The entire time I was on Koh Chang, time stood still. It was as if my life had been suspended in a state of surreal beauty as I watched stars in the sky night after night and butterflies swarming around me during the day – it was really one perfect day after another. Even the rainy days were absolutely beautiful.
During my last month here, time un-paused itself and suddenly, I found myself counting down the days. My last two week here on Koh Chang were incredible and it felt as is the entire island gave me a farewell party. I couldn’t arrange a more perfect ending to this chapter of my life. To capture it all in the writing style that I’m accustomed to (which is overly descriptive to a fault and lengthy) would probably put you to sleep. So I’ll try to keep my highlights short and allow for more pretty pictures instead.
My last two weeks on Koh Chang comprised of the following highlights:
Spontaneous photography session with my artist friends – My student/friend Cristina and I went to visit my friend Pi Jo at his artsy little boutique hotel Picasjo House via bicycle. When we arrived, Pi Noy and Kwang were there as well. Kwang, Pi Jo’s girlfriend, was visiting from Bangkok and wanted to take photos of the island as the sun was about to set which is when the lighting is most dramatic. We all jumped into the back of Pi Jo’s truck, loaded our bicycles and went around taking photos. Here are a few cool shots we got:
Sunset at Lonely Beach – After a beautiful afternoon lazing in the sun and sand with Cristina people watching, we watched the sun go down dramatically over the horizon.
As if that wasn’t perfect enough, a sailboat decides to float by creating a postcard scene with its silhouette against the blue and orange sky, as well as the silhouette of tiny islands offshore.
Bioluminesence – Simply put, bioluminescence is the process of microorganisms emitting light in reaction to movement in their environment. And what this means is that if the night and the water is calm and clear enough and there’s enough of these microorganisms, such as plankton, around. This is what you see…
Okay, I stole that picture from Google because I don’t have one. And although that is a very impressive photo, it was a similar experience. So you get the idea. It felt like I was in the Life of Pi. Only I wasn’t alone with a tiger but with friends, under a sky full of stars at 4 AM in the morning after an awesome night of live music and dancing. It was so beautiful, I almost cried. But I didn’t. But I could have, really, I just didn’t want to seem weird.
HTMS Chang Wreck Dive with Tim – Spent the night in Bang Bao and we went to check out Tim’s favourite bar, Mr. Tee Bar, where Mr. Tee and Tiger played amazing live music as we sat with sand in our feet and beers in our hands. The next day we went diving at the HTMS Chang. About 20m+ of visibility and huge schools of fish at the wreck, barracudas and a whole lot more. This video here gives you an idea of how massive those schools were.
Loy Krathong – I made my first krathong lantern and I couldn’t be more proud. I used two shades of green and trimmed it with red leaves, and poked the incense and candle right in the middle of a hisbiscus. It was so pretty. At night we went to the pier to release our krathongs to appease the river goddess. I wished for good luck for the rest of my journey.
So that’s a quick peek at my last two weeks on the island. I miss it so much as I sit here in Bangkok attending massage school. But life takes your where it wants to and I’ll leave you with the following words of my favourite song right now.
We’ll drive until the gas is gone And then walk until our feet are torn Crawl until we feed the soil Film the whole thing
-Dan Mangan, Road Regrets
Though I’m a big believer in staying in the present moment, I’m not immune to the feelings and emotions that stir up like a dust cloud as you trail behind the footsteps of Father Time.
I allow my mind to drift into this state of nostalgia. I begin to see things as “this will be the last time.”
This will be my last coffee at Picasjo House.
This will be my last swim in this waterfall.
This will be my last bicycle ride to Salak Phet.
This will be the last time I see my friends.
This will be the last time I ride all the way round the island.
I start to think about all the people I’ve met and all the experiences I had while I was here on a month-to-month basis. I must say, it really was like a dream. Wow, am I a lucky.
Arrived on the island and a large smile plastered on my face as I approached my new place of work. Had an amazing time teaching and connecting with students. Snorkelled in the powder white sands of the islands south in beautiful turquoise waters. Fell in love. Fell in love with this stunning place.
