Starbeach Bungalows: Where I SHOULD Have Stayed on Koh Chang

So when Nick and I parted ways I went to Apple Resort for 4 nights, which was a mistake. I wanted to stay one more night after getting certified and so I moved farther on down White Sand Beach to Starbeach BungalowsThis is where I should have stayed for those 4 nights before! This was truly a backpacker bungalow, but it was a much better value for your money.


(My selfie game was apparently much stronger than my desire to actually document anything at this point so, embarrassingly enough, don’t have any face on pictures of the bungalows. Instead here are some photos of the beach and resorts to both the right and the left of the actual place!)

Starbeach Bungalows is nestled in with other hideaways such as Pens Bungalows and Independent Bos. If you want a real flash place I would probably not recommend these, but if you want a down to earth, relaxed, part of the environment feel I 100% recommend this place!! I have, at the end of the day, a little backpacker heart and soul and I felt right at home here. I could have stayed for weeks.12998351_10206181581115204_8867459039639281662_o

I don’t th12998445_10206181593195506_8167913864806739835_oink you can reserve a room, and it’s better to just walk up anyway! I got a room no problem. After paying for a night I followed the receptionist
and we climbed just a few short steps up to what seemed like a little tree house jutting out over the tops of the lower bungalows, but it was just so quaint and cute! No, it did not have air con, but for only 500 baht I had my own room with a balcony (including a bench, table and 13041353_10206181588355385_345206040725795785_oline to hang wet clothes), a sea view, a fan and mosquito net, as well has hot water showers. It was not the same ca13055663_10206181584395286_4639822596716989949_oliber as
the room at Apple but any stretch but I felt like it was very nice for only 500 baht and overall a much better deal. There were even less people down on this side of the beach and the water was just as calm and clear. The food in the restaurant was cheaper and the meals, both foreign and Thai, looked like much better quality food based on my sneaky glances around at other peoples’ tables. 😛

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I ordered a cheeseburger earlier that day from a restaurant just a short walk down the beach called 15 Palms for maybe 230 baht, but it was huge and came with plenty of chips, a fresh salad, and sauces. I DID manage to get a picture of that! (Food, apparently higher priority than most things on my “I should take a picture of this” list)

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Look at it. It’s beautiful.

The bar and restaurant did not stay open too late at Starbeach but the bar next door was open until 1am and I joined some of the guests for a nice little party there for my final night on Koh Chang. I absolutely loved this place. I want to go back, I wanted to go back the second I left! If you are a backpacker, this is definitely your scene (and at a very affordable price).

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Waiting for sunset on a hidden rock at the ocean’s edge. Not a bad way to spend the evening!

Name: Starbeach Bungalows
Location: north end of White Sands Beach, Koh Chang
Price: 500 baht/night
Pros: price, sea view, hot water showers, mosquito net, large balcony with table and bench, fan
Cons: no air con, bathroom in a little bit of dis-repair, you share the room (namely bathroom) with some ants, no direct access to the main road – you must walk down the beach a little bit (pro or con, depending on how you feel about it!)
Would I stay here again?: Absolutely!

Treat Yo Self Fail: Apple Resort Review

While in Koh Chang I decided to get myself SCUBA certified, and since my friend Nick was gone and it was my last week and a half in Thailand I decided to (try and) treat myself to a nice beachfront resort. I am, as I have come to find out, not very good at treating myself.

I hopped onto Agoda and found a resort called Apple Resort. It looked nice, had decent reviews…and was just over 2,000 baht a night. Ouch. But, after looking at some other places for slightly more, I decided this was a pretty good option. The room I wanted to book for 4 nights claimed to have free breakfast included (which I was pretty excited about because free food…) so I booked it and made my way over. I checked in around 12 and they said they had to clean the room and I could wait in the bar/restaurant area. Fair enough.  Check in was at 2pm but they did say there were going to get it cleaned for me when I checked in. Maybe there was a misunderstanding on my part when I thought they were going to clean it right away when the receptionist ran off to talk to someone, but I waited in the bar for over an hour.

