Hello Thailand!

Trip Start Dec 30, 2007
Trip End Dec 27, 2008

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Where I stayed
The White

Flag of Thailand  ,
Monday, April 14, 2008

Today I had my first, in what I hope will be very few, travel days from hell.

It was probably doomed from the start as my van picked me up from my hotel at 5am, no day can be that good with a start like that.

The crux of the problem was that my destination, Koh Phi Phi Island, is remote.  Really remote.  No trains go near it.  So you have to travel by car/van/bus.  The van that got me from my hotel was actually really nice, it was oversized - more like a small bus - leather seats, A/C, driver had a decent CD collection.  I had the front three seats to myself so as soon as we got going I layed down for another couple hours of sleep.  Everyone else slept too.  The driver woke us all up when we got to the Malaysian/Thailand border and had to get out to go through customs.  I didn't have coffee in me, and it was still around 7:30am so I really don't remember much, no worries there.  A few minutes later we got out of the van again for entry stamps into Thailand.  I can only stay here 30 days, which I know won't be enough.  But I've got a plan...tell you that later.

This is all great so far, the 'hell' part really started when the first van started dropping people off in random cafes all over Hat Yai, a mid-point on the day long trek.  None of us were really given info, and every time the driver stopped somewhere we all looked curiously/nervously at one another as to who was going to be plucked from the group and dropped this time.  It was no more than a quick point from the driver, and out you go.  What happens next?   No idea.  Can't ask, he won't tell you.  Just "wait. sit.".  OK.  We are all going to different destinations, how did this driver remember who goes where?  When it was my turn, I got out and was 'handed off' to this other guy who pointed to a seat in a cafe.  I sat.  I waited.  Twenty minutes later, he pointed to me again, and signaled to follow him.  We walked half a block to a big truck, looks like the kind that would be on a farm.  He get's in the front and points to the back.  I throw my pack on and climb in.  No idea.  In 20 minutes time we've circled the town and collected a dozen other confused and disoriented packers from other cafes.  We all share stories of our day, all of us shuttled with no info and no sense of 'customer service' (Ha!) from van to van, to cafe, and now to this truck-thing.  All of us hoping that we are on our way to Koh Phi Phi.  And we were.

*On a side note, today is the second day of the Songkran Festival in Thailand.  It's a three day long celebration of the new year.  Celebrated by random water fights in public.  Our truck was followed by a jeep full of local girls for a few blocks, and I made eye contact.  Then we smiled at each other.  Then for the next block, they pelted me with their water guns and laughed hysterically.  I guess that's what I get for smiling and waving at the locals.  The folks I was sitting with on the truck thought it was really funny.  It was nice actually, a really hot day is always nicer when your hair is wet, and I felt special for being singled out.*

We arrived at the ferry station in Krabi, the last transfer of my journey.  And even though I'd bought a ticket inclusive of the ferry ride, I no longer had my ticket because the last driver in the series had taken it from me.  So even though I was the fist one off the truck, I was the last one on the boat because of the 5 calls that had to be made to confirm I had bought my ticket.  That was fun.

The ferry was fun though.  I finally got to see those tall rocky islands that I'd seen so many pictures of.  They seem synonymous with Southern Thailand.  They are just what I had hoped they'd be, tall majestic, beautiful.  And I couldn't wait to get closer to them.

Arriving on the island, the hotel didn't have my reservation.  It was late, I was really tired, I picked a fight with the lady at reception who refused to honor the receipt that I'd printed to prove that i'd paid for three nights lodging at her hotel.  After arguing with her for 45 minutes, and getting eaten alive by mosquitoes, I left in a huff.  Walked to the nearest travel agent, and got another room without a hassle.  I didn't get to it until after 8pm.  It was a long day.  I walked to the nearest restaurant, along the beach, had a really great piece of fish, listened to the waves, and then went straight to bed.  Thank god this day is over, tomorrow I get to wake up in paradise.
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