It was a relief to get out of Bangkok, a singularly unimpressive place to me. I wasn’t interested in the smut, I wasn’t out on the beers like the two young welsh lads I met in the youth hostel that made me feel like an old fart, and I think I’m still ‘templed out’ after India, even if the temples do look different, so I wasn’t up for seeing them. Thailand and me got off on the wrong foot, but we haven’t found the right one yet, even though Thai people so far have been very friendly and easy-going.
I decided, on the suggestion of a friend from India, to come down to Koh Chang, an island in the National Marine Park of Trat province, near the border with Cambodia. Koh Chang is the second largest island in Thailand, home to lots of wildlife and 70% undisturbed rainforest, and not yet overdeveloped beyond all recognition, so seemed like a good bet to get away from Bangkok, and hassle in general. I wasn’t interested in the Hat Rin full-moon party scene I’d heard about around Ko Pan Ngan which would just make me feel like more of an old fart, because I wasn’t really up for drinking cocktails out of sand-castle buckets, jumping through hoops of fire, and dancing until my knees fell off. Well, maybe, but I’m quite temperamental about all that and I don’t want to feel like I’m in a nightclub on a beach.
After a six-hour bus ride to Trat, I caught an overpriced taxi to Laem Ngop to catch an overpriced ferry to Koh Chang. Laem Ngop, the jumping-off point for Koh Chang, had a feel of Clacton in October about it – off-season, desolate, dead. I was getting seriously concerned by the company as well. On the bus there were three Westerners – myself, a friendly bloke from Portsmouth spending a few days island hopping, and a man who may have been English, but this wasn’t confirmed as he didn’t say a word the whole way, and wore the haircut and facial expression of a man who was into guns, and enjoyed torturing small animals and grannies. On the boat was a German family with a daughter that had the facial expression of someone who was being sent to a penal colony, not a beautiful island.
So eventually I got to Koh Chang, and was highly relieved to get on an overpriced taxi with a young couple who looked neither into torturing small animals nor seeking young Thai women for deviant acts or marriage. We drove round to Lonely Beach on the South-West coast of the Island. It’s an easy-going place, but not the most sociable I’ve ever been to, in fact it’s one of the least sociable I’ve ever been to, just short of Palolem in Goa, but worse than the Townhouse in Leeds. I’m willing to entertain the possibility that I have been in a foul mood since I got to Thailand so may appear to be unapproachable, but I’m sure it’s not just me, and I’d like to think I have a friendly face. In Northern India, conversation with people coming to Sky Pie was as easy as falling off a log – even catching people’s eye here is about as easy as it is on London Underground.
I said Koh Chang wasn’t overdeveloped, but having said that there is a Seven Eleven with an ATM up the road. Does that mean it’s overdeveloped?
At the moment, I’m looking into escape strategies – possibilities include going back to China, going straight into Cambodia, or cancelling Asia altogether and going to Australia early. Being on your own and not being able to rely on easy conversation and company when you need it is an immensely frustrating thing, which Pete McCarthy is currently describing experiencing in Tasmania – I might try one of his tactics and talk to myself for a while.