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khoa san road + koh chang - Thailand

Travelling on your own at 17 is not a usual occurrence, but when you know you're travelling to a destination, which is hot, cheap and exotic you forget about all your worries. The chance to meet my brother in Thailand, after not seeing him for 19 months, was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

After leaving my parents at Heathrow airport I set off on my own little adventure. On the plane I sat between two Thais, being a night flight we all tried to sleep, however I couldn’t sleep through the anticipation of reaching the other end. I wondered who would find who first, but I was surprised when, what I thought was a crazy guy in a bright yellow top with blue shorts jumping out in front of me screaming ‘Sarah’ was in fact my brother.

Kao San road was our first attraction. After dumping my stuff at the Mandarin Hotel in the centre of Bangkok, we got the Sky train, which made me think if a Thai person were to experience British public transport they would notice the shocking lack of it. Hearing about the well-known Took Tooks, and their shaky fast paced motions along the bumpy roads, we took one to our destination. While sitting in a bar half way down the street, we people-watched. The term ‘Back packer’s alley’ given to Kao San road was very accurate. A variety of tanned travellers of all kinds of nationalities trailed up and down all holding a certain mysterious persona. I found myself imagining the exotic places these people might have been, or where they would go.

After an eventful weekend spent in the capital we began our journey to our next destination. Koh Chang was the second biggest Island off Thailand. After catching a bus at 11:30pm for four hours to a place called Trat, we got a small taxi to the harbour, where we caught our boat to the island. Arriving at White Sand Beach at 7:30am the following morning we set off to find a beach hut. Having not been away for 3 years previous to this holiday, the feeling of sand and warm seawater beneath my feet was a great memory. After finding a beach hut with Apple Bungalows, I sat on the deserted beach sunbathing, thinking how exotic this all was, and how lucky I was to be given such an amazing opportunity.

The beach hut was typical. It was wooden with a metal roof, with a small porch raised off the ground to prevent unwanted bugs and animals entering, however it did not stop the unwanted visitor that lived in our roof while we were there, we think it was a parrot of some kind (or at least sounded like one every hour during the night.) Inside it consisted of a raised platform with a thin mattress, a blanket, 2 pillows and a mosquito net, as well as a fan (the only modern thing, which saved us from the scorching heat.) The bathroom had a typical Thai squat toilet and a cold shower, which I broke within 5 minutes or arriving. The toilet is basically a white thing on the floor with a hole; you use a bowl of water to flush it down with. I however did not see the bowl and pulled the shower head over to the toilet pulling the pipe out of the wall leaving water splashing all over the room, soaking me and the toilet paper. (The pipe popped out a couple more times over the holiday!) These types of toilets are found all over Thailand, and I am sure I am not the only westerner who was relieved to find a western toilet on rare occasions.

Word of warning however, mosquito’s like to try and eat you during the night time! I had a particularly bad experience when I was covered from head to toe in bites. My feet had about 30 bites spread all over my heels and toes leaving me an itching mess for the remainder of my holiday. After seeking medical advice from the small pharmacy I discovered I had an allergic reaction and was given cream, inflammatory tablets and vitamin tablets, which is what I discovered helped Thai people to stop being attacked by the vicious suckers.

After spending a relaxing couple of days on the beach we decided that we would spend the rest of our time on the island going on various trips. After looking through the tour books our eyes were attracted to a jungle trekking trip consisting of a 6km walk into the jungle.

The day started when we were picked up at 9am by our guide, Mr Lat. We set off to the starting point with 3 others, one couple and one, then titled, annoying cameraman. Whilst on the way to our starting point we stopped off to get our other guide, a small Thai man nicknamed Monkey man. When I first saw him he was carrying a strange knife and I thought he was going to attack us; however I soon learnt he spoke little English but was very handy, as he kindly helped me climb slippery boulders and steep paths. Trudging through the jungle we saw spiders the size of your hand, lizards and termites. During the trek we stopped off at one of Koh Chang’s small independently run rubber plantations. We learnt and saw how once a rubber tree is cut it bleeds a white liquid, which runs down a ledge into a small pot, later turned into large lumps of rubber. The day ended with trips to waterfalls and acting like little Mogly from the jungle book, when we were presented with the opportunity to swing on the jungle vines.

After becoming good friends with our guide Mr Lat, we organised to go snorkelling the next day with his friends on a boat. The trip consisted of a four island hop going to three islands to snorkel then a forth paradise island. On the boat we met Mr Lat's friends, who thanks to him, already knew who we were, resulting in them focusing on us for the entire day. Taking our places on the top deck of the boat, we sat on two deck chairs facing out the back of the boat with a clear view of the surrounding islands and open sea. The other deck chairs were taken over by a Mexican family consisting of four gorgeous girls, the mum and dad. My brother had previously travelled to and taught in Mexico, and had learnt Spanish fluently, and so with the help of his useful skills we were soon laughing with the family sharing their tequila and beer.

Our first chance to snorkel my brother and I were kitted out with our lifejackets and snorkelling gear. Being a typical boy he jumped straight in, but me with my big fear of sharks froze while standing on the edge of the boat. After 20 minutes I finally jumped in. By the third island I was fine, and even jumped off the top of the boat with the guys.

Learning that the fish liked rice we decided to take off our lifejackets and jump in near the boat, letting go of the rice we were soon surrounded by hundreds of fish all swimming at us and even occasionally nipping our legs and arms.

Arriving at the forth paradise beach consisting of a few huts one bar and one restaurant we found ourselves playing volleyball with the Mexican family noticing the huge black clouds that were forming around the neighbouring islands. When the boat signalled our return, we were soon looking out of our once sunny seats panicking about how choppy the sea was going to get. After the rain started the other people plus the Mexican family huddled downstairs seeking shelter while me and my brother were invited into the captains tiny cabin, drinking bear and blearing Bob Marley’s ‘No Women No Cry’ out across the sea. After a small incident when Koh Chang disappeared due to the heavy rain we soon got back to the island dry and were being scorned at by the fellow soaked trippers.

After an amazing day we set out that night to celebrate the infamous Full moon party at the Sabay Bar on White sand beach. After a quiet start we soon started to dance and were pleasantly greeted when all the guys from the boat turned up and spent the night with us drinking, dancing and laughing.

By Sarah O'Leary

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