Thai Language level: Sawadeeka (Hello/Goodbye)
Plates of Pad Ga Prow consumed: 0
Getting into a nice rhythm of life here. After a few hiccups from mold and mice, life was good. I made new friends with the lovely ladies at the restaurant and had the first inside glimpse of how the locals live here. My friend Bow had a Thai barbecue at her lovely house on the water. Her little wooden house overlooking tiny islands with two bedrooms, a bathroom, and a kitchen was pretty much what my dream house would look like.
Thai Language level: I start to pick up on Thai much better. Learn to say the phrase “Please teach me some Thai” and everyone jumps on board – they all love the idea of being a teacher. Everyone becomes a teacher, even the Cambodian staff. I sit back and watch as my “teachers” argue with each other in order to teach me a better way to say a certain phrase and how my English name is spelt in Thai. I love how language is sometimes just a semantic perspective.
Plates of Pad Ga Prow consumed: 1
Explored more of the island and made more friends, did a quick visa run to Malaysia and visited family as well.
Lots of time spent with my new Thai friends. Heading out almost every day and night, they take me to various places to eat, sing karaoke, beaches, waterfalls, you name it. Since I’m Southeast Asian too, I blended in lots and get the real Thai experience. I would pay the local 20 baht fee for the national park entrance while other foreigners paid 200 baht. I felt super ninja chameleon and loved every moment of it.
I wanted to learn more Thai to communicate with my friends better. I was advised against learning their writing system due to its complexity and they told me that I was better off just learning to speak Thai. But the combination of being a linguistic nerd and an artist that appreciates this exotic writing system, I decided that learning this phonetically-based system would be achievable. It was the best decision I made because each Thai consonant is linked to a specific animal or thing to help them remember their whopping 44 consonants (including 3 different types of K’s), so once I learned to write the consonants, I gained 44 new words in my vocabulary.
Thai Language level: I learnt to write (most of) the Thai consonants and (hardly any of) the Thai vowels. 44 words added to my vocabulary.
Plates of Pad Ga Prow consumed: 10
My first set of dives for my Advanced Open Water Course (AOWC) on Koh Chang after going over a year without diving. Beautiful weather and great memories. Met people in this part of the island that became good friends later on.
Second set of dives for my AOWC on Koh Chang at the HTMS Chang shipwreck was a combination of feelings. There was a “Dayum, wreck diving is so f**ckin awesome!” and then there was me throwing up every time we got out of the water – not so good. A combination of what I think is food poisoning and rough waters had me over the edge most of the time we surfaced. At the end of the day, I felt super weak and defeated by Mother Nature, yet I was glad that I was finally certified for deep dives.
Thai Language level: Lots of compliments towards my spoken Thai and the correct use of their classifiers. So instead of simply asking for water, I’d ask for “a bottle of” or “a glass of ” water. As in English, these classifiers really make the difference in smoothening out your speech. Getting better.
Plates of Pad Ga Prow consumed: 30
My fiancé comes to visit!!! We’re back to being like two peas in a pod. That’s what I love about my relationship with JR, it’s so unforced, so natural, as if he is part-me and I am part-him. He resumes to making me a cup of coffee every morning like he used to back home in Canada. Only here, my coffee is of the instant variety which he makes in our hotel room. Adorable.
I show him around paradise, my local hangouts and he feels envious and happy for me. He likes it way better than Phuket. We agree all we need is a small beachside bungalow. We start talking about moving here and living here, but he is still unsure what he would do for work.
At the end of his stay, I get news that my father had a heart attack and when my fiancé leaves, I fall off-balance. My energy for teaching yoga drops. I had a very kind American couple that genuinely cared about me and provided me consolation and love to which I will remember them forever. I am moved by the human connection and how we can relate to each other having never met previously. I have a quick trip back to Malaysia to see my father and organize a family lunch.
Thai language level: I impressed my fiancé as he watched me chat up the locals everywhere we went on the island. I felt proud I could still impress him. And in return he impressed me by agreeing to ride the scooter everywhere which he perceived as very dangerous and unnecessary.
Plates of Pad Ga Prow consumed: 50
I finally start to kick my addiction to Pad Ga Prow and have it less and less. After seeing my father, I start to get back into the swing of things and reconnect with myself. The Miss Grand International beauty pageant arrives on the island and I get the honour of teaching them some basic yoga breathing techniques.
