Monday, July 25, 2011

Farang Chang Gang

  Here beginneth the Farang's Tale of Koh Chang. Farang means "foreigner" in Thai. We've become accustomed to the title bestowed upon us by the natives and regularly make fun of ourselves and other foreigners. The word Chang means "elephant," referring either to the island, the animal or the famous Thai beer. For our gang it might as well be all three meanings. Any Farang would pronounce the name of the group as it looks, but I prefer the Thai-English accent with the short "A" sound as "Farahng Chahng Gahng." My trip to Koh Chang consisted of some time on the beach, a scooter adventure around the entire island and a snorkeling trip to four smaller islands. 
On the first day we checked into Paradise Cottage and explored the area close to our bungalows. As you can see from my pictures on Facebook we were very close to the beach. Although it wasn't ideal for swimming because of the rocks, the view was wonderful. The place was located at the edge of the jungle, a bit more secluded from the touristy parts of the island. To get to the main road from the bungalows there was a long driveway uphill through the jungle. We really had a great location because there were many restaurants lined up on both sides of the road. Our favorite place was a Mexican restaurant that we could easily walk to. The only thing more enjoyable than the relaxing atmosphere of the restaurant was the food. It was like having dinner in someone's back yard. If you know me, I'm not the biggest fan of Mexican food, however I must say that it was the best Mexican food I've ever had. Maybe my longing for a fresh cuisine change had something to do with it, but it was so good that all of us went back two more nights. Although it was rainy for most of the first day, that didn't stop us from catching some great waves in a rainstorm. 

  On day two everyone rented scooter bikes for a motorcade around the perimeter of the island.  Renting a bike was easy. The only requirements were a driver's license and 150B. Driving it was the tricky part; especially on narrow, slippery roads like a winding Hot Wheels track. This was my first time driving a scooter, so my anxiety rivaled my sense of excitement. Once everyone rented their bikes and gathered to hit the road, we officially became the Farang Chang (Biker) Gang. I wish I could've video taped my point of view while driving the scooter to capture the scenery I passed. I had to resist rubber-necking as I passed jungles, villages, shopping areas and breathtaking beaches. One of my favorite pit stops was at the pier where I took some photos. We found it by accident and road our bikes out to the end to check out the view. Underneath we took some group photos that resulted in a tunnel effect. We look like a pretty intimidating biker gang if you ask me. The other memorable stop occurred at the waterfall. We parked our bikes in front of someone's house and walked through the jungle to get to the waterfall stream. Upon reaching the stream I took off my shoes and gingerly slid across moss-covered boulders before climbing steep stairs carved into a stone wall. My slow, dainty ascent was totally worthwhile. The waterfall was an awesome sight and a lot of fun to swim in. Me and the other guys climbed up to the second pool and back down to the first, being careful not to slip. Thankfully it stopped raining briefly during our time at the waterfall. It seemed like a storm cloud was following us around the entire island because it rained so often. 
After the waterfall, made our way back to the bungalows through periodic downpours. Naturally, the roads became quite slick, so I knew better to slow my pace. The thing about slowing down is that you need to know which brake to grip. At one point I was slowing down to get behind a line of traffic when I grabbed the wrong brake - wipe out. I wasn't going too fast, but I quickly grabbed the front brake instead of the back, causing the front wheel to lock and the back to slide out. Down I went. My Oakleys shattered upon impact, which means a nice pair of Ray Bans are in order. I walked away with a few cuts and bruises, no big deal. Eventually we made it back to the bungalows, where we proceeded to eat Mexican food again. I required a large beer. 

  Day three started early around 8am as we boarded a boat for snorkeling at four small islands. At 500B, the trip was quite a deal. It took FOREVER to get to the first island - over an hour on choppy seas. Luckily, I didn't boot over the side like a few other farangs. When we got to the first island, which was basically a bunch of boulders and trees, we jumped in the water and swam around the small island. It was a great experience trying to swim while tropical fish are fluttering passed you. I could almost grab them. From the surface I could obviously see a lot of coral and urchins, but there were only a few fish in the coral. Snorkeling was pretty suspenseful! I was convinced that I would see some kind of predator lurking in the coral or rocks, but the reef was very peaceful. Maybe the school of flapping farangs scared them away. At the second island, which was similar to the first, we spent our time jumping off the side of the boat into the water. Some were doing all kinds of flips from thirty feet above the water! You can criticize me all you want for holding back, but I wanted to survive the trip without anymore physical ailments. I jumped a number of times and dove once. The third island had a beautiful beach, so I swam on land and walked around before snorkeling in shallow coral where the water was crystal clear. Not many critters, only a few sea cucumbers. The last island had a few buildings on it for tourists. We had time to hang out in the water, which was so warm that it truly felt like hot tub temperature until I waded farther out. I took some great photos of the beaches and really enjoyed the experience. I can't imagine how much that snorkeling would cost if Americans were running the show. Probably hundreds of dollars, meanwhile we payed less than $20 (500B ~ $20). Can't beat that!
Later that night the drinking commenced at Paradise Cottage before going on a drunken search for a full moon party. Every major island has a full moon party when the time comes, but on Koh Chang (nicknamed "Reggae Island") I'm sure most of the natives were too baked to throw a proper party. So, our search didn't yield any desirable results comparable to the Koh Samet party, however we found a bar on the beach where I reclined under a palm tree and sipped my drink as the ocean crashed in front of me. 

Song of the Day:
  I've been listening to this song quite frequently. It's a new tune from DOM, an up-and-coming Indie band with some promising material. In my mind it serves as a good montage song for fun in the sun. It's easy to see myself zipping around on my scooter, jumping off the boat and swimming through shoals of fish in my own music video. Well, I can't embed that video into the post, so I'll just encourage you to listen to it. Listen >>> Dom
  So, now I'm going to choose another song that I think could also fit as a fun montage music video. The people in the video rip off their clothes and run into the ocean - that's what I'm talkin' about. I'm all about the chorus: "Oh when I die / when I disappear / leave my bones behind". I love the energy of the song and the message about having fun while you can because time is fleeting. Gotta enjoy the good times while you can! 
Crocodiles - 'Hearts of Love'

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