After my adventures in roughing it on Koh Samet (yes, roughing it — I’ve never been camping, so sleeping with so many insects was a huge step for me!), I was ready to luxuriate for $33 a night at Nirvana Resort on Bang Bao Bay in Koh Chang. TripAdvisor rates it as No. 4 among all 63 hotels on the island, so if it was good enough for everyone else… Also, considering Agoda’s excellent rate, which I later found out was at least 75 per cent less than the normal high-season rack rate for studio accommodations, how could I refuse?
But by the time we’d crossed over on the ferry, the van driver had put the fear of God and mosquitoes back into me. After some chit chat about where I’m from — “New York.” “What?” “New York.” “What?” “New York.” “What?” “America.” “Oh, America!” He practically sang it! — he broke the news. “Nirvana Resort is very far. About an hour from the ferry.” (Both he and his wife, who was in the front seat with their young son, struggled with the letter V.)
“Oh, that’s exactly what I want — to be far away from everything.” I tried to convince myself that two days of seclusion was precisely what I needed after the disappointment of Koh Chang and the hustle and bustle of Pattaya, but I was a little bit nervous. If this place was another dump, I’d be stuck there because there’d literally be nowhere else for me to go. It wouldn’t be the first time that the masses displayed poor taste. I decided to put myself in the hands of good fortune, sit back and enjoy the ride up the mountain, down the mountain, up the mountain, down the mountain, up, down, up, down, all the way out to the middle of nowhere.
When we finally arrived I couldn’t believe my eyes. Who knew the middle of nowhere was so beautiful? The mountains, the rocks, the lush vegetation and the water of the bay converged in one spot to make the grounds of Nirvana possibly the most beautiful thing I’ve seen in all of Southeast Asia. The accommodations themselves were at least four-star caliber (Yay! Working Wi-Fi!), but even if they had been lower on the star scale, it would be hard to complain too much when you wake up in morning and look out of the window at scenery like this. The monkeys playing on the front porch was just an added bonus. I didn’t even mind that I never once saw the sun.
I spent a day and a half at Nirvana in complete solitude. The only time I spoke out loud was when I was ordering food from the restaurant across the foot path from my bungalow/cabin. I wrote, slept, ate Pad Thai (twice), watched good movies (Jack Nicholson’s tears at the end of About Schmidt get me every time) and paid half-attention to so-so ones (I still can’t believe the Academy picked Cher in Moonstruck over Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction), watched and wondered. I watched the world standing still outside and wondered why it had taken me so long to join it.
Better late than never, though. It may not have been an experience filled with epic adventure, but then even a confirmed party boy like me needs to get away sometimes and enjoy peace, quiet and natural beauty that’s not dancing shirtless on a platform. I may live to go camping yet.