There are anti-government demonstrations on the streets of central Bangkok just now so we took the underground to the main train station, Hua Lamphong. No taxi driver would take us anywhere near anyway because the traffic jams are huge.
The Prime Minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, the sister of the ousted previous Prime Minister, has invoked security measures which would allow curfews etc after government buildings were taken over by demonstrators. They were protesting about an amnesty bill which could see her brother return to Thailand without facing a jail sentence for corruption.
If you are taller than 120cm you pay full fare on the underground in Bangkok – so there was no way European Katie was going to get a child fare. She did try. She also realized that she was heading to the wrong seating section in the station after she read the sign.
Our journey south to Ko Samui was not so much eventful as entertaining. We caught the sleeper at 1830. In what turned out to be a great icebreaker in the carriage, we padlocked our baggage to the metal storage rack but not before accidentally locking the keys inside the padlocked case. There was much speculation about whose finger would be small enough to pry the keys out or where we could get a hold of something to cut metal.
Matt saved the day with a little perseverance and Neil went off for a celebratory beer with the French and Belgian guys seated next to us. One of them has lived on Ko Samui for the past 30 years and they reminisced about what the island was like then (we were last there backpacking 22 years ago). The main tourist areas have developed so much that the pair had been off to look at/buy a beach cafe/bar/beach huts in Cambodia. The new “Beach”. We have a bargain nightly rate but alas no time.
In second class there is aircon (it was a perfect temperature overnight) and a steward comes and makes up the seats into beds later on in the evening. Not before Adam and I had chance to watch another episode of Breaking Bad.
First class is in individual tiny rooms (a bit boring) and third class is no aircon, you can play music and smoke and drink and hang out the window (maybe another time). There is also a second class no aircon carriage and that would be fine depending upon the time of year. The train was full in any event – we booked 2 days before departure and there were 9 seats left. It’s tricky to booked online in advance – you can’t do it direct any more and the Thai agency we contacted hasn’t replied yet.
At stations along the way, vendors jump on with roasted chicken wings or chilled coke, sell their wares, and leap off before the train departs. Or at least before the train gets up to full speed, as Neil saw whilst having his beer.
The train is a great way to go north and south in Thailand – cheaper and more fun than flying; and we think/know (after the last white knuckle ride/race north in a bus 20 years ago) safer than the bus. Everything’s relative.
We got the shuttle bus from the train station at Surat Thani to the port and then, on the recommendation of our local fellow passengers, the new catamaran over to the island. Total journey time 2 and a half hours, cost per person 450Baht, just over 10 euros. A fortune compare with Cambodia but….
We bought the catamaran tickets in the cafe across from the train station from a man who was helping in the cafe but worked on the shuttle bus. Hardly any difference in price from buying an all inclusive ticket from the main station in Bangkok. And more fun holding up the bus when your banana pancake’s not ready yet but the cafe man also works on the bus.
It’s a smooth ride on the catamaran and half the journey time compared with the ferry. No one was sick either, like the last bumpy trip over on the ferry. Wait till you arrive, though, to organize transport to your accommodation – the local taxis or songthaew are usually cheaper then the one bought on the boat.
Our accommodation was away from the main drag and as traditional and non-touristy as we could get. It was completely gorgeous. 4800 Baht or 110 euros, 5 people, 2 bungalows, 3 nights. A fortune compared with Cambodia but…
Little wooden bungalows right on the sand. By Beach Resort, by the beach, on the north coast of the island (the main town Chaweng is to the east). Trip advisor said “perfect”, “amazingly friendly”, “a hidden gem”. It’s all of those things. And more.