Bangkok was great but after several days of the heat, noise, and air pollution we were ready to move on to something a little slower paced. Our original plan was to go down to the Andaman Coast in the south west of Thailand. This is where the "guidebook picture beaches" are with the clear water and white sand. We heard from several sources that it was the tail end of the rainy season and that the weather was really bad. So after scouring the guide book for the next best thing, we decided to go to Ko Chang, a south eastern island in the Gulf of Thailand.
This was to be our first inter-city travel and we were a little nervous. We'd heard plenty of bad stories about the tourist buses scamming people in various creative ways so we decided to only take government buses while in Thailand. Natasha has horrible memories of Indian bus terminals where there are no signs in English and nobody really cares if you get where you want to go or not. Often times she wasn't sure she was even on the right bus. Not a problem in Thailand. There were well marked signs and the people were very friendly and helpful and got us on the right bus in no time. The bus took us to a town near the coast called Trat which is the jumping off point for the islands in the area. We got a bit lost, but asked a woman on a bike how to get to our guesthouse. The launguage barrier was a problem, but after several minutes with us she sent us in the right direction and later caught up with us on her bike to make sure we were going the right way. It was a lovely little town with lots of old teak houses in winding little alleys. We had breakfast in a courtyard restaraunt next to the river.I
It would have been worth staying a little longer but we were anxious to get to the beach. We took a sawngthaew (a covered pick-up truck with benches in the bed) to get to the ferry terminal but he dropped us off at a little restaraunt a couple of kilometers short. There were plenty of other tourists sitting around looking confused and it didn't take long to figure out that the place was selling package tours on the island. They weren't pushy and sold us just a ferry ticket at the price in the guide book with a free ride to the actual ferry terminal (our original destination) so it turned out to be a waste of time but no real harm done. We finally got to the ferry and were on our way.
We didn't have a specific destination in mind but thought we'd start by checking out bungalows in Lonely Beach, a village near the south of the island. This turned out to be a horrible idea. The place was packed with t-shirt shops, low rent bungalows and only had a short stretch of beach that was covered with tourists and trash. We looked at bungalows on the beach and found out that at three dollars, you get what you pay for. We were hot and tired from traveling all day so i was inclined to bite the bullet and stay for the night and look for better accomodation the next day, but the look i got from Natasha said we should move on. To make it easier, I settled in at a restaraunt for a cold beer and to watch the bags while Natasha searched (I always get the hard job) and when she came back bouncing i knew she had found something good.
We ended up in the next village south which is called Bai Lan Bay. It's much cleaner, quieter and generally devoid of people. The place we stayed was a real gem called the Mangrove. The open-air bungalows were tucked into the jungle right at the edge of a private beach.
After a couple of days chilling out at the beach we decided to go out and get some dinner and drinks. We walked down the beach to a restaraunt where this Thai musician was playing CCR and Nirvana covers. He even played Country Roads which really struck a heart string for me. Apparently it's a popular song all over asia. Go figure.We ended up meeting these hilarious british guys named Greg and Paul and had such a great time we met up with them again later in the week.
Other than a few excursions out, we spent the majority of our time in our little oasis in the jungle.