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I finally got into the room and I was happy enough with it, it was spacious, had a big comfy bed, hot water shower, fridge, very efficient air con, and a little balcony overlooking the pool. I was happy with it and went down to the restaurant after showering to order some lunch. I ordered fried vermicelli noodles with chicken ( a Thai dish) and it was quite good! Decently priced (70 baht) considering the location. I got to eat right on the beach with a beautiful sea view.

It was a good place to stay and I am not complaining about the room, it was clean and had all the amenities. BUT, there were some things I found problematic. The receipt they gave me when checking in said breakfast was not included. I meant to ask them about this and double check, but I got distracted and then just kept forgetting and so that problem maybe could have been cleared up but I dropped the ball.

Another problem was the complete lack of room service. I stayed there for 4 days and not once was my room serviced. No one ever came to take out the trash or replace the towels. Even the place I stayed at before for literally a quarter of the price came in every other day and replaced the towels, waters, and shampoo/soaps.

I ordered fish and chips my final night at the resort for about 220 baht and it was dismal. I received a plate with a greasy looking hunk of deep fried fish no bigger than my fist and a handful of fries that looked to be haphazardly thrown together on a plate.  There was no lemon, tartar sauce, or any sort of sauce at all for the fish. I was quite disappointed with this meal.

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Overall, the room was pleasant and the Thai food was quite good from the restaurant. The beach was clean and not too busy, the water clear and calm. As a definite bonus the beach was beautiful! But all of White Sands Beach is beautiful no matter where you stay. However, the lack of room servicing and incredibly overpriced meals for small portioned and poorly prepared foreign food was a huge disappointment.  If the room was priced at half of the price I would be much happier, but for over 2,000 baht a night I feel like I was incredibly ripped off.

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My treat yo’ self endeavor failed; love the beach but I was disappointed with this resort. If you find yourself on Koh Chang’s White Sand Beach avoid this resort, there are many better places to stay!!

Name: Apple Resort
Location: White Sands Beach, Koh Chang
Price: Just over 2,000 baht from agoda.com for a pool view room
Pros: Thai food was good from the restaurant, rooms were clean and in good condition, all promised amenities in the room were included, efficient air con, balcony big enough to sit on with a pool view as stated
Cons: Room was not serviced once over 4 days, overpriced foreign food, website was completely in Thai so you don’t know what the walk in prices are, booked for free breakfast but in reality it was not included
Would I go back?: No.

 

The Chill Life on Koh Jum (เกาะจัม) Part 2: The Details

So, you have read about the experience, now for getting to Koh Jum!

Back to Bangkok with B in our hostel:
Our German friend had recommended Seasons Bungalow, but it was closed for the season and the booking agent we were chatting with told us to try New Bungalows so we decided to check it out. I think we got pretty lucky for basically picking a place blindly. New Bungalows is on Andaman Beach, which I think is one of if not the best beach on the island. The water is calm, the beach sandy, and you can swim any time of the day safely. The front receptionist/cook (the bigger lady there) was a bit grumpy at New Bungalows and I’ll be honest she wasn’t my favorite person, but she wasn’t bad enough to ruin my day. We got a room for I think 600 baht. It was very basic, fan only and two beds with mosquito netting and a bathroom. There was wifi available in the restaurant and the generator was turned off at 10:30pm (the turned it back on at 6am). The bungalow was very close to the beach and it was lovely! There were cheaper bungalows farther from the beach but still very close. Maybe a 200 meter walk at most. The village was just a 15 minute walk from the resort.

The overall ambiance of the island was safe, friendly and relaxed. Actual paradise. 🙂

Getting there:
From Bangkok: when we went we booked a bus ticket + ferry ride straight to Koh Jum. The bus we took left in the evening and we caught the late morning ferry, arriving om the island late afternoon the day after we left Bangkok.
Bus + ferry combo: Transport 999
Transport time: about 15 hours
Price: about 1,200 – 1,500 baht

If you have pre-booked like we did, a longtail boat from your resort will come out to the ferry to collect you. Its easy! Prices will be a little bit more expensive to get back to Krabi but that is to be expected when travelling on the islands. When you arrange to get of of Koh Jum, a longtail boat from your resort will transport you back out to the ferry to get to the mainland.Wear some sunscreen because we ended up waiting out on the water for about 15-20 minutes in the sun.

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*Prices quoted above were the current prices in 2014. They may have changed so it’s best to shop around for the best and/or most accurate price.

