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The Ko Chang Adventure

Trat, Thailand

Ko Chang was to be my first Thai island, expectations were high and I was looking forward to seeing the sun set over the palm scattered white sand beaches, kayaking with sunrise and just having a general all round merry time... However, I still had to get from battambang, Cambodia to Ko Chang. Thats easy you say! yes, it could be, but... it wasnt. It has been the longest andmost challenging trip I have endured so far.Ists comparible with African travel.

So I was in Battambang, having seen the country side, visited the famous sites, had a traditional massage by the blinde and was ready for the beaches. I must admit I did little, or rather no planning the night before... So was at the reception at 06:00 finding a way to pailin, the southern border with Thailand. This is where I wanted to pass, as it would be the shortest route between where I was and wanted to spend the evening. So I got myslef into a taxi heading for Pailin. The taxi was a corolla, and had 3 local passengers and the stone cold rally driver minded chauffeur. We were off, the clock had struck 07:00 and we were off, onto the dirt roads, working the shocks for all they were worth while we cruised at speeds in excess of 80km. We made it to Pailin within 2 hours and it was comfortable. However... I was now in pailin. pailin, I soon learnt is not on the actual border. I also learnt that i was now the only falang (Asian for white man) in town and every tuk tuk, taxi and scooter rider was eyeing me with anticipation of a scamming deal to get me to the 18km away border post.

I eventually settled for a chilled looking non english speaking guy on a scooter. I climbed on with my mammoth bag on my back and small bag strapped to my chest. Uncomfortable and holding on for my life as we sped over the horrid pot hole infested dirt road overtaking everything he saw ahead of him. 30 minutes later I dismounted and got the blood flow back in my legs. I paid the man and wandered over to the immigration officer. He gave me a good look up and down, then lifted his right hand and pointed at the newly printed sign "All foreigners entering the kingdom must have a valid fligt ticket leaving the kingdom within 30 days of arrival" I had no such thing. I asked how strickt this enforcement was, he agreed to let me try sweet talk the Thai official at the other side of the bridge. No such luck. I was told my best bet was to head to the next checkpoint, Chong. A checkpoint about 60km north, not on my map, and alledgetly offering a possibility for falang in my situation to pass through.

I now had a choice, head back, go the safe route and just go to the falang border of Poipet. Or... go out on a limb, be adverturous and spend the rest of the day trekking to Chong, with the huge possibillity of being rejected again and spending the night in the middle of nowhere. I went for the latter.

I haggled for about 30 min to eventually find a guy wanting to take me to the remote border of chong, which apparently can only be reached by trecherous roads. Roads that would make the 60km journey an endurance trip of no less than 2 hours. I was up for it and so was Dina. Dina was a legendary guy, 23, spoke great english and as I should have guessed when we agreed on the price, hadnever done the trip before. Anyway, after a quick stop at his pad we were on our way.

The roads lived up to their description with no holding back. They were... crap. So bad infact that I occasionally had to walk so Dina could navigate the scooter through the thick muddy sludge, minding the potholes and puddles,a nd in some parts I was knee high in water. It was an adventure allright. Then it got even better...

We were happily riding along when we suddenly had a flat rear tyre. Lucky for us though we were in a small town, so there was no problem getting it fixed. Chilled, back on our way. However, after about 3km there was a loud bang, a shot of wind on my lower leg and we stopped... The mechanic had gotten too excited when he pumped up the tyre, which in turn coused a blow out! So now, we could either head back or walk on and hope for abother town. Once again we went for the latter. 3km we found yet another place, but they had nothing of the size we needed, back into the sun and soldiering on. The next town we had better luck and the guy could help us. However, it now being around 13:30, meaning we walked a fair distance, the tyre itself had been damaged, and now Dina needed not only a tube, but also a new rear tyre. With the little choice we had, we agreed to the operation, had it done and went on to the border.

I treated the legendary to Dina lunch and i headed for the small border. I got stamped out of Cambodia and was told to get my bus ticket? I walked to the office where I was shown to and bought a 4 Euro "bus ticket". A ticket that is really colourful, but does absolutely nothing... at all. It is there to fill the new legislation for falang and allows people in my situation to pass into the kingdom, with a make shift "flight ticket" Awesome, I was in! But, now at a border with no falang and once again in the middle of nowhere (not on my map either) I had to wait for a mini bus. Thethai system goes like this, the minibus leaves when its full, it holds 10 people and I was person 1. One and a half hours later I was on my way to Chantaburi. Now 19:00, there was no way I could get to Ko Chang. It had been a seriously adventurous day and I was glad to have had it! If you ever read this Dina, thanks for your trouble! Ill come visit you at your house if I come to Battambang/Pailin again!

From Chantaburi Ko chang was easily reached. A chilled airconditioned bus ride a relaxing ferry ride and a taxi ride to the beach side of the island. Everything I had hoped for! Excellent!

On the way to the island i met Michol, a german engineer on aninternship at a co in Rayang. He was heading for the island to meet a friend for the weekend.

On Ko chang I chilled at the beach called Lonely beach, in a seriously laid back resort. read, ate, swam, partied. In the morning, I s\dis what I had been looking forward to the most. Kayaked to a small croppy island just off the main coast. I did this togetherwith the now other three (Michol, manheim and Sisi) An excellent morning, thanks guys!

Ko Chang was a a quick stop, from here I was to meet up woth my old travel compadre again. After some emails we agreed to meet on Ko Samet the next day. And so it went, after 2 chilled nights on Thailands second biggest island I would see good old Iaki again!

permalink written by  ourindochina on February 14, 2008 from Trat, Thailand
from the travel blog: The Indo China Adventure (incl Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia)
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Well Piet, this really showed how South Africa has made you into a man of : "how to make a plan"..... what a trip, but I know you enjoyed it thoroughly!

permalink written by  judith warnars on February 14, 2008

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