August 17, 2014
Sun Sea and Som Tam
While my memories are fresh I want to share them with others, regarding my first visit to Thailand in January 2014 and my subsequent recent visit. What a country, a jumble of noise and of peace & tranquillity, of stark poverty and opulence. From the in your face 200 mile an hour capital of Bangkok (while not as manic as Hong Kong it comes pretty close) to the quiet and peaceful beaches of Krabi and Nai Harn. Each of the 76 provinces that make up the Kingdom (Bangkok is a special administrative area) seem to have their own unique feel and vibe, from Chang Rai in the furthest north to Narathiwat in the deepest south.
One of my fondest memories of backpacking was in my last stop before returning to Bangkok and that unwelcome but unavoidable flight home. Koh Chang is Thailand’s 3rd largest island and is a vast marine sanctuary, I would suggest it’s southern coast line is in the main still unspoilt, while the major resorts of White Sands and Lonely Beach are busy they are not as packed as Samui or Phuket, (possibly down to the fact that there are very few roads on this mountainous island) even though the tourist population has apparently doubled in the last 7-8 years.
Near to the end of the ‘real’ roads on the south of the island and just after the Asia BackPacker hostel, which we stayed in,Asia BackPacker hostel, which we stayed in, lies Bang Bao, a small stilted functioning fishing village, it is here that you will find the Bang Bao pier, the mainly timber pier is crowded with an abundance of shops, selling all sorts of bric-a-brac and clothes, it also houses a good selection of restaurants, serving food from around the world. What’s more there are 3 glorious sandy beaches that look out at the nearby islands, all of them are within walking distance of the hostel and pier, what more could you ask for!
The area is also renowned for its crystal clear waters and Coral Sea bed and is arguably the best location for snorkelling on the island. Due to the fact there are so few roads crossing this part of paradise it is also an ideal place to hike (or simply ramble), to be amazed by its fauna and flora or take time out to feed the wild monkey’s that come out of the trees to greet you. There is so much to do on the island from Elephant trekking in the day time to lazing around the hostel bar, swapping stories of the day’s adventures.
We were lucky as we had booked our accommodation on line and direct with Asia BackPackers, as we later found out that during the Thai public holidays it is almost impossible to find descent digs on the island and if you are travelling by car, to get on or off the ferries that ply backwards and forwards 365 days per year (the last leaves the mainland at 7pm local time), for during the holidays it can take 3-4 hours simply to board the ferries, as I stated we were lucky, unlike two other backpackers we met on the boat as they were only able to find accommodation when the hostel owner we stayed with, who was also fully booked provided them with his own tent for nothing to camp the night in the hostel grounds.
‘Asia BackPackers Koh Chang’ what a great place and like their other venues I stayed at, in both Pattaya and Udon Thani (that’s another story for another day) the staff were so friendly and could not do enough for you. I would recommend all their venues whole heartedly, my stay with them was a pleasure and if I can paraphrase from the mouth of the terminator ‘I will be back’
Sun Sea and Sex
This is the follow on from my first and only post on my travels in Asia, what I did not mention before and must now come clean… I am not normally a ‘Backpacker’ (nor am I a writer for that matter) I had always viewed hostels with more than a degree of disdain, ‘how could anyone want to stay with unwashed and penniless backpackers’.
In truth I stayed in my first hostel on this my first trip to Thailand, I must also confess that my opinion has changed 100% regarding both Hostels and those that stay in them. The hostels I stayed in were well run, clean, friendly, more than just affordable and full of people with the same aims, to travel and see the world not as a 2 week holiday maker, they all wanted to get closer to the real country they found themselves in. The biggest and most welcome surprise was the fact that all the guests I met without exception normal not a single filthy bum amongst them.
My first experience of living in a hostel came about after allowing a friend to book our accommodation, if I had known in advance I never would have never agreed to stay in a hostel, in truth this turn of events allowed me the opportunity to enjoy possibly one of the best trips I have ever had. In my last post I briefly wrote about Asia BackPackers in Koh Chang and how they changed my opinion on backpackers and backpacking, the time there was a delight and we were able to get closer to what I believe is the real Thailand.
Once it was time to move on (we actually stayed 2 more days than we had first planned) the hostel staff arranged for us to travel to Pattaya (we had initially planned to travel to and stay in Bangkok for a few nights before returning home) and to their nearest Asia Backpackers sister hostel. I know ‘Pattaya’ I had heard all the stories about the place, how it was full of sleazy bars and even sleazier people but as Josh stated (the owner of the hostel in Koh Chang)
“You have changed your perception of backpacking what will you lose by visiting Pattaya yes the place does have its seedier side but it also has 7+ million visitors per year, they can’t all be sleazy”.
So off we went to what if I believed the hype would be the biggest brothel in the world, that’s the second time in only a matter of weeks that my preconceived notions would be shattered.