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The Chill Life on Koh Jum (เกาะจัม) Part 1: The Experience

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My friend B came to Thailand back in April 2014 for a few weeks to visit and celebrate Songkran with me. I picked her up in Bangkok where we spent a couple extra days hanging out with new friends before heading south. We were unsure of where to go and a German girl in our hostel recommended Koh Jum near Krabi for some quiet island down time.

So we went.

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And it certainly was quiet; it is overall much quieter than it’s neighbors Koh Phi Phi and Koh Lanta. It was early to mid April and ending the open season for Koh Jum (Nov-Apr),

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESresulting in a rather empty island void of tourists. There were no parties, no late nights, not even any bars! There was one I think but it was already closed for the season. I thought it was perfect; a little spit of land with kind people and peaceful silence. B and I got rather burned on the 2 hour ferry trip over, but that was to be expected since we used expired sunscreen. Note: the expiration date is legitimate on 20140407_121018sunscreen. We spent the first day off the beach and in the shade. When the ferry stops at Koh Jum, it doesn’t go to a port…longtail boats from your resort will come out and collect you to bring you in. It was pretty cool! We stayed at New Bungalows on Andaman Beach and it was beautiful. The beach was smooth and sandy and swimming in the blue, blue water was great! For more details on New Bungalows, check out Part 2 of the Koh Jum posts.

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NSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESew Bungalows didn’t have any bikes or kayaks available, but that was fine-they were still easy to obtain! B and I spent many days relaxing on the beach and walking into the town for lunch or dinner (it was a bit cheaper there than the restaurant at the resort,  but that food was good too!) but we did start to feel a bit restless. After speculating about a small island just off the shore, we decided one morning to goSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES next

door to I think Freedom Bungalows and inquire about kayaks for rent. They had kayaks available for half days and full days, so we decided to take one out for the morning and venture to the little island. We envisioned a sandy beach and a day of doing…basically

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Lost at sea

what we had been doing on our own beach for the past few days really. After discovering that we are not very skilled at working together when it comes to kayaking and after a lot of laughter and circles we finally made it to our little island! I’m gonna be honest it was a little bit of a disappointment. The beach was covered in driftwood and rocks;1972326_801159026560844_3866103081325407309_n it was gravelly and not very nice. But we managed to have fun
regardless. We were quite glad we kayaked over in the 1016915_801158829894197_6665510691596019522_nmorning, because it got a little bit windy on the way back and it was a real mission for us haha. Also, if anyone knows what kind of bird this skeleton belongs to, please tell me- we were very curious!

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After kayaking back we walked into town for lunch. I can’t remember the name of SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESthe restaurant now, but we always ate there because the couple who owned it were just so lovely and friendly! We loved chatting with them. We rented bicycles for the afternoon from a shop in town and decided to try and cycle the whole island. It looked dSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESoable on the map. I’ll tell you now, the map lies. We cycled to all the beaches and I have to say Andaman beach was the nicest and we were glad we stayed there instead of Seasons Bungalow which was on Golden Pearl Beach. WSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESe ended up at a beach on the opposite end of the island and decided to swimSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES and cool down a bit. We got a bit stuck on the way back when the road ended and cycling became impossible, and we had to walk our bikes back across the beach to fSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESind the road again and backtrack the way we came from originally. It was a hot but not too strenuous ride and only took half a day to tour the whole island. Great way to spend an afternoon!

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As we sat on the longtail boat waiting for the ferry to come and take us back to Krabi, I already started to miss Koh Jum. I still often think about the laid back attitudes, beautiful sunsets, and sandy beaches of the island. If you ever come to Thailand, you should definitely visit Koh Jum for that slice of paradise beach time R&R. You won’t regret it!

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The Dreaded “F” Word

One day, many many years ago, my friend’s little sister came running into the kitchen with an urgent mission to rat out my little brother. “Mom!” she yelled, “Kenny said the “f- word!” MY mom’s eyes got as wide as saucers but her friend just told her, “Wait.” Then she turned to her daughter and asked, “Alex, what is the “f-word?” Alex goes quiet before whispering a single word in reply, “Fart.”

