Daily Archives: May 16, 2005

Holiday on Koh Chang Island

Gai Bae Beach on Koh Chang

From Samut Prakan, it took us about three and a half hours to reach the car ferry for Koh Chang. We then had to wait about 10 minutes for it to leave. The trip across the water then only took about 20 minutes. So, in all, it was about four hours door to door. Not too bad. However, as our journey took us further south-east, the weather deteriated. We were having scattered showers. Not the best of weather for a beach holiday! But, according to the teachers at my school, I already had “na dum” which meant I shouldn’t be trying to get more of a tan.

I must admit my first impressions of Koh Chang weren’t that good. We disembarked from the ferry and immediately drove up a steep and winding road. A short while later we passed through a small community. It looked like a dump rather than a slice of paradise. I was thinking they should make some effort to “beautify” the area but then I guess that people were trying to live their normal lives here before the tourists started to arrive. It is not really fair of us to judge the state of their front yard.

I wasn’t sure what I really expected to see. Some friends had told us that the first beach called White Sands is quite crowded and that there were many shops lining the road. They weren’t wrong about that. There were pubs and restaurants, convenience stores, motorcycle rentals, a post office, massage parlours and even internet cafes that were charging a staggering 2 baht per minutes. In Samut Prakan it is only 20 baht per hour! We stopped briefly at a book store to buy a map and then continued onwards. Our friends had suggested that we checked out Gai Bae Beach first and then Lonely Beach next door.

I think my expectations were a bit too high. I was thinking I would drive along this road and “oo aah” at the beautiful palm fringed white beaches and sparkling blue sea. I thought I would be choosing the beach from the car! As it turned out, the car journey was more like a roller coaster ride and we were all soon feeling rather car sick. We passed through a number of communities and before we realized it, we had reached the end of Gai Bae Beach! We weren’t getting any views from the road at all. Well, hardly any. Leading down from the road were these small dirt tracks. Some better than others. We soon realized we had to go down these in order to reach the beach.

Lonely Beach with lots of tourists

Our first view of a beach was rather disappointing. It was a nice hotel, but the beach was just rocks! I could see sand in the distance but not here. Good job we didn’t book a hotel in advance! So, we got back into the car and continued on our rollercoaster ride to the neighbouring Lonely Beach. Maybe this was lonely once upon a time, but not now. There were a lot of foreigners here. However, the beach looked much better. The bungalows were also very quaint looking. We inquired and were told that basic bungalows with a big bed, own bathroom and fan was only 500 baht. There were also cheaper smaller ones for about 200 baht with shared bathroom. This wasn’t bad. But we were looking for something a bit bigger and also with a fridge! We had brought a lot of shopping. Beer, soft drink, bottled water and lots of snacks!

So, we decided to head back to Gai Bae Beach. This time we went down a dirt track at where we thought the middle of the beach was. This was much better. There was some good sand here and even some palm trees. There were still some rocks but not so much. I think it probably added character. The first place we inquired said their bungalows were 1800 baht a night. A bit too expensive. So, we just kept on walking down the beach. It was actually quite difficult to know where one beach resort ended and the next one started. Soon we found another beach bungalow with hot water shower, air-conditioning, tv, fridge and two king-sized beds big enough for four people. The price was 1,200 baht. Probably more than I wanted to pay but the location was pretty good. So, we moved in.

The bungalow where we stayed

Our bungalow was built on stilts. Out front there was a spacious balcony with table and chairs. It was good that I could park the car right next to it. At high tide, the water lapped against the rocks that you can see in the picture above. It was literally about four metres away from our front door. Perfect. As we were all pretty tired and hot from the long journey, we decided the best way to cool off was a dip in the sea. This was so excellent and so relaxing. You know what the best thing was? When you normally go to the beach you are always worrying about your valuables while you are swimming. However, we didn’t have to worry. Our “hotel’ room was just a few metres away!

That night we dined in the restaurant attached to this resort. We weren’t actually that impressed with the food so we decided we would walk the 50 metres to a neighbouring resort and eat there the next day! That is the best thing about this kind of place. There are always plenty of places to eat. However, the prices were a little high on average. Take breakfast as an example. The Thai breakfast of rice porridge was 45 baht when it is only 10 baht in Samut Prakan. The American breakfast was a whopping 80 baht. For this you got one egg, two slices of ham, three tiny hot dogs and two slices of bread. I reckon the ingredients for that meal would have cost them only 20 baht at the local 7-Eleven. I made a mental note to bring my barbeque hot plate next time and do my own cooking for breakfast and lunch. I had only brought the kettle so I could make coffee and of course pot noodles.

The first night there was a really bad storm with thunder and lightning. It poured for most of the night. I was a bit worried about the car. I had a bad experience during a road trip to Sukhothai a few years back. We stayed in a nice guesthouse by the side of a river. It was a wide river but only half full. The weather was clear when we went to bed. In the middle of the night, we woke up to the sound of lapping water and people shouting. Apparently, a big storm further north had produced a surprise flash flood where we were staying. The water was already up to the mattress. Ten minutes later the bed was under water. By morning the waters had receded a little. We were quite lucky where we had parked the car. There was only about a foot of water inside. So, when I looked out of the window at Koh Chang and saw the waves splashing the car wheel, I decided to get out and move the car to higher ground!

