world on a motorbike called James (yes, he was james, not the motorbike. Sigh...) and a German professor of geology called Wolfgang over a few Angkor Beers.
Then it was back into Thailand the next day and a bus trip back to the brightlights of Pattaya...
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