June 1, 2014
Bathing Elephants on Koh Chang
If you read my previous blogs you will note that I had come to a point where I could not tell whether hostels were now providing poorer quality accommodation or was it that I had changed and I now craved the creature comforts I had previously shunned.
I remember mulling this same question over and over in my mind on the coach from Pattaya to Koh Chang, after spending a few days in the Flash Packers apartment at Asia BackPackers in Pattaya (it was some 18 years since I had last been there) I was a little confused, the accommodation was excellent, the apartment was like no hostel I had ever stayed in, big, full of the home comforts including a en suite bathroom a separate lounge, dining area and bedroom with huge king side bed 2 x 52” flat screen TV’s and not having to share any of it with anyone else, surely this could not be classed as backpacking! But that is just what it is. The hostel bar and common area provided the place to meet other likeminded backpackers and swap stories and tips just like all the good hostels I have ever stayed with over so many years, the staff were as you would hope when travelling alone ‘brilliant’ I decided that I would keep an open mind and as per my original plan I would not make a decision until I finished this journey as a newbie Flash Packer, and therefore it was off to Asia BackPackers Hostel & Resort On the Island of Koh Chang
Koh Chang… was a lot quieter the last time I was there, almost 10 years ago, the beaches in the north of the island were so much quieter then, while they are busy they are nowhere near as busy as the crowded beaches of Phuket or its sister island of Koh Samui but nether-the-less busier than I remembered. The Island is the 2nd largest island in Thailand and sits within a marine sanctuary which with luck will keep it from being too commercialized as Samui and Phuket seem to now be. You can get over to the island from a few ferry ports for a few Baht, but you should try to pick the first port just outside of Trat, as the journey time is only 20-25 minutes, while the other can take twice that time and there are fewer Taxi’s the other end to get you to your destination.
Asia BackPackers Hostel & Resort is towards the south of the island almost at Bang Boa pier, I remember this part of the island for its laid back atmosphere and it still has it in spades, the hostel is nestled into the mountains and virgin forest of the island and is ideally situated a stone’s throw from the pier and the once much larger stilted fishing village, along the pier there are a multitude of quaint shops, great restaurants and dive shops, at the end of which stands the light house, it makes for good place to take pictures and it is here that you can find plenty of smaller boats that will take you to some of the smaller islands.
I was surprised to find that there are 3 beaches all within 15-25 minutes’ walk from the hostel, I could only remember the bigger of the three beaches and never knew about the smaller quaint beaches near the pier, a real treat and still unspoilt, I found it a good place to catch up on my sun tan. What has not changed is the water quality that end of the island, it was a pleasure to spend a few hours each day snorkelling in the clear blue, warm and shallow waters.
Like the Pattaya hostel this venue also boasts Flash Packer Accommodation, though of a smaller scale and not as luxuries as the first, the bungalows are detached with your own en suite bathrooms, AC, coffee & tea making facilities, a refrigerator with your own safe and flat screen TV, it was again not what I would recognise as hostel accommodation, with your own veranda to sit and watch the sun rise or set it was nether the less a pleasure to stay there.
During the 4 nights I stayed, I was amazed at what this once quiet island had to offer, so much to do with help from the staff I was able to fill my days with adventures which will stay in my memory for all the right reasons. If you go to the island I would recommend you go for the elephant trek and the opportunity to watch and participate in bathing these giant gentle animals, something along with swimming with Dolphins that will stay with me forever.
Before I knew it, my stay was finished and I found myself packing my rucksack once more and boarding another taxi to head back to the main land. After this second opportunity to stay in a ‘Flash Packers’ venue I was less uncertain about the quality of hostels, as the dormitories were excellent with their own reading light, power socket and backpack size lockers, there are fewer beds than the dorms of Pattaya but they still have the feeling of space with their own chic design. The second floor bar, café and BBQ area was great and it was a real pleasure spending time with my fellow guests and the staff drinking and laughing the evenings away.
It was slowly dawning on me that hostels (or at least those operated by Asia BackPackers) had not gone backwards on the quality of their amenities and facilities, it was me, I really had changed and I longed for the creature comforts of home….maybe it really was time to hang up my backpack?