16 Jun Hello Thailand! Holidaying on Koh Chang
While we were living in Vietnam, my mind often wandered to Thailand. When we were having rough times I dreamed of fleeing back to the Land of Smiles, the country that became our haven while travelling in South-East Asia. So, despite the unexpected sadness I felt at leaving Hanoi I was also bouncing-off-the-walls excited to be finally heading back to one of our favourite countries.
When we first arrived back in Thailand all I could see were the glaring differences between Bangkok and Hanoi. My eyes boggled at the wide, well-paved roads, the calm traffic and neat lanes of cars queuing patiently on the highway. Where were the swarms of weaving, aggressive, horn-beeping motorbikes I was so used to in Hanoi? Why wasn’t our taxi driver beeping his horn? In fact, after living in Hanoi where horn-tooting is an unwritten law, the absence of beeps here is almost deafening.
Walking around Bangkok was pleasantly strange; we could cross the roads without almost being run over and cars even stopped for us at pedestrian crossings rather than beeping us angrily out of the way. The pavements were wide, clean and largely free from parked motorbikes so we could actually walk safely through the city. We basked in the familiar comforts we’d missed in Vietnam; 7-11s on every corner and malls where I could stock up on the good-quality contact lenses I could never find in Hanoi.
It’s just so easy to be in Thailand. We blend effortlessly into the crowds of tourists and the country is familiar to us after so many visits. We feel simultaneously at home and on holiday here and that’s just what we need right now; a relaxing, stress-free place to recover from the teaching year in Vietnam before we head back to the UK.
Holidaying on Koh Chang
Although we spent almost a third of our initial trip in Thailand, we visited only a hand-full of places, sticking to our favourite areas rather than exploring new ones. However, for this three and a half week trip we decided to split our time between our favourite place, Chiang Mai, and a brand new destination. After ten months of living in smoggy Hanoi we were craving clean air and sea views but we didn’t want to make the overnight trek to the southern Thai islands, so instead we settled on visiting Koh Chang, which is just a six hour journey by bus and boat from Bangkok.
Koh Chang turned out to be an excellent choice. One of Thailand’s largest islands, Koh Chang is also less crowded with tourists than the more popular places down south. Over the last week we’ve well and truly settled into holiday mode and have been relaxing in a beautiful resort. It’s low season in Thailand right now and the island feels empty; although there have been a few rainy hours and some cloudy skies there has still been plenty of sunshine. In our opinion the more unpredictable weather is a great trade-off for the peace, quiet and low prices you can get in low season.
We booked a standard room at TOP Resort and due to lack of guests we’ve been upgraded to a stunning split-level sea-view villa for just £17 per night. For a few days we were the only guests and had the entire resort to ourselves, enjoying a private pool. We’re also just a ten minute walk away from White Sand Beach, a wide, silky stretch of sand which is sparsely covered with a few other tourists.
After working so hard in Hanoi it’s been difficult to adjust to having no commitments; it took us a while to learn how to cope with our new-found freedom but we’ve settled into a routine of sorts. We spend a few hours a day tackling online projects and the rest of the time we relax by the pool, swim, walk along the beach, read and catch up on TV programmes in the evening. We talk lazily about future plans and watch as we transform from exhausted, chalky-white shells to lightly tanned, well fed and rested humans again.
In fact, we’ve become almost lazy, content to rarely venture out of our resort. One day the guilt caught up with us and we rented a bike to explore. We drove along the west-side of the island, stopping briefly at view points and different beaches including the popular backpacker hang-out, Lonely Beach, which we weren’t overly impressed by, preferring our White Sand Beach. We attempted to visit a waterfall but were put off by the steep entrance fee and instead found ourselves retreating to the comfort of our bungalow and the cool depths of the hotel pool.
The days have blurred into a soft, relaxing haze of sunshine and pool time, beautiful sun sets, delicious meals and long periods of lying down. This is exactly what we needed. Now, with just a couple of days left of our Koh Chang holiday I feel the familiar itch of excitement creeping up on me – soon we will return to our favourite Thai city: Chiang Mai.