15.08.2012 30 °C
We've been three days here on Koh Kood. Geographically speaking its the farthest south of the islands in the Koh Chang archipelago. Apparently there were some ownership issues with Cambodia for a long spell so its only since they've been sorted that development has taken place. We'd initially not considered coming as it caters for rich Thais and the wider international jet-set. For example, there's one hotel at the other end of the island where it costs upwards of €2000 a night for a room. Needless to say we gave that place a miss. Most other accommodation is of the resort variety and as its low season the bulk of them are empty or under refurbishment. The place we're staying in was recommended by the guesthouse owner in Trat whom I mentioned in my last post. It's basic backpacker stuff and pretty reasonable by this islands standards. Cold showers are par for the course but that really isn't an issue in this heat. Once again we've been blessed with the weather. The temperature is hovering around the thirty degree mark for the last few days but the evenings usually bring some respite. The owner only opens the kitchen for evening meals but lays on free coffee and toast each morning - as a result we have to stop the boys from overdosing on the toast. The rooms are basic and built over a mangrove swamp so you get your fair share of the frog chorus at all hours of the day. Its quite amazing how you get used to the nocturnal sounds here in Asia, I expect that the silence will be deafening when we return home to Dublin.
The island itself is pretty big but any development has been on the west side only. As a result the entire interior is forested with just one paved road running through it. The local population is just over 2,000 but this is supplemented by another 4,000 Cambodian and Burmese workers that are employed in hospitality and construction. Most locals seem to rely on fishing and rubber plantations for their income, the tourism is a bit of a sideshow for them. Its strange that its so underdeveloped by Thai standards as its only an hour and a half by boat from the mainland. Its obviously the prices that are keeping most travellers away.
Last night we went for a couple of drinks in a local bar, the Tawan Eco Bar, run by a local guy who does nightly music sessions. We were intrigued by his sign that said 'Live music, Hot Beer, Bad service, Welcome'. The fact that the beer was cold came as a minor disappointment but things soon were on the up. He serenaded us with a couple of Bob Marley numbers before asking could I play percussion. As it happens in my earlier life that was a regular thing. Next thing you know the pair of us are jamming - Jong (the owner) on his guitar and me on the congas belting out 'Don't worry - 'bout a thing' by Bob Marley. What a buzzer! He then informed us that we were the first Irish visitors to his hostelry. Then some other customers came in and he had to stop playing to make them food.
Yesterday we hired some kayaks and paddled upstream through the mangroves to the Klong Chao waterfall. Crystal waters and beautiful falls that were perfect for swimming for the kids. Afterwards we paddled downstream to the beach where the kids enjoyed being pounded by the crashing waves. On the way we passed by what looked like a Korean group from one of the classier resorts who were capsizing in their kayaks everytime you looked at them. They were a bit of a maritime disaster and I was wincing as a couple of them headed towards the rocks. I could see someone from the resort frantically waving at them trying to send them in the right direction. Whilst it was unfortunate that the kids couldn't swim on the beach as it's monsoon season here, the waterfall is a more than adequate replacement. There's also a thankful absence of the hordes of sandflies that we encountered on Koh Rong but still enough of the little buggers to keep you on your guard.
We'll spend tomorrow replicating the waterfall/beach winning formula (assuming decent weather) and we'll catch the boat to Trat on Friday morning. From there we'll bus it to Bangkok on the penultimate leg of our three month odyssey. Home is looming large on the horizon.