Off the ferry we were hustled onto set-rate small truck taxis. Unfortunately our driver didn’t know exactly where our bungalow was and let us off at Lonely Beach. We eventually found another driver who knew where we were going, only another 2km down the road. Just before sunset we rolled into Vanalee Resort.
Unfortunately, as can be seen in the above photo, the beach was rocky and fringed with mangroves. But the location was quiet, away from the crowds at White Sands or Lonely Beach. We quickly discovered that the restaurant was trying to be gourmet with prices to match. We ate there the first night out of convenience but soon found alternatives.
The sunset, however, was excellent and went down well with the cold Changs. Just how foreboding were those clouds though?
Our bungalow was small with no screens to keep out the mozzies but did have a mosquito net over the bed. But he price was reasonable, the staff excellent and we could access the wifi from our bungalow.
The next morning we set out on foot for Lonely Beach. Priority one: beach time!
Yep, Sue hit the water first. At 10am Lonely Beach was pretty quiet. The water was warm and the shallows ran out forever. I quickly discovered that the salinity of the water made it excellent for floating, one of my favourite activities.
Lonely Beach is party central on Koh Chang. When we stopped at a beachfront restaurant for shakes and spring rolls I spotted this poster which summed up the party ethic.
By the time we left the beach there were a few more people. But considering its popularity and the number of bungalows and resorts surprisingly few people were about.
On our way back to Bai Lan we found a roadside restaurant with an extensive menu and reasonable prices. Just look at this dish and imagine how happy it made me! Look at those peppers!
The next morning we awoke to thunder and a torrential downpour. We had planned on renting a motorbike to go exploring Koh Chang but were starting to have doubts about the safety of driving on the twisting, hilly roads when rain slick.
Fortunately the rain soon stopped and we decided to go with the bike. We were also concerned about the bike being able to carry the two of us up some of the steep hills but it had the power. The brakes though were nerve wracking. (The main road on the west side of Koh Chang alternates between flat stretches and twisting steep sections over the headlands.)
We paused at a viewpoint in the National Park and enjoyed the view of the water and some of the nearby small islands.
We then visited White Sands, the more exclusive beach on the northwest coast of the island. It was hot and humid and we welcomed a brief swim.
We stopped occasionally to purchase gas from roadside vendors who sell gas by the bottle.
We turned back from White Sands and drove to the southern end of the paved road, near the village of Bang Bao. Once we passed Bai Lan we started seeing monkeys sitting on the guardrails along the road. There were “Do Not Feed the Monkeys” signs. Past the village we checked out some of the bungalows along the beach. Where there were no businesses it seemed no one picked up the garbage.
But where the bungalows were it looked quite nice. We looked at a couple of places as we wanted to move closer to a sandy beach.
We returned to the fishing village. At one time this had been a sleepy little place with people living in houses on stilts over the water, connected by wooden walkways. Those are still there but the pier is crowded with tourist shops and restaurants. Tour boats, mostly for diving, and inter-island boats come and go with hoards of tourists. But we did see one really tempting room in one of the places located over the water.
The next day we decided to go north, back past the ferry terminal, and down the east side of the island. The transition was amazing: far less traffic, few resorts and the air felt more humid and smelled lush. The road was smooth, less hilly, and the ride was great. Keeping moving kept us somewhat cool, although by the end of the day our butts were aching.
We took a side road that promised to take us to Long Beach. The jungle was infringing on the road and the concrete was breaking up on the winding, hilly road.
The concrete suddenly ended and turned to a rough dirt road heading down a steep hill. We decided to turn back as it looked a like a rough ride with the two of us on one bike. Later we met some folks who’d gone down and said that the beach wasn’t worth the effort.
We stopped for refreshments at a restaurant on a mangrove lined waterway.
By the time we got back to the western side of the island we were hot and tired. We stopped for a swim and food at Lonely Beach. Later, as we were leaving, we saw these odd, almost hairless, cattle.
The following day we made our decision and moved to KP Huts on Khong Prao beach. This was it! Quiet, lovely bungalows, a reasonable restaurant on site and a long, long beach with hardly anyone on it. At either end were more expensive resorts and a few other bungalow style places were scattered along its length. Just what we wanted.
Like Lonely Beach the shallows ran out quite far. In the above photo the tide is almost all the way out. We did little other than float, swim and walk the beach. No more motorbiking around. A couple of walks down the dirt road to the main road. But mostly just hanging out, relaxing. Exactly the way we wanted to end our trip.
The only, small, annoyance were the jellyfish. A couple we had met on the ferry and who were staying there warned us about them. But they also said the jellies generally inhabited a narrow band close to the beach and once past them it was worry-free water. Research revealed that their sting wasn’t deadly, but similar to that of a stinging nettle. It became a bit of a game to weave our way through them.
Out on the main road there were some bigger critters: elephants used for short treks. We decided against a trek. We weren’t impressed by some of the facilities and habits of the businesses but we did see lots of happy people riding the elephants. This particular beast was free of his enclosure and enjoying a browse in the grass.
Meanwhile back on the beach I spent some time watching the tiny crabs scuttle along, digging holes and making small balls of sand.
But mainly we just floated…
and enjoyed the scene…
(I know: sunsets are So Cliche, I just couldn’t resist another one).
Of course all good things come to an end. We floated and swam as much as we could. Drank shakes and ice coffees and beers. Ate delicious food. Enjoyed the warmth of the sun.
But after a week we headed back to Bangkok for one more night.
We finally caught that plane home (3am!) and 30 hours of transport later we were back on Pender Island. Where the next night the power went out during a wind storm (for 15 hours). And a couple of days later I saw snow falling (briefly, thankfully).
The journey was amazing. The people we met really made it special. We’re keeping our fingers crossed for Myanmar (elections in April, 2012). And we’re discussing when and how we’ll get back to continue our explorations of SEAsia.