This is apparently the dream for many holiday makers, and were I a holiday maker I think the appeal and draw would be much stronger. Having said that it was still really enjoyable for a chill out and my tan most certainly got a top up.
Like a true holiday maker I visited an island, but only one and not the most popular, it was Koh Chang. I had little interest in a ‘party island’ so this seemed to tick the boxes of being slightly chilled but still with things to do. With my budget in mind Lonely Beach was the only real option, though if I was confident on a motorbike on crazy roads the options would have definitely been more numerous.
White Sands Beach area is the higher budget area which has many resorts and the beach front is lined with the palest of pale desperate to catch every last ray of sun. I only visited in the daytime but there were a multitude of western restaurants and repetitive shops selling the usual t-shirts and other few souvenir items. All in all it is pretty busy and built up with high rise hotels.
Lonely beach has the usual backpacker fare with bungalow accommodation and a multitude of tattooists and clothing shops. The food available is generally overpriced but there are a few good finds to be had in the better priced places. The beach itself is quite long and walking along it should lead you to your own few square meters for sitting on. One of my favourite activities was hiring a kayak and rowing to the small island off the coast. For those who are confident on bikes there are many small side roads to get lost along. The main downside to Lonely beach area is how loud it is at night with a different club pumping out tunes every night.
From a backpacking point of view Thailand doesn’t have that much to offer; the historical aspects are limited, the culture isn’t very diverse and it’s almost classed as developed. However there is still a huge appeal which is mainly due to the local people and how well the country has grasped the idea of tourism. More than in any other country I’ve been in you can get around from one place to another in such an organized way that you feel independent. The locals don’t hassle you and they will always smile and wave. As a foreign entity in their country you are never made to feel unwelcome even by locals in areas completely devoid of tourism. In this case I would say that it is the people that make the country. Despite them being aware that you have more money than them they don’t consider you a walking wallet like some other places in Asia and although Bangkok has some minor tuk-tuk scams the going is generally plain sailing.
As a tourist it is very nice to both feel welcome and respected in a country and as a backpacker this can be quite rare as you move to and from the beaten track. Thailand is exceptionally well priced despite its popularity and wide variety of budgets catered for. Of my six months so far some of the best value accommodation (relative to quality) has been in Thailand where I have paid from £5 (250 Baht) for a good quality double room with hot water and free Wifi. I am writing this now from India where you wouldn’t even want to see the inside of a room that costs £5 a night as the country is so rife with overcharging. The contrast between the two is unbelievable as you will find out in my later posts.