Thursday, 27 September 2012

Thailand | Koh Chang!

The time we spent in Chaing Mai wasn't quite long enough to really get a true feel for the place; so, compared to other travellers opinions, mine is a fairly opaque view. The City was nice, but compared with other Cities I visited later on, definitely not on my top five list which blew me away. However, I would relish the opportunity to visit again and really pick up on the detoxing vibes others resonate and speak highly of.

From Chaing Mai we headed back to Bangkok via train... What an experience! We enjoyed the scenic view it provided from our rickety carriages and peacefully watched the daily goings on of the locals. However, the hours dragged as we sat, slumped, curled and sprawled other our seats trying to find a happy medium and attempt to sleep through the mammoth 18 hour journey laid out before us. Alex even attempted the baggage racks above, which proved successful and he slept right through (until he got nudged to get down..). On another note, I was one of the few in our group that enjoyed the train journey, although sleep deprived; it was nice to travel like the locals and not be bombarded with tourist traps and ploys, but to relax, think and truly get a feel for how they live beneath all the camaraderie of what tourist companies push us to believe defines and is the epitome of Thai culture. I liked being able to see and experience it for myself without the aid of a tour guide. Whilst on the train we befriended many of the people sat around us; they took a genuine interest in our backgrounds wanting to know where we had travelled from and why? We eagerly asked them questions in return and the conversation flowed into a variety of topics. 

We arrived in Bangkok train station just before noon, many of us weary and tired from the long journey. As we left the confines of the train station, which randomly reminded of Euston station in London and brought a smile to me face, we were bombarded by tuk tuk drivers offering to take us to a nice hotel they knew of for a pricey sum. Naturally we walked a little further on and found an array of tuk tuks just around the corner offering a better deal. And, after the train journey which seemed like years ensued the best tuk tuk ride I've experienced yet in South East Asia. The drivers must have been close friends, and acted like brothers in competition, which was portrayed in their race to get us to our destination first. Of course we encouraged them to go faster and beat the other vehicle, who wouldn't? We sped through the roads of Bangkok, dodging cyclists and overtaking cars as we flew around the roundabouts at top tuk tuk speed before being dropped off at the end of Khao San Road. Feeling cheered up and wide awake we all settled back into the first hostel we all met at and were able to explore the vast city before us again before delving in for round two of the nightlife. The next day, we woke up early and hungover and headed straight for the Island of Koh Chang, just south east of Bangkok. 


It's interesting, the bored and slightly tired conversations you can have with either complete strangers or your closest friends when you're travelling. The bus ride to Koh Chang was one of those times where the conversation was fuelled by tiredness but turned out to be amusing and a eye opening realisation that myself, and Miri, share certain weird habits and strange desires other normal human beings perhaps don't...

"Do you ever wish you could drink petrol?" Pause. "Not particularly, well, I'd never really thought about it. I think I would though. I've thought of wanting to eat other weird things like grass, shiny things like metal.. or glass. I imagine petrol would taste like marmite, don't you? It's the same kinda of gloopy texture and I bet you'd either really love it, or just hate it." Hysterical laughter. "I've always had this urge to eat concrete too. Just to try it. When I was younger I used to eat mud, like loads of it. My parents would have to tare me away from it - I just loved it so much. Sometimes I literally have to tare myself away from wanting to just go ahead and drink petrol. I eye it up and think, what would actually happen apart from breaking my teeth if I tried a bit of the kerb?" Small laughter and then serious tone. "Did you actually enjoy the taste of mud? I think the worst I've eaten is grass, but mud, really? Surely that made you ill."
"Nah, I loved it. I ate tons and tons of ice too. Well, I still do."
"That makes sense with all the iced coffees you buy!"
"I always get these weird cravings to try things I shouldn't, like: petrol, concrete, bark.. Anything that isn't really food but more material I just want eat, but I imagine it would taste amazing."
Pause. "I think I would definitely drink petrol if it wouldn't kill you. I've for sure convinced myself it tastes like marmite and now I really want to try some."

"I always do this; I never go to the toilet when I need to or when there actually is a toilet around. I just hang on and try and ride it out. But I just don't want to go; I hate going. I don't know why though?" Moment of mutual understanding. "Me too! I just find it so primal, surely by now we should have found some other way to go rather than the way we do."


Seven hours later and we arrived on island; first impressions was that it looked beautiful, full of forest as we wound up the road on the mountain and made our way to Lonely Beach. Soon after we arrived at our hostel, for the first time in three weeks we'd wouldn't be sharing with another member of the group and had our own private bungalows! The others "shotgunned" the block of four just round the corner to the reception and raced off to claim their room. I, on the other hand, was left with the one facing the reception next to Miri's, but, to my surprise, turned out to be the best as it had an en-suite! BOOM.

I spent the afternoon exploring the area of the island we were in and it really is beautiful, perhaps not the most stunning in Thailand, but it definitely has character and the beach looked lovely (minus the pieces of litter lacing the beach). In the evening we all ate dinner together in a restaurant  overlooking the sea and we watched the sunset in the distance and a storm brewing out over the sea.

Unfortunately, being the rainy and low season (everything was so empty and quiet, which was nice, compared with the hustle and bustle of Bangkok and Chaing Mai) in which we visited, it rained three out of the four days we were there. But, that didn't dampen our beach-minded spirits nor stop us attempting to achieve at least a base tan and experiencing the island nightlife which started with a BBQ on the beach and a Cambodian fire dancer...

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