Saturday, June 10, 2006

A journey to the depths of the Ko Chang jungle

I caught the bus down to Trat today so that I could cross over on to the island of Ko Chang and spend my last couple of weeks relaxing in the sunshine (in between the rain storms). As a result of a driver reserving two thirds of the front of the bus for Thai passengers, those of us that were travelling alone were forced to sit next to other solo travellers. Consequently I got chatting to Siobian, an 18 year old girl from New Zealand who now lives in Perth, Australia. She's been in India for the last 5 months so was still suffering from a little culture shock (as well as a severe lack of sleep after a big drinking session last night!), having only arrived in Thailand a few days ago. Coming from Vietnam I noticed how developed and structured Thailand is by comparison, so I can only imagine how vast the differences are compared to India.

The bus journey took longer than I'd expected, but that was partly due to the amount of traffic on the roads (visitors to Bangkok were now travelling back home following the recent appearance by the King in the country's capital). In contrast the boat journey took a lot less time that i'd originally anticipated. We made the crossing to Ko Chang on an enormous vehicle carrier, which even had a bar on board serving beer Chang on tap! When we arrived on Ko Chang, we were met by a kitsch greeting reminiscent of the 'Hollywood' sign in America : in large white lettering perched up in the mountains that provide a backdrop to Ko Chang's beaches, we read "Welcome to Ko Chang", only the letter 'C' seemed to have lost his footing up on the mountain and was dangling at a rather odd angle in front of the 'h'!

We headed down to the beach at first, both having our hearts set on a little bamboo hut right on the seafront - if the price was right. To our disappointment we couldn't see any; they'd all been upgraded to brightly coloured, well-built wooden bungalows. Out of curiosity, we enquired about the price of one of these at Apple's Bungalows and were informed that it would cost us 400THB for a bungalow with a twin room. Considering that you could walk out your door and literally be on the beach the price wasn't at all bad. But Siobian is still adjusting to the rise in prices after India and I wanted to find something a little cheaper as I may well be staying on Ko Chang for the best part of 2 weeks. We wandered up to the road and were attracted to a large sign advertising bungalows from 100THB at The Fisherman Hill Resort. We were a little concerned about the sub-heading, 'economy at it's best', conjuring up images of ramshackle huts crawling with bugs, but we decided to check it out regardless.

What we found was almost like a little rainforest retreat : little wooden bungalows dotted within a jungle of dense vegetation. The rooms weren't up to much : the linoleum floors were peeling, there were enormous cracks in the wood and there was a gaping hole in the floor of my room, big enough for a small cat to crawl through in the middle of the night. However, the fact that 130THB would buy us a bungalow with its own private bathroom in a beautiful and peaceful setting with as much free coffee as we wanted every morning sold it for me. Each bungalow even had it's own veranda and wooden chairs, which was surrounded by papaya trees, ferns and creepers, and I even had chillies growing right outside my door.

This evening we ate at a cheap local restaurant with plastic chairs and tablecloths and seafood pad thai for only 30THB. We each had a large beer Chang to accompany our meal. Siobian is about my size (an inch shorter and the same sort of build) so we were both feeling the effects of the beer when we left the restaurant. We continued on down the main road in search of a bar in which to continue drinking. Well, it was our first night on the island : not getting drunk would have been a crime! We walked into the first place which looking 'happening' : a collection of bars under one roof, lit up by hundreds of little fairy lights draped up the walls and over the rooves. It's only when we sat down at one of the bars that we realised that all the bar staff were pretty young Thai women in tight lycra dresses and all the customers were solo western men, many sat on bar stools, flirting with the women who were serving them drinks. However we did get given free rambutans by one of the bar girls, as well as a fruit the size of a small pumpkin which tasted like a cross between a mangosteen and a pear and which we ate with salt and chilli. The world cup match between England and Paraguay was being screened on T.V but we didn't really pay much attention to it apart from when Beckham scored for England.

We headed on in search of somewhere that wasn't a pick up joint, and landed ourselves at a small bar on the beach, as deserted as everywhere else seemed to be on a saturday night and in the largest resort on the island. The bar had a resident dog who was unbelievably fat (think she was competing with the one you met on Ko Chang, Tony!) and liked lying in the sand having her belly rubbed. We asked the lady at the bar if there was anywhere busier that we could head to once we'd finished our beers and attending to the needs of the fat dog, and she pointed us in the direction of Sabay bar. When we walked in, it was almost like everyone living in or visiting the White Sands resort in Ko Chang was in this bar, it was packed! It was probably the most happening place on the island : loud music, a dancefloor, little wicker mats laid out on the sand and a brave performer playing with fire by way of entertainment for us all. He held a long pole in his hand, burning at both ends. He'd spin this and throw it high into the air, whilst at the same time doing acrobatics. It was awesome, and visually stunning to watch. By this point we were both feeling pretty wasted : we were talking about doing some surfing tomorrow (even though I've not seen anywhere around here where we might possibly be able to fulfill this decision), and I talked Siobian into having her tongue pierced when she gets back to Bangkok (she's been frightened that it hurts too much so when I told her it doesn't she didn't need much persuading!). When we decided we couldn't possibly drink any more beer (through fear that we may well fall over), we danced to a few cheesy songs with a load of Thai people and then headed home, discussing our level of intoxication.
Our little rainforest retreat at Fisherman Hill, White Sands Beach, Ko Chang
The fire dancer on the beach at Sabay Bar, White Sands Beach, Ko Chang

1 comment:

Andy said...

keep posting kiara,i'm reading your blog with great interest.
safe travels,
Cambodia Tales