We slept late after our long night in Chaweng, and let ourselves enjoy the big fluffy bed since tonite we will be sleeping on a train. We had a late breakfast and on the way back stopped to check with the desk for the protocol of getting to the ferry on time. It turns out my estimate of needing to leave on the 5pm ferry was wrong- that ferry was headed from the mainland to the island, and we needed the opposite direction! We then had to hustle to be ready and say good bye to our friends in the next town by 1:30 pm instead of 4:30 pm. We packed quickly enough to have just enough time to get a taxi out to Silavadee to say goodbye and take a few last pictures. We didn't get to see everyone we had met but did find Emily and Jens in time. We can't wait until spring 2011 when they will be in California again.
(saying goodbye to a dear friend)
We got a really decent rate on the taxi from Lamia Wanta to Silavadee and back down to the ferry town of Nathon. This made me feel better since we'd had such horrible rates so far on the island. When we got to Nathon, after much diffculty finding help, we established that the fast ferry (2. 5 hours directly to Surat Thani, the mainland town where our train was leaving from), did not exist at this time as the petrol prices were too high to justify running it. Instead we could take the cheaper but longer slow ferry and bus combination, which was leaving in 20 minutes. We paid a ridiculous mark up on tickets since we didn't have time to navigate the system, then trotted onto the ferry just before it left. Again, when you have an agenda, you have to pay for it in Thailand! However, the slow ferry/bus combo even with markup was just 100 baht more than we had anticipated paying for the express ferry – so it was fine for our budgets, just not our pride.
The ferry ride was beautiful and smooth – although crowded and hot. We never got very comfortable inside or out, but enjoyed the views.. Some touring Chinese students with their very stylish and overly hot outfits made us laugh. The ferry was almost exactly a smaller version of one we rode to the San Juan Islands last fall, and brought back some good memories.
(we're on a boat...)
(if you're on the shore, then you're sho' not Ty....)
The water was amazing, an unreal teal/aqua/blue-green color. It was so vivid it was hard to believe it was real. We saw beautiful islands, and approaching the mainland near Don Sak we were surprised at the lush beauty there. We had read that this area was not worth visiting - but looks were sure deceiving!
(island and long tail boat)
(Arriving at the port town of Don Sak near Surat Thani)
But we had a dreaded bus ride ahead – the one form of public transit I had been avoiding, for my poor stomach's sake. It turned out just fine- the bus was a bit warm and old (with very 80's pink satin curtains on the windows) but rode smoothly and had minimal diesel smells. The bus ride up from Donsuk was fantastically beautiful – combining the jungles of the north with the palms of the south. There was a long and unexplained stop at one station (which appeared to be a store front, so we were quite confused) but we arrived on time, which in fact left us with 3 hours to kill in the very functional but uninteresting Surat Thani.
(our luxe bus ride - lots of tourists here but don't be fooled, they are all European.)
We checked our bags into a safe room at the train station (thank god, as we are up to 7 bags now!), and with just our valuables in our carryons, set out to kill some time. The beautiful island weather did not follow us back - it was quite humid and sticky. The station was tiny and uninteresting, so we spent about an hour at the local night market, which had fantastic street food (pork skewer, squid skewer – we ditched the gooey innards and just ate the skin and tentacles, crepes filled with hot dogs and sweet dessert fillings, tiny sushi rolls, and pork buns). We got stuck in a very long and heavy rain, and after waiting it out on a covered porch for street food dinner, we decided to make a run for it as the rain had barely let up.
(all the meat on a stick you could want!)
(or, you can take a bag of soup home instead!)
(note the pouring rain behind the grilled squid!)
Normally we didn't mind a good soaking, but tonite we had all of our electronics (cameras, laptops, chargers), and our passports, train ticket, and overnight clothes with us. Ty found us some cheap plastic ponchos (we looked like giant condoms running around with our backpacks underneath and our plastic hoods perched over our heads – which set me into a fit of giggles when I realized it) and decided to save our shoes and run barefoot the 6 or blocks back to the stations. I think we actually turned some thai heads at the station showing up bearfoot and sitting down to clean our feet and put our shoes back on, dripping wet and laughing!
Frustratingly, we still had 1+ hours to wait, and although our train was on time, two prior train were delayed and the tiny station was packed with waiting passengers. It was still raining and the night became very long and bothersome as the humidity picked back up. But, I am happy to say, the station had fantastically clean and large bathrooms for 3 baht, and good roofs overhead.
Sadly, I finally encountered an aspect of the sex tourism that got me – two men my age taking their new thai girlfriends on a train trip, constantly cuddling and kissing in this very reserved society. Something about their age got to me- I always think our generation would have outgrown the mistakes of our parents, but no, we are just as sad and desperate and broken. Fortunately, the train showed up just as I was feeling really horrible, and we lost the couples in the boarding rush.
We are now sitting on a train chugging along through the dark, drinking Chang beers in our own first class berth. The beds are already set up for the night, and we will be in our tiny closet of a room with all of our luggage (7 bags, remember), for the next 10 hours. Most of it we will be sleeping, and the beds are comfy and pretty big given the space. It is really quaint despite the 70's functional aesthetic (later Ty saw the train was built in 1996!), and we have good beer and surprisingly cheap and tasty food brought to us by a very kind attendant. It's all starting to feel like the good kind of adventure, after a long day of connections and unrewarding down time.
(Ty after the long wait for the train, before the giant Chang and extra dinner.)