Sitting in Bangkok airport having checked in to Istanbul flight where we have a connecting flight at 7.00am to London. Its 10.00pm and we left early this morning for the long trek from Ko Kut..truck, ferry and bus and then the Skytrain (when we were first here in 2005 they were still constructing it)..
We left Phnom Penh having said our goodbyes to the 'extended' family there and headed off to find some hedonistic solitude.
We decided on the island of Ko Kut in the Gulf of Thailand and decided to make the trip to a neighbouring island, Ko Chang, from Phon Penh in a day. The first part of the trip involves a seven hour bus journey through a new road carved into the Cardamom Mountains/forest to the Thailand border. The Cardamom Mountains are one of the largest unfragmented rainforests in South East Asia, but this new road is a threat to that.. Illegal logging is a big threat. Rosewood attracts 20,000 dollars per tonne in China and China's influence in Cambodia is huge. They are investing in real estate, infrastructure and agriculture and like earlier Colonials are plundering the land. We sensed a slow growing resentment by the Cambodians who are priced out and the only way for them to take part in this economic and social revolution is through mortgages and credit as individuals have restricted political avenues available in one party state. We became aware of some serious land disputes with local villagers in Sihanoukville being thrown off their land to make way for these developments.
The journey was great, with some good views of the forests and some large rivers..it was lovely to know that elephants still live in the wild in these forests. Some younger travellers were dropped off in the middle of the Cardamom range to visit eco tourist camps overnight and serious trekking adventures.
After the border we picked up a minivan and then a Tuk Tuk to the mainland pier at Laem Ngop..just missed a ferry and had to wait 1.5 hours for the last one onto the island.
Arriving late on Koh Chang we stumbled (literally) upon Easy House at Lonely Beach. What luck.. I picked a little track and started to walk uphill..much to Vix's annoyance as her rucksack was quite heavy, when I heard a voice in the dark "looking for room?". Ningnong, owner and builder of Easy House, this wood only resort of 12 huts, hand crafted by him, saved the day. Things were getting a little twitchy after our 12 hour journey from Phnom Penh!! We had planned to stay one night,and head south of the island to Bang Bao to catch the new ferry service to Koh Kut..Easy House proved too laid back to leave in the morning..so we spent a great day chilling on Lonely Beach and stayed another night..
We had stayed on a smaller neighbouring island Koh Mak, north of Koh Mak, a number of times..but Koh Kut was then only accessible through Thai tourist agencies who serviced the isolated beach resorts at quite a steep cost. A new ferry service has made it more accessible for island hoppers , backpackers and flashpackers..and as a result a number of resorts have started to cater for these markets.
Picking accommodation on Kho Kut is quite tricky..Beaches and resorts are quite isolated and are semi inaccessible at night if you want to avoid either stray dogs or driving a m/cycle on dirt roads in the dark. As usual, the travel websites "Travelfish" and "Trip Advisor" give helpful reviews and combined with searching random independent traveller blogs one gets a good steer. So Sea Far Resort it was.. More upmarket than we usually go for, but situated on a lovely remote beach and a good sized swimming pool situated away from the shore. and what a good choice.. Run as a family business, attracting mainly Thais, the owners and staff were so relaxed and helpful. There was even a small reef directly off the beach for very interesting snorkelling.
We spent a four days exploring the island and three days just doing very little. We hired a m/cycle for two days and explored the forest seeking out the 'tourist' attractions of the Klong Chao Waterfall, the ancient rain forest trees the Makka and the Big Sai Yak. We were informed that these are in fact classified as Tarmarind trees. Vix has a loathing for snakes so she only ever walks behind me in the forests. However as she was posing for a photograph next to the Sai Yak tree a long, very thin snake emerged!! Leaving the forest rather swiftly, we explored a remote beach in the south called Klong Hin.
We spent a day on a snorkelling trip arranged by BB Divers, sharing the boat with a lively bunch of teachers and pupils from the Phnom Penh International School. Not much coral but a good range of colourful fish to marvel at on our three 'dives'. We had another active day when we sea kayaked from our resort round the headland in a southerly direction to Ao Noi Beach and then further to Klonh Chao beach which had quite a few nice beach side resorts.
And so, finally, to the long (36 hours +) journey home which, if you've got this far, means we're back home in sunny - but rather cold - Hackney. Our return journey started at 8.00am on Saturday morning and finished at around 11.30am GMT on Monday (bearing in mind the 7 hour time difference between UK and Thailand). Transport involved:
1. Songtheaw (a kind of open back minibus) half an hour
2. Ferry boat to Trat 1.5 hours
3. Coach to Bangkok 6 hours
4. Skytrain to airport 10 minutes
5. Plane to Istanbul (10 hours)
6. Istanbul to London, Heathrow (4.5 hours)
7. Tube to Manor house (1 hour)
8. Bus to Evering Road (half hour)
Plus quite a big of hanging around in-between.
Time for bed said Zebedee!