Robbed!

After realising that I hadn’t saved anywhere near enough money for a 3 month travel, I did have an “I must do” moment.. and that was going to see Ella’s brother, Peter in Hua Hin.

As I waved goodbye to Krabi, and the staff at the two places I spent the most time in – the Chok Dee (Good Luck) restaurant, and Café 89 Café – I set off for Surat Thani, the hub for travel around the Southern islands.

Sun, the head waiter at the Choke Dee restaurant, Krabi

Sun the head waiter at Chok Dee restaurant, this guy was always smiling

The owner of 89 Café Restaurant in Krabi

The owner of 89 Café, always friendly and smiling

The grandmother of 89 Café's owner in Krabi

The mother of the owner of 89 Café, face like a bulldog chewing a wasp until you make friends, then the beaming smile comes out!

I paid 300 Baht (£6) for an air conditioned bus to Surat Thani train station. I got a minibus to the local staging point and then waited 2 hours for the bus to Surat Thani to arrive. There I met a couple of nice ladies from Utrecht and a South African lady to while away the time with some laughs.

The staging point in Krabi for buses to Surat Thani, Phuket and Krabi Town

No respite from the heat during the 2 hour wait for the bus to Surat Thani

When the bus finally arrived and the number 2 was called (it was either 1, 2, 3 or 4, luckily mine turned up first) I set off on the 3 hour ride to the station.

A beautiful sunset and sky just outside Krabi

A beautiful sunset and sky to send me off back up North to Bangkok

At Surat Thani I made sure I was first off and I’d already planned my backpack to be the first off so I could secure a better seat on the sleeper train to Bangkok.

I’d been told that travel to Bangkok around New Year’s was hellish so I already anticipated either no seats or a 3rd class no-sleep seat. I asked the guy for a 2nd class sleeper and he said they were available, at 350 Baht more than my hellish journey down here, I thought I’d pay the extra £7 and get a 598 Baht 2nd class sleeper ticket.

The train wasn’t for another 45 minutes, so I grabbed supplies (beer, water, Lays – nori seaweed flavour) and sat having a smoke. There was a guy who kept looking my way, older, looked Indian, who eventually came over.. turns out he is from Austria, and he’s seen a lot of the world, including nearly all of Thailand.. so we exhanged stories. he had to wait for 12 hours for his next train down South, but psychically he walked away telling me my train would be arriving soon and so it did!

I got on the train and looked in wonder at this crazy invention, the sleeper train – top and bottom bunk either side of the carriage, and around 10-15 rows, so 40-60 people all sleeping in the one carriage, and there were over 15 of them..

The 2nd class sleeping carriage on the train from Surat Thani to Bangkok

The 2nd class sleeping carriage on the train from Surat Thani to Bangkok

I’d already drank two small beers with the Austrian, so I’d bought two more – placed my valuables in the bunk with me, my backpack in the over head storage, and closed the curtain to settle in.

Drank another beer and then went for a smoke, then another beer and another smoke. Took a sleeping tablet to help along the way and played angry birds until my eyes drooped.

Robbed!!

I wasn’t settling and I kept on hearing footsteps up and down, so I peeked out and saw a guy with what can only be described as a walkie talkie but with a long screw driver shaft instead of an aerial. He was rummaging through a bag, and I don’t recall seeing him before so I was instantly suspicious.. On further watching I saw him reach into the front pocket of this red bag and pull out a mobile, which he pocketed.. then he nonchalantly pulled out a map from the same pocket and looked at it before shoving it in the side pocket.

Then, most suss of all, he stuck the device up his t-shirt to keep it out of sight and then went up and down the aisle again.

When he hit the end of the aisle he started talking to someone I couldn’t see from my position gesturing up the carriage and left and right, potentially pointing out targets, or that there were people watching..

I gave up after he disappeared out of sight and settled to sleep, I got about 5 or 6 hours worth before 7:15 and waking up with all the others, bleary eyed and tired.

A security guard came up the train and folded up all the beds into seats, stowing the top bunk away and moving the bottom bunk into two person sized seats. Within an hour we’d hit Bangkok’s Hua Lamphong train station ready for the next day in the journey.

