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Koh Chang and New Years in Bangkok Video

A short video from Koh Chang and Bangkok is now up thanks to my brother Isak Augestad for super quick editing.
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Bangkok During New Years

We have previousy been clelebrating New Years in Goa, India and Tokyo, Japan, but a much more lively place to celebrate the event was the capitol of Thailand, Bangkok. For midnight countdown we went to “Central World Mall” where several hundred thousand people had gathered to watch the live concerts and fireworks. And afterwards every street was a party.

And it is not only during the New Years holidays that Bangkok is filled with life and tourists. Bangkok is the starting point and ending point for most Thailand vacations, and it is with good reason that people choose to spend a few days here on the way.

Shopping is one of Bangkok’s tourist magnets and can be done at Khaosan Road or MBK Mall if you are looking for cheap, fake stuff (most things you need for backpacking). If you want the real deal then “Central World Mall” is the place to go and if you are more into high end brands, and wish to visit the biggest aquarium of Thailand at the same time then you should head to Siam Paragon. Here you can also get to dive with the sharks in the aquarium (5300thb for one tank and full gear), which is something I really regret that I did not do. Should you decide to visit any of these malls, you could take the Sky Train to Siam Station and all of these shopping centers will be within walking distance from there. Getting there (or anywhere) by taxi is also dirt cheap, as long as you get the driver to use the meter.

Food and nightlife is also something that makes the tourists want to spend a few days in B-kok. Of course you have nice restaurants (a lot of them can be found in the Silom area), but if you want cheap and good food I would recommend to go “all in” at the food stands. When in Bangkok I always eat the whole day, picking up fried chicken noodles, corn on cobs, soups and all kinds of barbecued meat on sticks etc that I find at the food carts in the Khaosan Area and the Sukumvit Area (Soi 38). Coming straight from Norway it might feel a bit unsafe at first, but I can ensure you that I have eaten my fare share of even the more dodgy stuff (e.g. the spiders, worms and grasshoppers), and I have never gotten sick from the food here. After eating it is also good to sit down in one of the massage chairs on the open street, where you can get an hour of Thai massage for less than 200thb/40kr.

My biggest activity recommendation is to go on a full day bicycle trip. A really good one is the ABC Amazing Bangkok Cyclist that can be booked through Kilroy and gives you a tour of both the urban jungle and the real jungle outside of Bangkok. The floating markets are also interesting to see, but can be a bit tiresome for people who do not like narrow streets with lots of people. Should you be of the more adventurous type, looking for a genuine cultural experience the VisitBeyond Flavors of Night Time Chinatown is a good way to spend a full evening, where you walk through Chinatown to see how local people live while tasting real Chinese food (including kidneys and pigs stomach) at seven places along the way. Bangkok is huge, and has something for every taste (even a tour for creepy stuff) so you can be sure to find something that will suit your adventure needs.

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Clubbing Bangkok, the Wrong Way

We were standing on top of the worlds highest skybar overlooking the sinful city of Bangkok. The wolfpack of three brothers thinking about which crazy adventures the evening could bring. In our hands we had each our Mojito that had cost 800 thai baht, which is about ten times as much as you would pay elsewhere in Thailand. Even though the night started out on top of Lebua State Tower, the same filming location as in “the Hangover 2”, the evening did not end up being as legendary as in the movie. And I think our taxi drivers for the evening should take most of the blame for that.

When getting down on the ground we jumped into a taxi and asked the driver to take us to “Babylon”, Bangkoks biggest gay club and quite the cultural experience according to rhumors. The driver then just looked at us for a long time bringing the athmostphere down to a quite serious level before asking us “are you gay?”. The taxi driver quickly managed to kill our drive for experiencing the gay life of Bangkok, and soon we were heading for a club called “Shock 39”.

Entrance to the club costed us 300thb and after just 3 minutes in that hole of a club we were back in the next taxi, this time asking to go to “Bed Supperclub” a place we knew had the rhumor of being the best club in Bangkok. This time, the same thing happened. The driver took us to a club called “Mixx” and said it was the best club of Bangkok. We had then had enough of driving to places we did not want to go and asked the driver to take us to the Sukumvit area, which, very much like the Khaosan Road offers relatively good bars and clubs.

