I’ll take the room next to the party please.
I left Bangkok heading six hours south to Koh Chang, Thailand’s second largest island situated off the north eastern coast, close to the town of Trat. I decided to make my own way there by public bus instead of booking the mini van put on for tourists and I found this no trouble at all. The bus journey was surprisingly pleasant and what I’ve notice about buses in Thailand, well this one anyway, is that you are often given a box containing a small snack such as savoury biscuits, plus a cup of water when you board.
I arrived in Koh Chang and immediately knew this place wasn’t for me. Lined with western-style bars and restaurants and big resorts catering for the Russians who come in masses. To me this wasn’t how Thailand should be. I had pre-booked a hostel on Lonely Beach after hearing this was where the backpackers hangout and I convinced my new friends Judy, Tom and Chris that they should stay too. Thankfully after exploring the island on motorbikes, they agreed. Lonely Beach is a small town along the west side of the island which boasts a gorgeous beach and a Main Street lined with shops and restaurants, most selling touristy tack and western food. There is also a street lined with bars, clubs and tattoo shops, something Lonely Beach is known for. Upon recommendation I had booked a room at KLKL Hostel, a room which happened to back on to the strip of nightclubs playing horrendously loud music until dusk. After a tiring couple of days I headed to bed around 1am after dinner and a game of pool with my new friends.
By 2am I had failed to get any sleep as it felt like I was in a nightclub so I take the brave decision to get out of bed, put on some clothes and head to the nightclub on my own. I felt like a right plonker stood there on my own stone-cold sober and after an hour I thought my only option was to dance my way through the night. Both the music and clientèle was horrendous (drunken western girls throwing up, seedy old men and tons of lady boys) but it was an experience! I got chatting to a Canadian guy called PJ who was over for his friends dad’s wedding and finally headed to bed at 6am with the music finally subsiding at 7:30am.
The next day was wasted sleeping and I was lucky enough to pass by Chris and co on my way back to the hostel. That night was Valentine’s Day so Chris and I left Judy and Tom* alone (they were a couple) and headed for a delicious burger and chips at Lonely Beach Resort followed by numerous bottles of beer. We headed to the Valentine’s Day beach party at Siam Hut around midnight and danced to some great tunes (the first I’ve heard on Koh Chang) until 6am. Let’s face it, there was no way I was going to make my 7am bus to Cambodia. I was woken by a knock on my door telling me my bus was here, but I couldn’t face a 14 hour journey so I asked to go the following day (anything is possible in Asia!). The man agreed and took my ticket. When I explained what had happened to reception they said that there was no one working at that time in the morning so the guy must have been from the bus company, meaning I had probably lost my ticket. I thought I’d ask at the little shack I purchased the ticket from, just in case and amazingly after a quick phone call I was given a new ticket for the next day for a new destination (I change my mind A LOT). No trouble at all! Wow.
After hearing about the Asia boarder crossings notorious for their scams, I conducted my own research to prevent me falling victim. We were asked to pay 1200 baht (£22) at a little shack down an alley once we arrived back on mainland. “Why?” I asked. I wasn’t paying anything until I reached the border even though I was told crossing by myself and not as a group with the guide would take longer, meaning I would miss my connecting bus. So be it, I thought and refused to pay.
Over the next six hours I managed to avoid another five scams which would have cost me an extra £10-15, including a “quarantine health check” which involved shining a torch in someone’s mouth to declare they are “healthy” to enter Cambodia and fees for jumping the queue, filling out your entry form and carrying your bags. It was all rather hilarious and I advise anyone planning a border crossing to do their research beforehand!
I arrived in Sihanoukville early evening and shared a tuk tuk with an English couple I met at the bus station. We headed to Otres Beach about 5km out of town and boy, am I glad I stayed there (Sihanoukville is a s**t hole). I checked in to a small guest house on the beach with my own private room overlooking the sea for just €7 a night. Just the relaxation I needed after soaking up the night-life on Lonely Beach. However, it just so happened to be a full moon and the only night of the month where quiet, laid-back Otres Beach hosts a huge party which just to happened to be at the bar next to my room! I couldn’t believe my luck and after dinner with two German lads I had met on my bus, I joined the party and headed to bed at 4am with the music stopping around 7am. I was hoping for a lie in but my room also happened to be above the meeting point for a weekly Thai swimming club who met that following morning. Who needs sleep anyway!
Sleep deprived but a few friends richer I spent the day hanging out with Curtis, Dan, Laura and Jess at Mushroom Point, a fantastic little hostel on the beach with another branch opposite. We went for a BBQ on the beach with a couple of others and headed to Serendipity, the main strip in town which, let’s just say, was an experience! Free drinks at nearly every bar it was certainly a cheap night cured by an awesome breakfast at Mushroom Point the following day. Another day chilling out and moving hostels for the third time from very pleasant Done Right to the most incredible dorm room ever at Mushroom Point (yay I finally got a bed in the mushroom!).
Living life, loving Asia
* Please note that ‘Tom’ is not the name of Judy’s boyfriend – unless by some freak chance! – I’ve made it up for now as Helen couldn’t remember his name at the time of writing this and I didn’t get a chance to ask her to find out before she set off on a long boat journey. A x