I also go for my third dive and was blessed with amazing weather and great visibility. Great friends and great fun.
Thai language level: Keng Mahk, which means very skilled – this is what they tell me at least. I’m now able to have entire conversations in Thai. I also understand what’s going on around me and I realize that my friends gossip a lot about me in front of me. They start to realize that they can’t do that too much anymore.
Plates of Pad Ga Prow consumed: 60
My last month here and the island gave me an amazing farewell. Please read about it in my next post Koh Chang Says Goodbye.
Two weeks before I leave Koh Chang, last Saturday, about 4 days ago, I had my first scooter accident.
It is as if Koh Chang, being the fiery beauty she is, didn’t take my leaving her too well.
I had decided to go to Bang Bao for my day off to to see my friend Su, procure some souvenirs and check the boat schedules/prices that went to Koh Mak – which I was planning to visit after I finished working at The Spa. All went well and I did everything I came to do.
Happenstance had it that I even spent the whole morning with fellow Canadian, Tim, who I was acquainted with but never got to know that well from my visits to the dive shop before. Then Su arrived at the dive shop, we ate and went shopping and talking along the pier. When we were done, we went over to her place at Cliff Cottage and sat in the hammocks overlooking the sea.
I was only going to stay till sunset and leave while there was still a little bit of lingering light in the sky. But things were going so well, so when the opportunity came, I decided to stay and try Roberto’s (my Italian dive instructor’s) pizza before I left. Usually I left that side of the island really early well before sunset, but this time I stayed and decided to drive home after dark. When I left, it started to rain.
It was head-on collision between my scooter and a big truck. However, the accident wasn’t caused by us, but by the inexperienced, irresponsible parties that we were both trying to avoid.
What a crazy night! It was dark and rainy, scooters were flying everywhere and cars were skidding on the corners, it was truly amazing how no one got seriously injured.
There was no way that the truck driver, Phai, could have gone without hitting anything unless his truck was an airplane. Well…he could have driven a little slower and he could have driven a smaller vehicle – which is another thing I don’t understand. Why do they let this huge trucks, that 80% of the time can barely fit within the lines, on this island? They pose such a danger to so many people out there, especially at the speed that some of them are going.
Anyway, looking back he had the following 3 options that day. He would have to either :
Driven into the bush and potentially roll over the female passenger of Scooter A– Her idiot boyfriend was the culprit that started all of this. He had taken the downhill corner too fast, slid all the way across to my side of the road and landed in the bush. She was launched off the back a good 3 metres behind him (right by where I was). I had to stop so she could get up and move safely out of the way. What a jerk.
Hit Scooter B and potentially roll over one of their 2 passengers – This was the scooter the truck saw first and was trying to avoid on his side of the road. Scooter B was following Scooter A, saw what happened, didn’t keep their eyes on the road, freaked out, lost control and fell.
Hit Scooter C -Me. I drove up the hill nice and slow like you’re supposed to. I was in exactly the spot you’re supposed to be when you drive a scooter closer to the left side of the road. When the idiots of Scooter A flew right in front of me, I made sure no one was behind me, so I could stop for her to get up. And within a split second around the corner, a truck was coming at me from the front. Had I not jumped off my scooter at the moment I did, I could have been seriously injured too. Had I continued driving, I would have potentially rolled over her hand and maybe have had even more severe impact from that oncoming truck. It was the best option in retrospect.
So how did it happen?
First, he saw Scooter B, tried to avoid hitting them, and took a wide turn and came onto my side of the road and saw me a little too last. He tried to stop, could not, I jumped off and watched my bike get smashed.
There was some confusion to what immediately followed the situation on his part. After he hit my bike, he got out of his car, brushed right past me to the passengers from Scooter A, all apologetic. I don’t blame him, they looked more like people who had just been in an accident, lying on the ground and all.
I didn’t have time to lie on the ground so I stood in disbelief as this dude that almost killed me didn’t even bother to say sorry. They were trying to explain to him that they fell by themselves and that he actually hit me instead. He was obviously having trouble digesting this and looked really confused because here I was geared up in my North Face jacket, long flowy hair without a scratch on my slender bare legs. He did a few takes between me and them, before finally coming to talk to me.
