Posted by: James Shannon | December 3, 2010

Koh Chang: Thailand’s Last Secret Paradise

After seeing alot of impressive ruins, I'm jumping on a train tomorrow afternoon to Lopburi, where there is an impressive population of monkeys.  Hopefully they don't steal my computer and/or camera, or it could make updating this alot tougher 😛

In any event, today’s post will cover the island of Koh Chang, in vivid 12 megapixel images and video … close your eyes, ignore the fact that the sun is only out for 4-6 hours a day now in much of the Northern Hemisphere, and let me take you away … to a tropical paradise.

Enjoy.

Leaving Centrepoint Ferry Terminal behind, which took 5 1/2 hours to reach from Bangkok …

… and headed towards the isolated tropical island of Koh Chang … doesn’t look too appealing in this photo, but the area was coming off the tail end of the monsoon season.  I was fortunate enough to arrive just as the dry season began!

I arrived at Centrepoint — Koh Chang ferry terminal at about 5:15pm, just as the sun was getting low in the sky.  The place where I was staying for the week was in Lonely Beach, 2/3rd of the way down the West Coast.  With Koh Chang ranking as the second largest island in Thailand, this was no small distance!  Luckily I had the Swedish owner of a restaurant in Lonely Beach riding with me, so we talked about expat/farang stuff until we arrived in the village at about 6pm — after dark.

I wandered down the rough, dirt side streets, in the general direction of Ice Beach Bungalows.  Eventually I reached an out of the way location, set on the shore (not on the beach, though it wasn’t far away), and in some semi-jungle terrain.  It was enough to create an exotic atmosphere, as  foreign crickets (or some insect I’ve never heard of before) created a sound that sounds like the dentist’s drill from Hell, set among lush palms, exquisite flowers and about a dozen rustic bungalows.

I got the key to my jungle abode, and I dropped my worldly possessions on the tiny floorspace; filling up the rest of the room was my mosquito-net-shrouded bed, as shown below:

This was my home for seven days in Koh Chang … there were some flies outside my protective bubble, but due to my gecko friends darting in and out of my shack at all times, they were kept to a minimum…

The outdoor shower stalls at Ice Beach … the good: the morning sun beaming down on you, solar-warmed water later in the afternoon … the bad: funky tropical growths that made me thank God for sandals!

A baby palm completes the jungle atmosphere at Ice Beach Bungalows

Over the course of the first few days, I had 2 main priorities: (1) Explore the town and (2) Lay on the beach like a bum (not in that order) …

Lonely Beach at high tide … don’t be discouraged, tides in Koh Chang have alot of variance; at low tide, the beach goes out way farther!  But when you have a view like this, does it really matter?

I could have filled this page with more beach scenes like the one above, but I think a video has much more … how do you say … visceral effect on those longing for a getaway from the snow and cold … to a place like Koh Chang …

The road I walked into Ice Beach Bungalows the previous evening: loving the tall palms!

The third evening I was in town, the Thai holiday of Loy Krathong was occurring, which happened to coincide with the largest full moon of 2010.  In addition to the traditional festivities, Lonely Beach’s version of the Full Moon Party was set to go down as well! Things were shaping up for an epic night…

My Loy Krathong lantern, composed of a piece of palm trunk, leaves, flowers, a candle and joss (incense) sticks … my “internet lady” made it for me, as I spent an inordinate amount of time in her web cafe all week (no wi-fi at Ice Beach)

Sending my lantern away on the waves, with others in the background … it is said that you send away your troubles, regrets and grief with the lantern, while wishing for good luck in the coming year, and giving thanks for the essentials of life (like water) … this was in memory of my recently departed Grandfather, Belmont “Poppy” Shannon.  May he rest in peace.

With that heaviness behind me, it was onward to the celebration portion of the evening … fire dancers, take it away!

I met some fellow travelers on the beach earlier in the day, and we got together to party it up at the Full Moon Party … this is Arto, from Finland …

… and Steve, from the United Kingdom.  As you can tell from my face in both pics, it was a really sweet time!

