Published: April 5th 2011
March 30th 2011
The night train to Hat Yai was very comfortable and I slept reasonably well. We arrived only an hour late, just after 11am the next day. I met an American guy on the train who was also going to Krabi so we could travel together. He has only been travelling for 3 days so although he's already a better bargainer than me, he got really frustrated about the delays. These days I'd hardly call one hour a delay. We bargained the bus price down almost to what the 'official price' was. It would have been easier to walk to the bus station but it was 2km away, it was pouring with rain, and there was no public transport to it. We got on a minivan to Krabi at 1pm where we met a couple who had come from further north (Ko Samui) and this was the first we heared about the flooding but we didn't have the chance to talk to them long enough to find out just how bad it was.
The bus ride was meant to be 4 hours which was long enough in the cramped and stuffy minivan. It poured with rain the whole time and we
passed many flooded plains and villages. Some parts of the road were also completely underwater but passable using only 1 lane so it was very slow as police (and whole villages who now have nothing better to do but stand on the highway (which is significantly higher than their flooded homes) and watch the cars try to get past) let a few cars from each direction through at a time. An hour after we were meant to arrive we get to a road block - the floodwaters have continued to rise and the road is impassable from both sides - we are stuck in the middle! We went to a petrol station where the bus and every other car and bus that got stranded swarmed the 7-11 and bought the place out since it could be days before the water went down enough to pass through. We spent about 3 hours sitting on a bench at the petrol station and I was just considering setting my tent up on the pavement when everyone else on our bus (all Thais) found some other way of getting into town so it was just me, Jonothan (the American guy) and the driver to
oh yeah, look at that water...
a 12 seater minivan - I row each for sleeping. Considering the circumstances this was really comfortable! We get woken up at 4am with news that the roads are passable and we have a new passenger - a German guy who was on a different bus heading to Phuket. Since he was getting off at Krabi and the bus wanted to keep going, it dumped him at the flooded bridge and told him he would have to walk across if he wanted to get into town. Since you couldn't even see the bridge (just a fast flowing river), he chose life, walked back to the petrol station and randomly slept in 2 other minvans before he found ours and got a lift into Krabi town (less than 10km away - we were so close!).
We found a hostel which has 24 hour reception and paid for the night even thouh it was already almost 5am, the time I sometimes get up in the mornings. The place is like a 5-star hotel, only with dorms and shared bathrooms. There was free internet, hot water showers (which is great because its actually really cold with this storm) with shampoo, conditioner, and
body wash dispensers, king size single beds with dounas, and free toilet paper too! I didn't even know places like this existed in Thailand. I was angry at myself for not researching this properly beforehand - I thought I could have stayed on the train the whole way to Bangkok and out of the flooded area...but I've since found out that the train is suspended indefinitely due to flooding and roads to get to Bankok are just as bad so I would have just ended up stranded somewhere else.
The next morning the rain had eased but it was still cold and windy and the amazing turquoise waters of the Andaman coast were a wonderful flood water brown. From my experience in qld/nsw earlier this year, I expected this to hang around quite a while so I just wanted to leave as soon as possible. There was nothing going the next day so I wasted it away walking round town and preparing my Russian visa support documents. In the afternoon I went to a herbal (steam) sauna with the German guy and his Finnish friend but when we got there is was closed because they have no water (cut
off from the floods) which we didn't even think about even though we'd just been discussing the lack of running water. Instead we walked around town, had dinner, then headed back to the overpriced hostel bar which had bad live music.
The following day the buses were up and running. I rushed to book a ticket to Bankok in the morning since I knew it would sell out fast. The bus didn't leave until 5pm so I caught the local bus to Ao Nang beach, about 40 minutes away. Suprisingly the water was almost normal here. It was also reasonably warm and the sun came out a few times and I almost wished I hadn't been in such a rush to leave. I took a longtail boat from here to Hat Rai Leh which is meant to be the most 'stunning' of the Krabi coast beaches. I thought it was nice but not as great others made it sound. Originally I was going to stay here then take the boat over to Koh Phi Phi for a few days but boats weren't running yet, the worst of the weather may not have been over so if I got there,
I might have gotten stranded, and I didn't think the water would be very clear after the storms. The only reason I would have liked to spend more time on that beach would be to go on a kayak trip where you cane explore the caves, small islands, and limestone cliffs from further out.
