Monday, May 3, 2010

South Thailand

From Bangkok to South Thailand:

We bought those $28 bus tickets from Bangkok to a town called Krabi. We opted not to go to Phuket seeking instead something a little bit less hectic. Our hotel was on a beach called Noppharat and after spending three days navigating busy, crazy, riot-having Bangkok we were definitely looking forward to some "beach time".

And so we brought our bags to the travel agency, dropped them off, and had a nice little tour around Chinatown in Bangkok where I had the only iced coffee worthy of mention in the past 3 months.  Is it just me, or does nobody BREW coffee in the South/East hemisphere?  It's only instant Nescafe.  Summer described the taste of the iced coffees we were getting as being "like cereal milk".  And she was right.  Specifically poor-kids-wheat-puffs-in-a-bag cereal milk.  How do I know?  I don't.  Some poor kids I used to know once described the taste.

After we killed a sufficient amount of time, we headed back to meet our bus.  We were warned that the bus never comes at 5pm.  So we showed up at 4:45 because I needed a few minutes to sort out my suitcase storage/transport to the airport. And then we got the "hurry up the bus is here" swoosh out the front of the office.  Here's where it started to get confusing.  Our bags were plunked into the back of a pick-up truck.  Bus?  We got in the club cab.  There were skin magazines in the pouch behind the front seats.  This truck drove us to a different part of town, stopping once for gas.  Summer and I watched our bags like hawks and made a suicide pact in order to prevent possible sex slavery.  Eventually and mercifully we were dropped off on a busy street.  A woman took our ticket, ushered us to a concrete half-wall, and instructed us to put our bags down and wait here.  She said if one has to go to the bathroom, "one wait and one go".  She walked away. 

We were 15 feet away from an outdoor sitting area with signs boasting cocktails.  It was hot.  We had to pee.  And so we brought our bags up to the sitting area and took turns peeing and had a gin and tonic.  But the lady made it seem like she would be right back.  And so I was just nervous, because we weren't sure if she would look for us, not see us and then we'd be stuck.  I could sort of see where the concrete half-wall was, but sort of not.  We hurried up and went back to the wall and waited some more.  At least an hour later, the lady came back with seven or so other backpackers.  An hour of speculation, assumption, and downright irritation.  Phew!  Now it was time to walk 2 kilometers to another waiting point. 

We marched and sweated and met our fellow travelers.  Most notably, Mark "Dutchy" Shobers from Holland, who had just spent 11 months in Australia and was now spending his last month of the year-away in SE Asia.  His English was excellent, so good in fact we assumed he was British and approximately 26 years old.  Turns out he was from Holland and only 21.  We thought he was very nice but then he went off on Germans in Australia and how he hated that they only want to speak German with eachother, and they refuse to speak English, and even though Dutchy speaks German he finds it incredibly rude.  Anyway the overnight bus finally showed up and the air conditioning was ice cold.  There was a toilet.  We were to spend the next 9 hours here, and even got to watch a movie as we fell asleep.  The seats was heaven.  When we arrived to Surat Tani we had to get off this bus and continue on another bus.  As our bus pulled away, a German woman ran after it and punched the side, screaming.  It turns out her bag was opened and all of her things were tossed around, and stuff was missing, including cash.  We were warned so many times not to put anything valuable under the bus that I didn't feel sorry for her even though of course I sort of did.  We recalled that the bus stopped on the side of the road several times for several minutes and wondered if in fact the theft wasn't orchestrated by the driver?  No one else reported anything missing and our bags were intact.  Fortunately.

A few minutes later, an open-air truck picked up Summer and I, the German girl and her boyfriend, another German couple and brought us to an office, where they traded our tickets for stickers and tried to sell us rides from Krabi town to our hotel.  We declined.  Guess what?  The Germans only spoke German to eachother and ignored us when we spoke in English.  Then we were brought to yet another location where the German girl and her boyfriend were dropped off, and still yet another location where the open-air truck driver stopped and said the other bus was coming in 10 minutes.  We said, "ONLY ten minutes?"  "Are you sure?"  "What color is it?" etc.  As I explained earlier things are just not very clear here.  If only the initial woman had said, "In about an hour, I'll be back with more people and THEN we'll walk to the bus."  We wouldn't have had to worry that we weren't seeing any buses or her and could this have been a scam?  We could have enjoyed our gin and tonics and chatted peacefully.  And why bring us to a satellite office to trade our tickets for stickers?  Everybody's in on it, guys.  Confuse the tired tourists and they may buy your heavily inflated taxi rides. 

Thank goodness the open-air truck driver waited with us for the bus.  I think it was because we put up a stink.  I for one was not getting off that truck and sitting there in front of a random store on a random street waiting for a random bus that might not ever come.

But thankfully, it did.  This one smelled so bad of urine and was decorated in what I like to think of a seedy honeymoon sweet on the outskirts of Las Vegas.  See photo.  The floor and seats were wet with air-conditioner drips and Dutchy kept accidentally stepping his bare foot on a wet rag on the floor. 

After a three hour bus ride, we were dropped off at a bus station in Krabi town that wasn't a bus station at all.  It was a family-owned tour company with a monopoly on taxis and open-air shuttle trucks wanting to charge 500 BAHT for Summer and I to go 17 kilometers.  That's like $16.  "NO WAY!"  "ARE YOU KIDDING ME?"  haha

Dutchy was heading to his island via ferry, but the remaining German couple was heading the same way.  We asked for 400 BAHT for the four of us.  The lady said no, and "taxis don't run on water.  They run on gas."  Which made the four of us furious and just on principal we got our heavy bags and our tired selves right the heck out of there and started walking to what we thought was Krabi town in the 100 degree heat.  40 seconds down the road, a man on a motorcycle pulled over, made a phone call and got us a minivan to Noppharat for 300 BAHT total.  And this was because the stupid German guy agreed too soon without negotiating.  But whatever.  75 BAHT each.  And he accidentally gave us too many 20's back and before I knew it he had driven off and now we really only paid 280 BAHT.  ($9 US for four people.)  Here I am, probably discussing such matters with the Germans:

We found out that the Germans paid WAY more for their bus ride.  Another couple paid WAY less.  This is what irritates me.  We thought we paid a good price and finding out somebody paid less makes you want to rip your hair out.  And I felt so bad for the Germans, because not only did they get ripped off on their ticket, but when we got to the beach, their hotel didn't exist and they were given bad phone numbers.  So in the end, when Summer and I were dropped safely at our hotel and allowed to check in at noon and found free internet and slept all afternoon, we were just happy to be alive and safe. 

That bus would be the last time we felt air conditioning for five days, save for a few two minute 7-Eleven trips and three Starbucks coffee stops.  This heat will melt your chapstick.  It will make you ugly. 

Mosquitos will bite your face.  They will bite your eyelids and make you look like you got punched by a Muay Thai boxer.  They will bite you between your knuckes and make you look like you punched him back. 

But, the view here!  It made it all so so so worth it.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

I'm not quite as insanely jealous of your trip around the world now. Everything in this post (aside from the view) sounds like hell on earth. The mother in me is so glad you are not alone in Thailand.

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