Golden Week’15: Koh Chang

The night bus from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap was a wonderful affair! The bus did indeed offer fully reclined beds. All seating had been stripped out of the bus, and bunk beds built, in continuous lines from front to back. So whereas I thought I’d been clever to get us the bottom floor, away from the toilet, some of the boys did end up back there!

View the highlights video here!

Also, the two seats together were by no means separated. They were just a flat area, twice the size of the single seat, slightly padded, with two blankets – thankfully everybody on our group was on friendly terms with each other! And the bunks were exactly 6’ foot, so sleeping diagonally was required!

The best bit was breaking and taking corners at speed, and at one point feeling Savvy slide down the bed, flailing as she slid.

Back in Siem Reap

Early in the morning we arrived at the terminal, stood in a line brushing our teeth in the toilet, and then began hunting around for a minivan. Slim pickings meant we ended up paying a little more than I wanted, but at least we were on our way by 7am!

After few hours and a little napping we had arrived at the border, and quickly made our way through the familiar border crossing, and were out on the other side, and became popular property. We got chatting to a bloke who would said he’s arrange a bus for us, and after nipping to the rest stop for some food, we bought tickets from a small vending shop.

It was here things began to get a bit sketchy, as we handed over our money, and we told to take a seat and wait.

Keeping an eye on the guy, slowly 15, then 20 minutes passed, and when I saw him hop in the back of a bike, I began to fear we’d been had.

Thankfully, 10 minutes later he returned in our minivan, and we were off to Koh Chang!

Sunday – On the Road to Koh Chang

It was a deceptively long journey to Koh Chang, perhaps due to the indirect route that has to be taken since it’s not on the main BKK to the border route, perhaps because we were impatient at this time to finish our travels!

As we got to the ferry port, the driver suggested we buy our tickets from a particular vendor. Despite being confident we’d get inflated prices, it was the kind of tourist friendly port that made it clear where we could buy tickets anyhow, so what was 50 cent to us?

With a lack of sleep, and lots of travelling under our belt, seeing the price board as we entered having a lower price, some embers of the group we not best pleased, heightening tensions within the group.

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Finally, a whole week without travelling!

Thankfully the very departed shortly after our arrival, and the small on board shop permitted us to have welcome to Koh Chang beers! And by early afternoon we had arrived in the port.

Quite how we get to our accommodation wasn’t something we had thought about…

After hunting for a taxi proved unsuccessful, Martyn and Savvy managed to get use of somebody’s phone, and we had our new landlord come pick us up in his pick up truck – so naturally we rode in the back and enjoyed the wind in our hair.

The appartment was a large house, on a site with a few different rental houses. Off from the open lounge-diner-kitchen areas was two double bedrooms and bathroom, whilst up the stairs at the back of the kitchen was the master bedroom, with ensuite and smaller box room with double bed.

No sooner had I put my bag down in the master room than it was announced that this was to be the girls’ room, and was promptly relegated to the box room. But at least my roommate was Taylor, and with his success with the ladies, I get at least a few nights of the bed all to myself!

As sun set, we headed down the road in pursuit of the food and an ATM, and finding both, were enjoyed a scrumptious Thai meal, and returned home satisfied.

Monday – On the hunt for Elephants

Lyle not feeling up to scratch remained at the house, as the rest of us took a taxi to one of the many town areas around the island, on the hunt for elephants and a waterfall.

The pick-up truck taxis on the island seem to work on an unusual per person basis, resulting in our 200baht taxi turning into a 1400baht taxi! A shocker when the taxi from the airport had come to 400Baht per car! We’d later learn that almost anywhere on the island is between 100-200 baht, so maybe we were had, or it was because we had booked?

Stocked up on bizarre Thai 7-11 snacks, we headed inland towards a highly recommended elephant camp and noteworthy waterfall in which we planned to swim and do lunch! En route we were joined by a number of animals, of note was a black cat we called Shere Khan!

Arriving at the elephant place, we managed to book a tour for 2 days time, and so continued into the ‘National Park’ (with entrance fee) to the waterfall, and met an eccentric Dutch bloke who opened conversation with the cracker “Do you guys like to party?” and would join us on our guest to the waterfall and guarded us from a snake.

