Juanito’s Travels 50 yr backpacker – Koh Chang, Lonely Beach, Massages & Koh Chang Seafood pt25

Koh Chang Seafood, Thailand

I’m having a chilled day in Pakbeng, Laos on the slow boat journey from Huay Xi to Luang Prabang, using the day to rest and catch-up on my blog.

In my last Juanito’s Travels post I spent more time on Ayutthaya than I did on Koh Chang. So now, Koh Chang.

Koh Chang - Lonely Beach

We stayed at Lonely Beach, at the Oasis Koh Chang, up a very steep hill, in amongst some wonderful nature. It’s towards the southern part of the island on the West coast where most of the tourist spots seem to be. Lonely Beach has a bit of a reputation for being a party place. On the short ferry crossing from the mainland we saw some young Germans coming off the barge smoking joints looking as though they hadn’t had much rest in days. The place does have its share of bars and the like but we were in bed by around 9 pm so couldn’t tell you much about that. At breaky I did see some tourists walking around who’d I’d seen the night before who looked like they’d been up all night on mushrooms or something. Weed is plentiful in the area, and I think mushrooms are not uncommon. Later in the day, a lady boy who was having a massage next to me on Lonely beach, who was as high as a kite at the time, pulled out a few bags of tiny white mushrooms that she showed to the masseur, not ones I’d seen before, somehow reminded me of the blue meanies from the Beatles song I can’t recall, or was it the Yellow Submarine movie. There was something Beatlish (circa the late 60s) about them.

We live 800 metres from one of the best beaches in the world on the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia. The beaches on Koh Chang, if you are into beaches at all, may disappoint a little. At the least ones we saw weren’t that amazing, but there’s a few that have their charm. On our first day we explored the island a little going up to Klong Prao Beach. It cost us maybe 200 baht to get up there, and we got dropped off at one of the resorts on the coast which we had to walk through to get to the beach. Up that way practically the only way to get to the beaches is through the resorts. The beaches were very average and we could see some nicer, sandier ones further north, so we walked along the beach in the 33/34 degree C heat which felt just as intense as the 38s and 39s we’d had in Bangkok, only to find there was a river in the way. We could see a nice looking bunch of restaurants across the way so we tried to find ways of early traversing the river but could not so we hired another taxi that we flagged down at a nearby resort to take us around to the restaurant area for another 150 baht.

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The beaches weren’t great around there either. The water, at that time of year, was as refreshing on a hot day as one of those warm wet clothes they give you when you get onto a plane. You go from what feels like 38 degrees to what feels like 37.5 degrees. If you wade around a bit you find a few cooler currents that refresh for a few minutes. Getting wet does help with the heat. Underwhelmed by our swim, though happy to have finally gotten into the water, especially me who made my wife walk all that way in the heat to try and find a nice spot on the beach, we smoked a quarter of a joint and made our way to Koh Chang Seafood (ร้าน ๒๔๘๘ 21/80 ทางเข้า Ko Chang District, Trat 23170, Thailand), which is just by the river. The seafood there was worth the hike. I had a seafood Tom Yum and my wife had the fish with Thai herbs. The Tom Yum was f*cking amaaaazing, and the restaurant was in a nice little location on the inlet, so really worth a detour to get there. I’m going to give it two Michelin stars, because of course I am authorised to do that. After a superb lunch, and my wife satisfied that we’d gotten wet and fed, we walked further up Klong Prao Beach, as there was a little town area we’d seen on the map where we could get more Baht. Although a little nicer, it was also disappointing up that way as well as every bit of beachfront was taken over by resorts so none of the usual massages, bars and restaurants that I previously remember in Thailand. Mind you, the last time I’d been on a Thai island was back in 1995, where I stayed at Koh Samed (or Koh Samet), that was a pretty little island that I might try again some day. Don’t know if this place still exists but it was in a pretty spot with nice beaches and turquoise water in the north. Not super developed in 1995, I suspect it’s changed a bit since then.

tuk tuk Koh chang

Anyhow, after we struggled with several ATMs to work out which account we had money in with one, Bangkok Bank saying we had no money. We got charged like $2 AUD each time we stuck a card in, and were afraid we’d spend all our money on fees before we got any actual cash, but we ended up working out we had to do a balance enquiry first to work out which account the ATM thought we had money in, could be credit, could be default, I think once it was in the savings account. We got enough baht for the rest of the trip once we’d figured all that out and then made our way back up to Lonely Beach by another taxi – more or a tuk tuk, shared taxi thing with bench seats and a little roof overhead to shade us and chuck luggage up on when needed. It cost us maybe 150 baht more, so apart from the Koh Chang Seafood restaurant I didn’t see a point in ever going back to Klong Prao Beach ever in my life again. I won’t bother with Koh Chang ever again either but there’s a few charms to the place, nothing worth going out of the way for though, in my opinion.

