First World meets Third World For The First Time

We arrive in Ko Samet, a little tired and a little overwhelmed from another day of travel. Obviously the journey was much shorter than our marathon trip from the other side of the world, but still, 3 hours in a private taxi, an hour and a half wait at the Ban Phe Pier, followed by a 45 minute ferry ride across to Ko Samet was enough for one day. Oh, and, on top of this we really had only a vague, at best, clue of where we were heading once we did hit solid ground.

Perhaps, foolishly, as it did add to our overwhelming state of “where are we and where are we going?” we began walking through the town, away from the pier, under sweltering temperatures loaded down like pack mules (incidentally this would be the first of many times that I would make a mental checklist of things I wish I hadn’t bothered packing!)

By the time we’d walked 15 minutes and made it as far as the entrance to pay the park conservation fee, we’d had enough, and out of desperation, took the first available taxi without even haggling over the price.

Bouncing in the back of the open-air car, we took a stab at where we wanted to go and then hung on for dear life as we careened over pot holes and, what can only be described as gaping holes, in the road!

Sadly our first stop proved fruitless, the bungalows were more than we wanted to pay, so we clamboured back into the taxi, paid all over again and continued to be battered and bruised until, again, out of desperation , we had the taxi driver stop at the only sign-posted name we recognized from ‘The Lonely Planet Book’. Unfortunately it happened to be the one place that was fully booked and the drinks we ordered, just because…, were 3 times more than anywhere else (including home – but we didn’t know this before we ordered them!)

By now it was 5:30ish and knowing it would be dark sooner rather than later we decided to take the first available/affordable place we could find within a 500 metre radius – our decision led us to Ao Phai and the little white bungalow that would be home for 3 nights. the price was certainly right but we kind of rushed-in-sight-unseen only to discover that some shacks are shackier than others!

This would be the first time the girls would have stayed in anything less than a 2-star so there was a lot of bolstering to be done, or so I had thought. Between their incredibly sqeaky bed, in the same room as ours (the only room in the bungalow!) the rather oldy-moldy scent emanating from the faded and frayed curtains, the floor on a slant, the toilet that had a leaking line, the cracked tile of the floor and the faucet in the sink which didn’t line up with the drainpipe, which meant that the water just flowed from tap to bathroom floor, I imagined the place would be a hard sell. All of these little ‘features’ were one thing but when the cockroach, the size of a goldfish, scuttled across the floor I was sure one of the girls would be out before even stepping through the front door.

As it turns out I was wrong – there was a rallying spirit, a reminder that we were in a third world country so what were we expecting? At first I wasn’t sure if we were all sucking it up but after the first night the curtains didn’t seem to smell quite so bad, the cockroach didn’t come back, we avoided flushing the toilet until necessary and even when a huge hunk of tile and plaster fell out of the wall while Tiah was showering, we politely piled it in a corner and ignored it! Hence a very enjoyable and successful stay – which we are not adverse to repeating 🙂

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