Hua Hin Departure
We awoke in Hua Hin with the hopes of getting a train to Surat Thani so that we could continue to Koh Samui for the night. After a sweaty mile long walk with our fully loaded packs to the train station (yep, too cheap to take a cab), we learn that every train heading south that day is 100% sold out, all classes. I decide I do not want to spend another night in Hua Hin, because it really was not that cool, and we wanted to get to the beaches and see a part of Thailand we did actually like. Griffin agreed.
So, we did the only thing we could, despite the cost, which was hire a private driver to take us to Chumphon, where we could catch a ferry to Koh Tao, the northern-most of the three islands east of Surat Thani, of which Koh Samui is the furthest south. The drive was uneventful, but nice being in AC for once, although about halfway through the drive we realized we were going to miss the last day ferry over to Koh Tao. Never to worry, our trusty Lonely Plant guide spoke of an overnight car ferry, that took 6 hours but was very cheap ($5/pp), and that the sleeper beds made the ride comfortable. Since we did in fact miss our boat, we had two choices. We could have our driver take us the 15km to the other ferry, or we could spend $20 on a place for the night and then $30 for our tickets at 7am the next day on the fast boat. In retrospect, this is what we should have done, but feeling bad about already spending $100 on a private car, we went for the cheap overnight car ferry. We were driven to the other dock, and found a nice restaurant to have a meal and work until the 11pm departure. We even were part of a huge thunderstorm that came through just before sunset.
We boarded our ferry around 10:15pm, and soon realized that no one in Lonely Plant had ever actually travelled on one of these boats before. The sleeping arrangement, see pic below, was a large room with two levels of beds. One on the floor, and the other a continuous bunk bed about 4’ up. There were four measly fans, all which pointed uselessly at the ground, and a couple greasy windows that were barely open. The very bright lights were left on all night, probably for safety reasons, but very much to our annoyance. It was hot, the motors loud and smelling of diesel, and uncomfortable, to say the least. We did what we could to sleep for the 6 hour ride.
We arrived in Koh Tao around 4:30am, well before the island was awake or the sun up, so we took to some benches. Griffin read and watched our bags while I was allowed to sleep for a couple hours, thank god, as I was beginning to come down with a chest cough.
We gathered our things just after sunrise and began walking the mile or so to a hotel we had scoped out in the non-budget section of our book. It was now Oct 16th, although did not feel like much of a night had passed given the discomfort and lack of sleep. This bungalow-resort had also come recommended by a local on our boat, which we found encouraging. We found the hotel, called SunsetBuri Resort, and secured an AC bungalow only a few steps from the pool and ocean, for about $45 night. From here, our Thailand experience started to improve. We both napped for several hours – although Griffin slept outside and paid the price of a nice sunburn, while I was cozy in the AC room and my mummy-bag.
Thai massage and more
Around lunch we awoke and roamed the island. We found an overpriced and under-serviced bar to eat at, and decided not to come back. But, anything was better than last night. I scoped out spas where I could get a massage and other girly things, while Griffin scoped out bars with good drink specials. I found a place that looked great, and got all kinds of pampering. I could not get a pediicure on account of my broken toe from Kathmandu (which had made all the walking with full packs very laborious and painful), but a manicure was in order along with a massage and waxings. Griffin happied himself with cheap drinks, ocean breezes, and a good book.
After we took a brief swim at sunset in the most amazingly warm tropical waters. It felt so good to finally be on an island, in the water, and relaxed, for the first time since arriving in Thailand.
For dinner we ate at a restaurant next door to our resort, right on the water. We ate on the deck on cushions on the ground, in very relaxing Thai style. We watched a few very distant thunderstorms over the water and ate and drank to our heart’s content. That night provided a very calm and deep sleep.
Our conclusions thus far: Plan ahead when traveling in Thailand. It is not like it used to be. Buy train tickets or airfare in advance, and if traveling to a popular island, especially in the peak of tourist season, book hotels ahead too. Also, expect to spend more like $40/day/person here. Unless we went to all the wrong places, the $0.60 a day for food is no longer.