Once back at Lonely Beach we made our way to the beach area there. It was around high tide, but just like Klong Prao Beach we had to access it through one of the resorts. But unlike Klong Prao Beach there were beachside bars and restaurants and most importantly several massage places. So we should have saved the taxi fares and just wandered down to Lonely Beach, and then gotten a taxi direct to Koh Chang Seafood. Go to Koh Chang Seafood though! It’s worth a detour and they don’t give me any money for that endorsement for what it’s worth!

It was high tide so the back looked pretty nice. There were rocks along the shore you had to navigate, but once over them it was fairly shallow and calm, at least on the day we went. The water was the same, hot with a few patches of slightly cooler water. We hired ourselves a few beach chairs for 50 baht each and sat drinking beers and soft drinks. I got myself an hour-long Thai massage with oil for 350 baht I think. Next to the lady boy who had some sort of half day face treatment, massage and the works. Being stoned the massage felt good, no happy endings, but got a good all over rub. The mattresses we had were hard as rocks so it was good to get some neck action in the end. The lady boy wouldn’t shut up, but she was more entertaining than annoying. Super funny.

massage lonely beach Koh chang

After getting our 50 baht’s worth from the beach chair and settling our bull with the massage place for the soft drinks, waters and beers, we maybe smoke a little more weed, who knows, and walked up the beach 15 metres to a restaurant and had some pretty decent Pad Thai, and maybe something else, I think I might have convinced my wife to get a Tom Yum. Yeah, a bit stoned, but hazy on details but remember nice food. We watched the sunset from the restaurant before heading back to the hotel for a swim, catching up on social media, another shower, and then bed.

lonely beach Koh chang Thailand


Juanito’s Travels 50 yr backpacker – Bangkok Grand Palace, Buddha give me strength & buying weed legal pt23

lotus flower grand palace BangkokI’ll put a bit of a pause on trying to catch up on my 1995 journey, I’m almost there with India, just got Varanasi to go, but I’d like to focus on where we’re at right now – Thailand.

Well, we’re on the Island of Koh Chang, in some jungle restaurant where our very basic jungle bungalow is, listening to bird and monkey sounds, with a relatively cool breeze (especially compared to the hellish April heat of Bangkok) recovering from a night of BBQ, weed and massage after spending a few days in Bangkok visiting the temples of Wat Phra Kaew (AKA the Temple of the Emerald Buddha), Wat Pho (temple of the reclining Buddha) and Wat Arun, then a day trip to Ayutthaya plus the Lollipop Marijuana Dispensary around Khao San Road.

That sentence probably needed a few full stops.

So Bangkok. It’s flipping hot in April. 38 degrees maximums everyday we were there with the temperature barely getting below 28 any night. Who is crazy enough to travel to Thailand at this time of year? Looking around, there were plenty of us!

Our first day we headed to Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha – but also includes the Grand Palace). Despite the heat, it literally blew our minds. We managed to accidentally time it so we could start a free tour at 10 am. But before even getting into the temple we had to cover up to show respect to the holy location. My wife was fine with her shirt and long pants, but I, with my shorts, had to buy the common Thai elephant pants you see tourists everywhere wearing to temples. You can buy these just inside the gate for 200 baht, you can get them cheaper at the nearby markets along the river so perhaps drop off there  first if you want to save yourself 50-80 baht. You can get hats there as well, which I wished I’d done before going on the two-hour tour, the top of my head has never baked so much in the sun, it felt like a cheese toastie under a grill. I had to run between the temple buildings, seeking what little shade I could.

Many superlatives for Wat Phra Kaew, being Bangkok’s number one tourist attraction there’s little I have to add apart from a few pictures I have here. There’s more on my instagram:  greenpaddocks.

wat phra kaew - emerald buddhawat phra kaew - emerald buddha, Bangkok

The next day we headed to Wat Pho (temple of the reclining Buddha) and Wat Arun – which is across the river from Wat Pho. Wat Phra Kaew and Wat Pho are pretty close to each other, and an easy walk (not so easy in the heat mind you) and ferry ride from Khao San Road. Then the ferry should cost around 30 Baht each and you can get tickets from the wares, just tell them where you want to go and hand over the cash and they sort you out on the right boat. Can’t remember the name of the pier closest to Khaosan Road and it’s hidden away down a little alleyway so good luck finding it! Best to search the directions on google maps then zoom in on the river for your closest stop. My wife says it’s stop 13! And the stop for Wat Phra Kaew is possibly number 9, like that great Yoko Ono/ John Lennon song, number 9, number 9, number 9, number 9.

The temple of the Emerald Buddha is a place of quiet contemplation. One of the few places you can’t take photos so you can just sit quietly and look at the walls and the very small emerald Buddha. I find I get a lot more out of just looking than taking photos (I have a complaint about the attitude of others further down!). The thing to remember at these temples is that they are actively used by the Thai, so in amongst the tour groups and millions of cameras you also have Thai Buddhists coming along to take refuge in the Buddha, in the Sangha, in the Damma (the Buddha, community and the truth as told by the Buddha).

The next day we headed to the reclining Buddha, Wat Pho. Again with the photos I won’t sort them out yet as we took heaps of live pictures and they don’t upload easy, again, check out my Instagram page/ site, whatever you call it.

