Battambang (Cambodia) to Ko Chang Island in the Gulf of Thailand
Feb 2, 2007
|Given Vix's clear eagerness to continue exploring Cambodia, I decided to speed up our normal travelling pace (nice and leisurely) with a plan to head for the nearest border crossing as fast as possible, get to the Thailand Gulf coast and be on the island of Ko Chang by dusk.
Having obtained our Vietnam visa from the Vietnamese Consulate in Battambang the day before, (and thus saving a long trip to Bangkok) with another spurious payment, I arranged for a shared taxi to take pick us up at 7.00am to take us to Pailin, the nearest border town. We got up early and had breakfast with Richard and Kay, saying our farewells. (The next time we're likely to see them will be in Hackney in September ...)
The taxi arrived, the standard Toyota Camry, with two Cambodian passengers squashed uncomfortably into the front seat beside the driver. I had booked the back seats so I couldn't be bothered to question or re-negotiate the price, but for safety's sake, did insist that one of them occupy the back seat with us. The road, route 57, was awful and we were shoogled around for 2.5 hours and, at one point early on, witnessed the car in front mashing a poor dog that happened to stroll in its way, against the front radiator. At Pailin we were able to find another shared taxi to take us to the border at Daun Lem. On the Cambodian side there were at least two large casino complexes, built with Thai money. This crossing had only recently opened as the Thais had built a new road from Thailand to propel day trippers to satisfy their urges (gambling remains illegal in Thailand) . We passed the queues of Thais getting their day visas, and within minutes had obtained our Thailand tourist visa.
Back into Thailand and plain sailing from now on - or so I thought. After enquiring about public buses or shared minibuses we were told emphatically by all at the border that none existed and that we would have to take a taxi all the way to a town called Chanthaburi and of course at an exhorbitant price. We knew they were all lying, so we picked up our rucksacks and headed off in the midday sun. Within about five minutes we found ourselves riding as pillion passengers on a motorcycle each to a shared taxi point, 10 mins from the border. Here we boarded a Sk.. and 2.5 hours later arrived in Chanthaburi.
Tried to arrange a public bus to the ferry port, but again all at the bus station were in cahoots, so for a couple of dollars more, we followed another couple of Thais and jumped into another shared taxi (sawngthaew)
and headed for the ferry.
For one hour we raced dangerously along the highway. And fresh in my mind was the knowledge, learned only the day before, that 21 teachers from Chanthaburi, the town we had just passed, had been killed in a bus falling down a ravine as they holidayed in Northern Thailand..a route we had motorcycled several weeks ago. The daily reports of deaths and accidents become more potent and shocking when one is captive, without seatbelts or restraint in the back of a 130 Km/hour sheet of flimsy metal.
We finally arrived at Laem Ngop, where ferries
take 30 minutes to cross to Ko Chang. Our third shared taxi journey in a day took us along to the west side the island via a narrow winding road hugging the coast. It was only ten hours since we left Battenberg but we were both full of energy, eagerly looking at guesthouses and salivating over the range of restaurant options.
On reflection I was certainly running on adreneline..and perhaps it was not surprising that we both went down with flu/colds for the next few days from which we are only just starting to recover now, some five days on.
Happily ensconced in a "Funky Hut" bungalow - an idyllic and peaceful 'mini-resort'
on the east coast of the island. We de-camped from the more busy and touristy west coast where we'd been kept awake until the partying stopped around 3.00am. And what a contrast! For the first few days, we had the place entirely to ourselves but have since been joined by a lovely Dutch couple, Alex and Jessica, who have cycled (YES, CYCLED) from Holland, taking over a year and pedalling through some pretty dodgy terrain - politically and geographically . We spent several days overlapping with them at Funky Hut and were captivated by their stamina, adventurousness and sheer guts. Although Alex is already a 'proper' cyclist, Jessica was not, yet they managed over 13000 miles, each carrying over 30 kilos of provisions (tent, water, food etc) sometimes through temperaturs in excess of 40 degrees to say nothing of the up and down slopes, rivers and mountains along the way! At times, Jessica was compelled to cover up completely (ie travelling through Iran in particular) which I simply can't imagine in that kind of heat.
Have been enjoying some fab food
and just reading and relaxing. Long chats with the owner, a genial bloke called Chris, on world climate change, politics, poverty, neo-cons etc etc. We are even fortunate enough to have 24-hour wifi access in our room which is novel. Have been motocycling a couple of time although it's not possible to cycle around the entire island.