Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Excursion to Koh Chang 03-05 March

Koh Chang, also known as the "Elephants' Island", is located in the Trat Province (the eastern part of Thailand, near to Cambodia).

03 March:
It took us about 4.5 hours to reach the pier as we set off from our apartment at 6am. The ferry ride took less than half an hour to reach the island and we took another 20 minutes to reach our accomodation, APPLE BUNGALOW. It's situated on the western side of Koh Chang and we saw the sunset for the next 2 days.

It's a public holiday on Monday and hence, the place was fully booked for the long weekend, packed with locals and of cos, the "ang mohs". This island is sure getting commercialised, with all the shops along the roads, and the hotels and resorts (big and small ones, nice and self sufficient ones). The government should consider to stop the developments further or else, the greenery and tranquility may be lost and the attractiveness of the island may follow suit. Who would want to go all the way to Koh Chang for things that you can also find on the main land.

After lunch, we headed off to Khlong Phlu Waterfall, one of the waterfalls in Koh Chang. As it's a national park, every local visitor needs to pay 20 baht... i think as conservation fees. Foreigners, known as "farang" in Thai, are required to pay 200 baht. That's extortion.... this is Thailand... different price for farangs and locals... luckily we look at Thai Chinese to them. We trekked for about 15 mins to reach the waterfall and of cos, took photos to signify the triumph of the rocky tracks that we had trekked to reach the waterfall so close. I really take my hat off the few kids of Yehan's colleagues. They were so independent and determined when climbing the rocks, not afraid of falling or slipping. Really admirable!

After the waterfall trip was a drinking session at the balcony. Yes, it was still afternoon when we started to drink hard liquor, eat tibits while chit-chatting.... Not that I could make up what the rest were talking about as they were speaking in Thai. It was too fast for me to catch what they were saying. But it was relaxing sitting there, facing the sea and watching the kids built sand castles and played with the water. When it was time to sober up, we all went into the water to enjoy the sea.

The first day ended with Khun Pae (one of the divers at Underwater World Pattaya) coming back with lots of prawns and scallops as supper for us. He had gone fishing with his friends and had a good harvest. The prawns and scallops were so fresh as if we had just caught them ourselves. No fishy smell. It went down well into our stomaches with the thai spicy sauce.

04 March:
We started out on a one-day trip for island hopping (4 islands) at 8 in the morning. The ride to the ferry terminal was quite long and the road was very curvy like those in Genting. It made me wondered if the package includes Koh Chang as one of the islands that we were supposed to tour... hee hee. Was impressed by the safety measure taken by the ferry staff as they expect each and everyone on board the ferry to wear the life-jacket before the journey started. But of cos, there were some people who were not obedient and did not wear the life-jackets...

The ferry reached the first island for us to do snorkelling after a long ride. Oh my! Swimming and snorkelling with hundreds of people. Do you think we can see a lot of fishes? Maybe see more of human than fishes in the sea... hahaha. Again, I was impressed with the kids for their bravery. Not sure if they know how to swim but they were so enthusatics when they were told that they could go swimming. They sure enjoyed themselves.

The other islands were similar. The thing that I appreciated was the good service provided by the ferry staff. They served the tourists on board plain water and fruits throughout the trip, and also BBQ stuff which they prepared at around 3pm. Buffet lunch was also provided. All these for 500 baht each person. Money well spent!

Dinner was on the beach, having BBQ food. Nice food and ambience. Haven't gone to the beach for so long... I think almost a year. It was completed with a stroll along the beach to take a look at the other resorts and the stars above us.

05 March:
The day started with a nice breakfast at other resort which overlook the sea. Then it was time to pack our belongings and say goodbye to this island which people longed to find some solace from their busy worklife.
Goodbye, Koh Chang!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Day 17 in Elephants' Empire

Literally in elephants' empire cos our apartment is right across an Elephants' Park.

All the news on the separatists' potential attacks in this beautiful land or the recent killings of 2 Russian tourists on the popular Jomtien beach of Pattaya, are not affecting the thriving business of this place. Tourists, red from tanning under the bright sun, are still seen walking around in Pattaya.

Am I a tourist or not? I'm not sure too at this point in time. On a tourist visa but trying my best to learn the culture and language of this place cos I'm supposed to stay here for long... No, no... "supposed to" is not the word... HAVE TO...

"I know you may get bored and start to let your thoughts run wild: how you used to spend your time working; how you used to have friends and relatives around you; how you used to be financially independent. But you have to be resilient. You need to know deep down in your heart that you are in Thailand for a purpose, for your family." ~~ This is the parting blessing note that my ex-boss gave me. Very enlightening and it sure touches my heart. Thanks boss.

I've survived 17 days in Pattaya, walking around that few shopping malls, expanding my knowledge by reading up on books, contacting friends and family via the Internet which always fail, watching cable TV which also always have no signals... It's really a challenge doing NOTHING.... challenge myself to stay slim and healthy, challenge myself to keep my brain working, challenge to look at myself and things around differently.