“I don’t know. I can’t think.” The words struggle from my lips.

“There’s a hospital on the way to Long Beach,” Franscois says with teary eyes, his face red and puffy.

“We won’t die.” I say this as a comfort, yet I fear for the opposite. My mouth is on fire, and so are my eyes and skin. I am burning up.

“I’m dying. I know it,” Franscois insists.


A stretch of silken white sand spreads before us. We are on Nature Beach in Koh Chang, Thailand. To my left, the calm, warm waters of low tide laps and slaps softly at my ankles. The water seems a fantastic blanket of green and gold with the sinking sun shedding her final rays upon the ocean. Coconut trees flank the beach to my right. There is laughter as a Frisbee is tossed aimlessly amongst a group of young travelers. A row of girls flatten themselves on beach towels for a last-minute tan. Despite being winter, the sun is warm on my skin. Others are simply lazing out the day with cold beer in hand.

“Let’s go for nine,” says Franscois.

“Six was intense. I’m not doing nine!” I reply. “We’ll die.”

“Ah, typical Farang,” he laughs.

‘Typical Farang,’ I think to myself. ‘How does he dare?’

Farang, as I have come to learn, is the common Thai term for foreigner, or people of European descent. Sure enough, by all means and measures, I am Farang. But, what Franscois is actually trying to imply is that I cannot handle spicy food.

“Kind Sir,” I mock back. “You greatly underestimate me. Nine chilies it is!”

At a tiny makeshift beach stall, we come to a halt. We are greeted with a warm smile and a cold beer. Hello’s and How-are-you’s are traded back and forth. We come here every day for the traditional Thai salad papaya, a wonderful mix of shredded green papaya, chilies, tomato, snake beans, peanuts and aromatics. If salad papaya is the dish to have, then this is the lady to prepare it. Any functional human being will settle for the normal recommended two to three chilies. However, us being us, opt for nine chilies. Nine chilies each.

With utmost skill and precision she shreds and slices the ingredients. An instant aromatic explosion escapes from her bowl as she mashes together the final spices and sauces. With a careful twist of the wrist she tips our much anticipated meal out into separate plates. A medley of vibrant greens and reds fall out of her mixing bowl. Heaven is served. If heaven were hot, that is.

A torrent of swear words flow freely from our mouths as we take the first bite. Then, a second bite. A third. Before the fourth bite we linger, swear again, and then gently spoon in another tiny bite. Evidently we have overestimated ourselves, gravely. Chilies: One. Franscois and Matthew: Zero.

“What on earth were we thinking?” I ask, laughing, not sure whether from adrenaline, endorphins or pure stupidity. The heat is overpowering.

Franscois sets off for a laugh but instead snorts, then turns to giggling, then to laughter again, both of us venturing on the edge of crying. “Where to tomorrow?” he finally asks after catching his breath.

“I don’t know. I can’t think.” The words struggle from my lips.

“There’s a hospital on the way to Long Beach,” Franscois says with teary eyes, his face red and puffy.

“We won’t die.” I say this as a comfort, yet I fear for the opposite. My mouth is on fire, and so are my eyes and skin. I am burning up.

“I’m dying. I know it,” Franscois insists.


It’s 9 am. A new day, a new dawn, a new adventure. Different cultures — different customs. Many new travelers to Asian countries are often shocked to realize that a hose is used instead of our more familiar and accustomed toilet paper. After the previous night’s chili papaya escapades, I’ve not ever been more appreciative of a hose. But let’s leave it at that, shall we?

With the new day still fresh, we aim to explore the stretch of island between Lonely Beach and Long Beach, a 40km scooter journey that could easily take the whole day if you stop to see the sites. Scooters are readily available and affordable, averaging between 100 to 200 Baht for the day.

Our scooter fires up like a rocket. To be fair, it sounds more like a bumble bee caught in a storm. Nonetheless, it fires up. Snaking through forest and hill on a narrow track, we pass some of the most spectacular views I had seen on any of my travels. The scooter struggles higher, higher, higher into the mountain pass. At times it seems like dusk, tall trees shading the sun from the road. Now and again an opening in the thick vegetation reveals, far-far below, the ocean, that at a quick glance resembles a shimmering sea of mercury. Fantastic thoughts play in my mind as to how an ocean of mercury would come to exist. Perhaps the gods? Perhaps I’m on another planet?!

Koh Chang boasts a little something of everything, never failing to please the individual. There are several settlements around the island, each with its own unique vibe. Waterfalls scattered across the island offer warm pools to swim in. So too are there several hidden beaches that can be reached via boat or hiking trails. Then there is the ‘almost floating’ market at Bang Bao on the South side of the island. The buildings are actually on stilts in the shallow water of the bay, but with a little imagination you could easily think them to be floating. From the Bang Bao pier a fishing trip can be arranged for about 5000 Baht for the day, water and meals included. Splitting the cost between a few friends makes for the perfect outing, an absolute must should the opportunity present itself.

Do not leave Koh Chang before visiting Long Beach. Although the movie The Beach was filmed on one of the Koh Pipi islands, Long Beach is probably the closest you’ll get to the same experience. It takes very little imagination to believe that you are far removed from civilization. Long Beach is on the East side of the island, and it would seem that few visitors venture this far. It is a fair trek by scooter, with somewhat daunting stretches of road here and there, but the calm and serenity of the journey is well worth it. At Long Beach, time does not exist.


Koh Chang island is about a 30 minute ferry ride from the mainland, with the nearest city with an airport being Trat. Aside from flights, busses and taxis, one can also hire a private minivan from Bangkok, which is what we had opted for. Albeit it being more expensive, we were short on time, and this was our fastest solution, seeing that the last ferry from Trat to Koh Chang leaves at 19:00. It is a pleasant 5 to 6 hour Journey from Bangkok, including a pit-stop for fuel and nibbles.

For a general guide to the island, is a great source.

Accommodation can be found at for the best deals.

For first-hand, local help, pop into any bar, order a drink and start chatting. The locals are incredibly generous and hospitable. You will make friends in abundance and find answers to any questions you might have. Take each day as it comes. Relax. As they say in Koh Chang, “Up to you,” meaning that life here is laid back, easy and simple. You do what YOU want to do, when YOU want to do it.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.