BIg Changs on Little Ko Chang

Trip Start Jun 13, 2011
Trip End Jun 12, 2012

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Where I stayed
Sawasdee Resort

Flag of Thailand  , Ranong,
Friday, December 16, 2011

We were both knackered as we boarded our bus from Cambodia to Bangkok (11hr, $10), and although getting plastered the night before a long bus journey with border crossings isn’t the best idea, sometimes these things just happen! Thankfully, the buses were decent and although there was an almost intolerable amount of hanging about, we made it into Thailand with the minimum of fuss - so glad we got our visas sorted in Vietnam!

Bangkok was the first and one of the only places that we’ve been before and are going back to on this trip, and we were eager to see if it was how we remembered! Although this time we’re on a completely different type of trip to when we were there before - proper travelling, with the budget to match! So no 5 * Imperial Queen’s Park for us, instead we checked into a great wee guesthouse, which was clean, quiet and had friendly staff (what more do you need anyway?), just 500bt per night and only 10 minutes walk from Khoasan Road, the main ‘backpackers’ area.

It was pretty much as we remembered it, although if anything it seemed a lot more laidback - but I suppose we were looking at things from a different perspective, after spending so much time in even more crazy cities! It was great just wandering around, checking out the traveller’s hangouts that advertise they  ‘don’t check I.D’S’, little retro minibuses that have been turned into bars and general shenanigans in the streets - and now and again getting that waft of the familiar Bangkok aroma, that indefinable blend of sewerage and rotting fish……..

Although we only had a couple of days there this time (we’ll spend longer before we fly out to Nepal), we made the most of it - enjoying the food (everything from street stalls to smiley-face toast to Sawasdee Restaurant), the sights, the tuk tuk’s - Barry even fitted in a trip to the cinema - which left me in peace to finish my Xmas shopping! Looking forward to going back already!

The overnight bus to Ranong (8hrs, 9) was unremarkable other than the fact we arrived 2 hours earlier than expected - which would normally be a good thing, except in this case we arrived at 4.30am instead of 6.30, and our boat wasn’t leaving till 9.30am - yay, more time to sit around bus stations and ferry ports! Fortunately, we got talking to a lovely couple from Dunfermline and the time passed relatively quickly, although the mega-strong coffee and lack of sleep put a bit of a weird slant on things! By the time the boat arrived we were all just gagging to get to our digs and freshen-up, but the expected 1 hour journey (150bt) took almost 2 and a half - how funny!

We’d chosen (Little) Koh Chang (definitely not to be confused with Big Koh Chang on the Cambodian side) as our second stop of our island hopping tour for a number of reasons, and it more than lived up to expectations! It’s a true traveller island, with a few wee collections of bungalows dotted about, all very rustic and charming, with absolutely no resorts. There are fantastic walks all around the island, most of which are on dirt paths cut through the jungle, so you feel like a real intrepid explorer! There’s also small village in the centre, so you get a sense of the community, and everyone we met was so genuine and friendly. It certainly wasn’t as showstoppingly beautiful as Koh Rong, but an attractive island nonetheless, with marbled sands and dense forests. I think the really appealing factor was just how quiet it was, with electricity only available on the island from 6pm-10pm.

We stayed at a great place called ‘Sawasdee’ on Long Beach, with about a dozen wooden beach huts dotted about, and a really pretty open-air chill-out/restaurant area - at 350bt (7) per night per bungalow in Peak season in Thailand it was a steal! The prices were pretty similar across the whole island, and food and drink everywhere was also pretty good value, especially by Thai island standards. Apparently, a lot of travellers come back year after year, including retirees that spend their whole winters out here, and it’s easy to see why.

While simply chilling-out took up a huge amount of our time (it’s a hard life!), we did mange to get out on a few walks, and our full day adventure was great fun - we set off at 8am (to beat the midafternoon heat), thinking we’d be away for a couple of hours, only to end up traipsing round most of the island, through native jungle and over steep hills, visiting the local school, another small village and dropping in on a few other wee bungalow places. The guys we met at ’Sea Eagle' were really nice and seemed to really appreciate our ’visit’ - there were only the 2 of them staying at the accommodation, which is pretty cut off from everything else! We had great food at ’Sunset’ and watched their sundown volleyball game, only to realise we hadn’t packed our torch (as we’d never expected to be getting back so late), so had to walk the last part of the journey home feeling our way through the forest in the pitch black, where I had the delightful experience of a rat running over my foot - urgh! But we got back in one piece (just about!), and although we were tired and absolutely filthy we felt great!
Nature-wise, it would be a bird watcher’s delight, with all sorts of birds including Sea Eagles and Hornbills. There was also an abundance of butterflies everywhere, in every imaginable shape and size, as well as some very interesting creepy-crawlies - and of course the rats! 

We didn’t have time to sample even half the restaurants around, but everything we had was great, although I’d probably say the food at Sawasdee was the best we tasted. Mama’s was ok, but it had a fantastic sunset view. We really wanted to try ‘Chilli Garden’, a small place near the village run by a Glaswegian guy, but as it was at least a 2 hour round trip to get there and back, it was simply out of the question to go along in the evening -  but we’ll make a point of having lunch there next time we visit.

And there definitely will be a next time - the island has pretty much everything you could want from a relaxing beach stop, and although it’s a little rough round the edges, that only adds to its rustic appeal - it’s fun chilling out on a beach all day, but lack of electricity/internet/paved roads etc keep you on you your toes, so it’s still a little challenging. Exactly what we were hoping for - and more…..

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