Sunday, January 24, 2010

Goodbye, Ko Chang. Hello, Vietnam!

Well, it has been about ten days since my last post and honestly, I don't think I will blog more than every ten days or so.  There are two reasons for this:

  1. I can't seem to find the time to sit down and actually develop cohesive sentences; and,
  2. It seems like it would be more enjoyable for my friends and followers to see fewer posts but mmore detail.  Do you agree?
Anyway, after Ko Tao, I spent two nights in Bangkok which actually is always a fun city though not quite as relaxing as some of my beach stomps.  Friday night, I went to a great wine bar on the 37th floor of the Sofitel Hotel on Silom Road.  Great, reasonably priced wine but the food was overpriced and really not to my taste.  Saturday night, on the Bed Supperclub ( with my friend Lisa who works at the hotel I stayed at. Fairly expensive at 800 baht (25 USD) per person, but in line with US clubs.  Big dance floor, great tunes and on the upper level overlooking the dance floor, guess what???? Beds!

Monday, toured around Bangkok and stumbled upon the Myanmar Embassy.  (This is for you, Hsan!)

Tuesday, took a motor coach five hours south of Bangkok to the small town of Ban Phe.  Ban Phe's claim to fame is that it is the jumping off point for the ferry to the island of Ko Samet.  I was in Ban Phe to check out the facilities and people at the Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) International School where I am considering going for the month of March to get my TEFL certification.  Fairly impressed with the people and the facilities are nice. The fact that Ban Phe is so far from anything is a little disheartening though.  The next town is a small town called Trat, a rough three-hour "local" bus ride.  I waited 2 hours for the bus to show up in Ban Phe, causing me to miss the last ferry to the island of Ko Tao.  The night in Trat proved to be a really cool experience though.  A 200 baht (7 USD) per night room across the street from a cool restaurant called Pier 122.   I never got the reason for the name but the whole seabass grilled at 200 baht was unbelievable and the owner, a sweet, feisty woman named Joo was so welcoming.

I was the only one at the restaurant at 9:30 so she ended up sitting with me, chatting away and sharing two beers.  Her husband is an architect who travels a lot (Joo: "If he's home for more than four days, I telll him it's time to go").  He designed their home/restaurant.

In the morning, I had breakfast at Joo's other business, a small internet cafe and had the world's best banana pancakes.

The ferry to the island of Ko Chang  took about an hour.  A massive ferry with many cars and a few people, or so it seemed.  This is the main transport for all the goods consumed on Ko Chang.  (BTW, "chang" means "elephant" in thai).

Ko Chang is a beautiful island with great beaches, yummy food and happy people.  I spent a lot of time on the beach, swimming in the warm water and basically enjoying every sunset possible.

After a considerable amount of sun for two days and a hankering to do something interesting, I took the advice of my great friend Svend who spent his and his wife Charity's honeymoon on Ko Chang (among other places in Thailand) and went searching for a way to get signed up for an eco-friendly elephant trek.  That is where I met a great gal named Sea.  I know, I know...I make friends easily.

Well, Sea signed me up and decided to go on the elephant trek with me.  So, Friday at noon, we were picked up at her tour booth  and headed off thirty minutes away around the island to the elephant trek.  These animals are amazing.  each elephant has a dedicated trainer/rider who is responsible for the elephant's care.  This place has ten elephants, the youngest of which is 13 years old.  Did you know an elephant costs 1,000,000 baht or $30,000 USD?  Or, that elephants commonly live as long as humans, sometimes eighty or ninety years?   The trekking place only has four tours daily so that the elephants are not overworked.

So, there were about ten people in all on our trek.  It begins with following the elephants to the river where the riders take them for a bath.  Those on the tour are then encouraged to hop in and scrub the elephants with a common scrub brush - the harder, the better I was told.

Because I was with Sea, the tour broker and the only native Thai on the group, I think we got preferential treatment.  After bathing the elephants, we walked with them back up to where the riding of them started.   But, on the way up, our rider asked if she or I wanted to ride with him (and without any sort of harness...poor risk management!).  Sea declined but I jumped at the opportunity to try this.  The elephant knelled down and the rider instructed me to step on his leg and hop up.  Trust me, this is way easier said than done.

But I made it.  A ten minute ride atop this behemoth ensued.  (My ass still hurts two days later!)

By the way, the elephant proceeded to eat continuously along the way.

When we made it back to camp, the group of riders were basically relaxing playing pingpong and checkers with makeshift equipment.  Bottle caps for checkers and a piece of wood for the pingpong net.

The one hour ride atop the elephant was amazing.  Sea kept giving me all sorts of info which she gleaned from the rider as they chatted away in thai to each other. After the ride, we were able to feed them green bananas. Funniest part of the whole things was when I went to give our rider a tip and he said give it to the elephant.  The elephant opened the end of his trunk and took the money and raised it up to the rider.  Way too funny how well-trained these wonderful animals are.

The trip closed with fresh coconut juice from the fruit itself and the meat of the cocunut thanks to the steady aim of the wonderful staff member tasked with chopping open the coconuts.

Many thanks to Svend for urging me to go and to Sea for being such a gracious tourguide.

Well, an hour in the wi-fi enabled restaurant is enough for now.  Back to Bangkok tomorrow for two days then to Ho Chi Mnh City in Vietnam.  I hope all is well with all of my friends back in the States.  Hope you've enjoyed and please post your comments.

Love Always,


  1. What's up Mike? Glad to see your enjoying yourself over there.

  2. Awesome update. So glad to know you aren't shy and make friends easily. Mostly, glad to know you make the most of each day. Enjoy your journey and tell Vietnam I said "Good Morning"!