After Bangkok, Jesse decided that it would be best to start heading counter-clockwise through South East Asia and staying south for now in order to take advantage of the (relatively) cooler weather we are having in the “winter” months of the year. So we headed south east towards the Thai island of Koh Chang to slow down our pace of life and enjoy a bit of sun and beach.
We left Bangkok by hopping on a 5 hour Government-run bus to the city of Trat, where we would catch the ferry to Koh Chang. The bus ride went fairly smoothly, especially considering Jesse’s stomach had been acting up earlier in the day which made the prospect of being trapped on a bus for an extended period of time a little nerve-wracking. Luckily, Jesse’s strategy of not eating anything all day worked out for him and we made it to Trat in one piece, though a little bit hungry. Trat was a cute little town, which we’d read had some great food markets so we decided to stay one night to break up the travel time. We explored their main night market (appropriately located on the “Trat Food Safety Street”) which had some incredible looking food – especially the curries, but for some reason it was almost all for take-out in those little plastic bags again so we weren’t actually able to try a lot of the delicious things we saw. We did eventually manage to find a little noodle soup stall beside a fruit smoothie stand to eat at, which provided a cheap and satisfying meal. We had a great night’s stay at the Rimklong Hotel (Trat’s only boutique hotel which we splurged on, and cost us a whopping THB 800 = $27 CDN). The next morning, we went with the hotel’s recommendation to have seafood noodle soup for breakfast which was excellent (broth was definitely made from shrimp shells) and then headed to find a taxi to the ferry terminal.
After a little haggling with the driver, we got on his “song tiew” taxi which is sort of like a pick up truck with a roof over the back part where you sit. Jesse of course was a little bit too tall to be comfortable, but we headed out with a few local ladies and their many bags of groceries for the exhaust fume-filled ride. The ferry to Centrepoint terminal was slow, but scenic as we headed towards the island of Koh Chang.
After another song tiew ride filled with tourists, we finally arrived at our little bungalow at the Blue Lagoon Resort located on the Klong Prao beach. We enjoyed 3 days of relaxing sun and beach there, along with the other many tourists (mostly Russian) lining the beach and town. Unlike other beaches we’ve visited, here you can sit or lie on one of the beach chairs or beds with umbrella for free, with seemingly no obligation to buy drinks from the presiding restaurants. In fact, when we did actually want to order a drink, it required us to get up and go search for a waitress because they were really not that interested in serving us. The water here was really wonderful, deeper in the morning with high tide and then it got quite shallow during low tide. The sunsets were stunning and the vibe of all the people around us was very chilled and happy. We got in some good beach frisbee time, and re-instated our peanut butter & banana sandwich lunch habit, which we usually make when we’re at the beach. We even had some delicious meals in the little strip of restaurants in town (including a surprisingly good bakery), though prices have definitely gone up compared to Bangkok. Some food highlights include an incredible spicy pomelo prawn salad and a really yummy Penang curry. It also happened to be “Children’s Day” in town, so there was a bit of a festival going on at the local temple and all the children took turns performing songs or dances on the stage that was set up, which provided some fun entertainment for us one morning. All in all, it was a wonderful stay at Klong Prao.
Something we think is sort of funny about our travels (both previous trips to Asia and the current one), is that I (Andrea) seem to be a bit of a mystery to most Asian people. It’s rare for me to interact with a local person in an Asian country and not be asked (or have a guess made) at what my background is. Sometimes the guess is accurately “China?” or “Chinese?”, but to be honest it’s more often something else (Filipino, Korean, Malaysian are common guesses). I think it has something to do with my darker complexion and my mixture of parents from Taiwan & Hong Kong. But on this trip in particular, the number of people who simply start talking to me directly in Thai has been quite astounding. I think I’ve used the sentence “Oh, I’m not Thai” (followed by a big smile) about 15 – 20 times already! At first I just thought they were talking about me (this happens to us a lot being a mixed race couple), but once I realized that they all thought I was Thai, it made a lot more sense. Typically after informing people of my non Thai-ness I’m met with some broken English version of “Oh!! I’m so sorry you look just like me I thought you were Thai!!” and if they have a friend nearby, some pointing and Thai discussion which I assume is about how surprising it is that I’m not Thai. Actually an interesting observation we’ve made since we arrived in Thailand is that there are a fair number of middle aged White Caucasian Man + Thai Woman couples here. So perhaps this is why people have just assumed I’m Thai? Who knows. Jesse likes to call me an “Asian Chameleon.” If only I could actually speak all the different Asian languages (or any, for that matter)…I really could travel without anyone knowing I’m a tourist (well, except that I’m typically standing right next to Jes who always stands out like a sore thumb in these countries). Anyway, we think it will be a fun game to see if I can keep up the deception in all the other countries we visit, so look for future updates on that. Maybe I’ll see if WordPress has some sort of “counting widget” that I can put on this site to track how often it happens during our entire 6 months :)
For a change of pace, we have decided to head next to the eastern side of the island to a little fisherman village called Salak Phet for a few more days. We have applied for our e-visas to Cambodia in order to try and avoid the horror stories we’ve heard about tourists getting scammed by Cambodian bus companies and taxi drivers at the Poipet border, and we’ll need to wait 3 business days for them to be processed. I’m sure that will be the subject of a future post!