This is what a Full Moon Party is all about: the rare atmosphere of faint light, fine white sand, cheap beers, and 200 of your closest friends … what a night!

The next day, I hopped on a pickup taxi to check out the southernmost town of Bang Bao.  The town is actually quite small, but there is a huge market set up along the wharf, with restaurants and overwater bungalows nestled amongst the goods stalls.  At the other half of the concrete pier however, is its business end: tour boats, who offer tours to the outlying islands of Koh Chang Marine Park, line the berths on either side.  At the end was a lighthouse that just fit in so well with the pier, the ocean, the day …

The white-washed lighthouse stands tall at the end of Bang Bao pier

The view of the tour boats and the market from the lighthouse spire

One of my activity days saw me kayak out to one of the offshore islands just off the coast of Koh Chang; alas, since it was an open-faced kayak, I did not feel comfortable at all bringing my camera with me.  The following day, however, I rented a motorbike to tour the rest of the island … one of the first views I got was of the aforementioned island, along the rest of the western cluster.

The offshore islands of Western Koh Chang; the closest one is the island I kayaked to the previous day

A waterfall on the East side of Koh Chang … the rope in the lower part of the photo is to dissuade people from swimming, as the waterfall creates a nasty undertow.  I hiked through the jungle on an established trail to get here, but I must have rubbed up against some exotic plant with my knee, as I developed a rash for a few days on that knee.

I haven’t been to other parts of Thailand yet, but this place, Long Beach, has to be in the early running for the auspicious title of “The Beach”.  Located 20 minutes up a nearly impassable road (speedboats run a shuttle from Lonely Beach too apparently), there is exactly one bungalow resort here: The Treehouse.  What this means: more than a mile long stretch of sand with barely any people on it.  I may return to Koh Chang just so I can stay here!

After my final night in Lonely Beach, I moved to White Sand Beach for two nights to get some work done on the blog, and to get away from the party scene.  I didn’t take any photos, but I did take a video … that I won’t be showing here just yet, as this post is huge enough already, and it has taken ages to upload the previous two videos in this post.

In the future, this mentioned video, along with others, will be released in a series we’re gonna call Deleted Scenes.

Next post should be coming to you from the Monkey Capital of Thailand, Lopburi … see you then!

 

 

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Responses

  1. hi james,sounds like your having a grand time on your trip .i must compliment you on your photos very well done.enjoying your blog and looking forward to more-take care and enjoy-regards clem

    • Thanks for the props Clem, glad you’re enjoying it!

  2. Hi again, James. Beautiful pictures!! Please tell me that you were wearing a life jacket, when you went kayaking!! I don’t mean to worry, but I just can’t help it. It was a thoughtful and lovely gesture that you dedicated your lantern to “Poppie’s” memory. I’m sure that he is smiling down on you and wishes you well. From the look of your big smile and big eyes, I can guess that you had more than 2 beers. Glad your meeting people and having a good time. I’m enjoying your blogs very much. Enjoy, be careful, and may GOD be with you.

    LOVE MOM

    • I was … with undertows and rip currents, you don’t want to play fast and loose with safety!

      Koh Chang was great, two Chang beers are never enough, especially on a night like that!

      Thanks for the well wishes!

  3. Koh Chang is a great place, but it is not the only one of Thailand’s secret paradises. Every year thousands throng to the full moon on Koh Phangan, but never get to the other side of the island to see Chaloklum Fishing Village which as avoided most of the hype and retained its real character while still providing all a traveler could want — great restaurants, excellent services interesting people, and it is surrounded by beautiful beaches.

    well worth a look, or a month.

    • Thanks for the info Thomas, will have to check it out when I make it down south in the New Year!

  4. Pretty sure that was the same place I stayed at last year. Looks like a good time mate, have fun.

    • Thanks, the adventure is only really beginning … 1 month down, 2-4 months to go!


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