Days 265-269: 09-13/12/2019
Location: Pattaya City, Thailand
Miles Driven: 251
Our next destination was Plodd Stop – an overlanding “hub” just outside Pattaya City. Here we met Dave Goodchild – who along with his daughter had helped us keep up to date with the latest information regarding entering Thailand with our vehicle, as well as arrange car insurance. Plodd Stop is a great little set up, with 3-4 spaces for guests to camp in their cars as well as a few rooms for those on motorbikes or who want a break from their vehicles. Since we had first started researching our trip, we had heard about Dave, his own overland trip, and Plodd Stop, so it was great to finally meet him.
Driving through (or perhaps it would be more accurately described as over) Bangkok, the pollution, people, buildings, and vehicles once again filled all the space around us. We thought we might stay a few nights in Bangkok, but decided that we were not quite ready to delve back into capital city life just yet. Instead, we stayed at Plodd Stop for several days, enjoying chatting to Dave as well as the other overlanders that passed through – Clare and Dennis from Switzerland in their Australian Toyota Hilux, and Jay from Australia on his BMW GS650, doing the reverse of our own trip.
After a few days of relaxing, we drove into the city to extend our visas and Temporary Import Papers (TIP) for the car. The visa building was full to the brim of expats renewing their visas, so this process took quite a while. We had been warned about this and advised to arrive early to avoid having to queue, but with our bodies on relax mode, we paid the price of sleeping in when we arrived in the middle of the day at the busiest time. Even so, within a few hours we had successfully extended both documents, and had permission to stay in Thailand for another 30 days.
Days 270-274: 14-18/12/2019
Locations: Pattaya City – Chao Lao – Koh Chang, Thailand
Miles Driven: 210
On Dave’s advice, we next headed to Koh Chang, also known as elephant island. Like most of the islands in Thailand, what was once a small, quiet, and fairly remote island, is now purely a tourist destination. Koh Chang isn’t far from Pattaya, but we weren’t in a hurry, so we drove there over two days. Driving down the coast, it was our first sight of the sea since we had left Croatia, eight months ago. We stopped early in the afternoon, found a beach to camp, and spent the afternoon sunbathing and using the nearby hotel’s Wifi to catch up with our families.
The ferry from mainland Thailand to Koh Chang was very quick, probably no more than 20 minutes. They run constantly throughout the day, so you just turn up and get on the next available ferry. Lucky for us, we arrived just as a ferry was unloading, so we drove almost straight on to it. Once we were on the island, it took a bit of hunting to find somewhere to camp, as most of the beaches along the island were taken over by hotel resorts. After driving around almost the entire circumference of the island, our efforts were rewarded with the most perfect spot. Hidden down a small track was an opening straight onto the beach, just the right size for us to set up camp for a few days.
The next three days were absolute bliss: swimming in the sea, sunbathing, reading, and walking to the restaurant at the other end of the beach for cold drinks (and a proper toilet)!. As it got dark, we were fascinated by the hermit crabs scurrying around our campsite.
Days 275-287: 19-31/12/2019
Locations: Pattaya City – Nong Sala – Sam Roi Yot – Bang Saphan – Chumphon – Pak Tako, Thailand
Miles Driven: 537
Once again at Plodd Stop, we rented out one of the rooms for a Christmas treat. It was sunny, around 30 degrees, and humid – it didn’t feel like Christmas at all. Chris serviced the car whilst I attempted to catch up on writing blogs (a feat that obviously failed considering I am writing this current Christmas-time blog in February!). Not quite able to have a proper Christmas dinner, we stocked up on treats to eat over Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, including Cadburys chocolate, Pringles, Toblerone, sausages and bacon – the first meat we had eaten in months!
We couldn’t visit Thailand without going to a ladyboy show, so that was how we spent our Christmas Eve. Followed by venturing to Pattaya’s infamous Walking Street to see sights that we will never be able to unsee. Neon lights surrounded us, as did the girls standing outside of the bars dressed in minuscule Santa suits. Pattaya City is labelled as Thailand’s sex tourist capital for a very clear reason. It wasn’t quite the family-fun entertainment that a typical Christmas Eve consists of!
We left Plodd Stop on the 26th December, and for the next few days followed the coast south, beach hopping from one wild camping spot to another. This was the style of overlanding we had been dreaming of since we left the UK all those months ago. We pitched up a few hundred metres from luxury beach-side hotel resorts, spending our afternoons reading, swimming, sunbathing and walking.
The only downside was the amount of rubbish. Hotel staff ensured that the areas of beach in the immediate vicinity of the hotels were clear from litter, but did this by simply moving the litter elsewhere rather than taking it away and disposing of it properly. Past the hotel boundaries, there was almost as much plastic as there was sand on the beach.
After four nights of camping we checked into a guest house so that we could have proper showers, fill up the water tank and do some laundry. The next day, we were back to beach hopping; a wonderful way to end the year.