Wish you were here...
Short stop on Koh Bai Dang
The second “half” of our trip in Thailand revolved around a kayaking trip off the island of Koh Chang that Kelsey discovered back in September. After flying back to Bangkok, we boarded a 5-hour bus ride heading east towards Cambodia and then after a 30-minute ferry we landed on Koh Chang (direct translation is “Elephant Island“). The relatively close proximity to Bangkok and the fact that it’s enroute to Cambodia favoured Koh Chang’s development as it first brought many backpackers, closely followed by “real” tourists with money to spend. As a result, every Tom, Dick and Harry (or in Thailand - Nam, Lek and Phram) wanted a piece of the action banging up resorts, cafes, restaurants, bars and shops along the entire west coast (beachy side) of the island. Unfortunately not all dreams come true… although we were there during “high season” and there seemed to be a lot of tourists on the island, most restaurants and bars were empty and it appears Koh Chang is oversupplied with ramshackle options that probably won’t bring home the bacon for Tom, Dick or Harry or their subsequent Thai partners. At first glance Kels and I didn’t have a great opinion of Koh Chang;
but did agree that it deserved some more investigation by motorbike before casting our criticism. We also acknowledged the fact that our kayaking trip would take us AWAY from this crazy island, so we stayed positive.
We checked in at the Kayak Chang office and met Rosie and Catherine, both kayak guides from England. We then found out that Catherine would be our guide and that we were the only clients…really?! We discovered that Kayak Chang likes to keep is groups small, usually no more then 8 people and can still afford to do the trips even with only 2 guests; so there you go a private 5-day, 4-night tour through the archipelago of the Mu Koh Chang National Marine Park… not bad!
The next day we rented a motorbike and explored the entire west coast to see if we could change our initial opinion of the island. It was a nice day and riding around the island, up and down the steep hills and hair-pin turns, was a lot of fun, but it only cemented our first impressions - too many options (most less then average) and not enough tourists… but like I said the ride was
Lunch stop on Koh Klum
After a quick orientation paddle (with mandatory roll & exit… don’t matter the water is warm!) we were ready to set out the following day. Because it was just the three of us Catherine planed a new route for us that would take us to a couple areas that she had not been to in her two seasons of guiding in the area, which sounded exciting to us. As we paddled away from Koh Chang with the sun reflecting off the turquoise water (regularly applying sunscreen) we caught a glimpse of the islands that we would be visiting over the course of the trip and knew that we had made a great decision… this is gonna be sweet!
Each day consisted of paddling for a couple hours in the morning, a break on a beach to swim and eat fruit, then another hour or so of paddling before stopping for lunch on another beach on another island, then a swim, then another couple hours paddling before arriving at our overnight destination. Typically the trips are a mix of camping in hammocks and staying in basic bungalows but as it turned out, on our trip, each night we
stayed in a bungalow, which not only meant a form of bed to sleep on, but a form of fresh water shower each night to rinse off the salt crust and layers of sunscreen we caked on each day… very civilized if you ask me!
The one night in question, whether we would camp or bungalow, was the second night where we were “exploring” the island of Koh Maisi Yai in the afternoon. Catherine had spotted a pier on google earth and wanted to see what that could mean for our platoon of 2 boats. As we approached the island we caught a glimpse of two rare, pink dolphins breach in front of our boats before diving down to never be seen again. Beautiful! Then we paddled through a gypsy fisherman village on stilts that seemed eerily uninhabited where we thought we could set up camp if necessary, but then carried on to where she saw the pier. We came across the pier, a lot bigger then I expected, and were greeted by very excited, loud, barking dogs. A Thai woman came out on the pier and Catherine approached, still in her kayak. Catherine then called her Thai friend,
who works for Kayak Chang, on her cell phone and handed it to the Thai lady on the pier - translation and communication achieved! We found out that she didn’t want us camping in the area because she thought we’d be robbed by the fishermen (this seemed unlikely), but conveniently had 3 bungalows that had been closed for 6 years that she would clean up and put us up in. At first we were a little apprehensive, but we decided to go with it and see what happened. After everything was sorted out over the phone we pulled up our kayaks and began to unload our stuff. A smiley Khmer man quickly rushed to sort out the rooms - sweeping, running the water, bringing the beds back in, sheets, pillows, towels, and power… wow! Then out of the blue a “white guy” strolls up… “Hello!” (I’m thinking… where the hell did this guy come from? We just used a cell phone to communicate with a Thai lady… where were you?) Well, it turns out “Helmut” is from Germany, he speaks decent English, has been married to his Thai wife for 27-years and the two of them have lived on that
Taking a brake on Koh Lao Nai
spot for the last 22-years… amazing what you can find in the middle of nowhere! On top of that the Thai lady, now known as “Frau Thai”, speaks perfect German - how convenient! Once I broke out my broken German we were “in like flin”, we were invited for a massive dinner and then listened to the colourful history of our hosts. We found out that they normally spend the winter in Thailand on Koh Maisi Yai and then went back to Germany or went travelling during the summer, but sometimes she would stay on the island BY HERSELF for 6-months with only the dogs and a shotgun to keep her company. This became apparent as she showered us with her stories as if she hasn’t had visitors (or outside contact) in a long time. But she made us laugh a lot with her animated tales and I did my best to translate as she bounced from one story to the next. I never thought I would be putting my German skills to work on a tiny island in Thailand, but there you go… you never know!
The next day we said “Aufwiedersen” to Koh Maisi Yai and continued
144 (I counted) flip-flops washed up on beach with other garbage
on to more beautiful islands, scenery and beaches. The third night we stayed on an unique island with an amazing sandbar joining two islands together in a bungalow with a view of the sunset and the fourth and final night we stayed in a place on stilts in the fishing village of Bang Bao. Then the final day was a paddle up the coast of Koh Chang stopping at a couple more beaches and islands along the way back. Catherine was an amazing guide and said it best, as if she was just paddling with a couple of her friends… very relaxed, lots of fun, great equipment and a fantastic trip!
We really enjoyed our time paddling in Thailand and would recommend it to anyone who likes to be out in the sun and on the water. You don’t have to be a pro and the scenery and beaches are worth the tired shoulders! Thank you Kayak Chang for a fantastic trip! (www.kayakchang.com
Sadly this trip marked the end of our 10-weeks abroad this winter as within a week of pulling our kayaks onto the shore we will be back home. It’s been an amazing trip - thank
Cathrine, Kels & Dan - big grins after a great trip!
you China & Thailand!
Until next time…
(Scroll down for more pics!)
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