When you fail to plan, you plan to fail - so they say. I've just been picking up and moving when and where I feel like for the past few months, usually spurred on by visa obligations. Recently I've been headed North though, starting at Had Yai right at the bottom of Thailand.
I want to see Bangkok and Chiang Mai, and am en route at the moment.
I was enjoying a cosy bungalow in Ko Phangan, but they could only accommodate me up to the 30th, and it seemed pretty much the entire island (and surrounding islands) were going to be booked out over New Years.
So I made a dash for the last boat of the day, at 12.30pm, and went to Chumphon via Ko Tao . The Ko Tao leg of the journey was like being people smuggled - packed with unwashed, guitar-wielding hippies. It was a pretty interesting cultural mesh though. I was sat next to an Iranian and an Iraqi at one point. Surprisingly they seemed like the best of pals, sharing a rollie. Then a drunk fell from the roof and landed on my foot. "Thanks for dropping by," I chirped as he clambered off. You have to roll with the punches sometimes.
The trip from Koh Tao to Chumphon was a long and sickening trip across choppy waves. And then, halfway through the Gulf of Thailand, the engines cut out unexpectedly. No announcement on the PA to tell us everything was going to be ok though. Just a boat with a few farang sharing confused and worried looks. About 40 minutes later the engines fired up again though, and we eventually made it back to land on the outskirts of Chumphon.
There was no way I was in the mood for a 8-9 hour bus ride to BKK, so I set off on foot in search of guesthouses. Clearly I've been spoiled in tourist heavy areas like Phuket and Koh Samui where you can stumble across a guest house within 2 mins walk of pretty much anywhere. This is not the case near the ferry wharf in Chumphon. Most people just hangout in the cafeteria and wait for the connecting bus, but not me.
The first thing I noticed about Chumphon is that most of the business shuts down after dark. Desperate to charge my iPhone, I stopped off for a quick Leo in what I think was an amateur attempt at a girlie bar.
"Just beer and power for me, kapunkap" I said to the burmese girl making eyes at me while I brushed a cockroach off the power outlet to plug in my laptop.
The iphone may be a fragile and overpriced little thing, but damn is it useful. It's like the Swiss army knife of electronic devices. I needed to bump the power back up to at least 30% so I'd have enough time to find my way to the pier by GPS and see if they could help me.
When I did make it back to the pier, at 10pm, I found my fellow seasick travelers were still waiting for the bus to BKK. I thought about just getting a ticket and getting out of Chumphon since the guesthouses must be closer to the train station (a half hour drive or 3 hour walk away) but a helpful Thai guy selling drinks said he could call a guesthouse about 5km away to come pick me up, for free, and give me a room for 600baht. "Does it have hot water?" I asked. "Yes, have." "Then we have a deal."
Anyway, I've had my 8 hours sleep, a hot shower and a shave and am feeling better, if not a little bit lost. Ah, the fun of Thai travel.
Oh dear, not quite the NYE you were hoping for, I guess! WHat a bugger you had to move on from KPN. I thought you might have hung out there for awhile. Haven't been to Champuan but I'm surprised you found it so hard to find somewhere to stay. I imagined it to be a bit like Surat Thani, Trat or Trang - much quieter, but quaint towns.
Oh well, a good night's sleep will hopefully give you a better perspective in the morning. It's all part of the adventure! I just got home from a NYE party here in NZ. I could think of other places that I would rather be!
Happy New Year to you, Cranky. I await the next instalment of Cranky's Adventures!
Hey quick question about your iPhone. I'm thinking of getting one next year... oops, this year. The GPS stuff that you use - is that standard with the phone, or have you loaded additional apps onto the phone?
Happy New Year Cranky,
Most of the guesthouses in Chumphon are near the very well-located train station. Drop into the "Farang Bar" http://wikitravel.org/en/Chumphon which also does cheap rooms, and get a day train north. Since you're doing it slow, drop off at places like Ban Krut (miles of empty lovely beach) and Phrachuap Khiri Khan (visit the monkey hill temple!) and maybe Petchaburi (big caves full of Bhuddas). Side-trip to Kaeng Krachan NP if you're a nature lover (many Thai tourists though) and skip up to Samut Songkhram where you can catch the Mae Khlong Mahachai Railway into Bangkok - a totally cool way to enter the capitol.
The countdown starts in just over 4 hours. Happy 2011
@Lizzy - I have an iPhone 3gs (recently superseded by the i4) It's funny. You'd think the simple country Thai would be impressed with my high tech gear, but then they find out it's not the iPhone 4 and look slightly disappointed.
Nevertheless, the ageing 3gs comes with a map app as standard, which feeds info from Google Maps. It's not without its flaws and I'm still looking for a replacement app, but it is dead simple to use and will save you a lot of aimless walking around. Throw away those giant fold up map wastes of space now and keep it all in your pocket, along with movies to watch on the minivan rides, games and email updates. Oh yeah, and I heard a rumour you can receive and make phone calls on it. How good's that? Now, where's my endorsement cheque, Apple?
