Home > Travel > Fast forward rewind: Thailand, part three

Fast forward rewind: Thailand, part three

From there we walked around the corner looking for a bathroom and a means of transport. Habiba had been approached by someone who told her about a travel agency – supposedly the official one, TAT. We asked one tuk-tuk driver to take us there, but his price seemed a little steep. Then another guy came along and told us about a government tuk-tuk service so we got into this other tuk-tuk and were taken to ‘TAT’.

Except it wasn’t, of course. From this travel agency, we got train and bus tickets down Krabi (via Surat Thani), from where we could get a ferry to Ko Phi Phi. It was probably more expensive than if we’d made plans and booked much earlier, but by western standards it wasn’t too pricy.

When we came out of the agency, the tuk-tuk driver was waiting there to take us somewhere else with the ultimate aim of further separating us from our money. We quickly made our way to a nearby restaurant for lunch.

After that we headed off to take in the sights of the nearby Golden Mount. We paused in front of another temple to get our bearings and were approached by a Thai man who claimed to be a high school teacher and who started telling us about this and that being closed or open and about government tuk-tuks. We played along for a bit, but, when he realised we weren’t going to bite, he stormed off shouting, ‘You are stupid! Fuck you!’

Charming.

We went to the Golden Mount (which was open, although that guy had told us it was closed). It was a nice walk up these spiraling staircase around a steep little hill, on top of which was the temple. In side, there was a cramped inner sanctum, open to the public, which people would walk around and stick gold leaf on the statue in the very centre. On this level there was also a gift shop and people selling refreshments.

At the very top was a gold spire, around which people would walk, praying or meditating. There was also a gong, which worshippers and tourists (and we) struck. There was a great view of the city – very flat. We had a drink and an ice lolly in the cafe just below. We rang the rows of bells along the path on the way down. Then we explored another temple and walked back to the river where we realised we’d missed the last boat from that pier (even though it was only 4 or 5 pm).

The following day, we spent a fair amount of time exploring some of the markets, including the Chinatown market and the flower market. We bought a modest pile of spices from the former. Then it was time to head to the main railway station to catch our train.

This was very similar to my experiences travelling through India – quite pleasant. Our tickets were on opposite sides of the gangway, but we sat on the same side, facing each other, and hoped we could switch. The trains are a little narrower than Indian trains, with facing pairs of individual seats that fold down to make one berth; another berth folds down from the ceiling. The lower berths have more headroom and a window, so they’re more expensive – and they were the ones we didn’t have. After some confusion, the Thai women on the other side of the aisle were happy for us to sit in the seats, but they wanted both the lower berths. This meant they couldn’t go to bed until after we’d eaten – which was comparatively late. I think they were a little annoyed about this, but it wasn’t a problem.

We arrived in Surat Thani at about 4:30 am and were ferried almost immediately to a bus station – actually more of a holding centre for foreigners waiting to travel to the various resorts in southern Thailand. Numbers of travellers were in the low hundreds, I think. About seven o’clock we got on a bus that drove over gently hilly, jungly land on a straight, modern road. Once at Krabi port, we got embarked on a ferry and were soon cruising across Thailand’s bit of the Andaman Sea towards Ko Phi Phi.

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