Thailand has been one of my favourite destinations,given it’sexotic locales, pristine beaches, excellent tourism infrastructure and especially value for money luxurious travel options. Having covered popular Thai tourist destinations earlier, this timewe wanted to explore the unexplored, afascinating destination which has not been completely taken over by tourism.  We had quite a handful of options,butgiven our travel duration, we had shortlisted 3 locations - Hua Hin, an old Luxury beach destination for Thai Royals and locals (not so popular with general tourists) &also known for it’s 9 Golf courses (one of them  isof 36 Holes), KohSamet, a beautiful Island off the Gulf of Siam and Koh Chang, the Elephant Head paradise Island, most interesting of the three, which we had finally chosen as our preferred destination.It is Thailand's second largest island and is about 400 kmsfrom Bangkok on the Eastern coast off the Gulf of Thailand& very close to Cambodia border (only 390 Kms from famous Angkor Wat temple). Koh Chang is part of the Koh Chang National Park comprising of an archipelago of 52 islands

The Indian travel operators could not offer any travel advice&tour packages for Koh Chang and I had to do a bit of research and arrange all the travel arrangements including accommodation and transport, online. Initially I was a bit skeptic about it, but finally everything worked out well. We reached Subarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok in the early hours of morning. Koh Chang could be reached by a short 50 minutes flight to Tratand an ½ an hour ferry trip would have to taken to reach  to the island. We had however opted for a six hour drive to the island, as not only it was a cheaper option, but we also wanted to have a feel of the Thai country side. To have a comfortable journey I had booked a Luxury Toyota van, which offered business class comforts at a reasonable cost. The driver had greeted us at the Airport gate and we embarked on our Journey to Trat Pier. Thailand has excellent road infrastructure and our journey through Thai country side was an exciting experience with lush greenery on both sides and it offered us a glimpse of Thai culture. Finally we reached Trat Pier and our van was loaded onto a vessel which ferried us to the island. Finally we have reached the Paradise Island

Koh Chang is one of Thailand's most beautiful islands with long white sandy beaches and lush tropical forest. The island is also home to a wide range of wildlife, including a good selection of birds, snakes, deer and elephants. The island and its vicinity is a great place for undertaking snorkelling, diving and jungle hiking. We travelled through the long winding and hilly road with forest on one side and sea on the other, to reach our Seam Beach resort located on the lonely stretch of a pristine beach with white sands and turquoise blue water, situated in the southern part of the Island. We had booked a pool villa on the beach, which offered an amazing panoramic view of the beach and was great value for money (even by Indian standards!!). We relaxed throughout the day on the beach and in the pool. The Dinner was served on the open beach restaurant with wide choices of Barbecued sea food and mouth-watering local Thai spreads. Next day we went around the island for sightseeing and visited few viewpoints with breath taking view of the gulf and the nearby islands, White Sand beach, the best beach of the island and most happening place with a host of shopping centres The four Island tour by boat was exciting, which had taken us to picturesque small islands nearby which are ideal spots for snorkelling, diving and fish feeding.. We visited the Jungle Elephant camp and thoroughly enjoyed the elephant safari through the tropical forest, rubber plantations, Coconut-palms, waterfalls and a shallow river. It is truly a paradise landscape there. The camp offers a chance to its visitors to bath & swim along the elephants and feed them. The kids were really excited to interact with the Elephants (especially a baby one) and feed them.The most interesting part was when we visited a local crocodile farm to watch a croc show. The trainer invited us to have a close rendezvous with a 200 Kg crocodile by kissing him on his nose and holding him by his tail. While none of the tourists present there agreed to get in to the act, I gathered some courage and managed to kiss the croc and hold him by its tail. It was a unique and a scary experience, which I will treasure for a long time. It was nice to find a couple of Indian restaurants on the island put up by two gentlemen from Delhi, which was quite unexpected, given the remoteness of the island. Talking  about food, Thai cooking classes in Koh Changare quite popular among tourists,  where local Thai ladies with working knowledge in English demonstrates basics of Thai home cooking, like wok frying, selecting & combining ingredientsand right way of cooking Thai cuisines. We had observed that though there are a lot of good restaurant in the island, local people prefer and enjoy Street food and there are lot of food stalls all along the town, selling very fresh spicy fruit salads, stir-fried poultry/ seafood and very tasty fried rice/ Noodles  etc. Most of the Thai foods we could savour are very rich in taste, colour and texture and the ingredients were very fresh.  Next morning we commenced our return journey to Bangkok and on the way we have visited Oasis Sea World, home to rare pink dolphins (one can choose to swim with these Dolphins). The Dolphin show was great entertainment for the kids

Koh Chang – Kissing a Crocodile    

Koh Chang – Panoramic view    

 

We reached Bangkok late in the night and stayed overnight at Hotel Ambassador located in the Sukhuvit area, which is one of the main hub of commercial activities. We had decided to cover those places which were not covered during our earlier trip. So next morning our first stop was the Snake Farm on the outskirts of Bangkok and we witnessed most awe inspiring Cobra Show and got a chance to touch the Cobra with poisonous fangs intact. I realised how Thai people are in sync with the nature, especially with animals, be it Crocodiles, Snakes or Tigers. On the way we had covered the famous floating markets of Bangkok,the famous “Bridge on the River Kwai” in the Kanchanaburi districtto reachTiger Monastery, one of the most interesting destinationsin Kanchanaburi. The monastery is managed by Buddhist monks and is the hometo 135 trained captive tigers (mostly Indochinese), who were rescued from the wild. The place offers tourists to touch the tigers and pose with them for photographs, post signing of an indemnity declaration, of course! Having read reports, that there are up to 60 incidents a year (of varying severity) of captive tigers mauling tourists or volunteers, I was not sure if I really wanted to risk it, but finally decided to go for it. It was an exhilarating experience to have a full grown tiger purring & growling on your lap and you are caressing him as if it is your pet cat

Tiger Monastery – Date with a Tiger

Bangkok – Floating Market   

                             
The last item on our itinerary was the amazing and extravagant two hour dinner cruise on Chao Phraya River, the bloodline of the kingdom. In addition to its international standard buffet spread,the cruise offered us glimpses of Bangkok night timeas it passed through some important landmarks of the city. Next morning it was time for us head back home. A large installation depicting the “SamudraManthana” episode (in search of Nectar of immortality) of Hindu mythology, greeted us at the Subarnabhumi Airport, which reminded me that the nectar we are carrying back was the beautiful memories of our vacation

Alternate Pictures :-

Chao Phraya Princess
     
 
     


Santanu Sen

Head - Eastern Region, Asset & Structured Finance
Ardent Music Lover, a food aficionado, passionate traveler, love adventure, he keep himself abreast of latest developments in Science, Technology and Economy



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