Needless to say my mother was very relieved and I’m not sure Alex understood why they were laughing so hard, since she had been taught that “fart” was a word on the do not repeat list. We all learn while growing up which words are ok and which words aren’t. Some vocabulary taboos, such as “fart”, are purely age restricted. It’s a word many parents ban while helping their children to differentiate between words that are polite vs crass. Some words, like fuck, are words that aren’t exactly “bad words” for adults in the sense that we will get into trouble, but it isn’t a professional or polite word either.  Yet aside from that glaringly obvious “f-word”, there is another seemingly innocuous yet equally adverse curse word that persists in America. “Fat”. You are absolutely not allowed to call someone, especially a female someone, fat under any circumstance. And the following slap would not be considered entirely out of line. Even if it might, maybe be true. On the other hand, in Thailand the word “fat” is supposedly simply a descriptor, no more offensive than “short” or “tall”.

I’m gonna have to raise my hand and call bullshit on that claim.

Yes, it is true that the word “fat” does not have the carry the same horribly offensive connotations here as in America. Yes you can use it as an unoffensive way to describe someone; it is true that if you call someone fat you aren’t going to be met with righteous condemnation (how dare you). BUT-it is not used solely as a harmless descriptor either. Thais are incredibly greng jai, which as far as I can tell is tightly laced together with the saving face mentality of neither showing negative emotion nor embarrassing someone else. This takes a great and admirable restraint that my more confrontational self cannot entirely understand. It can be as simple as not telling your server at a restaurant they got your order wrong (just eat it anyway and complain about it with friends later) or not telling your hairdresser the color they used to dye your hair was wrong or it faded too quickly because you don’t want them to feel embarrassed. As good as this being so cool headed and non confrontational approach can be, it does have some major pitfalls, including I believe bottling offenses against oneself and internalizing it rather than telling someone to shut up and mind their own.

I first noticed this observable contrast from what we are told about the Thais supposed impassivity to the word “fat” and the actual, physical reactions to receiving the “fat” label while teaching. I was new to Thailand and therefore new to the idea that calling someone fat was so freely thrown about. It was my first attempt at teaching my 12 year old students opposites; namely the opposite pair thin and fat. I told them some things that were thin, such as and ending with a giraffe, and asked them for an example of fat. Seeing as I had just given an animal example, I was expecting then to say something like ‘elephant’. Instead nearly every student pointed to one of their peers (who was a bit bigger than all of them) and yelled, “fat!” There was much laughter from the students and as I stood there completely at a loss for words, I noticed that one student was not laughing. I think you can guess which student. My heart broke for this poor kid as he seemed to cave into himself while staring at his desk.

The Thai teachers in my office, who are already skinny, wouldn’t eat dinner or sweet things because they were afraid of getting fat. They would even wear these thick bands around their waist under their clothes in the middle of hot season so they could sweat more to lose more weight.

One of my friends would always make fat jokes about herself, and I honestly think it was a self- defense mechanism. It bothered her to be called fat by someone else, so she would make a joke about herself before they could to gain that mental upper hand.

I was in Drift Bar with some Thai friends, and we were all dancing and having a great time. Then some tiny little descendant of a twig poked my stomach and giggled while saying, “Fat! Dance, dance!” I almost snapped that b**** in half. But she didn’t just do it to me. Oh no, she did the same thing to her friend who was dancing without a care in the world next to her boyfriend and having a great time. Her friend, upon being poked in the stomach and laughed at, suddenly stopped dancing and stood quietly in subdued and self conscious silence while sipping her drink.

Clearly, the word “fat” is not a harmless word here. I think people  still use that word to break down someone else, the only difference is that in this culture it is socially accepted to do so! It affects everyone, and being called out on your supposed “flaws” (because why else would it be such a topic to poke fun at if it wasn’t considered a flaw) only damages  your self worth.

I get called fat here all the time. I’m sick of it. I’m not fat, I know this. In fact, I have lost a bit of weight since coming here and when I went back to NZ for holidays the first thing one of my best friends there commented on was how skinny I was. It was a refreshing eye opener, because even though I know I’m not, being called fat multiple times a week for two years really starts to wear at you. Well this last year the comments aimed at me vacillate between, “Oh, you look fatter” and “Oh! You look thin thin!” (sometimes insisting that yes, I do look fatter even when I tell them I’m not..) Thais seem to think it’s ok to comment on someones weight, even if they don’t even know the person. I can’t imagine the effect this persistent and socially accepted form of bullying has over a lifespan, especially during the developmental years.

