Whatever else Koh Chang is, it’s not cool. Kool maybe but never cool. Scorching is not an exageration. I arrived on the island on Friday morning following a short car journey from Chantiburi. We got the ferry from a ramshackle but very human harbour. The ferry looked home-made and was certainly no Euro-sleek mass transportation system. Rather a method to get people and product across a stetch of water quickly and safely and it worked. It was a far more enjoyable experience than the ferries I have caught in Holland or the UK. Although most of the passengers were farangs (foreigners) there were also enough Thais for me to engage in one of my favourite occupations, people gazing.
I am increasingly impressed by the refined civility of the Thai people. they have an air of calmness and imperturbability about them that is such a contrast to the London I have just moved from. I have no doubt that they have a shadow side and that I will come into contact with that one day but, just for today, I am enjoying being a guest in this beautiful country and being amongst these beautiful people.
During the crossing, which took about 40mins, I noticed what looked like a dead bush in a flowerpot with pieces of paper stuck on it. It was on a table on its own. I had a closer look and the bits of paper turned out to be money, mostly 20 and 50 Baht notes. I asked an expat who is a longterm resident what it was and he told me it was a collection for a local Buddhist monastery. As the journey progressed, it got a bit windy as the ferry was open on all sides and the money looked like it might blow away. Some Thai people got concerned about this and brought the tree to a safer place. I noticed the concern and reverence they had for it and how carefully they protected it.
I couldn’t help but contrast this with some of the farang tourists on the ferry. There was one man who particularly caught my attention. He was in his 50s or 60s and had a huge belly. He wore an open shirt and a pair of very short shorts. He strutted around with his belly hanging out and peering belligerently around. He had what I interpreted as a look of arrogant conceit for anything different to what was familiar with. It looked unspeakably crude.
I found a table and we had a coffee to while he journey away and enjoy the excitement of seeing the island get closer and the thought that I was about to set foot on a tropical island. The island looked magical and mystical from a distance and as we got closer, I could make out the hills and mountains and later on, individual clumps of trees or, more likely, the canopy of the rainforest. I could feel the anticipation of the other passengers as we were about to dock. Eventually, in what seemed a very short time, the ferry docked and the cars began to roll off and we set foot, or rather wheel, on Koh Chang.
But more about that later…