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.
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.
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.
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..
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.
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.