I want to tell people to keep their opinions of my body to themselves, and I have a feeling that a lot of Thai people want to do the same thing. But they don’t. I don’t think America is doing it right either by any means-I mean a lot of people really truly are fat and we need to stop denying that fact. A fast food small meal today is the same as, like, a super size ten years ago. That is a problem. So we aren’t right either, but….can’t we all just find a balance here?

 

 

WaWa Cafe

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Price: $$

Amenities: fan and air con, wifi available
*but there are no outlets!

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Location: walkable, but if its hot outside it will feel like a bit of a journey. Better to take a bicycle or motorbike. Out of town a ways near the lake on Buengkan Road. It will be a small container on the left side of the road, just past Buengkan Passport.

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Taste: good, robust coffee flavor, not sweet at your request. Not the strongest in Buengkan but still stronger than most. I like it!
*my friend had an unfortunate incident with a bee that somehow made it’s way into her coffee cup, but I’ve never had a problem like that so I’m pretty sure it was a one off…just check your cup before you sip as a general rule for anywhere?

20160205_112907Menu and ease of ordering: The barista is nice but unable to speak Thai, so if you haven’t figured out how to order your favorite coffee order in Thai yet, you may be in a bit of trouble! The menu is written in only Thai 20160205_112854language, but they have the same basic espresso, americano, cappuccino, latte, and mocha as all coffee shops. They also serve various desserts, and while the menu is again in Thai- they also have pictures! I find the visuals more appealing anyway. Not too sure about a special menu as I have yet to order a dessert there.

Environment: the building is a small container, feels a little cozy but not too cluttered. I feel like it has the potential to get quite hot in the summer because the walls are big windows, but there is air conditioning available so it should be fine. On the bright side, windows for walls makes for great people watching if you grab your coffee on market days (every Tuesday and Friday the whole road transforms from dusty emptiness to a bustling Thai-Laos market from morning to early afternoon)!The tables seem to be good tables to do some work on, and the chairs! The chairs are amazing. Soft chairs with backs on them I could sit there all day.

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The Coffee Project

Moomprod (มุมโปรด) Coffee and Bakery

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Price: $$

Amenities: air con and fan available, free wifi

Location: Very central Buengkan on Thai Samat Rd, just past the roundabout on the main road. Moomprod is situated directly across from the old cinema that’s long since been closed down.

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Taste: The coffee here is excellent! It has a strong, robust flavor and she actually makes it per your request if you don’t want it sweet. I would also recommend the hazelnut latte.

Menu and ease of ordering: Coffee menu has all the standard coffee drinks plus a variation of teas and flavored milks. It is written in both Thai and English so its e20160130_162619asy to navigate and Note, the owner, speaks almost fluent English. So ordering and asking questions should not be a problem at all.

She is also an excellent baker and there are always plenty of treats to pick from that are displayed in the front. Trust me, they are delicious. Even if you aren’t hungry I recommend you buy a slice of apple cinnamon cake because oh my gosh….it is edible perfection. Tastes just20160130_162756 like home and it is nice, dense, flavorful and all around magical. I have yet to try her cakes but she also makes cakes that can be decorated for any occasion.

Special Menu: You can order a caramel thai iced tea and if you ask for it only a little bit sweet it is delicious! I haven’t seen it anywhere else. She also makes a white chocolate mocha that tastes amazing as well.20160130_163116

Environment: Indoor seating only but it feels open and airy. To be honest, you will be hard pressed to find a stuffy feeling coffee shop or restaurant here in Buengkan so that is rarely a problem. The family that runs this coffee shop are very friendly, and Note’s daughter, New, will probably want to practice her English with you. She’s quite clever! The wifi is good although sometimes spotty, and the tables are big enough to spread out your things if you have work to do. Although to be honest every time I go there I end up 20160130_162724enjoying chatting with people more than actually working. This is a good place to relax and kick back, but if you want to get some work done maybe find another shop. 🙂
Fans are usually running and once it gets hot enough the air con will be turned on as well. There is usually some background music playing.

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The Coffee Project