Same Same, But Different - A Backpacking Couple's Trip through Lesser-Known Thailand

Tripoto
25th Dec 2018
Photo of Same Same, But Different - A Backpacking Couple's Trip through Lesser-Known Thailand by Devraj Jee
Day 1

Thailand is a place which I never thought I would be keen to go to - least of all during the winter vacations. The mind shuddered at the thought of overcrowded beaches, blaring music, tacky honeymooners and an all-round Baga scene. However, thanks to a friend of mine who HAD to go to Thailand for work and ended up discovering tropical paradises far removed from the hustle and bustle of Pattaya and Phuket, we decided to give it a go (also, it was also the only affordable option after we spent 2 months procrastinating our bookings).

We landed at Bangkok's DMK airport on Christmas morning and after spending a couple of hours at VoA line, we booked a Grab and went directly to the Mo Chit bus terminal. Booking an air-conditioned minibus (one leaves almost ever hour), we took the 2 hour drive through the Thai countryside to reach Kanchanaburi. We checked into the Westory hostel - a pretty decent boutique hostel with a fantastic restaurant. After an entire night and morning of traveling, we were miserable and after a quick lunch, a couple of beers, a nice hot shower and a nap, we rented a motorbike and went to the famous Bridge Over The River Kwai. It is open to the public and not functional, which means visitors can cross the bridge on foot while the river flows underneath. Crossing over, we visited the JEATH War Museum which was a treasure trove of World War II memorabilia - from mock ups to AA guns, to Japanese cars and helmets. The museum is in a villa overlooking the river and we were lucky enough to see the sun set behind the bridge. Coming back we explored the town a little bit, had a long Thai dinner and turned in for the night

Photo of Kanchanaburi, Thailand by Devraj Jee
Photo of Kanchanaburi, Thailand by Devraj Jee
Photo of Kanchanaburi, Thailand by Devraj Jee
Photo of Kanchanaburi, Thailand by Devraj Jee
Photo of Kanchanaburi, Thailand by Devraj Jee
Photo of Kanchanaburi, Thailand by Devraj Jee
Day 2

There are rickety government-run buses from Kanchanaburi to Erawan every hour. Hailing one in front of the hostel, we took the 1.5 hour drive to Erawan National Park. One needs to get an entry pass for the national park after which you can commence the hike. The main attraction is the 7-stage waterfall alongside which you ascend. The first 2 stages are easy to reach, and are also the most crowded. Beyond that foodstuffs are not allowed and you have to make a deposit at the counter if you want to carry water bottles ahead. You get it back if you show your water bottle on the way back. The ascent is steep-ish but you have steps carved in which makes the whole thing very smooth. You reach stage 4 pretty easily after which the steps stop and you start climbing up a fairly rough terrain. Also, the first 4 stages are within 500m but you have to cover an additional 500m to reach the 5th stage. But that also means that levels 5, 6 and 7 are the least crowded and most pristine. We got into the water at level 5 and spent close to an hour swimming in the refreshingly cold water (watch out for rocks though) and sitting underneath the waterfall. The water is also full of fishes which come and nibble at the dead skin on your body and the feeling takes some getting used to. Bottomline - take your swimsuits along.

We took the bus back, had lunch, went to the bus stand and took another minivan back to Bangkok. At Bangkok, we checked into the Diff Hostel in Sukhomvit which was a very peaceful and comfortable boutique hostel and is highly recommended if you want a good night's sleep. However, the place does not have a restaurant necessitating the need for a late night walk through the streets of Bangkok.

Photo of Bangkok, Thailand by Devraj Jee
Photo of Bangkok, Thailand by Devraj Jee
Photo of Bangkok, Thailand by Devraj Jee
Photo of Bangkok, Thailand by Devraj Jee
Photo of Bangkok, Thailand by Devraj Jee
Day 3

Remember the friend I mentioned earlier whose photos pretty much convinced me to come to Thailand - that was Koh Kut. So I was naturally psyched about this leg of the trip. We had booked with Boonsiri Ferry and the bus picked us up early in the morning from Khao San after which there was a 5 hour drive to Trat, post a two hour lunch, we took a Catamaran-type ferry to Koh Kut and then ANOTHER 30 mins crazy taxi ride later, we reached the Siam Beach Resort on Ao Bang Beach. And what a place! Comfortable sea-facing cottages with a narrow white sand beach leading into the clearest cleanest water I have seen. We wasted no time getting in the water seeing the sun go down behind the hill while fishes swam right underneath around our feet. We ended the day sitting by the sea having drinks and dinner late into the night.

