Dan and Lu's Travels
We arrived at the Koh tao port just after 8pm for the overnight boat. I hadn't thought much about what the boat or journey would be like, as we're racking them up now. All I considered was that it was only 8 hours long. Its strange how quickly you get used to cramped and long journeys, so a 14 hour bus ride is now something neither of us would blink an eye at. yet at the beggining of February the thought of a 4 hour coach journey from Sheffield to London filled me with dread. After 33 hours staring at the back of the seat in front, convinced you are losing the abiltity to think properly, on a train in ietnam, 8 hours is like a walk to the corner shop. But, not suprisingly, this journey was again unique in its own way and uncomfortable in ways we hadn't yet experienced. Firstly, the boat looked small, like a fishing boat. But we were assured that it was the one to take us to Surat Thani on the mainland, so we boarded. We were releived of our bags and ushered upstairs, which resembled a refugee camp for dwarfs. I couldn;t tsand up straight, so dan was doubled over. Lining either side were thin, grubby looking mattresses, laid without interruption, and variously strewn with people and bags and guitars. On the wooden strip that ran under the open windows were numbers painted in white, which had no correlation to any numbers on our tickets. So we found two mattresses and sat down. Apart from the chlostrophobic surroundings, the first thing I noticed was ter bright, worrying orange of lifejackets which were at the foot of every bed. I suppose providing life jackets is a good thing, but like most people, I'd rather not see them as I instantly think about using them. There were many, many arguments over the next hour before we set sail between English, Swedish, Israelis, German and Americans about the ownership of the places and ticket numbers. Some of which I swear had been doctored so it looked like they had a number which matched where they wanted to lay. The problem was with people getting on, leaving a bag in a place and going for a drink in the port. When they got back on someone was in 'their' place. As one cockney guy, newly settled in what apparantly was an Israeli girl's place, put it, "You've not been here long, have you sweetheart?" Its one of the rules of travelling, no one will save your seat, its every man for himself, and its arrogant or naive to think otherwise. Once this sideshow had quietened down a bit (it simmered throughout the journey, with sarcastic comments in the morning) we had set off. The lights went off immediately and some Swedish guys started to play guitar and sing like they were at a boy scout camp fire. With the lights off it was easier to see the lightning that was flasjing across the sky. What with that and the life jackets we were both slightly disconcerted by this.... we were sailing into the storm. Then we stopped. But it was only at a night fishing boat for the captain to pick up some fish. Obviously. The storm, the singing and the constant trampling of people trying to get to the toilet went on for most of the night. Arriving at Surat hani we were eventually transported to the local station. We were heading to Trang and everybody else seemingly to Phuket. So they got a travel cafe and air con bus and we got a local bus station and a tiny minivan. It felt like we were going to Mars the way some people reacted! Within minutes of arriving at Trang we were in a travel shop and booked a lift to the local port and a bus to Singapore for next week. The driver of this minivan looked like a native American cheif (long white hair) and drove like Michael Schumacher. The other passnegers (locals) slept while we exchanged worried looks and hurtled through the forested countryside. We got to the shore, which wasn't a port so much as a collection of rambling wooden shacks and a few long tail boats. We were told it would be 100 baht for a ride to Koh Libong which was 40 baht more than we'd been told before and was greeted with much laughter from the group of locals sat there. We got them to agree to 80 baht but Dan was riled. We got on the boat and so did all the locals, which Dan took to mean we were paying for them, which was probably true. Then two guys picked up a motorbike and put it on the front of the boat, which concerned me slightly, but not as much as when they proceeded to load 3 more on and tie precariously with string. One last man got on and sat on a bike. Then the engine sputtered and we were off. 20 minutes and lots of sea water in the face later we were at Koh Libong. There are only two places to stay on the island and we wanted to go to the west, so we had to get motobikes. The journey was scary at times as the tracks were reminiscent of Cambodia. But it was worth it. Libong Beach Resort sounds grand, but they call a collection of a few bamboo bunglaows a resort in Thailand so it was exactly as we hoped. We've opted for the most expensive one as there is nothing to do here - no shops or bars and just the resort restaurant - so we can't spend a lot. Its lovely; wooden and bamboo on stilts with a balcony in front of sliding glass doors. The sea is about 10 seconds in front of us. At about 4 oclock the sea receeded, very quickly. dan said what had crossed my mind and got me panicking. "How far and fast did the sea go out before the tsunami hit?" So it was another 'imagine the headlines' moment. I've noticed that when travelling you don't think 'it wont happen to me', you think of the headlines in Briatin. 'Two Brits killed in thailand's second tsunami' 'Two travellers drowned in storm in Gulf of Thailand' '2 English in motorbike smash in Vietnam' You try to be logical about it but it does happen. So here we were, sat on the balcony looking at the almost non-existant sea, waiting for the wave. Which obviously didn't come. The I felt monumentally stupid. The clouds darkened and we had a huge tropical storm that night.