My Last Days in Thailand Before Flying Home

I sat in my guest house, the Green Oasis, on my last day talking to Tony and Jlo the male and female owners. My train was at 17:30 so I had a while to wait. At some point his friends turned up, six or seven of them, and at 11:00 they cracked open the Jonny Walker Red Label, coke, ice and water.. (and they called me having beer at 4pm ‘breakfast’.. jokers!)

I’d met a few people in my last few days that were staying there, a couple of Korean girls, a Canadian and a guy from Seattle. More exchanges of life stories went by and the time soon got to 15:30. One of Tony’s friends was heading to the train station too, for the 4pm train, so we shared a tuk tuk and got to the train station in 15 minutes.

They sauntered off as their train was sooner, so I went to buy a ticket. There were 1st and 2nd class sleeping tickets, and 2nd and 3rd class seated. Partly due to reduced funds, and partly because I knew I wouldn’t sleep anyway I sadistically opted for the 3rd class seat – mirroring my first choice from Bangkok to Surat Thani – and sat outside in the glorious sun smoking what cigarettes I had left, alongside other 17:30 train waiters.

The train was called and I boarded. Grabbed my seat which was rickety, but luckily in my booth there were no other seats taken, this could prove useful in trying to get the ever elusive sleep during the dark hours. I knew I’d have around an hour of daylight to get some photos, but I chose to sit and take in the surroundings instead. Although empty in my booth, across and to the right from me an elderly Thai lady kept her eyes on me a lot of the time, and a group of 4 young Thai girls and a boy were also checking me out, it was kind of disconcerting but I got used to it.

As it got dark, and the two beers I’d bought had ran dry, knowing what previous journeys have been like I put on some warm clothes, bunched up some spare clothes for a pillow, swallowed a sleeping tablet and tried very hard to grab some sleep before sunrise… 11 hours to go.

The trains lie by the way… supposedly 17:30 depart 06:30 arrival.. liars, we arrived at 10:30! Anyway.. before we arrived, and after a short and troubled sleep, lots of very random dreams, dreams where I’d be half awake still in the dream and talking to someone who isn’t there! The sun rose and I managed to see a better sunrise than on my trip up to Chiang Mai a few days before. After the lack of sleep, seeing such a peaceful and beautiful sight made my day.

Sunrise en-route from Chiang Mai to Bangkok

Sunrise en-route from Chiang Mai to Bangkok

Sunrise en-route from Chiang Mai to Bangkok

Sunrise en-route from Chiang Mai to Bangkok

Sunrise en-route from Chiang Mai to Bangkok

Sunrise en-route from Chiang Mai to Bangkok

Sunrise en-route from Chiang Mai to Bangkok

Sunrise en-route from Chiang Mai to Bangkok

Sunrise en-route from Chiang Mai to Bangkok

Sunrise en-route from Chiang Mai to Bangkok

Sunrise en-route from Chiang Mai to Bangkok

Sunrise en-route from Chiang Mai to Bangkok

After the sun had risen, all you could see for miles was farm areas – usually rice paddies – nothing really descript but still eye candy for a foreigner in a strange land. Not far from Bangkok luckily with my camera still in hand, I randomly saw from the corner of my eye a couple of men in the distance, the idea of capturing people in a candid way, doing what they’re doing, going about their own business always appeals to me. So I fired off a shot, I didn’t know if the exposure or levels were right in any way, let alone the focus, yet I was so pleasantly surprised by the turnout of the photo.. I’d captured a moment that was seemingly unnoticed, unprepared and… well… I’m very pleased with the outcome, and it’s up there, if not the favourite photo of the journey.

Two rural fishermen on the outskirts of Bangkok

Two rural fishermen on the outskirts of Bangkok

And from there, really, not much to be honest… I headed over to the Saphai Pae hostel (who had put their prices up since last time I stayed 7 days ago!) grabbed a shower using someone else’s towel, and chilled in reception trying as hard as I could to avoid spending money. I actually went up to bed around 7pm, still quite tired from the sleepless train journey, and watched Game of Thrones before falling asleep.