It had stopped raining by morning. When we woke up it was even starting to get brighter. However, there was then a power cut! We decided to hang around to see if it would come back on and also to see if the sun would come out. Check-out time was mid-day. If things didn’t improve by then, we decided we would head back to the mainland and maybe drive up the coast to the beaches at Rayong. At the moment it looked like Koh Chang had a different weather pattern compared to the rest of Thailand. Maybe Rayong would be better.

[The next story is “Koh Chang to Rayong” ]

Back in Thailand Again

So we finally made it back to Thailand. We left New York at around midnight on Tuesday, and after stops in Alaska and Taiwan… we landed in Bangkok at noon on Thursday! The other times that I’ve flown into Thailand, I landed at like, 3am, so I was suprised at how busy Don Muang airport was. I had to wait in the customs line for about 15 minutes, while my wife with her Thai passport scooted through in about 3 minutes! The airport was packed but we collected our bags with no problem, and we exchanged some cash. Then we started to look for our friend who was to meet us at the airport. Three phone calls and one hour later, we realized that she was at the wrong terminal! Oh well. She soon found us and we had a happy reunion in the 95 degree Farenheit heat. The line for the taxi stand was very long, so I suggested that we step back inside and get a less “official” taxi. Well they offered us a ride for 650 Baht! We decided to wait in line after all. For the ride to Sukhapiban 3 (Ramkamhaeng University), the fare was about 370 Baht (including the 50B surcharge), however we also had to pay about 80B in expressway tolls.

That night, (after a little nap!) our friend cooked for us in her dormitory apartment, and then we took a taxi to The Mall Bangkapi. This is a HUGE shopping mall not far from us that even has a four-storey waterfall inside! Of course the first thing that my wife wanted to buy was a mobile phone… so we got the one she wanted, and the funny thing is that I spend more time playing with it than she does! Back at our friend’s apartment, we had kao-niaw mamuang (sticky rice and mango), lychees and green mangos. Ah, I have really been looking forward to the food in Thailand more than anything. And I’m not talking about curries and seafood, either. I’m vegan, which means that I don’t eat meat (including fish/sauce and chicken), eggs or any dairy products. What I mean is the fruit! Sliced fruit like watermelon and pineapple, or fruit by the kilo, like rambutans, lychees, mangosteens, lam-yai, oranges, and many many more. Especially coconut. Fresh coconut has got to be my favorite food… I love the toasted coconuts, coconut nam-phan (smoothie), dried coconut, coconut sticky rice; everything with coconut! Also, I love the cool snacks that you just can’t get in America. For example: Nori-seaweed flavored potato chips, curry flavored Pringle’s (sadly discontinued), Koh Kae (coconut peanuts), and other cool things including many many varieties of iced-tea. Strangely though, it’s hard to find good hot tea… ask for hot tea in Thailand, and you will usually get Lipton’s. Go figure.

Friday morning our friend took a bus back home where she will be a bridesmaid in her friend’s wedding. She will return on Sunday morning. In the meantime, we will have her apartment to ourselves, and I guess we’ll get to catch up on Thai television. One thing that I had forgotton about Thai T.V., is that they censor cigarette-smoking. Whenever there is a cigarette, they blur it out! I’m not quite sure what to think about that, especially since the front pages of Thai newspapers are nearly always dominated by graphic, bloody pictures of some violent crime or the other.

We plan to stay in Bangkok for about a week, and then we’ll be off to Chiang Mai, and we can’t wait! We would leave sooner except that our friend wants to accompany us, and she has to stay a little longer for exams. Again, the thing about Chiang Mai that I miss the most is the food! Specifically, one particular restaraunt that we used to eat at 2 or 3 times a day when we lived there. It is a tiny little place run by a sweet old couple. Except for one dish with egg, the remainder of the extensive menu it completely vegan! In addition, the food is of excellent quality yet happens to be among the cheapest around (20B per dish)! It is the perfect restaraunt for me, and so I have been dreaming about it for two years!

It is called “Baiporn” and is located on Thanon Si Phum, Soi 1. If you are in Chiang Mai, I highly recommend it (especially if you are vegetarian). Of course that isn’t the only place to eat in Chiang Mai, just MY favorite! We also used to enjoy late-night excursions to the night-markets and food stalls at Chang Phuak gate. Patongko (fried doughnuts) with fresh, sweet, hot soy-milk, steamed buns with red bean paste filling… of course, my wife isn’t always a vegetarian, so she likes to get kuay-tiaw (noodles with meat-balls), pad-khapao kai (stir-fry with basil and egg), and luk-chin (fried meatballs on a stick). Something we both like is Nam Kaeng Sai (shaved ice with coconut milk, topped with black or red beans, and/or various other sweet things). Ooooohhhh, nam lai lai! I’m drooling just thinking about the possibilities!

If, after all that, I’m not too stuffed to move… I’ll drop back in and tell you how we’re getting along. Sawatdee khrap!


In absentia

Hi folks,

Sorry for the long absence. There is very little space left in my life for Internet now, so I’ll be online rather sporadically for the next few weeks.

If you happen to be on this side of the world during the next few days, you can find me at the shores of the Mekong river, in Laos. I’ll leave Thailand tonight, doing my three-month routine over there. Afterwards, my life will be quite busy for a while.

I had some interesting topics in mind; I hope I’ll have enough time to post them.

Until then, take care everyone. 🙂

A Thai Night at the Movies Part 2

Last time I talked about going to see ‘Beautiful Boxer’ the muay Thai movie with a twist. This time I went to see another interesting Thai film that also had a twist of it’s own