I remember thinking the first time we walked into a ‘travel agent’ in Bangkok that we really were taking a leap of faith. Here we were explaining where we wanted to go and then there was a flurry of calls and ‘the travel agent’ got back to us with a piece of paper, which basically said “this is the way you’ll do it”.
These jaunts through the country are not really that complicated but they do involve various modes of transportation, pick up spots and transfers, and each time we do it I think – wow you have to have a lot of faith that all the pieces will miraculously fall into place.
I’ll tell you about some of our travel routes/travel itineraries so you can have an inkling of what I’m talking about. Let’s start with Bangkok to Ko Samet – that was fairly straight forward because we had a private car drop us at Ban Phe Pier in Rayong – simple but funny when he wanted to take a photo of us, with all our bags, beside his vehicle, to prove that he’d taken us where he was supposed to!
From Rayong we were taking the ferry to Ko Samet – simple right? We checked in and had an hour to wait so sat at the cafe for lunch. Once we were finished eating we casually moved over toward the sales counter and the lady behind it was all in a flap waving that we needed to get down to boat 10 ASAP – Of course we followed her instructions and ran, as best we could (hadn’t been away long enough to get into the Amazing Race mode at this point) to boat 10, which was ‘handily’ moored beside boat 7 and boat 5, both of which we had to scramble across to get to ours – although thinking back how we knew this at the time I have no idea – instructions aren’t always that clear! I still wonder what would have happened had we not have sauntered over to the counter when we did.
On the way from Ko Samet to Ko Samui we made an elaborate travel plan with a different ‘travel agent’ to go back to Rayong, drive to Pattaya Airport fly to Ko Samui and then take another mini bus to Taling Ngam. All fairly straight forward though it did make me laugh that we were meeting our airport driver at the 7/11 across the road from the pier. Just another leap of faith!
Ko Samui to Ko Tao – very straight forward a ferry ride – yet it wasn’t that straight forward as we did have to change ferries in Ko Phanghan, which caused its own set of confusion as no one was very clear as to who gets off and who stays on and there was lots of confusion as to which boat goes where.
My favourite and the true test of faith was our journey from Ko Tao to Railay Beach. It started the same way as all the rest – arrangements made at a travel agent, lengthy instructions on what to do where and again a rendez-vous spot at a roadside 7/11. This time our taxi was a pick-up truck with a converted bed. There were narrow seats a fixed to the sides, and all the backpacks were thrown into the middle. Tiah and I were on the ends, practically leaning against the tailgate, hanging on for dear life, and praying that we didn’t have to go up one of Ko Tao’s steep hills lest we shot right out the back – obviously we didn’t!
We arrived at the pier and it was absolute bedlam – I have never seen anything like it. Looked like the whole Island was making a mass exodus and they were all trying to do it through counter #1 – IT WAS CRAZY! Every backpacker, traveller on the planet seemed to be part of the line that snaked from counter #1, up and around onto the street and then all the way down the street for at least half a mile. The street by the way was still trying to function as a two-way thorough-fare (which it had trouble doing at the best of times).
We waited for ages, I don’t really know how long but to the point where it was “isn’t this boat supposed to leave soon?” Someone in charge must have had the same feeling as a travel representative made her way down the line, telling everyone to leave one family member in the queue and the others wait at the dock – what could possibly go wrong?!!! One lady actually asked the girls and I if we’d keep an eye on her little girl for 10 minutes!
Anyway the new system did well for expediting everyone through but it did nothing to help the bedlam of boarding the boats – there was more than one boat and it really was a leap of faith making sure we got on the right one. No worries we did.
Two ferry passages later we were back on the mainland and meeting up with the myriad of buses, mini buses and private cars. Okay so this is where it got really tricky. Everyone travelling from the South-Eastern Islands were now travelling across land to the South-West but not all to the same final destination. Everyone had been given a little paper disc slapped onto their chest back on Ko Tao, I’d heard you have to hold onto this little paper sticker for dear life as it’s not only proof of where you’re going but that you’ve paid – this isn’t easy to do while travelling on rough sea in scorching heat.
Anyway each sticker has some code on it and when we arrived at the dock in Donsak it appeared that we were the only ones going to Railay Beach – lots going to Krabi province but not to Railay. No worries a helpful attendant pointed us towards one bus but by the time the driver was throwing on the last of our bags someone realized that was the wrong bus for us. Off came the bags and we were shepherded to the next bus – wrong one, someone else said and then an argument between two attendants broke out as we were buffeted between the mini-vans.
Meanwhile the buses had started to pull out and the mini-vans were filling up. Vehicles were starting to drive off and there was an awful sick feeling that maybe we’d be left on the dock to fend for ourselves. Maybe the precursor of that feeling made it logically sane that we would put our two daughters in one mini-van while we climbed into another!!! I know crazy right? Who would do that? Who would watch as their children drive off in a completely foreign land, down a completely foreign highway, in a van full of strangers? We did!
The only thought I had, “faith” have faith. I’m sure it’ll be fine. And it was. It helped that we kept passing one another on the highway and because Abigayle was sitting in the front seat we were able to wave to one another with each passing. Both vans stopped at the same roadside gas pump, which was also great because we could have a good laugh about our parenting skills/priorities, and obviously by this point we were feeling okay about our choices because we didn’t change them, but instead got back in our respective vans and carried on to another drop off point, where we once again switched vehicles, this time we were in the same one.
Our day’s travel was completed by a long-tail boat ride across from Krabi Town to Railay. We’d left our beach bungalow on Ko Tao at 8:00 am and we sailed into the sunset on Railay Beach at 6:45 pm – quite the day of travel that was all arranged from a simple piece of paper.
Railay Beach to Ko Lanta – piece of cake – one ferry – well almost – long-tail boat to a high speed ferry, parked in the middle of the sea, shimmy up the side, backpacks thrown in a pile, a stream of what seemed like never-ending passengers and the only place to sit was on the deck floor with feet dangling through the rails – yeah, it was a piece of cake. We’ll have to see what comes next but I have faith that we’ll land where we’re supposed to.
believing we’ll land on our feet