02.01.2016 - 04.01.2016 93 °F
Saturday Jan. 2:
We departed Siem Reap bright and early for possible our most grueling travel day yet; the overnight train from Chiang Mai to Bangkok came in at a close second. We boarded our bus to Koh Chang at 8 a.m. and spent the next 12 hours on the barely air conditioned vehicle making far too many stops at markets. We were encouraged to "stretch our legs" but really they just wanted to sell us things. We stopped at least every hour and half, and at one stop a woman working at the market actually boarded our bus and insisted that we were required to get off and peruse her market at the demand of our driver. No one budged. We eventually became worried that we wouldn't make it to Trat in time for the last ferry to Koh Chang, but alas, we did. We arrived on the beautiful Island of Koh Chang around 8:30 p.m. and caught a ride from the port to our quaint little ocean side bungalow. We booked this bungalow through Air BnB, and our host, Stephane, waited up for us and kept their small restaurant open awaiting our arrival. We struggled through some of the spiciest curry we've encountered yet and went to bed eagerly awaiting a view of the island in daylight.
Sunday Jan. 3:
Koh Chang ("Elephant Island" in Thai) is a mountainous island on the Gulf of Thailand's eastern seaboard, near the border of Cambodia. Its name comes from the shape of the island, and not from the presence of any indigenous elephants. It is part of Mu Ko Chang National Park, a protected area which covers the large majority of the island, therefore development is limited to the thin strip of rocky beaches along the west coast where tourism is booming. Although we hear it has become considerably more busy over the last decade, Koh Chang is still much more laid back than the more well known beaches of Thailand, i.e., Phuket and Koh Samui.
We spent our Sunday exploring Lonely Beach, a sandy beach on the southwest coast known for being a backpacker favorite. It was surprisingly uncrowded, and we enjoyed relaxing in the sand and swimming in the calm crystal clear bay. We found a great restaurant deck to view the sunset, which was absolutely stunning. It was a perfect, laid back Sunday following our hectic travel the day before.
Monday Jan. 4:
Today we booked a snorkeling tour to visit four smaller islands close to Koh Chang. We spent much of the day cruising from island to island on a large boat that was a highlight of the trip in itself. We snorkeled around the diverse coral reefs seeing hundreds of sea urchins, and thousands of fish of all shapes, sizes and colors, including (we think) a species of parrotfish, lunar and cleaner wrasse, honeycomb grouper, and eight-striped butterfly fish.
We didn't have an underwater camera on us, so here are some google photos we snagged for reference:
We were dropped off at a new bungalow with direct access to a remote sandy beach. We'll spend our last two nights on Koh Chang here, before departing on one final bus trip back to Bangkok.