Meanwhile, I didn’t waste any time. While he was figuring out what happened, I was looking for my phone so I could call someone to let them know in case anything else happened. I immediately decided to call Poon, the manager, he spoke the best English and bright as a button, he would take the least time to explain things to. My bike compartment where my phone was, was smashed in and so my phone must have flown somewhere. It was so dark that night. Some locals (god bless their souls) pulled over to help us and I saw it just as another truck was about to roll over it. Thank god this truck was driving much slower and stopped for me to pick my phone up. I called Poon, explained what happened and he told me to let him know if they could be of any help.
Finally, Phai, the man who drove the truck, comes to talk to me. He is still in shock and says nothing. My mind was much clearer than his so I take the reigns tell him simply, “Hey, it’s okay. No one is injured, so be thankful. You just have to pay for the damages which won’t be that much because the scooter still starts. We can put my bike in your truck and you can drive me home. It’s only 7 o’clock and we will be done in no time.”
He turns to his mother and sister and speaks in hasty, frustrated Thai – a version I’m not familiar with. I only know how to talk about lighthearted stuff in Thai. I’d imagine his mother was giving him trouble about not listening to her to slow down or something like that. He doesn’t like the idea of taking me home on the other side of the island because he drives a manual car, doesn’t know the island very well and was well still, shaken and afraid.
During the next 5 minutes, a few more near misses happen. First, a van screeched by, loses control and almost hits Phai’s truck. Phai excitedly grabs me and pulls me into the bush which trips me. I tell him to calm down and that the sooner we get out of here, the better. He was definitely still in shock. Then yet, another truck comes by, passes us safely, yet has trouble stopping down the hill, wavers and almost hits a car coming uphill. We move onto the other side of the road thinking that it was safer and within seconds, two Russian men on a scooter come around the corner sliding sideways. They are fine, get up and take their sweet ass time to get off the road. They seemed cheerful and think it’s funny. The locals tell them to get off the road and they did very slowly. I wanted to get out of there as soon as possible.
They wanted me to drive the scooter all the way back to Salak Khok, which is over an hour away like nothing happened. Even though my scooter’s engine still started, the lights worked, I didn’t like the idea because what if there were unseen damages inside? But knowing that I would have to stomp my foot and make like a baby for another hour to get my way didn’t seem appealing to me either. And I really wanted to get out of that area. So after initially contesting to idea, I gave in. I kept his ID card and we decided to settle it tomorrow. I told him that if I die tonight on my way back, I’m going to come back as a ghost to haunt him forever – he laughed nervously and told me that I will be okay. I think deep down he was afraid for my safety too. I asked one of the locals to drive with me to Kai Bae, about 5 minutes away, where the roads got better and it would test the scooter’s reliability. If something went wrong during this time, at least I’d have someone to help me out.
Luckily, nothing did and I managed to get home safely that night. Phai called me to check that I got home safely. He apologized and told me he will settle the damages in the morning. After which, he striked up a conversation with me regarding his trip to Koh Chang from Chiang Mai. He told me that his mother was still a little shaken from the incident because he could have killed someone that night. He told me a little bit about his life and he asked me about mine. We discovered that we were about the same age and that we both schooled in Auckland. I decided he was a decent guy that wouldn’t screw me over. And true to which, the next day, he settled the bill in full which was really nice of him. I was not able to meet him since I was teaching at the time. But I’m glad we both made the best of a bad situation. We’re now Facebook friends.
I was proud of myself for 3 things from this experience:
One, was that I was able to make a life saving decision to jump off when I did and that I didn’t take too much time to think about it.
Two, was that I didn’t freak out completely after it happened and that I was in a calm state of mind to get myself home safely the best way I could. I made best out of a bad situation and I felt really mature for the words I said and how I acted.
Three, I didn’t scream. You always see girls in the movies screaming in accidents. I was surprised I didn’t since I am quite the screamer the type of person who would.
During the whole time this happened, I heard myself teaching mediation saying, “Keep a calm and balanced mind. Stay present, stay peaceful.” My former self would have been a bit more of an asshole and more demanding, so I’m sure glad that this meditation and yoga thing really works. It’s all true.