At Wat Pho, I first went to the toilet, which is usually uneventful, but this time I walked in and stood at the urinal and suddenly some dude was massaging the back of my neck, I was halfway through peeing so I didn’t stop and turn around until I was done and there was some guy asking for money. Now it should be red flags when a guy comes up and massages you in the toilet while you’re doing a pee. And yes, the guy was searching my backpack as I peed which I didn’t notice until I went out, he didn’t find anything but bottles of water. So, word of advice, don’t keep anything more valuable in your backpack than bottles of water, and, perhaps more importantly, before you go for a pee – guys of course but similar for women – check that there is no one else in the toilets, just have a quick scan, and then if you’re a guy peeing while standing, pee so you can see the rest of the toilets. Look, the massage was pretty good so I’m not sure why the pickpocketing thief doesn’t just go get a legit job doing that, but anyway, life choices. We watched the guy following many other tourists in the morning from behind trying to get into their backpacks, so, just water and clothes in backpacks, no wallets, money, phones – because one day you’ll be tired and you’ll turn and before you know it, it’ll be gone! Impermanence, just like the Buddha said!

Like Wat Phra Kaew there are active temples used by Thai Buddhists. My wife and I sat there at one in Wat Pho where buddhist monks were chanting and praying, but unlike Wat Phra Kaew’s temple of the Emerald Buddha, you can take photos at this place, so after a few minutes of peace we had people barging in, cameras already going filming video blogs, taking photos, including with very noisy cameras. The monks didn’t seem to be disturbed, but, Buddha give me strength, I found the whole thing annoying and when a tourist fresh from a cruise ship stood over me ignoring my presence below I pushed him off and waved him away. He didn’t care, the photo is more important. Before I blew my top in front of the Buddha I ran out and waited outside while my wife continued her quiet contemplation.

I had a similar experience in the hall containing the giant golden reclining Buddha. I was standing quietly contemplating the statue, as far into a corner I could be, when a German guy, fresh off a giant cruise ship said, ‘can you please move? I want to take a photo’, and I shrugged my shoulders and said, ‘no, I came to look, not take photos’, and very sarcastically the guy said ‘thanks’, his face reflecting the tragedy of not getting a photo. Tourists suck, including me. One day into our round the world tour and I can see we can see photos are what’s driving us now and we can’t enjoy things without getting a pic. The more ‘no photo’ signs around the better.

I’m in no way superior to these run in and click and run out type of tourists. I know the people I find annoying are just people not necessarily trying to be annoying, they are just people trying to take millions and millions of photos without looking at a single thing. It’s not exactly a new phenomenon, and I need to learn patience. This is just the world. As they said in my vipassana meditation courses. You can either complain about the heat, or you can take out an umbrella and protect yourself from the sun. Still rules to help us all enhance our travel experiences without always trying to catch it forever, wouldn’t go astray. Everything is impermanent, these words, your pictures, ourselves. We all arise and then pass away. Not accepting impermanence  leads to people like me being annoyed at tourists in front of golden Buddha statues and people like the German being annoyed at people like me who won’t step out of the way of a golden Buddha for him to take a photo with his wife in front of the golden Buddha because he’s rushing around for the three hours the giant tour ship give him in Bangkok. And I got a great photo of the giant Buddha without anyone in front of it ;).

reclining buddha wat pho, Bangkok

And with that display of hypocrisy, and attempt at insight, that’s almost as much blogging as I’ll do today. Later in the day, like I flagged above, I went to the Lollipop Marijuana Dispensary and bought marijuana for the first time in my life – legally! That’s a big leap from the Buddist musings and breaks one of the five central precepts of Buddhism: abstaining from getting intoxicated. I know, I know. I’ll work on it. But from a law and order perspective legalising weed is a good move. Being the son of an alcoholic I can tell you legally available alcohol causes many more problems than weed. But just as I wouldn’t support banning beer, I don’t support banning weed. Back in 1995 I could have been thrown in jail for smoking weed. Too many people have gone to jail for smoking and selling weed. Sure, regulate it but use your resources for better things. We have ways of living like Buddhism and its five precepts, which are, roughly: abstain from killing; abstain from stealing; abstain from lying (and gossiping); abstain from sexual misconduct; and yes, abstain from getting intoxicated! These are great, and some are much easier to keep than others, like the first four ones – apart from gossiping, I looooove to gossip – but you know, for sure give up drinking and smoking weed, but we’ve seen what problems we have when we make these things completely illegal! We’re not perfect. 

And here’s a plug for Lollipop! Great service at a reasonable price! And again, applause to the Thai government for trying something different, I hope despite some teething problems they continue allowing recreational weed use with strict regulations!

lollipop marijuana Bangkok khoa san road

The next evening, after our day trip to Ayutthaya, I got stoned and posted pictures of myself on Instagram buying weed, because you know what, it’s legal, so go blow it out your bum if you’re worried LOL 😉 I’ll write more about Ayutthaya and Koh Chang in the next few blogs, and I may, at some stage, get around to finishing off the earlier 1995 blog about India, and also my last time in Thailand on an Island. Mental note for me as I’m liable to forget.