It was easy to take the hydrofoil from Sihanoukville back to the border of Thailand . The rusty, rocking boat belched diesel fumes as it rode the waves. Hong-Kong kung-fu flicks and karaoke played on the entertainment system. Once back in Thailand, we decided to visit Koh Chang, a large, mountainous island off the nearby coast. The island was beautiful - its steep slopes were covered with rain forest and there were nice beaches. We rented a motorbike directly at the ferry terminal. We somehow managed to get our two backpacks on the bike and ride the steep, windy roads to the beach resorts on the far side of the island. The place was crowded with tourists, even though it was the start of the low season. The reasonably priced places to stay were all bamboo bungalows, but squeezed together with no privacy. A “lonely” beach might have several hundred tourists on it! Later we went out for dinner, and discovered after we had eaten that the headlight on the bike didn't work. With only a small headlamp to light the way, it was a hair-raising ride over the steep, windy road back to our beachfront shack. Despite spending a few days on the island, we were disappointed - overall there was too much development and too many lost-budget bohemian backpackers. A snorkeling trip ended with us swimming in cloudy water with fifty other tourists. All the fish had been scared away.
From Trat near Koh Chang we took a bus to Khorat (also known as Nakhon Ratchasima). As the bus wound through the hills north of Trat we came upon a major accident. A military convoy had lost control while coming down the hill and crashed, scattering trucks, trailers and heavy equipment along the roadside and down into the adjoining gulch. Traffic was piled up for miles on either side. While we waited outside and watched the rescue crew remove the debris, Anne befriended two ladies in a pickup. They were also going to Khorat, and when the line of cars started to move, they invited us to join them. As we arrived in Khorat, already late in the evening, they insisted on taking us to a nice restaurant before dropping us off at a place to stay. Despite the fact that they could only speak a few words of English and we even less Thai, we managed to communicate. For our first taste of Isan hospitality, they ordered a pile of expensive dishes to eat - crab, steamed fish, fried rice and tom ka, and insisted on paying for it all.