The real lesson learned from the night we got in the taxi on the way home. The taxi driver then explained to us that “Mixx” and “Shock 39” give 100 thb to the taxi drivers for each customer they bring in paying 300thb entrance fee. That was probably more than the taxi driver would have made a whole night of driving and they were therefore willing to ruin our evening by making the extra money. Before getting into a taxi at nighttime in Bangkok I would advise you to look for a sticker in the back saying “Shock 39” or the taxi drivers telling you to go there, or you might also end up spending a whole night in the backseat of a taxi instead of enjoing Bangkok as the great party city that it is.

Photo: “The Dome” @ Sirocco Skybar, Lebua State Tower
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“The Elephant Island”, Koh Chang

The name Koh (Island) Chang (Elephant) has been given to the island because of it’s shape and not because of the many “imported” elephants you find on the island. The last ten days have been spent here in a proper family holiday way where we have been laying on the beach most of the days, doing some daytrips on other (boattrip, diving, elephant riding) and eating good food and Chang beer in the evenings. On the last day I also got to explore the island on one of the 125cc motorbikes that can be rented everywhere for 300thb and found out what the West Coast of Koh Chang had to offer:
koh changWhite Sand Beach: Is the probably the biggest beach on the island, where you also find the biggest resorts and restaurants. White Sand Beach has the most options when it comes to sleeping, eating, clubbing etc which is probably also why most of the families that come to Koh Chang choose to stay here.Lonely beach: Is a backpackers paradise where you can find cheap beach bungalows with hammocks on the beach, cheap and relaxed restaurants with pool tables and “fatboy bags” and daily parties with free buckets, beers and babeque for certain times (flyers and coupons are handed out on the beach).

Klong Kloi Beach: Is the beach the furthest south and probably also the most relaxed and quiet place on the island. Sleeping options are limited with just a few beach bungalows, so a lot of people also stay here in their own tents or come driving on daytrips like I did.

Are you going there as a backpacker I would reccommend going straight to Lonely Beach and just find a cheap bungalow there. If you have the time and money to visit the neighbouring islands, I would also reccommend the following three islands:

Koh Wai: I got to visit the island for a daytrip but would have loved to stay longer. If it wasnt for the only guesthouse on the island (The Koh Wai Guesthouse) the island would be exactly like the one in the movie “Castaway”, with one beach and the rest of the island a montanous jungle. The beach bungalows start at 600thb and have plenty of room for two.

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Koh Mak: is another, much smaller island than Koh Chang. It is known for is good beaches and great possibilities for outdoor activities such as biking and kanooing.

Koh Kood: is almost as big as Koh Chang and it is said to be very much like Koh Chang was 30 years ago. I heard rhumors from others I met that there was supposed to be a great U shaped lagoon on the island, where the beach was more empty and the water was shallow and blue. This itself is another reason to go back for a holiday sometime in the future.

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Diving Koh Chang

If there is one place in Thailand where you can find good wreck dive sites, it is around the island of Koh Chang. The underwater bottom there is full of corals, there is a great deal of fish, eels and sea turtles and the best of all are the ship wrecks which lie a few neutical miles west of the island.
The “HMTS Chang” is the biggest shipwreck in Thailand and was sunk on purpose in November 2013 in order to attract sea creatures and divers to the place. In just a year the place has become full of both. I was so lucky to get to do my wreck dive speciality, side mount speciality, navigation and photography speciality for my Advanced Open Water license in these waters and must say that if it wasn’t for the bad visibility (5-10m) it would have been one of my all time favorites.

The highlight of the wreck dive was to swim through the outer hallways of the ship and to get to go inside one of it’s big storage chambers. I was also impressed with the big amount of crabs that had seeked shelter on the deck of the ship and how well the Thailand flag in the back had been kept, fluttering in the “breeze” of the underwater current.
The photography dive got me the pictures attached to the post, which even though did not look much professional provided me with good souveniers from my dive. The side mount speciality was something I would highly reccommend for anyone doing their Advanced OW, as having one tank on each side provided twice the air and a much greater flexibility allowing me to move more freely in the water.

Had I had more time I would have loved to do a dive in another wreck which was sunk last week. I heard from other divers that this dive site had no underswater life at all, so that the ship wreck had quite a “haunted” feeling to it. This, together with diving the outer island can be on my wishlist for future travels to Thailand.