Published: January 18th 2011December 23rd 2010
What They Can Squeeze On One Of These Defies Logic. Sometimes There's Room For Passengers Too!
Five days after leaving home our long anticipated principle destination was at last within sight. Surviving the first two nights at Stansted Airport, the third night on a 14 hour flight trying to find comfort in some of the most cramped seats in the aviation industry, a brief bit of respite for one night in a posh Malaysian hotel followed by a disjointed nights slumber on a stop-start sleeper train, we were ready for a kip to say the least. The ten hour minibus trek from Butterworth had delivered us to Surat Thani around six pm. Given as the last boat of the day leaves at seven, you'd have thought that Plan A had worked rather well. But - Thailand being the way it is, the 7 o'clock boat from Surat Thani actually leaves from Don Sak pier some hour and a halves bus ride away from the town. Scuppered.
Plan B (Essential tip. ALWAYS
have a plan B.) was to take the cheap & trusty overnight ferry - a fine plan, especially as it was our only option without having to fork out for a hotel & lose yet another day. Around 11.00pm the regular
All Aboard The Skylark
98 Passengers, 75 Mopeds, 100,000 Eggs, 66 Lifejackets. You Know It Makes Sense.
night boat sets off from the port at the town itself making a sedate chug 30 miles downriver before heading across the open waters of the Gulf of Thailand, getting to Phangan around about 6 in the morning. The girls weren't too keen on Plan B as the idea of sleeping on a manky mattress along with 100 strangers on a wobbly looking wooden boat appealed very little to either their sense of adventure, well being or indeed their sense of humour. As our options had now been whittled down to one, we scored some tickets on the boat around sunset time, dumped the majority of our luggage took a stroll round the town in search of food & beverages as we had a couple of hours to spare & the locals needed to fill the boat with as much stuff as possible.
Away from the immediate port there was very little to interest the itinerant traveller. Not much in the way of bars or food joints if you wander more than ten minutes in any direction. We were the sole customers of the night in some out of the way European style Pizza Hut joint
Its Behind You!!
These Little Critters Can Sneak Up From Behind With No Warning Whatsoever. Keep A Close Eye On Your Banana Stash.
for an energy replenishment of carbs before snaking back through the narrow streets to where most of the action seemed to be going on down by the ferry jetty. This turned out to be the best place in town to hang out as the previously empty car park space by where the boats park up had been filled with street food vendors, selling quality grub from their well turned out scooter/sidecar kitchens, all floodlit & filled with plenty of tables & chairs which started to fill as busses arrived from as far away as Bangkok; a 12 hour trip from the north, tired passengers peeling themselves out of their seats for a spot of relaxation before setting sail.
Sat by the boat for the last hour with a Gin & Tonic watching the seemingly haphazard loading routine unfold. Disturbed briefley at one point though. The loading lads were getting over 70 Honda 125cc scooters on board. To do this they needed to pass them from the dock to the boat meaning having to kind of swing them across the 8ft gap between the two. One launched it, another caught it. 100% success rate - mesmerising. I
It Was Like So Awesome Like, I Like Went "What Are You Like" & He Was Like . . . . .
If bedding down within earshot of british college kids, I'd suggest earplugs or a DVD player with an instructional lesson in the correct use of Grammar.
Failing that - chuck them over the side of the boat into the sea.
heard the Old Bloke muttering to Mum something about there being an elephant behind her. "Yeah. Right" she said stirring the ice in her G&T. Honestly- There REALLY IS an elephan . . . . . . .
Before the sentence had finished a trunk swooped down to the table & swiped my chocolate & banana pancake, grabbing the whole thing in one swift hit. Thats just plain rude but I've never yet met an elephant with manners. While all that was going on I missed the lads dropping a bike into the sea. Never a dull moment!
Settling in, we pulled off the jetty around 11.15 to cruise down the Tapi river for an hour and a half before passing Don Sak & hitting open water. Our desire for sleep was overcome by the tranquility of the smooth ride & the feeling we were on something like a cruise up the Nile as we made our way through a switching of riverside industrial landscapes full of cranes, container ships & activity to tiny fishing villages with local workers fixing their nets by candlelight before heading out to sea to bring in the bacon - so
Greeted By The Moon
Arriving At Thong Sala. A Real Breath Of Fresh Air!!
to speak. The only niggle being the four young neighbours in adjacent berths. Unfortunately English, regrettably loud & embarrassingly unable to speak any coherent sentence without using the word Like
at the begining, the middle & indeed, the end. Luckily, they fell asleep before us - presumably due to boring each other by bleating dull tales via a limited vocabulary so we managed half an hour gazing out watching the world pass by with a little peace.
Fatigue crept up soon enough though and the Land Of Nod came calling. The crossing must've been smooth as silk as we eventually enjoyed our best nights sleep since leaving the Cold Place, waking up shortly after sunrise with the purr of the engines gently relenting as we pulled into Ko Phangan at the main port town of Thong Sala, another of our favourite haunts. Feeling surprisingly refreshed we bounced off the boat with vigour & a spring in our step. A surprising highlight & rightful finale to our epic journey. The Night Boat Rocks!!!
Met by Nok - Than Sadets' specialist off road racing driver in a trusty 4WD pick up, we
Home Sweet Home!
All Thats Missing Is a Bounty Bar.
made our way out of town along the familiar road as far as the Seven Eleven at Ban Tai before turning left for the last 30 minutes of the bumpy ride over the rugged mountain road to the opposite side of the island far away from the debauched party atmosphere slowly developing around Haad Rin at the southern tip where the younger element of the Idiot Abroad community were gathering to spend a Christmas they were not likely to remember. Our gang arrived on Christmas Eve at 8am shattered but once again overcome by the blue skied beauty encompassing where we found ourselves to be. Time to nestle into our bungalow on the rocks, unpack the hammock, enjoy the view, unwind & chill out for a few days. The Holiday Starts Here!.