Getting back to Krabi from Ao Nang was abit of an epic as some idiot told me to catch the bus from the wrong side of the road so I went out of town in the wrong direction, then had to get back and wait while the driver tried to fill up the seats in town. At some point in all this I lost my towel but was too worried about missing my bus to notice until later. The bus ( packed with only tourists) to Bankok left almost on time, stopped in Surat Thani where we al had to get off, eat, get moved minibus load at a time to a different bus and catch this to Bangkok being shouted at the whole way through. By minibus I mean one of those trucks with the back converted into an undercover area with 2 bench
seats - it has a long name I can never pronounce.
We arrived early in the morning and I headed to the North/North Eastern bus terminal with another girl by public bus. Thankfully it was too early for the typical Bangkok traffic jams. I caught a bus to Pak Chong, then the local bus to the gates of the Khoa Yai National Park after stocking up on food and water. This turned out to be unneccessary as there were minimarts and restaurants within the park. From the gates there's no transport and it was a good 25 km to the campgrounds so not exactly walking distance, especially not when your carrying 10L of water on top of your usual pack. The only option is to hitch but this was mega easy. Every single car will stop, if only to wind down the windows to show you its already filled with 10 people so I couldn't possibly squeeze in. The first lift I got to the visitors center was with a local guy who's English wasn't good enough to have a conversation. From the visitors center I got a ride with some wealthy Bangkokians on a weekend trip with a
monk. They drove me to the campground even though it wasn't in the direction they were heading and I set up my tent and settled in. It was early in the afternoon and there were about 5 large deer (as in bigger than me) wandering around. I went for a walk along one of the trails to a waterfall (or a slight trickle) and rock hopped along the river and just relaxed the rest of the afternoon. It got quite busy in the evening - go the Thais, they're actually into camping! In the evening the monkeys came out and started aggressively stealing peoples food and I found out they will go into your tent if theres food there. uh oh. I got woken up several times in the night by some animal racing around my tent making noises that sounded like they came from a cross between a dog and a pig. From the toilet block lights I saw the sillouhette of a hunched animal with long spikey hair on its neck - aaaahhhh, its a hyena and its going to eat me! I don't think they have hyenas in Thailand, it was most likely a Gibbon which didn't
make the situation much better. Half my bananas got smooshed on the trip up there and were giving off a strong overripe banana smell I was sure it had sensed and was trying to get to. Other than poking its head under my fly in the morning though it left me alone.
In the morning I went hiking on the same trail as the day before to some bigger waterfalls, although being the end of (a particularly dry) dry season, they were hardly impressive. There were plenty of Thais around too though so you can just imagine the posing that was going on - pretty entertaining. After the third waterfall I got worried I wasn't on the proper trail, and was instead on one of the many elephant trails around the park so I turned back. I found signs later that showed I was on the right trail but I was too paranoid by then to have enjoyed the walk so I went back to the camp, packed up, and got a lift to the visitors center with another rich Bankok car. I planned to stay here the night as it was closer to more trails and it meant
I could do the night safari in the evening...but being a Saturday night everything was booked out - This was dissapointing as your pretty much guaranteed to see elephants on the night safari. All I saw during the day was a whole lot of elephant shit! It would have been cool to see wild elephants, but I've seen plenty of tame ones - they're just chilling out on the side of the road on the way to the park. I dumped my stuff, went for another short walk, tried to find a closer camp ground but couldn't, so I got a lift to the gates, bus into town, and train from Pak Chong to Ayuthaya, the old Thai capital full of old temples and ruins. Since I realised that I did the exact same things as last time I was in Thailand (National Park - jungle, and islands and beaches), I thought I should see a city and maybe some history and culture.
I stayed in Ayuthaya for a day, hired a bike, and rode around town and wandered around the ruins. It was very hot and dry, so much that I took a midday break and went out
again at around 4 when it had cooled down abit. Most of the city is on an ísland' made by the river so even I struggled to get lost and saw mainly the things on the island. There was more to see off the island but it was much ruther away and my few attempts to reach them failed - that is I got disorientated and lost. Thailand was very different for me this time around - more people seemed to speak English and everyone was much friendlier. I don't know if it really has changed that much in 2 years or if its just me and perhaps the places I visited.
Early Monday morning I caught the first bus into Bangkok and changed to another bus to Aranya Prathet on the Cambodian border and crossed into Poipet, Cambodia. I had an e-visa organised so I wouldn't get scammed and this worked really well.
There are more photos below