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Koh Chang

Friday April 9th, 1999 to Monday April 19th, 1999
The beaches of Koh Chang, Thailand

Koh Chang is a nature reserve/resort island in eastern Thailand, not far from the Cambodian border. Getting to its beach huts involves a 5hr bus ride, a half hour sangthaew(?) ride, a 1hr boat ride, and then another half hour in a sangthaew. Nonetheless, one of the great things about Thailand is that it's frequently cheaper to go on vacation outside of Bangkok than it is to stay home in Bangkok: about $15 each to get there, $6 a night for a hut on the ocean, and, aside from food, nothing else to spend money on.

We spent the first couple of nights on a fairly touristy beach, then decided that we had to get away from the pasty farang(?) flesh. We caught a boat down to a very isolated little place at the south end of the island, near a tiny Cambodian refugee fishing village. The area is only accessible by boat or by foot — there is no road.

The place at which we stayed was very relaxed, run by nice people who didn't want too many guests (too much work). We played a lot of scrabble, spent a couple of days at an isolated beach, and dove off some rocks (and the owner's boat) in to an incredible turquoise sea. Altogether, a very relaxing week (you know you're relaxed when at 11am you start trying to decide what you're going to have for dinner).

After a week of doing virtually nothing we were feeling pretty lazy, so for the trip home we decided that, instead of taking the boat back up to the road, we'd hike about 4hrs through the jungle to where we could catch a sangthaew to the ferry pier. We spoke to a couple of people who had walked down to the village, and they assured us that the path was easy to follow, and that the trip would take us about 3hrs. We set out around 9, hoping to make it to the road around 12, have a swim at the beach, catch a truck to the ferry, get to the mainland, be on the 6pm bus to Bangkok, and back by 10:30-11pm.

Beach, jungle, and islands; Koh Chang, Thailand

The first couple hours of the walk through the jungle were great — hot, especially with pores clogged with sunscreen and bug repellent, but the jungle is a pretty amazing place, and there was a lot to look at (and listen to). After about 2hrs, we got to a place where there was beach in front of us, and a clear, well marked path to the right. We made what we thought was the obvious choice, and took the path. We spent the next 2hrs struggling up a very steep incline, following an on-again off-again path which sometimes disappeared completely. Trying not to think of big, poisonous snakes, we made our way through the jungle; a tropical thunderstorm didn't improve matters, and just about tripled the weight of our packs.

Although we were sure that we weren't on the right path, we were on an island, so we could hardly go that far wrong, and according to our compass we were heading in the right direction. I was convinced that if we could get to the top of the mountain we were climbing, we'd be able to get back down the other side. Finally, though, we went for a prolonged period without seeing anything even vaguely resembling a path. We turned around, and after a few scary "I don't recognize this"-type moments, and a couple of wrong turns, we made it back down to where the path met the beach. Needless to say, all we had to do was walk up the beach for a half hour or so, and we made it to the road. The people we had talked to about the path had been going in the opposite direction, away from the road. The intersection where we got lost is very straightforward if you're going the other way, but very confusing the way we were going. As a result of this little detour, we missed the 6pm bus, and had to wait for the one at 11pm, which got us home around 4am.

Upon emerging from the jungle, Koh Chang, Thailand

Aside from the stress of being lost in the jungle, the whole experience was quite enjoyable. One of the most memorable aspects of the trip through the jungle involved spider webs spun across the path. You generally don't notice a web until you walk into it, at which point you hope that the 3 pound animal that spun it is running away and not toward you. We were the first ones along the path that morning, and quite a few large spiders had barricaded it overnight looking for a bite to eat. Needless to say, I was quickly and unanimously (with 1 abstention) elected "person who walks in front and hence walks in to all the spider webs so that Hannah doesn't have to."

More information about Thailand is available on the About Thailand page; you might want to have a look at it if you haven't already.

You might wish to look at the Koh Chang photos in the photo album.

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