Photo of Koh Kut, Ko Kut, Ko Kut District, Trat, Thailand by Devraj Jee
Photo of Koh Kut, Ko Kut, Ko Kut District, Trat, Thailand by Devraj Jee
Photo of Koh Kut, Ko Kut, Ko Kut District, Trat, Thailand by Devraj Jee
Photo of Koh Kut, Ko Kut, Ko Kut District, Trat, Thailand by Devraj Jee
Photo of Koh Kut, Ko Kut, Ko Kut District, Trat, Thailand by Devraj Jee
Day 4

After plenty of intense travel, this mid-point of our trip was just spent lazing around in the resort. I am proud to state that we accomplished absolutely nothing in the entire day. We spent a lot of time having beers, swimming in the sea and eating delicious Thai sea food. The highlight of the day was when the sun came out and dazzled up the clear water of the sea. It is a shame I have very less to write about this day since it was clearly the best of the entire vacation.

Photo of Koh Kut, Ko Kut, Ko Kut District, Trat, Thailand by Devraj Jee
Photo of Koh Kut, Ko Kut, Ko Kut District, Trat, Thailand by Devraj Jee
Photo of Koh Kut, Ko Kut, Ko Kut District, Trat, Thailand by Devraj Jee
Photo of Koh Kut, Ko Kut, Ko Kut District, Trat, Thailand by Devraj Jee
Photo of Koh Kut, Ko Kut, Ko Kut District, Trat, Thailand by Devraj Jee
Day 5

Next morning was breakfast and another ferry to the island of Koh Chang. It is a 2-hour journey which stops at Koh Mak on the way. Now Koh Chang is way more inhabited and visited than Koh Kut but is still relatively peaceful. It is also way bigger, in fact is the biggest in the archipelago. There are a bunch of beautiful beaches like White Sand Beach and Khlong Prao Beach which have plenty of resorts, good network connectivity, restaurants on the beach and most of the perks of civilization, but we chose to stay in the less accessible Lonely Beach. Lonely Beach is the place where, as an article states, if you go in without a tattoo, you will leave with one. It is the original backpacker haven which despite recent commercialization still maintains loyalty to its roots. We checked into the Live Inn hostel with a direct view of the sea - a homely and very bare basic establishment. After a quick lunch, we walked over to the beach for a swim where we also got a pamphlet for that night's half moon party at the Cancun Beach Bar. Coming back in the evening, we quickly realized that the party was a major dud and so went over back to the main road where we found a bar that was still open after midnight (everything else had shut down) and had a three-piece band that was playing Clapton songs. We sat there drinking and having dinner till late in the night after which we came back and turned in for the night.

Photo of Lonely Beach, Ko Chang, Ko Chang District, Trat, Thailand by Devraj Jee
Photo of Lonely Beach, Ko Chang, Ko Chang District, Trat, Thailand by Devraj Jee
Photo of Lonely Beach, Ko Chang, Ko Chang District, Trat, Thailand by Devraj Jee
Photo of Lonely Beach, Ko Chang, Ko Chang District, Trat, Thailand by Devraj Jee
Day 6

The next morning started with a major disappointment as we realized that all the snorkeling trips had been booked a day in advance. As that was one of the things I had been really looking forward to, I needed something to lift my mood up. Fortunately we found a beat-down motorbike (the good ones were gone as well) and it took, very laboriously I might add, to White Sand Beach. The beach was beautiful, albeit crowded (think Palolem, Goa) and the water was free of rocks and weeds which had been a major problem with Lonely Beach. We stayed in the water all afternoon and evening with a break for lunch in between after which we went back to Lonely Beach. We went out looking for a place for a good Thai massage and found one lane leading towards the beach from the main road. After a rigorous session, we realized that the lane, which we had just narrowly missed the previous night, was actually jam-packed with bars and party places. With every bar and establishment blasting out loud music and giving out cheap liquor, the party was pretty much on the streets with people weaving in and out of places as they liked. We had a great evening and came back with an amazing buzz.

Photo of Lonely Beach, Ko Chang, Ko Chang District, Trat, Thailand by Devraj Jee
Photo of Lonely Beach, Ko Chang, Ko Chang District, Trat, Thailand by Devraj Jee
Photo of Lonely Beach, Ko Chang, Ko Chang District, Trat, Thailand by Devraj Jee
Day 7

Penultimate day of the trip and NYE meant we took an hour's cab from the hostel to the jetty, an hour and a half ferry from the island to the mainland and another 5 hours bus from Trat to Bangkok. We checked into the Bodega Party Hostel at around 5 pm in the evening just as the people were gearing up for the party and after a quick lunch and shower joined in on the festivities. The atmosphere of the place was lively af and the people friendly in a way that is characteristic of the better SE Asian hostels. After midnight the hostel folks arranged cabs to take us to a nightclub to continue the evening and after a while we found our way back to Bodega where we sat on the steps talking to our hostelmates till dawn.

Waking up next morning, we sat around in the hostel bar eating and nursing our hangovers till it was time for our flight and the end of the vacation.

Photo of Bangkok, Thailand by Devraj Jee
Photo of Bangkok, Thailand by Devraj Jee
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