Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Koh Chang 2012
Pae and I just had the chance to spend 6 days together since she had the days off from work. It was a much needed break for both of us, but especially for Pae as she has been crammed with flights and not only flights, but just a long two weeks of a erratic sleep schedule and jet lag.We stressed a bunch with both of our workloads and trying to put together some kind of getaway for the two of us together. She had no time to look for places and I had little time as well. Finally we decided that Koh Chang was the most convenient place for us to go. The other choices were also islands and beaches, but they were just too difficult to get reservations and looked like a hard time for transportation as well.By going to Koh Chang, we saved tons on transportation as there is a van/bus that departs three times daily from the airport and includes the cost of the ferry from Trat to the island. Also, we have been there before and loved it, and loved the hotel location on White Sand Beach (Cookies Hotel)...and there were rooms available for the three nights that we had planned...so, things went pretty perfectly.The days prior to our arrival on Koh Chang, there was a tropical storm that kept the water choppy and the skies grey. It was noticeable at our beach where the water not as clear and calm as our previous visit. The sun was out most of the time we were there as the storm had passed days before. We enjoyed being close to the beach, hunting for crabs and sand dollars, combing the beach at low tide for shells and our "base of operations" at Cookies. Good weather or bad weather, we were together and far away from work!The prices on the island were pretty much the same as our last trip two years prior. The room at the hotel was exactly the same price. Food was pretty much similarly priced, maybe a tiny bit higher. And our day trip snorkeling was only 200 baht more expensive this time, but we visited 5 islands this time rather than 4 islands, and with a different high speed boat company. Overall, same price except for we paid less for transportation. Our first trip to Koh Chang in 2010, our van took us to a bus stop where we had to catch a truck to the pier then catch the ferry by ourselves to the island then catch another truck to our hotel, all added expense.Probably the most difficult thing, after figuring out where to spend our time together, was finding some way to take care of BunBun for those days...we enlisted the help of Uncle Bubbles (P'Nut) to feed, water and play with Bun for three days, which he was happy to do. Thanks Bubbles!!The snorkeling was great as usual, as the little islands that they take us to in the Gulf of Thailand are full of fish and coral. We again opted for the speed boat over the larger, slower ferry. They gave us about an hour at each island to snorkel, but they kept having to blow the horn to get my attention so we could load up and leave to the next dive spot...I swear half of the time my time hadn't expired, it was just after half of the day, the Russian and Danish tourists who were a part of our boat were tired and perhaps bored of exploring...their problem was that they didn't venture far away from where the boat anchored, so they didn't get the full snorkeling experience like Pae and I!!Last time we snorkeled, the highlight was the parrot fish that we could hover over, following them as they chomped on coral and defended their territory from other fish. This time, we saw plenty of parrots again, in many different color combinations. One of my favorites was a large black one with bright orange lips! Haha!At our first dive site, Pae grabbed my arm and pointed off into the distance under water, we surfaced and she said "squid". We went back under, and sure enough, there were 8-10 cuttlefish or squid in a single file line stretching about 5 meters wide, about 8 meters away from us. They held their ground, or water as it were, as if they were out watching "people". It was cool to see them in their natural environment especially since at night, the horizon is spotted with squidding boats lit up brightly about 5 kilometers from shore with fluorescent lights, hauling in tons of squid for the next day's lunch. Come to think of it, after snorkeling I had calamari at one of our favorite island restaurants.We stopped for lunch on Koh Rang and I decided to swim to a neighboring island no more than a kilometer away...I'd actually say it was probably half of that but it felt like a very long swim...Crystal clear water, never deeper than 4 meters the entire way across. Thousands of giant sea cucumbers dotted the white sand sea floor with an occasional patch of spiky sea urchins. We lovingly called the sea cucumbers "jutalay" meaning "sea dongs" hahaha!! The island's name? Not sure, but I gave it the nickname of "Koh Suam" meaning "Toilet Island" but I'll spare you the details of why it is so named ;)One of the coolest things about the swim across the channel, was the long silver fish that swam in small schools only about 5 centimeters below the surface of the water. This is also about how far your face is under the water when you are snorkeling, so I was RIGHT on their level under the sea. They were watching me. I was watching them. Their mouths with sharp jagged teeth would open and close as if they were breathing, moray eel-ish. They were all right around one meter in length, but there were so many of them, always around me.Another funny, cultural thing if you will, was that when we went to the beach in the morning, it was full of Thai beach goers, wearing shirts and swim trunks, out early to try to avoid the sun. Having dark skin here is a negative socially. The poorer farmer types generally are dark because they work in the fields every day, so I think light skin is almost a status symbol of sorts...(iPad, Mini Cooper, light skin, haha)East Asian vs. Southeast Asian in a way. Once the sun settled at it's noon position overhead, the Thais seemed to disappear. The farang (Thai term for western foreigners) would then come out when the sun got bright. They would strip down to their bikini bottoms and bake ALL DAY LONG. Seriously, they would grab a book or a reading tablet and sit outside on the beach for 10 hours!In the west we have fake bake and tanning salons...we want to be dark and tanned. Totally different than here in Thailand. In fact, there are skin-whitening clinics here and almost every cosmetic product, lotion, cream facial cleanser has the word "whitening" on it. During a hot day, 105+ degrees, people on mopeds or in the backs of trucks or at the bus stop will be wearing long sleeved shirts, just to keep the sun off of their skin.We spent a good day outside at our beach watching the farang and the Thai's interact differently with the beach and the environment. The farang were always in couples, the younger ones out in the water together, the older ones sat in beach chairs of beach mats reading books. The Thais were mostly younger, larger groups, running and frolicking on the beach and in the water. The European men with their middle-age bellies hanging over their speedos and their women either sunbathing topless or just stripping down and changing clothes right there in front of everyone, zero shyness. Again, cultures colliding, but nobody seemed to really care!Next time we'll take more pictures, and maybe we'll even invest in an underwater camera too, because it's pretty amazing under the ocean! I guess I could just stuff Pae's iPhone in a ziplock bag!! Most of these photos are from iPhones...didn't take many on the real camera. Aloha!