Today we got on our bike and decided to go (nearly) all the way around the Island. After a 30km drive passing by jungle, rainforest, beaches, and residential areas we eventually arrived in a town called Salak Phet. Salak Phet is the largest and oldest community on Koh Chang. It is located in the south east coast of the island and is mainly inhabited by fishermen and tradesmen. There are a wide network of small fishing villages around Salak Phet and are interconnected by makeshift piers and masses of mangroves.
The area itself seems pretty isolated and we didn't see any westerners around, only local Thai people. I much prefer it this way as you get to feel like your outside the tourist trap and you get to sample a real taste of traditional local island life.
After a walk around the fishing village we got back on the bike and headed a few miles down the road to the centre of Salak Phet. On the way there we passes by a local school which all the Thai children attend. It's funny to see the look on their faces - sometimes they will do a double-take when they realise the guys passing by on the motorbike are not Thai, which usually generates a smile from them.
We stopped at Wat Salak Phet temple which was originally built during the reign of King Rama V but has now been almost completely renovated and rebuilt. The detail of decoration on the temple if nothing short of stunning. This picture really doesn't do it justice but trust me - every inch of this temple is delicately covered in gold leaf, stones, hand carved dragons and Buddha statues, brightly coloured dragons of red, gold green and blue. It is so detailed that you would need a good hour to take in everything, always coming across something you'd missed before. Remarkable feat of architecture.
The temple is home to several monks in the area who depend entirely on food, money and other offerings which are necessary to their living from the local community. We donated some money to the offering box and took a look around the grounds.
The temple is surrounded by lush green lawns which are so well kept to the point where at any one time there is at least one monk raking the leaves or trimming and pruning the plant life surrounding the ground.
On the drive back home we stopped off at an old pier on the east coast - I am unsure whether or not it is still in use, but it is pretty big and I've no doubt it must still serve as some kind of entry point to the island - whether it's for tourists or local fisherman.
As the sun started to set, we saw some local men in the water navigating their way through huge nets and checking their catch of the day. The had been hand fishing for Shrimp, Clams and other shellfish to sell to local fishmongers and restaurant's.
The round trip is about 40km - and it was worth all 40 of them.