Carrying a Wet Backpack...

Trip Start Jan 25, 2011
Trip End Feb 21, 2011

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Where I stayed
Dahala Guest House

Flag of Thailand  ,
Saturday, January 29, 2011

My journey to my first island may wasn't the most efficient way of getting here, but a little creativity and the latest edition of the Lonely Planet ( thanks Sarah!) there is usually always a way to reach your destination. My flight down to Phuket with all the resort people was a short 55 minutes, compared to 15 hour bus ride ( that wasn’t going to be one of my options!) but coming into Phuket reminded me why I don’t like coming into Phuket .It’s a large concrete jungle, so built up, that unless you are major fan of Burger King and KFC, you will be largely disappointed. Okay, they have some great beaches, but you’ll have to work your way thru all the shops, and commercialism to get there. When you arrive at the airport, you have to go into the main part of town to get to the bus station, to go back to get out of town, that’s how big it is, and today that took an hour with all the traffic. Note to self,,, avoid Phuket. It’s much easier to maybe fly to Krabi, or even Surat Thani depending on where you want to go next. Those towns are WAY smaller, easier to get in and out of, and much more enjoyable.
So for 220 baht ( about $7) a bought a bus ticket on an aircon bus for a 5-6 …or so…ride to Ranong, on the border of Burma. The most amazing thing about this bus ride is that they actually have free wifi on the bus. How in the world, does a bus company in the middle of a foreign country have it figured out to get a signal and offer wifi? Blows my mind..And it works since I’m writing this on the bus right now! The scenery up here is amazing; there is very little development, mostly just some small towns and homes along the way. The only major town we passed was Khao Lak, which wasn’t that big at all. There you can arrange diving trips to the Surin, and Similan Islands. Known to be one of the top diving places in the world. Even though I hear the islands are beautiful, they’re very expensive to arrange transportation to for the casual island hopper as myself. Diving costs money, and most operations charge according to that. You can camp on a couple of the islands which sounded really cool, since then you would be there to enjoy the islands way after the crowds went home, but my list of islands I want to visit is long, so I kind of have to pick and choose if I want to visit as many as I can on this trip.

In Phuket, I decided to be a little bit of a planner, and see if I could have someone call ahead to the guesthouse I wanted to stay the night at while awaiting the morning ferry to Ko Chang. Knowing that there seems to be a lot of travelers taking up all the spots on the trains and overnight buses, it might not be a bad idea since arriving in a border town late in the evening might be a little daunting if I have to search for a room. I found a small travel agency (a couple of men sitting at a desk) and asked if one could call to this guesthouse that was a "top pick" in the Lonely Planet to see if they could hold a room for me. He asked my name…Elizabeth…it’s always interesting to see what famous people they compare my name to. “Elizabeth!! “He said, “like in Pirates of the Caribbean!” they watch a lot of movies here. Got my room held.

So you’re probably wondering where the wet backpack comes in. Well on that nice bus ride we encountered a torrential downpour, not a big deal when you’re comfy and warm in a nice bus, and the storm didn’t last long, but it was raining really hard for a while. When my bus stopped to drop me of, in Ranong, basically in just a random spot, (why do they do that? Couldn’t it be by a 7-11 or something so it would be easier to find a ride?) and I was the only one getting off the bus here. On these bus rides they put your bags underneath the bus, which is pretty typical no matter where you are traveling. But when they pulled my backpack out, it was soaking wet! And I don’t mean that it was a little damp, it was SOAKING wet, and it must have gained at least 5 pounds of water. And all my clothes inside were dripping wet.  I guess when we went thru that huge downpour a few hours back, the bus leaked underneath, and all the bags under there got soaked. Ughhhh !!!!  Stupid things that I will laugh about later always happen to me on my trips..Like getting on the wrong train and almost ending up in Cambodia..Right Johanna? Lol..But this was a major bummer. I was standing on the side of a street, basically in the middle of nowhere, with a wet pack. And it was dark, thought I would throw in more of the bummer.

So not letting it get me too down, (what else could I do?) I slung one side of my pack on my shoulder and crossed the street to a gas station to find a ride to my guesthouse. I could feel the water soaking my clothes and pouring down my leg..Nice. So here, as in most places, the way you get around is a motorbike taxi, they pull up, (they do have official taxi vests on, they aren’t just random guys!) and ask if you need a taxi. I did of course, explained my wet backpack, (he had no idea what I was talking about!) and he placed my pack between his legs in the front, I jumped on the back and told him “ Dahala Guest House!” he said, “ I know, I know..” and off we went. Okay mom, I know that you aren’t happy that I’m riding around on motorbikes with strangers in foreign countries. But it’s just the way it is here, and most of these people, including the women, have been riding since they were children.  They’re very good drivers! I’ll be okay J

So we arrive at Dahala, a cute arrangement of white bungalows around a garden, and a happy host waiting to greet me. She stated, “So happy to see you! So glad you called for a room, because now we full!” I sure was happy too. Think I might be calling ahead a little more on this trip.  So that night around my room, are all my belongings hanging on every spot I can find to hang something, hoping all my things will dry by morning, since at 930 am , I will take a ferry over to my first island, Ko Chang. The pack might take a little longer to dry, but I have a fan blowing at it, instead of on me, we all have to have priorities! And carrying a dry backpack is one of them. So even if your bus has free Wifi, doesn’t mean it’s going to be a great ride!

I’ve decided to start sharing my daily costs at the end of each blog, since I know a lot of you are always interested what kind of budget I have for my trips, and what a value Thailand can be. I have budgeted about $35 a day for everything..Lodging, food, transportation, massages! And misc things that come up. The most expensive part on some days will be the ferries when I take them from island to island. The companies will usually charge you full price even if you are hopping off along the route to stop on one along their way. I stay at really cute places, they all have their own bathroom, usually only fan (which is all you need) and I look for places that are creative and unique, and a hammock, very important. It’s really amazing what value you can get if you search a little, most are not on the internet, and you have to find them in guide books and thru word of mouth. Its best to call ahead from the place you are before, asking them to hold a room ( the owner of your bungalow who speaks Thai is usually more than happy to do this for you, you’re their guest!) the best places go fast, and you’ll be wandering the beach settling for what you can find at best.

Cost for today- Ranong

Bus ticket – Phuket to Ranong- $7

Snacks for the ride- $2

Motorbike ride to bungalow -$1.50

Bungalow at Dahlia - $15

Meals -$7

Total- $32.50
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Peter on

Elizabeth, despite the wet pack or any other rain that falls, or snow that blows when you're on the road you always seem to have sunshine in your spirits and it makes all your travels bright. Keep shining and enjoying your adventures!

Sarah on

Mom - Elizabeth from the movie! Wow! haha! And internet on the bus? That is fancy! I wanted to see a picture of your soaking wet backpack! I know that probably wasn't a priority of yours at the time though. I am sorry that happened! I am glad you called ahead for the room tho! Great idea! Love you and miss you!

Tracey on

Hi Elizabeth, Can't wait for your next entry!! Wish I was there!! Getting ready for a major snow storm!!! Ug!!!

Sara on

Oh no Beth! May you have many days of sunshine :-)

christine on

Hi sweetie, wow Im reading all your travels and want to be there too! next time? Im stuck in chicago with the snow storm and you are in paradise! Smart Girl Love and miss you!

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