I woke up around 8am thanks to the others in the dorm, but still I sat watching Game of Thrones again from the previous night, preciously using as much time as possible doing nothing because the alternative was to go and spend stupid money on a drink or a meal downstairs.. I somehow managed to while a few hours away.. just enough to get me to my usual ‘safe’ time to arrive at the airport without freaking out that I’d be late for a flight. Airport prices for everything were tripled so I grabbed a water and a Minute Maid orange, held out until I was called for boarding, got on the plane and we were off.

We landed in Hanoi for the flight transfer, 4 hours wait and I mostly spent it wandering around, in the smoking room or near the smoking room because the nearby business lounge WiFi was in range. Time pretty much flew by.. coffcoffbullshitcoffcoff.. but I was called for my flight and had to leave Hanoi

Heavy hearted for leaving beautiful Thailand behind, heading to a beautiful cold country, the in-flight entertainment wasn’t working throughout the flight so I slept as much as possible, enjoyed the refreshments as much as possible, and did anything I could to pass the time, before we landed ahead of time. The captain spieled his usual ‘welcome to London’ speech, followed by “it’s -6 out there, clear skies, and the local time is 06:30”.. -6!!!! a whole 40 degrees less than 15 hours ago when I left for the airport, drastically underclothed for the climate, I went straight for Costas upon getting my baggage and ordered the largest caramel soya latté they had whilst waiting and planning my next moves..

At this time of day no-one was up, I’d arranged to go and see Rob and Karina, but of course by the time I would arrive at theirs they’d be away at work, so I resigned to heading to Kingston near them and spending the day until they arrived in coffee shops and wandering around K-Town.

I grabbed the shuttle to the South Terminal, by that time light, and blanketed with snow!

Snow at Gatwick's Shuttle TrainSnow at Gatwick's Shuttle Train

Snow at Gatwick’s Shuttle Train

I spent as much time in the airport as possible, before venturing into the known, but unknown wilderness that is London.

My First Visible Sunrise in Thailand

There’s not much wording to this blog, I’ll grant you, but then how do you describe a 20 hour door to door journey with no sleep? Well, here goes anyway:

Left the hostel at 18:30 aiming for a taxi to get us to Hua Lamphong train station.. we waited half an hour, getting refused once for some reason and refusing a tuk tuk driver.. The third attempt picked us up and for 100 baht took us to the train station in time for the 19:35.

Wrong!

No mention of the 19:35 once we got there and the ticket guy said 2nd class seated tickets only available, knowing we had to either choose that option or go back to Saphae Pai for another night, we all chose the former and waited until 10pm for the next train.

On the train, once again picked the wrong seat and was ousted on the next stop by the owner, so went to my original seat and there was a French girl sitting with her friend.. She told me I could have hers, which was a window seat so I wasn’t very pushy about it and accepted.

Some guy sat next to me, which proved to be a bind with cigarette breaks and climbing over him. After a million years I got to sleep for like 6 seconds, and after 8 hours of nothingness and a sore arse I moved into third class as the light started coming up, determined that ‘sod it, I’ll sleep when I get there’.

And here’s where the following photos happened, from 6:30 to around 13:00 – there’s not much explaining to them, but I sat wide-eyed for that long taking photos.

Sunrise en route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Sunrise en route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Sunrise en route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Sunrise en route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Sunrise en route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Sunrise en route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Sunrise en route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Sunrise en route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Sunrise en route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Sunrise en route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Sunrise en route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Sunrise en route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Sunrise en route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Sunrise en route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Sunrise en route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Sunrise en route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Sunrise en route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Sunrise en route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Sunrise en route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Sunrise en route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Scenery en route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Scenery en route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Scenery en route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Scenery en route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Scenery en route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Scenery en route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Scenery en route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Scenery en route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Scenery en route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Scenery en route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

 

We arrived at around 3pm to Chiang Mai, and followed two guys that they’d met on the train to their guest house, hoping for a spare room for us three.. Luckily, for one night there was room, so we showered, went to find food, and I’m sat here blogging and image editing.. At least I’ve secured my plans for the next two days, hire a bike first thing, get my stuff over to the hostel, then drive up to Pai on Saturday. Until then, ciao!