Our plans for idyllic waterfall lunch and swim were promptly destroyed we when found the waterfall to be scarcely more than a dribble into a dirty looking pool, created by a very made man looking, concrete dam, and with that we sat on some rocks and laughed at our sightseeing achievement.

Then thankfully, or maybe unfortunately, the heavens decided to treat us to a 40 minute monstrous downpour, that forced everybody (bar Martyn) down to their swimming costume, as we slowly drown on our way back to the small town, via a cheerful, arty, cafe called BlueBlues.

As early evening approached, the drink was calling our names, and we moved around the island to indulge the calling, first hitting up the Happy Hour in Mojito lounge, and playing pool, before taking dinner in an Irish restaurant, and playing rounds of Cage Rage; a drinking game involving two cups, two ping pong balls and a lot of rage.

A few more bevvies, and the girls decided to call it a night, with the boys hitting up the legendary Lonely Beach area.

Naturally, when it was time to leave, travelling back round to the other side of the island, many a broken heart lay soaking in spoilt booze on the dance floor.

Tuesday – Rest Day

After travelling round so much, we took a lazy day, rising late, and spending the day by the pool, where we met the two Dannies – Boy Danny and Girl Dani who would become our friends over the next few days (and would get engaged shortly after we left – I’m sure we helped!).

That evening we chased up supplies for a BBQ – burgers a impossibly hard thing to find – and I showed off my Ugandan fire lighting technique, and cooked the food with Martyn, before retiring for the party inside.

Wednesday – Or, The Best day of the Trip

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Martyn not feeling friendly this day!

Wednesday meant elephant riding day! Picked up early from the house, we shared our experience with a German family. Taking the elephants for their bath time in the river, we got to scrub and climb all over the elephants – they have the grossest, roughest skin that makes me queasy just to think about!

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Spotted a dinosaur I think.

Then after some pineapple, we got to climb onto some seat, and ride the elephants through the forest surrounding the centre – even getting to climb out and ride on the elephants directly, which terrifying as they lurched around, and painful as their ears whipped the delicates tops of my feet!

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Such a natural, must have been all the horse riding…

The afternoon was equally as exciting, if a little adventurous as 5 of us were picked up and taken around the island for a Thai cooking class.

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Fresh Pad Thai is the most delicious Pad Thai!

Set off the main road, in a pleasant forest area, we stood in the outside kitchen, being taught about and preparing a range of food; spring rolls; chilli sauce; papaya salad, a soup and a traditional Thai curry, of which we each made a different one!

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Our little cooking school in the forest.

It was a great experience; prepping some food, cooking it, then making more, until we had a full dinner prepared! All the curries were incredible, teeming with flavour that is so lacking from our food back in Japan!

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The 5 different Thai curries we produced – all おいしい

The only issue? We had already eaten our own lunch, the spring rolls and salad! It was all too much so we had to get takeaway.

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Too much to eat, even if we hadn’t already had spring rolls! So delicious though!

I can’t recommend highly enough taking a cooking class here!

The evening we simply sat together, watching Wreck It Ralph and sitting on sofas – it was lovely!

Thursday – Or, a Close Second Best Day

How ever could we top such a day? Why by island hopping and snorkeling in the Gulf of Thailand – duh!

Meeting up with the Dannies, the 9 of us set forth from the accommodation, and were driving right round the island, past even the lonely beach! Arriving and stocking up on supplies, we learnt that the island has a no booze laws that limit the hours alcohol is allowed to be selled, and so the 7/11 beer fridge was tied shut!

The boat was a brightly coloured affair, that offered breakfast and lunch on board, as well as drinks and booze – so thankfully we were going to be ok!

Breakfast was a pleasant affair of scrambled egg, ham, and breads, which complimentary juice, and then we were off!

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A brightly coloured boat indeed!

We must have stopped off about 5 or 6 times through the day, with the main snorkeling spot being in the middle, and was just a small island teeming with life, which the boys even managed to swim all the way around before we got called back. Rachael and I sharing a moment as we held hands in the warming waters.

