Published: July 20th 2012July 6th 2012
Life size yoda at the Ubon Ratichani multiplex
So, as promised, the blog of the 50 hour trek.
We had got on our little fishing boat back to the mainland to meet a private minibus which would race us back up Road 13 all the way past Pakse again and on to the Laos-Thai border. We arrived at the border and had to get out and walk across. We changed the last of our Kip back into Bhatt and walked underground and popped up again in Thailand. On the other side we were met by another private minibus who's seats reclined to complete horizontal. This was freakin amazing!! Cheryl KO'd and had the best couple of hours travel sleep ever. Unfortunately, my usually solid bladder decided 5 minutes in that now was the time that it was going to decide it couldn't wait and so I sat forward in my seat desperately awaiting the next 7/11 stop so I could relieve myself. Pee all gone, I too reclined and drifted off into a beautiful sleep. We awoke at a gigantic shopping mall in Ubon Ratichani. Here we were dropped off to wait until our sleeper train. There were five of us; myself, Cheryl, Helen, Lyndsay and our
tour guide Wan as everyone else was heading on to Cambodia. Wan suggested we head to the top floor for a game of bowling. The sneaky little sod failed to inform us that he plays once a week and is somewhat of a master. All suitably embarrased we had a look around the shopping centre, which was pretty impressive. Tons of shops and a massive food court and some strange things like 3 broadcasting radio stations with huge glass storefronts so that you could see the DJ's going about their business and of course the multiplex cinema, bowling alleys and rent-your-own karaoke rooms. The time was approaching and Wan told us we had to go down and catch a public bus to the train station for our sleeper train. We headed out and were soon confronted with our bus; thai style. Instead of any bus you may have thought of, Thai busses are pick up trucks with benches in the back and a corrugated tin roof. The locals didn't look too impressed when the five of us rocked up with our 60-70 litre rucksacks and daysacks to boot but a very nice old thai man made room for us by
sweaty quarters on the thai sleeper
standing on the back towbar and hanging on with one hand as he puffed away at his rolly with the other whilst the bus bounced along the city streets at about 35mph.
We arrived at Ubon Ratichani station to meet our sleeper train. I was quite excited about this as Cheryl had talked lots about her experiences on them. I was not dissapointed. At first glance, they seem dirty and old but really if you look closely they are pretty immaculate and they are just really, really old. We got our seats and Wan took us along to the food cart where we were served a big plate of rice with some non-descript meat curry and a fried egg on top. the whole thing cost about £1.50. It was the spiciest thing I have ever put in my mouth and as if to add insult to injury, the crazy little lady had put a sachet of chilli sauce on the side in case I wanted to spice that bad boy up a little!!! We're not talking that nice Thai Sweet Chilli sauce we're so fond of back home either, we're talking big chunks of raw chilli's in oil.
View from the Koh Samui Ferry
Potent stuff indeed!
4 bottles of water and a roll of toilet paper later (for wiping the sweat you dirty buggers!) we stumbled back through the carriages to our beds for the night, which the porter had deftly set out in record time. The train was extremely hot and we only had the option of fans in the middle of the ceiling but when you pulled over your little vanity curtain it blocked the fan completely. Alas though, we made it through and awoke the next day about 20mins outside of Bangkok. When we got to the station we checked our bags into left luggage and headed up to book our onward journey to Koh Samui by another sleeper train. We had spoken to a couple on the Stray bus who had told us that for a few quid more you could get a first class cabin with a private shower, a locking door and the holiest of holys; Air Con. Unfortunately, all these were booked out and so we resigned ourselves to another night under the fan. We headed out and jumped in a taxi back to Khao San Road to kill a few hours before we
Panoramic from the Ferry
headed off again. We went to Mcdonalds and indulged in a couple of Sausage and Egg Mcmuffins to settle our bellys from the chillis the night before and then headed along to Mulligans to discover if the toilets were as good as Juggs and Whales had led us to believe. They were. They were marvelous. Cold marble, flushing western toilets, limitless supplies of bog roll and the soft soothing rhythms of the music of the pub pumped in while you pooped. Happy days.
A few hours later and we were back in a taxi to the train station and on our next sleeper. We suddenly realised that this one wasn't going to be as easy as the train didn't terminate at Surat Thani and in fact went on for another three hours. Stations aren't well signposted here and you can't rely on the time you are quoted as the train regularly stops for cows and dogs on the line. So we just drifted in and out constantly panicking and checking our watches everytime our eyes opened and we got up an hour before the train was due in. The train proceeded to arrive an hour and a half
cheryl get her sea legs
late and by this time we had met a couple of German girls who were in the same boat and so with four sets of eyes on we spotted the station and got off to meet our coach. A ham and cheese croissant and some scrambled eggs later, the next sleeper arrived and we all jumped on the coach to Don Sak pier. When we arrived it was a total cattle market. Many ferrys went to different islands and so they just give you a coloured sticker and herd you around until you are in the right place. Ungraceful, but by goodness it works a treat. As you can imagine, by this point we were both fading rapidly and we were glad of a seat on the edge of the boat watching the crystal blue water scoot by beneath and the tropical islands of the Gulf of Thailand appeared on the horizon.
We were so tired we forgot to apply sunscreen which would later prove to be a painful mistake but at that point we did not mind a jot and an hour and a half later we were on Koh Samui. We knew we were close to our
my sea feet
final destination and didn't even hagggle our taxi too hard as we were glad of the seat and the Air Con. He whisked us off to Lipa Noi beach where we were met by golden beaches, clear blue water, a beautiful room and a complimentary check in cocktail. Ahh! Backpacking eh?
Tune in next week for more; TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
There are more photos below