Day trip to Koh Chang

Couldn't have been pinker...

Couldn't have been pinker...

It seems most people who visit Koh Chang these days do it for a whole holiday, or at the very least a few days on a resort. Me being me, though, decided to just troll around the place for a say and see what the fuss is about.

I woke up early-ish to say goodbye to Gunther who was off to another island. Breakfast was chicken and rice from the market and then Mama Jame (I have no idea what she’s called, but I like “Mama Jame”) walked me to a barber shop from where I could hire a motorbike. Before we’d left, a chap I’d not met before gave me a map of the island and some instructions which basically narrowed down to “be careful on the roads”.

The bike rental was 200 baht for the day with a full tank, to be returned in the same condition. It was an automatic, which made it much easier to get going than the evil manuals we’d had in Hoi An last year. I had more chance of starting up and going without the bike getting away from me and giving someone a faceful of Dunlop.

For those planning this trip, you want to head for the Centre Point ferry pier. The one directly south of Trat is for foot passengers only. I actually missed the turning for Centre Point in the first instance, but it was worth it. Head out of Trat and keep going in a straight line. If you reach a beautiful lighthouse and a jetty, you’ve gone too far. Circle the lighthouse, double back and take a left at the traffic lights about 200m back up the road. As I said, worth overshooting for the photo op.

Along the road I should have gone along, you want to keep going for around 8km. There’s a fairly noticeable left turn for the ferry, and the terminal itself is maybe 1km or so down that road. If you’re low on fuel, there’s a little petrol station on the left before the junction which charges reasonable prices. It’s currently 30 baht a litre from the small vendors on Koh Chang, and almost 10 baht less on the mainland.

The ferry was very cheap – 60 baht for me and 20 baht for the bike, each way. It’s easier to just buy your return tickets when you get there. They’re “open” so even if you’re staying a couple of days you can use them to get back. I arrives in good time to just drive onto a waiting vessel, though during the busy season you’ll generally not wait more than half an hour to board a boat for the 25-minute journey.

Thai light house

Thai light house

As I clambered up the stairs to get a seat, several young Thai men in red t-shirts flashed cameras in my face. Like a rollercoaster, you can opt to buy these photos later as a souvenir. I can’t help but think they should be doing this for people *leaving* rather than arriving. That’s the time for souvenirs like that – once you’ve had a good time and want a nice momento. Of course, you may be all spent up by then.

The crossing passed quickly and all too soon I was zipping back off onto dry land to face the windy roads of Koh Chang. And windy they were. And steep. Going up is fun, coming down some of them reminds me of The Big One in Blackpool. Only I have brakes I can control. Regardless, doing 80 (k’s not m’s) on two wheels seems a lot faster than doing it on four.

Oh, and assuming you don’t drive like a trucker with one arm out of the window you tend not to get sunburnt in a car either. Oops.

The weather was lovely, hence the redness on my arms and thighs now, and the roads were fine apart from the scary bits. A lot of falang were nipping about on scooters with a few preferring air-con luxury and a driver. My original plan had been to near-circle the island (the road doesn’t connect at the bottom so it’s an incomplete ring) seeing both sides, but I ran out of time just doing the west coast.

This one’s mainly all resorts which makes it hard to get to the beach unless you’re staying in one of them. Or you bluff it like I did at Hua Hin what seems an eternity ago. I skipped it apart from a very brief stop for a Coke at tiny bar right near the bottom of the island.

I’d headed south virtually non-stop apart from the occasional photo-op. On the return leg, I paid a short visit to Bang Bao and its very long shop-laden pier. There are several dive shops here with their boats moored at the end, and another nice lighthouse. This one’s very much a Thai design and can be climbed up. I think it’s pretty much decorative rather than useful but I’ve not been there at night so I can’t say for sure.

On the way north again, I kept my eyes open for the road to the Klong Plu waterfall. I found it and turned off right. After a kilometre or so I ignored the “PARK HERE” sign asking for 10 or 20 baht for safe bike/car storage and drove right into the National Park area. Where a nice ranger told me to park up by the office. For free. Mind you, at 200 baht entry fee (foreign adult) they shouldn’t be charging for parking.

