After our fantastic adventure with the elephants on Monday, we spend the last day in Chiang Mai sampling more local food and fruit smoothies at
the market and packed up all of our goodies. We even hired a scooter and took turns riding it around the old town, T doing most of the riding and M and I catching a lift on the back After that it was time to start the long journey Southwards to Koh Phangan. We got to the Chiang Mai Railway Station, a very nice, clean place, in plenty of time, and boarded the Special Express to Bangkok. It was an overnight sleeper train, with a little too much AC (you can’t win), but it was comfortable enough and we all had a good few hours of sleep. We arrived in Bangkok before 7am, and had 12 hours to kill before our bus to the South. Luckily we could store our bags at the train station, with the tour company that we bought our bus tickets from, V.C Travel and Tours, a very reputable company if you’re looking to tour around Thailand.
First stop was Lumphini Park, an easy three Metro stops from Hua Lamphong Railway Station. Here we wandered around, in an early morning daze, watching the Thai people enjoy their morning in the park. We found that there is a whole section of weights and gym equipment that the public exercise on for free, there were a few people doing Thai Chi classes, a group or two of older people singing together, and people some just walking through the park to work.
Next we decided to visit the Dusit Zoo. It was a fair distance from Lumphini so we took the bus to the Victory Monument and from there we walked, and we walked, and we walked, until we eventually found the zoo! What fun we had, looking at all the different animals. There were deer and binturong, bears and sharks, chimpanzees and lions, panthers and snakes, elephants and birds and monkeys of all shapes and sizes.
We spent hours and hours looking at all the animals, and eventually, when we were starving and tired, stopped for lunch and headed back to the station by bus. Luckily, after such a long, hot, sweaty day, there were nice cold showers at the station that we could, and did, use. By that time, it was almost 5pm and we could relax with our books until the bus trip.
We had originally been told to be very careful with all of our valuables and belongings, as the buses going down South were known to be dodgy with the baggage. Some people have told us that someone sat in the bottom “cargo hold” of their bus with all of their bags and picked the locks and went through them looking for anything useful or valuable to steal. We were extra paranoid about getting our valuables stolen, and spent a good while securing all of our bags properly. Then we boarded the bus at 7pm and hoped for the best. Thailand also seems to be one of those places, like India, were you are shoved around from place to place and no one tells you exactly what is happening. On one of these unexplained moments, and there were many along the way, we sat for an hour on the side of the road, waiting for some unexplained thing to happen, whether it did or not we will never know, but we eventually made it to Surat Thani at around 6am. Well, I say we made it to Surat Thani, but to be honest, I can’t say for sure where we were dumped, as there were no signs or names in sight. We were dumped on the side of the road at a cafe, where another 30 people lay sleeping, clearly having already been dumped earlier that morning, and waited for the next instructions. We were each given a sticker with the name of our destination on it. Every so often a “mini-bus” would pull up and call a destination, and those people would scurry to get their bags and off they went to their island of choice. Eventually, after about 2 long hours of waiting, the ‘Koh Phangan bus’ arrived and we got on, hoping for a quick bus ride to the ferry pier. The bus stopped yet another three or four times before getting going but after about half an hour, we were on the open road, wind howling through the open windows and a very loud, skipping Linkin’ Park song playing on the stereo speakers. At about 9:30am we arrived at the pier, looking like we’d been dragged through a bush backwards, in two-day old clothes. No matter, a quick bowl of fried noodles for breakfast and a toilet stop and we were on our way to the ferry to the island.
A quick aside about the people on this ferry… In Leh we explained that there were lots of tourists, but the good kind, see this post on Leh to read it again. However, this ferry was FULL of tourists, like us, between the ages of 20 and 25, but not the good kind. I should have expected it, considering we are arriving on the island of the Full Moon Party (click here to read about what the full moon party is), but these young people seem really arrogant, rich and demanding. A far cry from the happy-go-lucky, tree-loving tourists in Leh.
The ferry took little over 2 hours, plus a good 45 minutes of waiting on the boat before we left, so by the time we got the beautiful island, it was lunchtime. Swarms of taxis waited on the pier to round up the tourists heading to the different beaches, and we headed through them, into the town of Thong Sala to find some lunch and plan our next move. After a healthy bowl of noodle soup and a fruit smoothie, we were ready to trawl the beaches for a place to stay. We took a taxi to Baan Kai, 80 Baht each, and started our walk up the beach asking at every bungalow for an available room. Not long after we started, and a short distance up the sunset beach, we found a little piece of heaven with an available bungalow at the Golden Beach Resort. Its not a luxury hotel, just 3 beds and a bathroom but our view is spectacular and beach is a few metres from our balcony. Paradise? I think so.