Cabbages and Condoms

Yesterday I was so tired.. I don’t know why, but also I had the sweats and a bad stomach, I was hoping it was just temporary.

I checked out of the Pak-Up Hostel and into Good Dreams, just next door and half the price for a private room. Fair enough it didn’t have air conditioning but it had a powerful fan so I was happy.

I was told the blanket was still drying and they’d drop it off to me later. It didn’t bother me to be honest, I dumped my stuff on the bed, curled up around it and fell asleep from around 12 noon – 5pm.

So, I felt it was a bit of a wasted day, pootled about after waking up and a shower, just locally, came back and watched the Beach. Then noticed the stack of DVDs to borrow and picked a couple out (Bangkok Dangerous, and Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life) popped a sleeping tablet because I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep and settled in for the night.

Woke and got out for 11, hit the Choke Dee restaurant for my usual pineapple shake, then – as it was too late for the four islands tour – I thought I’d hire the bike again and go to Ao Nang beach.

Now, as a non-driver, and given that all roads seem to lead to Krabi, I went round in a massive circle at first. Then started again and intentionally took a right instead of a left at the junction I thought caused the misunderstanding the first time..

Wrong again, I headed North, up towards Ao Luek and although after a short time I knew that I’d done the wrong thing again, I still saw some great things:

Beautiful Mosque Just Outside Krabi

A beautiful mosque not far from Krabi, I got invited in but declined as I had to get moving

Krabi Golf Driving Range

Krabi golf driving range, I bet my dad’s golf course would love this backdrop!

Cabbages and Condoms, Thailand's first, global award winning, social enterprise, set up to promote safe sex

Cabbages & Condoms, thanks to Peter telling me this is Thailand’s first, global award winning, social enterprise, set up to promote safe sex

And of course, littered with limestone rock outcrops, like this:

Limestone Rock Detail

Close-up of a limestone rock outcrop

My Dream House

Now my idea of a dream home, what a view

And so it was, after an hour and a half of driving the wrong direction, I turned back, destined to head to Krabi and grab an espresso from the Choke Dee restaurant.

Sun, the head waiter there was smiley as usual, picked up on my sunburned quarter length arms, bib shape around my throat from wearing an open shirt, and bad sunglass tan face!

Refreshed I was determined to see out the last few hours of my bike rental and see the beach while I was down south.

Set off, found the right direction at last, after a measly 45 minutes ride I found paradise.

Ao Nang Beach 2

The beautiful beach at Ao Nang, limestone rocks in the distance

Transport to and from Krabi

A little piece of paradise

Panoramic Image of Ao Nang Beach

A panoramic of the beach – not amazing, but using a free online program, click to enlarge

I was gutted to have not made it earlier in the day, as I’d have definitely gone in the sea. I didn’t have the right gear with me really so I took a load of pictures whilst there, relaxed on a beach bar, watched life going by and the tour attendants ferrying people to and from the beach by boat.

Group of People Carrying their Belongings to the Boat on Ao Nang Beach

Look closely to see the girl at the back with two suitcases! That’s 3 foot of water close to the boat!

Worrying that I wouldn’t get back in time to hand my bike in, I set off early and headed back to Krabi.

Here’s my route:

My route from Krabi to Ao Luek to Ao Nang to Krabi

The cackhanded route I took to Ao Nang beach today, 125km instead of around 50

So, an eventful day today compared to yesterday.. I have to really make a decision about what I’m going to do next. Peter has kindly offered me a roof over my head in Hua Hin, but the transport situation from here is a concern.. On one hand I could hopefully check out at 6-7, get the 3-4 hour bus to Surat Thani at 10:40, and arrive at 16:01.. but, it’s a bit touch and go.. Seriously though if you want to work out train times, you should check out this site, it’s helped me a load.

The other alternative is a train at 16:46, but that arrives at 00:40, and it’s a bit harsh to expect a family man to wait up.. so I think I’ll head up that way and stop at two places along the way for 1 night each.. This coincides perfectly with Peter’s days off on the 31st/1st, so it’ll be New Year’s in Hua Sin!

That’ll be my next Skype window with the family and friends too, so I’ll hit them up when I get there.