The walk to the waterfall is 500m and easily achievable wearing sandals, flip-flops or thongs. I’d recommend going barefoot once you reach the waterfall itself, though. The rocks are easier to navigate that way specially if you get your feet wet. The pools there can be swum in – it’s not too cold – and you can get right up to the bottom of the fall itself. Apparently two kings have signed their names somewhere but I couldn’t find them.

Klong Plu Waterfall

Klong Plu Waterfall

I doubled back to the visitor centre where there is a large map. It showed the route around the park as circular yet I’d not seen any way to progress after the waterfall. So instead looked for the other end of the loop, up the side of the rangers’ office. Just behind there, there’s a road leading left and off that is an obvious (ish) stairway.

I clambered up there and started trekking. This is where decent footwear would come in handy. To begin with it’s not too bad but as you go on, your feet will get sweaty and therefore start sliding on your footwear. Not ideal. You don’t need hiking boots – a half-decent pair of trainers would be fine.

On a few occassions I lost track of the trail. This section has not been very well maintained. In fairness some areas are blocked by recently-fallen trees, but others have been obscured by much older obstacles. I clambered around and over them and kept managing to pick up the path again. The simple trick is to look for anything vaguely artificial – stones making steps, an area that’s far too clear and so on.

Finally I reached an opening where there was water flowing. And nothing else. No signs, nothing. The way down to the rocks was partially barred by some yellow string, but it seemed more a warning to take one path over another than a “do not continue”. So I continued.

Eventually I found a path on the other side of the rocks (opposite where I’d appeared, opposite side of the rocks, about 10m along). The table and chairs hidden in a small clearing gave the game away that this was actually a trail. A fair bit further and I reached one of the ranger signs. This one declaring the “end of the trail”. Although someone had scored out the word “end” and replaced it with an arrow pointing to where I’d just come from. So, obviously, I needed to continue in the other direction. So I did.

Sunset from the ferry

Sunset from the ferry

Finally, again, I reached more rocks. And water. And the top of the waterfall. I didn’t go too close to the edge, but tried my best to get a couple of photos before locating another cleared path and making my way downwards. This was where the decent footwear would really have come in handy. Around fifteen minutes later – at a guess – I popped back out at ground level and figured out where the paths connected.

Right on the other side of a “Do Not Enter” sign.

Just before you reach the waterfall is a large wooden sign telling you what it is. a couple of metres before that is another sign warning you not to climb into the forest. The path is up here. I didn’t go past any warnings coming the other direction!

I headed back to my bike – a good hour later than I’d intended on being – and zipped back to the ferry. I had a few minutes to wait so I enjoyed a fresh orange shake before the ship turned up and we were herded aboard.

The sun was setting as I reached the mainland, which was a little annoying. I’d hoped to make it back to Trat in daylight for a couple of reasons. The lighting isn’t that good along the roads and the only glasses I had to protect my eyes are my sunglasses. When you’re pelting along at 60kph, you do tend to get the occasional wayward bug heading faceward. As night approaches, you get more of them.

I lasted for half the journey with my sunglasses on then had to give up as I couldn’t see the road. Partly due to gloom, partly due to the colony of squished insects adhered to the specs. Instead I squinted and gritted my teeth under the barrage. Lowering my head helped as the helmet had a small lip, though I was often hit by insect shrapnel as they made a bee-line (ha!) for the headlamp and ricocheted up off it.

I arrived back the the hire shop/barber’s around 7pm via a petrol station to top up the tank as requested. In all, the fuel expenditure for the day was around 75 baht – less than 2 pounds. Pretty cheap all in all.

As you may have noticed if you didn’t get bored, I kind of missed lunch. This was due to my extended walk in the woods which I’d not planned on. Instead, I decided to treat myself to a KFC. But by the time I’d finished typing up the blog for the day, the place had closed! Argh! Back to the market for chicken noodle soup.

Oh, and here’s a vid of a couple of sights on the island. Apologies for crap sound – the microphone doesn’t seem as good as the one in my old camera:

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