Korean and French Encounters in Koh Chang, Thailand

After interrogating many fellow travelers throughout Thailand, we ultimately decided to make our Thai island destination Koh Chang . It’s not known for paradise like Koh Phi Phi, parties like Koh Pha Ngan, nor scuba diving like Koh Tao, but it’s good enough. The large island near Cambodia boasts a jungley and mountainous interior and white sands along the coast.

We started off by taking the overnight bus from Chiang Mai to Bangkok.  We met some outgoing shopaholic Irish girls in the taxi so we sat near them on the bus. Suddenly, the bus broke down. Some people were sort of poking the engine with a stick for about 30 minutes which proved to be unsuccessful. I wonder why?

The Irish girls and we went inside the nearby police station to use the bathroom. Suddenly, the bored policemen pulled up chairs for us and we plopped in front of the television to watch the World Cup game (Germany vs. Venezuela I believe). The rest of the people from the bus eventually poked their heads in and joined us while the policemen offered us coffee and tea. Oh yeah, a stray dog sat with us, too. What a Thai experience. This would never happen in America.

In the police station watching the World Cup

The bus magically began working again. We passed out on the bus and were awoken by a sudden halt and the bus driver yelling “BANGKOK BANGKOK!” We were disoriented and scrambling for our shoes and bags. We were dropped off in the middle of a huge road only to be harassed by sketchy taxi drivers. Beca and I continued to walk down what was Khao San Road (the backpackers hub) and finally decided to bargain with a taxi driver to get to the Ekamai bus terminal.

Falalala, we took the 5-hour bus to Trat and got on a two-bench taxi to the port to take the ferry. We shared the taxi with some Indian travelers and a Korean solo traveler in the pouring rain. The ferry a lot of fun and a tease as we were nearing the coast. Once on the island, again we shared a two-bench taxi with the Korean and a bunch of old white rich men and their Thai girlfriends (barf).

Ferry to Koh Chang

We got to Lonely Beach and picked out a crappy hostel and later switched to a nicer one. We decided to splurge ($5 a night…) on a private bungalow with a TV, AC, a fridge, and a nice bathroom. They were quite trusting – they just handed us a key to the room and told us to pay whenever we leave. They didn’t take our name or anything.

That night we got a bucket at a lonely bar and made friends with the nice owner. Afterward we went to another bar and happened to see our Korean friend. The language barrier made it difficult to communicate but he was so happy and excited to meet other people especially another Korean. He kept giggling and was embarrassed about how little English he knew but we assured him that it’s completely OK given how little (AKA two words) Korean we knew.

He proceeded to give Beca and I each Korean money. Additionally he walked in the rain to his hotel and came back with a bottle of soju. It was my first taste of the infamous Korean rice liquor. First he suggested I pour it in my beer and I was appalled by that idea (I later did try it in Korea and it is quite good). I made him take a sip first and then I tried my very first taste of Korea. It tasted like nothing at first and then kind of like sweet vodka going down. I hate vodka but I liked it. He let me keep the bottle. If all of his gifts of money and alcohol weren’t nice enough, he gave us candy! It sounds creepy as I’m writing this but it wasn’t creepy at all. He was very genuine and kind. Koreans just love giving and giving. The only thing I could give him was my email address and a smile because he took our photo. How Korean of him.

The next few days at the beach were sunny and relaxing. We were used to climbing mountains and always on the go so this was a nice change of pace. The water was perfect. Clear blue, warm, shallow, calm. There were maybe only a dozen people on the sand. We exfoliated our faces with sand from the water which turned out to be a horrible idea because we scratched off the sunscreen on our faces and subsequently got painful sunburn from the strong Thai sun. Fortunately our burns transformed into a serious tan.

We walked as far north as we could on Lonely Beach (not very long) and climbed these rocks.

Sunset on Lonely Beach

One morning we found Beca’s shoes missing to learn that our French friends from Mae Salong were in the bungalow right next to us! As always it was fun to spend our last moments in Koh Chang with them. We turned in early one night while they heavily celebrated being in Koh Chang by drinking many Chang beers. Subsequently they had a “changover” the next morning but were still champs to wake up early with us for storytelling and breakfast.

French sandwich: Myself, Julia, Cécile, Beca

We sadly left that day back to the bustling Bangkok that we always avoided. We shared a taxi with other fellow travelers including two Canadian girls whom I randomly bumped into on a busy busy Bangkok street the following week. Again, small world!

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