17/10/15 - 31/10/15 32 °C
By road the journey from Battambang to Koh Chang is about 260 kilometres and according to the Internet should take about 5 to 6 hours by car. My journey, however, took the best part of two days!! It started badly when the taxi that was to take me to the border with Thailand turned up twenty minutes late and the driver demanded $15 US instead of the $7.50 which I'd agreed with the guy I'd arranged it with the day before. With my hotel manager's help we negotiated it down to ten dollars and off we went - in the wrong direction! I was following our progress on the GPS on my tablet but couldn't ask him what was going on as he didn't speak a word of English. I just assumed he knew what he was doing and sure enough he did. He was picking up two more passengers from the northern edge of town. We then headed back into the centre of the city where the driver parked the car at a busy crossroads and got out to look for another passenger. He was obviously unwilling to set off before we had a full load. Half an hour later he took a phone call and we set off to pick up someone else less than 50 yards from the hotel I'd left an hour ago. This man wanted to deliver some things to the east side of town, again in the wrong direction. Finally, about an hour and half after he'd picked me up, we headed for the border. I'm glad to say the ride was smooth and uneventful and I was dropped at the Cambodia border post. There I was told I had to walk over to the Thai border post and ask if they would accept me into Thailand. If the answer was yes I then had to return to the Cambodian post where they would give me an exit stamp. I tramped across the two hundred metres of open ground in the blazing heat (by now it was early afternoon) and arrived at the Thai post where I was sent to about four different windows before someone decided to take responsibility and tell me I could enter Thailand. So now it was back to Cambodia for an exit stamp and then back to Thailand for an entry stamp and finally, after not a little anxiety on my part, I was back in Thailand. Not far to go now, I naively thought. My research had told me that I could get a bus from the border to a town called Trat which was fairly close to the ferry terminal for Koh Chang. But, of course, there were no buses, only taxis who were charging a ridiculous 2000 baht (£40) to Trat. There was no way I was going to pay that so I sat down to examine my options which appeared to be extremely limited. And then, after some minutes of inaction, the taxi driver told me that I could take a motorbike for 50 baht (which I haggled down to 40) to a place where a sorng'taa'ou - the local shared taxis - could take me to Chantanburi from where I could get a bus back to Trat. This meant quite a considerable detour but it seemed to be the only option, other than paying through the Jose, and so I climbed onto the bike for the four kilometre ride to the sorng'taa'ou stop where I had to wait an hour in a very down at heel roadside cafe before we set off for Chantanburi. I was dropped a short walk from the bus station where I saw a ticket window for buses to Trat where I a ticket and sat down to wait the 25 minutes for the bus. 40 minutes later the lady who had sold me the ticket came trotting across to inform me the bus had been cancelled. Pushing my money into my hand and apologising profusely she pointed in the direction of the minibuses at the other end of the bus station. I'd already seen two or three of these depart while I'd been waiting and the realisation that I could have been on one of them did little to improve my rapidly fraying temper. But forcing a smile for the lady, who was obviously embarrassed, I took my money and bought a minibus ticket. 90 minutes later we pulled into Trat where it was just beginning to get dark. By now I'd had enough and so decided to stay the night and continue my journey in the morning. 30 kilometres to the ferry port, half an hour to Koh Chang and 20 minutes to White Sand Beach, I reckoned, so I should be there in about two hours. But this estimate was to prove wildly optimistic. First there was a long wait as the only sorng'taa'ou driver heading for the ferry terminal wouldn't leave without a full load. After an hour or so it was obvious that this could take all day to achieve and so I hired the thing just for myself, paying 280 baht rather than the 50 it should have cost. Eventually I arrived at the ferry port where after another wait of about 40 minutes I crossed to Koh Chang. A sorng'taa'ou was waiting but much to my surprise there were only two passengers wanting to use it and, of course, the driver wasn't going anywhere unless he had at least six passengers and that meant waiting for the next ferry an hour later. I spent that hour praying that there would be enough people on the ferry and thankfully there were. I finally arrived at my guest house at 3.30 and logged on to my emails to discover the wonderful news that my first grandchild, Jack, had been born that morning. All the travails of the past two days were instantly forgotten.
Nevertheless, after my exertions I felt I deserved some relaxation time and so spent the next eight or nine days on a beach that was almost deserted. It's still the low season here but the weather was great and my suntan is several shades darker.
My beach and beach shack guesthouse
Much rested and, I have to say, a little bored by inactivity, I eventually boarded a bus to Bangkok where I spent a couple of days hanging around the Kao San Road before catching the overnight train to Malaysia and Penang.