MATT: On the 2nd of Jan we left Samui. After buying a combination travel ticket (650 bhat, £13) which seemed like a good deal to save us some hassle for getting from Koh Samui to Khao Sok. It turned out differently.
The ticket includes pick from hotel at 6.30am, transfer to ferry terminal, ferry to mainland, transfer to Surat Thani and bus to Khao Sok. What happened was:
Picked up at hotel at about 7am. Transfer to pier - picking up other passengers en route - where we are pointed in the direction of the appropriate ferry. The ferry is about 15mins late (no biggie) - but when we get on the ferry - it is packed. People are complaining that they can't get off as their bags are at the bottom of a huge pile on the deck and the ferry people won't help them get them out. So some get off - leaving their bags behind, others stay on leaving their island behind.
We find a space to sit down amongst all the broken people on deck (all coming from Koh Pangnan (party island) most people look pretty rough...some have already been on the boat for three or more hours. Every piece of floor space is taken - there are about 500 people on the boat which is supposed to max out at 340 (it says on the side of the boat). The crossing is pretty good, not too bumpy and on time. When we arrive at the mainland there is a free for all - everyone trying to grab there stuff from the pile on deck...luckily we were last on, so our stuff is at the front and we are off the boat pretty quickly.
From the pier we can see the melee on board as everyone else try's to get off...but we are off...so hey!
We get our transfer tickets from the man at the picnic table at the end of the pier and are asked to sit over there and wait. We wait for about 30-40mins while everyone is told which bus to go to for all the different destinations. People are running around looking stressed trying to get to the right buses - we sit and eat some banana cake that I picked up at the 7-11 the night before.
Eventually we are told which bus to get on, we get on, sit down and off we go for about an hours transfer to a relay point. All the buses from the pier, with all the passengers, come here...so what difference it made which bus we got here I can't see?
We settle down to wait to be told which bus we transfer to. The people going to the airport get taken away first - seems reasonable, then all the different destination buses start to arrive and take people off for their connections to Phi Phi, Krabi, Bangkok etc. We wait. We wait for about 2 hours for the bus we are supposed to take to Khao Sok...eventually we get on amidst the grumbles of many of our fellow passengers. We have been in Asia for 2 months now and know the drill - so Kel and I are still pretty chilled and don't see the big issue...we are on Thai time.
The bus takes us for about 5mins to another bus station to swap buses...we could have walked it...the other people from the other buses are all here...why did we have to wait? Again our fellow passengers moan and complain - we shrug and go with it.
We transfer to another minivan, being told this one will take us to Khao Sok...about 5mins on the road it stops and we are told we are transferring to a big bus...that's fine we think...we get our stuff off the minivan and onto the big bus. We are the last ones to transfer our stuff, and as we are climbing on to the big bus, our fellow passengers are climbing off and getting their stuff out of the baggage compartment - complaining there is no space on the bus - it is already full with people standing in the aisle. This is where we make our big mistake. In a wave of their indignation we are carried along and get all our stuff off the big bus too (we should have stayed on - so what - we stand for a bit). Before we know it - we are on the pavement, in the middle of Surat Thani (a town that lets it's hotel rooms by the hour) in the rain. I should also explain that our fellow passengers are five Germans and a meek English couple in their early twenties. The Germans have now taken control of the situation and are devising plans on how to get to our destinantion.
To their credit - within the hour we are on a private hire minivan whistling along to Khao Sok - where three of us are headed - and Ko Lak - where the others are going. About two hours later (about 4 hours behind schedule) we are standing on the side of Highway 41 at the entrance to the national park (again in the rain) with our new friend Mark from Frankfurt. But we have shelled out about 4 times as much to get here as we should have...you live and learn!
Things take a turn for the better...a very friendly Thai chap says he will drive us - for free - in his little battered jeep to the hotels we want to check out. This seems a bit dodge at first - but he explains he makes a commission from whichever hotel we stay at...he also runs tours in the national park, which we can check out while he drives us around...fair enough. He turns out to be exceptionally cool, and drives us around while we discover that we should have booked ahead. While everywhere we have been so far has had plenty of places to stay Khao Sok is full! He takes us from place to place and eventually Mark gets a very swanky room in a place which just opened the day before and we get a hut on stilts in the jungle. It is a little run down, but has a hot shower, a mosquito net and a fan...what more could you ask...it is also relatively cheap and is inside the National Park. A stream runs under the hut and the jungle (with all it's inhabitants around). Our friend has also got a booking from us for the following day for a jungle trek...so win win...
So after what started as a pretty, disjointed day, and a ropey journey here - we are happily sat at a table in the restaurant of the lodge we are staying at eating super spicy Tom Yam Soup (eyes running, nose dripping pleasure) tired and ready for the next day. Glad to have left tourist land on Samui and full of beans that we are moving again and having little adventures. We head to bead early, full and tired...can't wait to get out into the jungle tomorrow...
Kel: Khao Sok was such a great visit and such a refreshing change to the islands. Very lush, very wet, very full of creepy crawlies. We went for a day tour around the main lake and had a really nice time. Mark, our german friend was on it too, plus some nice girls from Malta (they were proper princesses so I secretly reckon it was a reminder to Matthew that I am not really that bad) We headed across the lake on an hour trip and got to a very remote floating village (basically v basic huts rafted together) We had a swim in the fresh water (v lovely and not too cold) and then went on our first kayak adventure. All I'm saying is that Matthew may be scared of mossies but he's not of floating black and yellow snakes in the lake - eek. Thai lunch then followed by an afternoon trek through the jungle going through a lot of streams etc. Funny moment when we were trying to work out if we could fit everything in our pockets. Mark said he didn't think he'd manage to take his mossie spray, and I no sooner said 'don't you have pockets' before he appeared in the most skin tight lycra shorts for his trek.... so german! The walking was great fun and after 1.5 hour we got to a cave where we got to see lots of bats and that's about it. We both got a few kisses from leaches which was a new experience. I did go a bit girly at that point cause I remembered Matthew saying something about how you remove them. So he immediately started rummaging in his pockets and before I knew it the guide just pulled it off me (I think I removed it's head just after - euch) Afterwards I found out M was looking for his pen knife to scrape it off so I'm glad the guide got there first.
We drove home in our guides banging 4x4... literally. Black shiny speakers in the back seat and a tv showing karaoke thai music videos. If you're going to blast it out though, make it good. Thai music is not cool.
Off tomorrow to Phuket.