As the boat rounded the edge of the island all you could see were coconut plantations and a long clean beach. Farther down the coast were huge boulders and schools of flying fish catching the last rays of the tropical sun. As we neared the next beach, a small fishing boat came out to greet us. He took 10 of us on and brought us to shore. Into the sand and jumping out, what a way to start a visit to Koh Chang! This island part of Thailand is near the border of Cambodia. Many bungalows and Thai restaurants dot the beach area. It is also 80% National Forest and has waterfalls, great jungle walks and some beautiful mountains.
Bamboo bungalows on Koh Chang
My bungalow, simple and comfortable, was eight dollars a night. It had an ocean view, thatched roof and bamboo furniture. Easy to run into the Gulf of Siam at any spontaneous moment and also a refuge from the warm sun and tropical heat, this simple shelter was the best. Sunbathing on the white sand and playing frisbee seemed to take up most of the time. With dozens of Thai restaurants in the area every meal could be a new experience and often was. The true test was always ordering something hot and seeing what you could handle. The Thais would look at you, smile if you said Phett (Hot) and would laugh on the way to the kitchen. Often, when the food was spicy, they would come by and see how you were doing, but you would be sweating so hard and shoveling rice to cool your stomach off that you could not answer. That is Thailand.
Harlan swimming in the gulf of Siam
Simply put, Thai food is colorful, healthy and cheap. Any meal cooked up special for you would have all the tastes you could ask for plus a few exotic twists. Chile, Ginger, garlic, cilantro and coconut are dominant spicy tastes and while eating Thai food you might experience multiple culinary sensations. The smaller the chiles, the hotter, and that is a word of precaution. Though trying these hot spices had a wonderful sensation at first, when its too hot, its watch out time. You watch out for the bathroom so you can get there fast.
Meeting other travelers opened me up to the different cultures and beliefs in this world. Often conversations would be about politics but end up about music, food and world travel. Many people share with you places to stay and what and what not to do. A lot of the best information is spread by word of mouth. Guide books help but people have the latest info. Even travel partners could evolve from socializing and often someone you met on Koh Chang is on your flight to Kathmandu.
Holy Buddha from Thailand
The Thai people were very friendly and part of Buddhism is the feeling of warmth and kindness. Treating everyone and everything with respect is part of the philosophy of the Buddha. You certainly feel this after visiting a temple or two and seeing magnificent murals and thrones of gold in honor of the Buddha. They are very respectful to this part of their culture. When it comes time to play, they get together for an international game of volleyball and play hard.
As the sun sets on Koh Chang I dive into the crystal clear waters of the gulf of Siam. The sun gives a golden glow to everything and the fishing boats are bobbing up and down as the tide changes. I can see my favorite restaurant and know tonight the food will be great. Ah, Thailand (Kop-Kun-Kop) Thank you.
Copyright Mendocino College Eagle
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