Thought I’d Be Crabby In Krabi

The last night in the hotel proved to be…… interesting to say the least, and for fear of offending some I won’t go into full detail.

Evening started with a 3 hour long chat with Mike, from Scotland.. he’s 44, has MS down one side of his body, and – together with his wife – is 3/4 of the way on his round the world trip.

This guy has seen a lot, and he gave some amazing and inspiring advice, we talked about my budget and he said it’s gonna be tough and I’ll have to slum it, but it’s absolutely do-able. I always knew budget would be a problem, but after speaking to Mike he allayed my fears so long as I know to reign it in.

It was after speaking to him that I decided on my next step and the place I was going to stay for the next stage. The Pak-Up hostel in Krabi Town.

Why Krabi? Well…

Krabi picture courtesty of travelourplanet | cc

Not my photo, Photo courtesy of ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/travelourplanet/##Travelourplanet## | ##http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/##cc by
2.0##

All the reviews on TripAdvisor showed this to be the best possible place for a budget and not willing to put up with any troubles. So, booked, looked at how to get there from Bangkok and settled in for the last night at Imm Fusion Sukhumvit.

At some point a girl turned up, Lita, from Denmark but half South African.. she’d arrived with a local, Pong, both wasted. Turns out he’s a taxi driver, bottle of vodka in hand. She was pushing for him to leave and me and Mike both wouldn’t allow it so she handed over the keys to her room and let him sleep it off.

Then we all got chatting and she’s in Bangkok for cosmetic surgery, after having two kids she has stretch marks and she’s not happy with various other parts of her body, so she shelled out 200,000 baht (£4,000) and she was checking in tomorrow. After various remarks from the staff for her to keep it down, and me and Mike both trying to calm her down the evening turned out to be pretty easy going and I like to think I’ve made a couple of friends from this chance meeting.

To cut a long story short, it was 6am before we turned in, and by then a Moroccan guy and a French girl had joined in the fun. By the end of the night it was just me, Lita and the French girl left and.. well.. the first sentence of this blog says enough.

I woke up at 1pm to the telephone ringing “Hello, would you like to check out, or would you like to stay another day?” The receptionist politely asked.. I realised it was well past checkout at 12 noon and apologised profusely. She let me have an hour to get ready to check out and I showered, made ready, checked out and stayed in the cool of the hotel, recovering.

Lita joined me around 3pm, looking as red eyed as I was, we shared a hair of the dog and chatted. Turns out she missed her op appointment, the doctor wasn’t happy, but managed to get her an appointment the next day. Then the French girl turned up and we chatted some more, but I had to go and get the train down south to Krabi.

A beautiful sunset to send me off from Bangkok, turns out Thailand has air pollution too!

A beautiful sunset to send me off from Bangkok, turns out Thailand has air pollution too!

Didn’t even think of pre-booking, so I turned up at the train station at Hua Luamphong expecting a lovely choice of seats.. mistake #1, the only thing left before the 27th was 3rd class non-sleeping.. I’d already booked the hostel, and taking Mike’s advice from yesterday thought that no matter what, I’ll get to my destination through hell or high water, and even if it’s non-sleeping, I’m sure I’ll grab some hours kip.

It cost 507 Baht for the train to Surat Thani, plus a bus (I thought) to Krabi. I had half an hour to wait so I stocked provisions for the trip, grabbed a hot meal then sat and waited.

