The unquiet woods

Trip Start Jul 26, 2006
Trip End Apr 01, 2008

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Flag of Thailand  ,
Sunday, January 14, 2007

I arrived in Bangkok after a lonnnnnnnnng day of travel from Siem Reap.  We left SR at around 8am, and arrived well after 10pm that night.  The trip included a lot of really shoddy road conditions, which is pretty astounding considering that the stretch between SR & Bangkok has gotta be one of the most well-traveled routes in all of s/e Asia.  Our bus also got a flat along the way, and we had to stop in a small village and have it patched up as there was no spare.  Then another hour or two spent at the Cambodia/Thailand border.   

Fortunately, I had already booked a hostel for the night, as well as a train ticket headed south, so I was only in Bangkok long enough to grab a bite to eat and get some rest.  I took an overnight train to Surat Thani, then caught a series of buses and personal vehicles to the lodge I was staying at out in Khao Sok National Park.  I've probably mentioned this phenomenon before, as it seems to be quite common practice throughout s/e Asia, but there's this funny "tourist herding" that takes place whereby you pay one person/agency for travel between point A & point B, but then get handed off to countless different agents and drivers along the way.  It's like a game of tourist hot-potato, and can be quite annoying if you're carrying a lot of stuff or are on a tight schedule.  The most baffling thing from my perspective though is how uncoordinated it all seems to be; you just get dropped off at some nowhere place, then sit around till someone else lays claim to you and takes you to the next nowhere place, eventually ending up where you meant to be.  Sporadically people will actually look at your original ticket, sometimes pulling small pieces off of it or punching a hole in it, but no one ever asks you for more money.  The whole endeavor must be an accounting nightmare.

The train, on the other hand, was a sweet experience.  I took a night train, so unfortunately I missed out on a lot of scenery.  But I passed the evening away drinking 40s of Chang beer and smoking clove cigarettes with one of the train attendants, so it was all good.  When you first board the train, there are normal-looking seats, but at some point in the evening the attendant will come along and magically transform the seats into quite comfortable upper and lower bunks-an impressive feat of ingenuity.   

So yeah, I made it to Khao Sok, albeit a few hours later than I'd planned, and was greeted by Kai, an awesome local feller whose family runs the lodge I was staying at.  The lodge consisted of a jumble of little cottages and stilt-houses just next to a small creek and the trailhead.  There was a lovely outdoor cafe with the best pineapple smoothies on the planet, and several kilometers worth of trails that one could take a leisurely stroll along.  Kai has been a guide in Khao Sok for more than 15 years, and runs these incredible several-day trips out into the jungle deeps.  I just happened to arrive the day before he was setting out on one, along with a group of four other Americans plus a European couple, so I tagged along.
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