After nearly 14 days of holiday, it finally happened – nearly all of us burnt – I know I did!

After a quick shower and refresh, the group was ready to head out for dinner and partying, though minus the Dannies and Lyle.

We chose to check out the tour guide’s restaurant, Shark, which despite calling its milkshakes, smoothies, and its smoothies, milkshakes, much to the confusion of the group when discussing drinks, the food was very tasty, though perhaps a little slow.

Having already scouted the area, the boys were quick to guide the girls around the lonely beach bars, before culminating in the dance bar we’d been in the previous night, that allowed us to catch up with some of the girls we’d previously met, and make friends with some more!

Despite dripping with sweat from tip to toe, I have never been so popular on the dance floor!

But alas, we left broken hearts strewn between shards of glass, ready to be swept up the next morning – we’ll all of us except one lucky guy, who wasn’t so lucky when they had to pay for a taxi back themselves the next day!

Friday – Or, Leaving the Resort in Peace for a Day

Our last full day of holiday, and what once felt like it would never end, was coming to a close.

Once again, enjoying the opulence of having sofas, we reclined and watched I love you Man, which made for a pleasant morning, before heading down for a long afternoon at Whitesands.

Despite what our landlord said, turns out you can’t have lunch at the KC resort and use their swimming pool, as was demonstrated when they kicked us out, so maybe he just didn’t want us using the complex’s pool?

However, our spirit could not be crushed, and we moved down the beach, until we found a perfect spot to sip cocktails and play with a frisbee – though mucking about in the sun was the last thing my sunburnt shoulders needed!

As it was our last night, we spent it with the Dannies, again constructing a BBQ together, before finishing the night with Danny’s projector and Team America.

Saturday – Homeward Bound

Now the real struggle began as we awoke, and set about cleaning the house. Pleasantly, practically the whole group pulled their weight, setting about tending to the washing up, sweeping and disposing of rubbish, though perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise as we’ve all spent the last few years living with friends, and more recently entirely responsible for our own apartments.

Posing for some last group photos, we said farewell to the Dannies, and jumped into the landlord’s pickup truck, who dropped us off at the ferry port.

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The full gang in the landlord’s pickup

Soon we on the ferry, and almost as quickly back off the ferry, and walking round the car park looking for a vehicle big enough to take us. Choice was limited if we didn’t want to take funky coloured coaches, so we settled on a price, and a drop off near to the airport train line, and spent the next 5 or 6 hours travelling back into Bangkok, stopping and having to get out 2 or 3 times to fill the vehicle with gas.

Arriving at the train station we’d selected for its direct line to the airport, we ventured around to check train times, only to discover it no longer had a direct train! But that there were other options that only took 40 minutes or so.

By now the group was cranky, as tiredness and lack of funds began to shorten people’s fuses, but the group was coerced into heading a few stops down to check out a shopping mall for a few hours.

This was like no part of Bangkok we’d seen, with narrow pavements turned into a shopping market, with shops spilling out onto the street on one side, and market stalls on the other, creating a narrow tunneling through which people walking in both directions had to squeeze past. Then arriving at the mall it was ludicrously grand, of Westfield like size and appearance, with every brand you could of think of! So we settled for a Asian/Thai fusion restaurant and ate our final meal in Thailand.

With not much to do, we made our way to the station, onto the airport, and counted down the hours until our flight – a stark contrast to our sprinting through departures and general faff in getting the plane to Thailand!

The only thing Savvy, Rachael and I had overlooked was by choosing seat in front of the emergency isle, we couldn’t recline… A terrible night’s sleep for us then!

Sunday – Back in 日本

Early on Sunday morning we touched down into Fukuoka, felt special as we passed through the special passport control for us, and were soon saying goodbye to Nick as he left for Kumamoto.

Then the Oita lot headed back, and slowly our numbers dropped, until it was just Savvy and I, and by Sunday night I was back in my appartment, thoughts of Thailand and Cambodia drifting in and out of my dreams – that was quite some holiday.

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J.Molkenthin

James Molkenthin is an enthusiastic and energetic British Designer, with a background in Graphics, Website and Product Design.