Day 88 Pt.2: Back to the Mainland

Trip Start May 20, 2008
Trip End Aug 19, 2008

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Monday, August 18, 2008

After some brief napping recovery time in Hat Lamai, we were forced by scheduling to once again hit the road (err, water) and make way to the Samui ferry pier. Jeff cut short an Internet round and I, quite heartbreakingly, bid adieu to the warm patch of sun drenched sand that had become my home for the past hour. I clocked about 45min of unconscious time, not nearly enough but better than poor completely sleepless Jeff. We threw our rucksacks and bodies aboard a sawngethew and whizzed over to the docks. We were let off next to a bus a few hundred feet from said pier and instructed to buy a ticket for this bus, which would then drive aboard the ferry (separate ticket) and onward to the mainland train station. Ha! Scam. Not wanting to pay ten bucks to be driven a couple feet, we marched on foot to the pier ticket office itself. The ladies here turned us away and told us to go back to the bus. Across the way in the other direction was a second, much larger pier... the real pier. Here we found the real ferry, not the 50% chance it's made-up ferry, and bought our thru fares to the Phun Phin/Surat Thani rail depot. Unfortunately they'd stopped selling tickets for the 3pm boat, departing any minute and we'd have to wait an hour for the next one. We took turns watching the bags and running off on food errands to pass the time. I bought some tasty street curry, Jeff bought some 7/11 nibbles. Neither did much to improve our energy levels.

Jeff (understandably) crashed once we sat ourselves down for the 2h ride. We're talking complete and utter mental and physical shut down, in de facto coma until we docked. I, after finding myself not sufficiently tired to put up with the seat's discomfort, decided to stroll up and down the deck and watch as the island faded into the distance. It had nearly the same serenity as the long boat ride to Ko Phi Phi that began our island hoping a week prior; the breeze blowing at your face, the silence except for the pattering of the waves, the hot tropical sun... I should go on boat rides more often. They're good places to reflect on deep things, as I did about this soon-to-be-ending trip. I sadly don't remember what exactly my epiphanies were, but I'm sure they were profound.

We docked at Frak Knows Where, Definitely Not Surat Thani on the mainland about two or three hours after leaving Ko Samui. Remember how I said the ferry seats were uncomfortable? Uncomfortable fiberglass seats to not produce the most reinvigorating comas and Jeff's followed suit. The next twenty minutes would go down as the hands down groggiest, grumpiest, most zombie-like I've ever seen him (sober.) It wouldn't surprise me if he wasn't even awake but was in fact sleepwalking and talking his way off the boat and onto the bus. This bus was to drive us a further hour inland to the rail station, where we would catch a hopefully not fully booked overnight train to Bangkok. The five other backpackers we bumped into on this drive all had reservations, and all said their local travel agents told them said reservations were among the last available. We chose not to trust the travel agents on Samui, who honestly didn't seem to know what they were talking about in regards to anything, and wing it. Was this a terrible mistake?

Nope. When we finally arrived at the train station, a Belgian friend we'd made who cockily taunted us about the comfy bed he'd reserved wandered into the waiting area and lounged around. We approached the ticket window. There were in fact bunks still available on the 9:30pm train, three hours later than the departure we hoped for but acceptable considering the short notice. The Belgian's train was to arrive within a half hour. An hour later he approached the ticket window to discover that lo and behold, he'd reserved a bunk on a nonexistent train! Our strict policy of "don't buy transport tickets from anywhere but a ticket window" was victorious again. With upwards of five hours to kill in tinsy Phun Phin, we wished Mr. Belgian the best of luck and explored town. The night market here was understandably smaller and less interesting than that in much busier Surat Thani, but Jeff found his beloved oyster omelets, which was all that mattered anyway. I had the misfortune of buying the worst, weirdest tasting banana shake in memory. About halfway through it hit me that the bizarre taste was probably a sign that local tap water had been used in its make. I tossed the rest out and thankfully didn't get sick. Night market dinner was light but tasty overall.

Back at the train station, now much later, we used our rucksacks as backrests and lounged about on the concrete chatting amiably. The hour struck 9:30 and a train rumbled in, but it was not ours. This was the 8pm one running an hour and a half late, which assuming Thailand doesn't have much money to double or triple track their rail network, probably meant ours would be equally delayed. A dry erase board with updated arrival times confirmed this; we'd now be leaving at 11. Not good, but not bad... that officially makes Thai Rail 50% more punctual than Amtrak on a bad day or Trenitalia. F'ckuck Trenitalia - excuse my Italian. (angry smiley) The trains themselves were a bit foreboding, leaky sinister-looking tin cans from the Cold War these things were; I would not want to be an overnight passenger in the 3rd class section. Thailand is still a developing country and it was nice that they even had a semi-reliable train system at all, so I can't complain much. It wasn't as modern as Java's rail but would do just fine. I'm a bit if a train geek, forgive my train geeking.

The 8pm sleeper squeaked, burped and rumbled forth, and again we went back to lounging and chatting. Suddenly, commotion! A Thai man in his 20's or 30's frolicked over our legs and out of the station, dripping generous portions of some dark red juice? all over the place in his wake, not on our feet but nearly so. The station police soon clustered around the largest splotch of this stuff. We looked closer, it was definitely blood. He must've tried robbing someone who was armed with a knife or something, oops. The station's old lady janitor approached and mopped up the blood with a simple mop. No soap. No water. Only in Thailand... This event sent Jeff a bit over the "what am I doing here" edge but we got through it. Soon there was another rumbling, another buzzing, and our delayed train arrived. The inside of the 2nd class sleepers, while not as private as those on European trains, was surprisingly clean and modern. It was a bit submarine-like but a train in any form is better than a chickenbus. I fell asleep quickly and with a smile on my face, rocked gently by the car and rolling into Bangkok in style:

...or, well, "style." ... it's all relative, ya know!

---Quote of the Night---
they had left was a 3rd class bench on the 12am train, I'm gonna be
crammed on plywood all night, F#CK." - The Scammed Belgian

---Vital Signs---
Food Poisonings = ZERO despite 1 near-miss.
Travel Weariness = With the Full Moon Party firmly in the past, weariness was back down to happy levels.
Mood = Ponderous, Measured Happy
Time Till Home = 2 Days (?)
Slideshow Report as Spam
Where I stayed
Overnight Train to Bangkok

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