Ko Pha Ngan


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Asia » Thailand » South-West Thailand » Ko Pha-Ngan
January 24th 2007
Published: January 27th 2009
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Up as day broke having booked the taxi for 6:30. Due to a misunderstanding the taxi driver turned up at 6 - luckily we were just about ready - so left early at 6:15. It was lovely travelling in the open pick-up through the cool of the early morning along virtually deserted roads through the palm and coconut trees to the port. We had plenty of time to board the ferry - which was a bit of a rust bucket - having been given a sticker to wear saying which booking agenct we’d used. We were a bit under informed re the ferry. We didn’t even know how long the crossing took our whether it stopped off at Ko Samui on route. The ferry interior as a bit rough and ready but at least we were able to get a coffee and crisps. The ferry moored alongside a jetty labelled Samui so I assumed this was a stop off at Samui en route to the mainland. It was only when everyone else got off and the cleaners came aboard that I panicked and realised we were at the mainland port of Donsak. (the sign had indicated that was where you boarded to get to Samui). We dashed off with our heavy packs thinking we might miss the connecting bus to Surat Thani where we were to pick up the main bus. At this moment I accidentally burst my plastic water bottle soaking the tickets and my tee-shirt. I also managed to drop a ticket which I luckily managed to retrieve before it blew away. Luckily the bus hadn’t left, although there were no seats left so we had to sit in the corridor for the hour journey to Surat Thani. The bus dumped us and our luggage in the main street between parked cars along with 20 others. Chaos rained but we were eventually shepherded onto a small pickup with our luggage on top. Getting the heavy rucksacks on top in the sweletering sun being shouted at to do so by a short Thai lady. We only travelled about 400m before being unloaded at the smell office of the travel agency (jokingly called A1). Gradually small minibuses arrived - eventally one for us and also the people going to Phuket. We were crammed aboard. We stopped again after one mile on the edge of town. The driver told us he’d be five minutes but he heat in the minibus was so great that we all got out. We were then chaotically herded into a small café/office to wait. We queried what was going on but the answers were unclear. We then boarded another minibus. We thought that this minibus was going to Phuket and would drop us off shortly to pick up a larger bus. The driver was young and almost immediately, on leaving the yard, pulled out in front of an overtaking 4X4 because he did not look both ways. We set off but after 100m he turned back to the yard having forgotten something. We set off again - I noticed that he hadn’t learnt his lesson and still didn’t look both ways - not a good omen. After a few kilometres it became apparent that there was to be not changed to a larger bus and wed were going all the way to Phang Nga in the minibus. He drove fast but as it was good dual carriageway this didn’t seem too unsafe. However when we turned onto single carriageway roads he drove excessively fast seeming to regard warnings of bends as a challenge to drive faster. He overtook in some dangerous places and cut almost every corner - moving over last minute when he met something coming in the opposite direction towards us. It was nightmarish - it was one of those occasions when the collective fear makes everyone silent. We had a five minute stop for refreshments - the driver seemed to be drinking caffeine drinks to keep himself awake - I feared for one moment that they were small bottles of Thai whisky. Fortunately after the stop the traffic was heavier - so even this maniac had to slow down. Thankfully we reached Phang Nga intact - I’ve never been so relieved to get out of a vehicle. I hope the rest of the party made Phuket safely. We caught a pick-up taxi into the town centre to the Pang Nga guesthouse. We asked to see a room - they had lovely fan rooms for 300 baht ( unbelievably about £4.50) - the rooms even have a TV. The exterior looks slightly scruffy but it is well kept and the rooms are spotlessly clean. A full breakfast is only 100 baht. We booked two nights. The town is really just a single busy street with a tall limestone ridge along one side and a smaller ridge on the other. I went for along stroll along the street, whilst Jen rested and the only saw other westerners when I popped into a travel booking office and right outside our lodgings. The street was full of kids leaving school and getting refreshments from roadside stalls before boarding colourful buses. I went into a place labelled Tourist Information and was immediately surrounded by about seven 12 year old schoolgirls. On reading a leaflet, I learned that this was part of their English learning course - they tried hard to be helpful but unfortunately I couldn’t explain to them that I simply wanted information on tours around the bay - so I picked up a few leaflets - thanked them and departed. It is an excellent idea but I think they need a supervisor - perhaps I just happened on them when the supervisor was absent. I eventually booked a day-long trip around the bay with a friendly man at the MT travel agency. We dined at a Lonely Planet recommend Muslim restaurant (so no alcohol or pork). I had a good fish curry - spiciest since India). On the way back I bought a bottle of drink whose label I couldn’t read. It turned out to be Thai cider. After an exhausting day the single bottle of cider completely knocked me out and we were both asleep by 9:30.

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