@C-Bob - thanks for the suggestions. Stopping off in places like that is exactly how I want to make my way to BKK.
PS Moments after I posted all this in desperation, I accosted the Guest house operator, who confirmed I could get a local bus to the Train station/many other G houses. I Google image searched the local bus so I'd know what to look for (since they look dif in dif places and can be indistinguishable from private tours) and had one flagged down within 5 mins.
Unlike the local bus drivers in Krabi and Phuket, this guy didn't mess around. He floored the old rust bucket all the way to town. A motorbike driver tipped me off to a cheap place with wifi and hot showers (joy!) for just 150thb (place called Fame near the station) Now it's just a matter of whooping it up with the locals and catching the train outta here tomorrow... or maybe the next day if I need a sleep in ;)
Hi Cranky definitely agree with Captain Bob about stopping at Prachuap Kiri Khan on the way up to BKK. stayed there about 2 years ago after getting off the train from Hat Yai. From memory it stopped at PKK about 4 in the morning. There was a tuk- tuk guy waiting so he dropped us at a great new hotel that the travel people on Koh Lipe put me onto. Was only THB 300 a night for all the trimmings. Hotel called Ountawan ph 0-38604-931-8. Unfortunately card I have is in Thai so don't have address. Great town this with really good food at night market very few falangs and a sense of being well away from the tourist route.
I heard a nasty rumour the Northern line might be booked out for the next couple of days, but we'll see.
I personally hate to be stuck inside a boat/minivan/bus/train for more than 3-4 hours in one go. That's just my comfort threshold, so I try to stop off about every 200km or so, stretch my legs and get some laundry done.
I've got about 5 and a half weeks left on my visa now, and am very keen to settle down and rent an apartment for a month somewhere, since it's you get all the comforts of a 3-4 star place, for a 1-2 star price.
I really want to hit Bangkok and Chiang Mai, since I've never been and have heard both are amazing places. So with that in mind, I really only have about a week to get to the top of the country and settle down.
So I'll pick one of those places C Bob mentioned, maybe Prachuap Kiri Khan since he and Swag think its the shiznit. As long as it's on the train line to BKK and it's got monkeys, there's a tick in every box.
"they're probably sharing a certain style of " rollie ""
Now that you mention it, it did kinda smell like there was a 'special' rollie in our midst. Highly unusual for the dread-locked crowd.
There's only one train out of here headed North in the daytime, at 12.46pm, which is perfect for checking out of hotel and strolling to the station. Problem is, apparently a lot of Thai travel home to BKK on the second last of the four national holidays (which I just found out about). That means the train will be choccas* tomorrow. I'm just outside the Chumphon station deciding which place to stop off at on the way to BKK and Prichi kitchie (you know what I mean) sounds like the best option. It's about 3 hours away, which is the perfect travel time for me, it's got nice surrounds, monkeys, and apparently it's one of those last tourist-free gems.
Hope there'll be a nice tuk mak mak guesthouse near the stn and a place to get machine coffee. I'll be checking the 'Ountawan' swag mentioned. It sounds like it might be a peng taxi ride from the stn though...
I am the king of kinyao after all. Wow, my vocabs coming along. I must know all of about 40 words now. ci-sip
*Madmac, 'choccas' means 'choc-a-block' or 'very full' if you will. Your list of 'strine** words is growing like my pigeon Thai, eh?
**'strine is short for 'Australian slang' - there's one more
Well, after seeing this pic of Ao Manao beach in Prachaup:
I'm ready to buy my train ticket out of Chumporn. Too bad it's all booked out except for a couple of 3rd class tickets at 2.30am :(
Here's a local monkey reacting to news of Cranky's impending arrival:
Hey, cool electrified rodent pic. I wish I had me a leopard skin seated scooter to get around on. Then I wouldn't be sitting around in Chumphon for 5 days waiting for a train seat!
@ Swag and Captain Bob - Hey fellas, I decided to take your advice and stop off at PKK.
Fortunately there was a train running here from Chumphon at 6.42am, so I arrived at the respectable hour of 11am.
I've had a nap, a couple of "fresh" coffees and a look around on foot and I've gotta say this place is pretty sweet.
Just wanted to shout out a thanks for the tip off ;0
I have a few Q's about the area, but I'll post a new PKK thread. Cheers.
@Swag - I stepped out of 7/11 this afternoon, and randomly spotted that Outanawan hotel.
Room looked pretty sweet, but they've jacked the price up to 380 now. I've booked it for tom night. I could use a good night's sleep on a comfy mattress, as opposed to the lumps of concrete with sheets on them that pass for beds in many other guest houses.
@LeChron - I've never been called a 'Don' before, but I think I like it.
More misadventure here:
"Side-trip to Kaeng Krachan NP if you're a nature lover (many Thai tourists though)"
Aren't Thais allowed to see their own country?
#24 Krabiman has been a member since 2/1/2011. Posts: 223