The train was called – platform 4 – I headed down to the train and must have walked past 15 carriages, 1 first (first class) 2 second (second class) and muggins at the very end in 3rd.. Jesus.. no frills indeed, and won’t be taking advantage fo the free water

3rd class sleeper train to Surat Thani

Yum, fresh as a daisy water!

After choosing the wrong seat and being ousted by the right ticket holders, I looked at my ticket and put myself down on the right seat opposite a young girl, what a wonder though to have open windows as you’re riding half way down the country – shame it was going to be dark for all but 2 hours of it.

As we set off, hawkers stormed up selling everything you’d need, so long as it was foreigner priced food and drinks – though I was determined before the end of the journey to haggle my first purchase, I’m not paying double just because I’m travelling!

Through central Bangkok, along the river, passing by shanty town living and destitution, yet everyone’s chugging along. Material possessions don’t have such a hold on these folk. Lodging, food and – well, heat! – seem to be the primary concern.. I’m envious in a certain regard for them to have such moral fortitude despite facing hardship while I’m stressing about my next iPhone contract, or that I can’t go out every other night..

On the sleeper train just outside bangkok

Beautiful tree lights just outside Bangkok

After leaving Bangkok it was pretty dark all around, such a shame because I could make out palm trees, hear us going over rivers and bridges, but it was dark and I’d have to wait until sunrise, we’d come across the occasional station, or level crossing, or some habited place, but all in all it was pretty bland.

Everyone else seemed to fall asleep, me and the girl opposite had picked up another in our booth of 2×2 seats and he sat her side so I had two to myself, then why couldn’t I bloody well sleep?? Everyone else in the coach was snoring! It seemed every conceivable position had something sticking in my back/neck/leg dead/dead arse.. No.. sleep… till Krabi!

After 7 hours attempting, and around 2 hours of broken sleep, I thought sod it there’s no chance, and pulled out the pad and paper to draw and while away the hours.. The hawkers had stopped out of respect of people sleeping so there was only one or two people awake. I was in and out of the vestibule because you could smoke in there. Amazing – open doored train, one jolt and I could have been out into the fetid parallel ditches!

As it got closer to Surat Thani, the dawn broke.. excited as I was on the right side to see the sunrise, I hit a storm, pissing it down and clouding over the first chance I’ve had at seeing a far East sunrise. Ah well, plenty more to come I suspect.

Storm brewing in Southern Thailand

Storm brewing

The daylight did give me an opportunity to take some photos of the scenery I’ve been missing out on all sleepless night, varied from relatively opulent houses, to beautiful temples, to jungle and to destitute.

Southern Thailand destitute houses

Destitute houses en-route to Krabi

Southern Thailand more opulent houses

One of the more opulent houses en-route to Krabi

Finally arrived at Surat Thani at 7:15am 45 minute wait for the bus to Krabi. The usual cries of “tuk tuk?” or “taxi” as I left the station for a cigarette and towards the bus station. Queue was pretty big, so there wasn’t enough room for me on the first – luxury air conditioned – bus, instead I was bustled onto some rusty, suspension issued, cramped, leaking, ugly ass bus from the 1940’s.. I was surprised the suspension could handle the 40 bags loaded into the back seats.

Bus 1 lasted around an hour, then we hit an intermediate bus station to pick up people coming from the south, and headed to Krabi on a different bus (the same bus, we had to get off and unload our bags only to be told this was the right bus) – then to the stunning XX pier for another interchange onto a minibus to Krabi – 2 hours and a final interchange to Krabi town.. the 1 luxurious bus I was hoping for, and advised would be the case thanks to an online source I won’t mention – turned into 2 buses, 1 minibus and a taxi to Krabi.. still only 557 baht all-in, but sheesh. This journey took longer than my flight from the UK to Thailand, including Vietnam
stopover!

BUT! The icing on the cake, Krabi town is a lot more sedate than Bangkok, with promise of short journeys to the most beautiful beaches and islands – I’ll check them out tomorrow, for now I’m relaxing again, doing my washing and not thinking what is going to come next.