Second visit to Koh Chang
Months of planning and pre-booking everything, including a boat, accommodation, transportation, and activities, was easy. The hard part was getting a permit to enter Thailand this time. We were among the first visitors allowed to enter the country via the “Test and Go” program, which required us to be tested before departure and upon arrival in Thailand. In reality, we also had to undergo another test on the fifth day of our stay in the country. Although the tests themselves were not a problem, we had to stay in specially accredited hotels until the last test and were not allowed to leave the room until we received the negative result of the first test upon arrival. The good part was that very few people dared to take part in this program due to its complexity, so we enjoyed Thailand without any tourists. This was a controversial experience, as on the one hand, we were able to see the country without crowds of tourists everywhere, but on the other hand, we also witnessed how the whole industry had been affected by the pandemic and how local businesses desperately needed visitors to return.
After a long flight, we arrived at Suvarnabhumi Airport to find it nearly empty. We waited for our pre-arranged pick-up to take us to our hotel in Pattaya. On the way there, we stopped for our first COVID-19 test. Once we arrived at the hotel, we were locked in our rooms to await the test results. The good thing was that a nice dinner was provided, and the minibar was fully stocked.
The hotel staff called us at 6:00 am to deliver the good news that our tests were negative! We were allowed to leave our rooms and explore the city. Before heading out, we enjoyed a delicious breakfast and researched some shopping options. During the first part of the day, we bought everything we needed for the trip, mostly light and suitable clothing for the extremely hot Thai weather.
In the second part of the day, we visited the Sanctuary of Truth Museum, which was an awesome place – the largest wooden castle in the world. Although it’s not that old, construction began in 1981 and it is still under construction, though visitors are permitted inside.
We took another pre-arranged transfer to Koh Chang. At this point, we had to stay in another hotel for three extra days to undergo a final test. We had visited Koh Chang before and pretty much knew what to do. My go-to activity is renting a scooter and driving around the island. The island was very empty, with occasional tourists here and there, and it was quite sad to see all the bars and restaurants open but completely empty. On the other hand, I always took the opportunity to stop at some nice places and spend a bit of money on coffee or some food.
We decided to visit the local shooting range, and we were the only ones there, so we had enough time to chat with the instructors and shoot at a slow pace without any rush. Next to the range, we found a tiny coffee plantation with a small restaurant that served great food. In the evening, we hung out at our hotel’s bar. Besides us, there was only a group of youth from Scandinavia.
We took our final COVID test, and it was a relief that it was negative. We were free to do whatever we liked and go wherever we wanted. We spent the last day on the shore chilling and exploring the island some more.
Early in the morning, we traveled to Salak Phet Seafood & Resort, where our catamaran awaited us. After completing all the paperwork and briefings, we enjoyed some delicious food at the restaurant. Finally, we could start our sailing adventure! Our first overnight stop was Ko Wai.
We sailed around the island to a nice beach bar. In the second part of the day, the weather got quite bad, and we sailed to Ko Bai Dang in foggy and rainy conditions. It was quite tense, with quite a lot of lightning and almost zero visibility. We took refuge next to the island, finding some trees higher than our mast, just in case.
After the rain had passed, we continued sailing to Koh Mak, looking for an abandoned resort but ended up on the wrong side of the island. We explored a bit, but there was not much to do, to be honest, so we sailed around the island to the correct anchorage.
In the morning, we took our dinghy to an abandoned hotel, which should have been an impressive private resort, but it was never finished. It was almost complete, but now nature was reclaiming it back.
In the second part of the day, we spent time on the island, exploring it by scooter. Around 3:00 PM, the wind started to build up, and we decided to head back to the cat. That was a good idea because the wind became stronger and stronger, turning into a storm. There was quite a chance of anchor drag, and we prepared for a rough night. We arranged a watch system, which paid off around 2:00 AM when our snubber snapped, and all the weight of the catamaran started pulling the windlass. Our catamaran was custom-built and not really suitable for rough seas. We had only a few minutes to secure the anchor chain to strong points on board and take the load off the windlass. We ended up with a contraption built from four different ropes but managed to save the boat and avoid any damage to the hull. As you can guess by now, we did not sleep much that night.
In the morning, the storm calmed down a bit, and the repair crew arrived with a spare snubber and even brought some extra fresh water in barrels. After completing the repairs, we sailed to the well-protected and spacious bay – Captain Hook. For the rest of the day, we spent time recovering from the previous night and enjoying Thai massage and delicious food.
One of my favorite things in the whole archipelago is navigating a river by dinghy inland. There is a charming place called Bann Makok on the riverbank.
In the morning, we sailed to the ranger station at Ko Rang to fully refill our freshwater tanks. Next, we went back to Koh Mak to pick up the laundry that we had left on the shore the day before.
In the second part of the day, we sailed to Bang Bao Beach. This was the farthest point of our route. The bay was spacious and well-protected, with a very good restaurant ashore. We explored the island by scooter and visited a new location of my favorite restaurant – The Fisherman Hut. In my humble opinion, they have the best Thai food in the whole Koh Chang region. I was very pleased that the guy not only survived the pandemic but also built a new, much nicer restaurant in a residential area. I guess this was key to their success, cooking food so well that locals want to go there even during the pandemic
Diving day. First, we went to see some old friends at Koh Kood Divers. The diving tour took up the first half of the day. During the second half, we relaxed on shore and didn’t do much besides eating out and having some cocktails.
It was time to go back to the base since this was the last day of sailing. We sailed back to Salak Phet Seafood & Resort, moored the catamaran, went through the checkout procedures, and packed our bags. The next day, we were heading to Bangkok to board the flight back to Amsterdam.
It was our fourth visit to Thailand, and even as I write this article, I am thinking about going back there again. One unexplored part of Thailand where charter boats can be found is Koh Samui and the surrounding islands. It’s a great place for diving and partying, and I hope we can go there sometime soon.