January 16, 2012

Pancake Trail Strikes Again - Koh Tao Night Ferry

Night ferry from Koh Tao to Surat Thani.
Leaving the island of Koh Tao was an experience in itself. I have found that the Pancake Trail in Southeast Asia is full of quirky little surprises for the modern day budget traveler. One of the most beneficial moves while traveling is to transition from place to place at night – this saves a day for exploring and knocks out a night paying for accommodation.
Night buses and ferries are a must even though you usually end up spending the next day napping or extremely groggy. The night ferry from Koh Tao heads to Surat Thani, a large port town on the east coast of Thailand. I bought my ticket for a whopping 700 baht (22 USD) and boarded this ferry for the 7-hour journey leaving at 9pm. The herd of people shuffled on the boat and as I gave the ticket taker my voucher he grunted and motioned for me to move in the direction that looks like the place they keep cattle. I ducked down because the area wasn’t even tall enough for me to stand up straight and waddled over to my number on the ground, which was accompanied by a mat much like you see at a gym and a “pillow”, that was a rock hard block of foam covered with vinyl. Each passenger is placed right next to one another, you share mats with complete strangers stinky or not.
Below deck on the night ferry with the luggage.
"Sleeping" side by side with strangers. Really great way to get to know people!
The whole experience was hysterical, I was just glad the rinky dink wooden boat made it across the ocean without breaking down or sinking. We arrived at the Surat Thani pier around 4:15am, waited for a tuk-tuk that brought us to some kind of restaurant and bus station combo. I waited there until nearly 7am when a large and in charge bus picked us up to bring us to Krabi. There were no seats left on this bus so three girls and me sat in the back on some bench with zero legroom sitting Indian style. Go figure they actually have A/C on this crap bus, but it was practically raining inside with water from the A/C dripping on us the entire time! We had to put our rain jackets on to protect ourselves from the shower in the moldy disgusting automobile.
Moldy bus from Surat Thani to Krabi.
Trying to keep dry and warm during the bus ride to Krabi.
About 2 hours later I arrived in Krabi, but I was meeting a friend in Ao Nang, which is part of Krabi. If you simply mutter the place you’re going someone will motion for you to load the next mode of transportation. At this moment, I got in the back of a pickup truck with 6 other people plus their luggage and held on for dear life while we swerved in and out of traffic lanes that took us to low and behold another bus station. I boarded a mini bus there and finally arrivd at the Apasari Hotel in Ao Nang. Most of the time the cheap way, is not the most efficient way of traveling but if you have the time it’s worth the money…and the funny stories.