Just a really quick blog, mainly for anyone thinking of doing a visa run from Ranong to the Burma border. Read ahead and you decide but my advice would be to DIY if you're on a tight budget. Good luck. Monday 5th Jan
Did not want to get up this morning but managed to drag myself and my rucksack to the main road to get a sawngthaew. No problem as they come up and down this street every five minutes. Suprise suprise, this morning there was none to be found! A Taxi driver "very kindly" offered his services at 200Bht each and informed us we would pay 150Bht each in a sawngthaew. Us being smarter than him clearly decided to wait it out and luckily one did show and at 60Bht each he was way off the mark. Suprising how many people do fall for it though. Didn't leave us much time when we arrived at the port. An official looking guy took us to the ticket office, which in fact was just his friend who was trying to rip us off with a package. With only eight minutes left we ran like grease lightning and managed to just get
there in time. Not a bad price either, 200Bht each which automatically included the bus to Surat Thani centre. The boat itself was nowhere near as good or clean as the one over here. The sea is totally calm which is good as we got there over an hour early. We jumped straight on to the bus which again took about two hours and headed on our hunt to find a bus to Ranong. Found one for 150Bht each on a local bus - it's 250Bht each on a "Tourist Bus." We confirmed the price with the driver and also a young English speaking local as they wouldn't give us tickets before we left. Which to be fair has happened on most bus journeys. So off we went. About 30 minutes into the journey the conductor came round to collect money for the tickets. When he gets to us he says "180 Baht." Steve argues to no avail! Eventually the bus pulls over and they start to remove our luggage. Steve gets off. I sat there giving the local boy daggers as he was finding the whole thing amusing. Due to us being in the middle of nowhere we have no choice but to pay the robbing ba*t**ds. The most annoying part is if they had quoted 180Bht each in the first place we would have paid it as it was still much cheaper than all the others anyway. It's just the way they lie and then make you look like you're in the wrong and it feels like all the locals are in on it too. On this occassion it definately did, but like Steve said, it's like being back in Bolivia. After eating our lunch and unfortunately (for the driver that is) making such a mess we arrived in Ranong. Checked into our hostel for 250Bht a night with private room and shared bathroom then booked a visa run for tomorrow for 400Bht each. Had a yummy chicken korma and met another couple (from Scotland) doing the visa run tomorrow. Early nights all round. Tuesday 06th January
Up early to meet in restaurant/reception at 9am. They said we probably wouldn't leave till 9.30 so the Scottish couple and their friend got brekkie whilst we headed to the bus station to see about a night bus to Bangkok. A dodgy guy tried to give us tickets and take the money - like we'd be that stupid! Typical Thai style we still hadn't left by gone 10. By this point we were getting hungry but refused to eat in the restaurant as it's quite clearly part of their little money making scam. They finally took us at 10.30. Steve managing to have bought the Bangkok tickets from the proper guy. The vehicle taking us to immigration was a tiny, 5 seater yute but including the driver there was six of us. At Thai immigration we stood in a queue. It took a while because the "computer says no" apparently. By this point we were getting a little biot worried they might turn around and close as this border has a reputation for closing without explanation. Luckily all was fixed. By 11.30 we were put in a wooden longboat for the journey to Kawthoung. The boat was about 18ft long and 3ft wide, had water sloshing about the bottom, a motorbike engine bolted to the back and a propellor on the end of a scaffolding pole to turn the boat. It actually feels and looks like you're going to fall out, not good as the water is WELL manky. There's lots more boats than expected on the water. We pass through a few checkpoints until 45 minutes later we arrive in Burma. All you hear is "Tip please," but for what exactly, we're unaware. So we get stamped and head back toward the boat. No more than 5 minutes of a job. I've decided that people in Burma have a made up language that consist of, "Tip please. You buy. I give you. How much you pay?" and other phrases along these lines. We got very wet on the way back with the horrid, manky water not daring to open our mouths for fear of catching some deadly disease from the water. We arrived back on dry land in Ranong, then it's off to Thai immigration for another "entry" stamp. We then had to hang around for another 40 mins during which time we asked around to find out how much a boat was if we did it independantly. We were informed it would cost 400Bht for the boat so we had definately been ripped off at being charged 400Bht each and grabbing a tuk tuk for only 20 return. When we finally got picked up and crammed back into the tiny, 5 seater yute we arrived back at the hostel two hours later than we should have been. We headed up to the room to freshen up before lunch then wandered out for a little walk to kill time. We bumped into the Scotch who were just on their way to the springs so we decided to go with them. It was a nice walk and the hot springs were actually really nice and well kept. We dipped our feet in and then had a wander around one of the temples. We came across a sleeping area with a heated floor which was quite wierd. I must say, I was tempted. Went back to the hostel and ordered food. For a change mine didn't come until 10 minutes before we had to leave. Steve's had been eaten over 20 minutes ago. So not only was mine late but I was sat eating on my own. Anyway we made the bus on time and were ready to relax with our books. But, apparently not. Due to it being 8.20 at night and a bus with busted overhead lights (apparently) we decided to have an early night but within the first 90 minutes we get stopped three times by the police doing ID/Passport checks. At about 12.30 we pull over for a toilet stop. After that, thankfully we were left alone to sleep.
So now we have another 15 days in Thailand we will be making the most of it visiting Bangkok and thern deciding our next destination from there. All will be revealed in our next blog entries xx
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