Ko Chang - Elephant Island

Trip Start Jun 05, 2008
Trip End Jun 14, 2009

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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Most places in Thailand celebrate Songkran (New Year) for approximately three days, Pattaya on the other hand, being the self proclaimed 'Extreme City', takes things to the...erm...extreme. Rather than celebrate from the 13th to the 16th like almost everyone else, they celebrate from the 12th to the 19th. That's seven whole days of not even being able to walk to the shop for a loaf of bread without getting soaked to the skin and having your face smothered in a mixture of water and baby powder by about nine different people. It's all a bit of harmless fun and the Thai people are usually very well mannered about it. It's a traditional cleansing ceremony to wash away the old year and welcome the new, but when you're on your way out for a bite to eat in your dry clothes and there's a bunch of drunken 'farang' (foreigners) aiming high powered water pistols at you it gets a bit too much after a couple of days. You end up arriving at your destination dripping wet with a face full of what feels like fresh plaster. Sense of humour slightly jaded.

After three days of this, we'd had enough. To top off being soaked every ten yards, at one point there were a bunch of over excited Thai boys who weren't content with soaking us, they bloody groped the pair of us too! That's right - the pair of us! I got my bits fondled, and if that wasn't enough of a shock, once we'd escaped their grip, Katie told me that one of them was grabbing her breasts too. I was absolutely livid! As I said, we'd had enough. The only reason we hung around in Jomtien as long as we did, was so that we would miss the tourist rush everywhere else caused by Songkran. It was bad timing really, but we weren't to know, and it give us a chance to spend some quality time with 'The Uncles' anyway, who have been absolutely invaluable in terms of advice and help (Cheers guys!). We decided to book a trip to Ko Chang for three days followed by a trip to Ko Samet.

Ko Chang (meaning Elephant Island) is a short ferry trip from the port of Trat, approximately three and a half hours drive from Jomtien. The island is bursting with leafy rain forests, towering waterfalls, isolated beaches and unexplored territory on it's Eastern coast. (Plagiarism? Moi?!). When we arrived at the island, we decided upon a quiet resort named Lonely Beach and it was a really good choice too. After about a 20 minute ride on an extremely packed Songthaew (Baht bus) along some extremely steep and twisty, treacherous roads, we arrived at our destination. As usual, and much to the driver's amusement, we didn't have any resort/hotel booked. We decided to wander around a bit until we found somewhere suitable that met both our needs and more importantly, our budget. This didn't take too long at all, after a bit of haggling we'd secured ourselves a quaint little hut on stilts with it's own bathroom for 350THB (7) a night. Only a stone's throw from the beach and close to all the bars, shops and restaurants.

Lonely Beach, for us, was absolutely perfect. It had a really laid back vibe with a couple of funky bars and restaurants, each with their own blend of Thai/Western/Hippy atmosphere. You could eat or drink outside on Thai style mats and watch the world go by or take a stroll along the quirky little shops. It was a lot more relaxed and friendlier feeling than some of the other resort villages we'd passed along the way. For our first night, we settled for some Thai food, a cocktail (bucket of vodka and red bull with two straws!), a couple of games of pool and an early night. When I say early, I mean early-ish. We might have had a couple of sneakies back on our balcony. We are on holiday after all.

I was woken very early the next morning by a very impressive thunderstorm, when I stepped outside I was stunned to find that our lovely little hut on stilts now had a river running under it. I thought we were going to need stilts to get out of there without swimming or being swept away. It was lovely to sit and watch the sun come up and burn all the clouds away though, as I sat on the balcony reading my book, the sky turned blue and the 'river' disappeared. Even the ground had dried out, it was almost as if I'd dreamed the entire thing. Katie was still dead to the world at this time (I don't blame her, it was about 7.30), so I decided to head out to the shop for a bottle of water and some toothpaste. (We'd bought toothpaste the previous day but when we brushed our teeth before bed we were left gagging and fighting over a bottle of water. SALTY BLOODY TOOTHPASTE!!! COLGATE!! Disgusting!). Whilst I was out shopping though, I got a bit distracted. I forgot the toothpaste but somehow ended up with a shiny Honda moped and two helmets! 4 for a day's hire! I rumbled back to the hut on my shiny new steed but even the noisy, throbbing 125cc engine failed to rouse sleeping beauty.

When I'd eventually managed to wake Katie, I was wearing a fetching blue motorcycle helmet, sunglasses and dangling a set of keys in front of her face saying: "Look what I found babe!", instead of putting two and two together and coming up with four, she naturally assumed I'd found a set of motorbike keys outside. Bless her. Perhaps we'd had more to drink the night before than I'd thought! When the penny had finally dropped, we clambered aboard our trusty twist n go Honda and set off to explore the rest of the beautiful island. I looked like the Crazy Frog but felt I felt like the Fonze. We covered the West side of the island making frequent stops for refreshments and to rest our aching butts. We took in some beautiful sights, stunning beaches and had a really early night. Riding around those twisty roads was an experience in itself. Ranging from absolutely hilarious to downright terrifying, depending on the volume of the expletives coming from my slightly nervous pillion passenger. Just when we thought we had it sussed, the bloody bike conked out on the most ridiculously steep hill/tightest corner you could imagine! It just died on us. Cars and vans were blasting their horns and shouting at us, waving their arms in the air, but what could I do? I was desperately trying to get the thing started whilst Katie employed a few well known hand signals to let them know it wasn't our fault. It started eventually and didn't falter again after that. It was more funny than scary though. Everyday stuff for us.

As we'd only managed to cover one side of the island on the previous day, the next day we decided to hire another bike so we could see the East side as well. I was a lot more competent at riding the bike by now and Katie was a lot more relaxed as a result, making the second day a lot more enjoyable for us both. It's not easy to get around a tight bend on your bike when your passenger insists on leaning in the opposite direction. "It's not a speed bike! You don't need to put your knee on the ground!" etc. The East side of the island was even more picturesque than the west. Deserted roads wound their way along the coastline and there were very few tourist resorts. We spent the entire day riding to deserted little beaches and did plan to visit one of the many waterfalls but we were advised against it as it hadn't been raining much lately so there wasn't much to see. We were on the road until sunset, which was absolutely gorgeous to watch, before heading to the Ting Tong Bar for a couple of beers. We saw the funniest rendition of Unchained Melody ever. A Thai man with a guitar and an extremely bad backing track singing in broken english:
"Ooooh my luuur, mai daahleen, hi uuungar four yow tusks" I can't even begin to describe how he slaughtered an Eric Clapton number.
We were crying with laughter!
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