The boat to Chumpon arrived 15 minutes after it had taken us away from the Island and straight away we could see why it was late. There were bodies everywhere – The maximum number of passengers on the boat should be 279 and we think there were at least that amount on there as it took half an hour for the tiny boat to disembark all its passengers. We were given direction by an obvious old school mistress in her best English. Like all the Thai boats we have been on, we were issued with coloured stickers to identify our ticket type and destination and so she stood in the middle of us all pointing to a board with stickers on and shouting through a childs loud hailer – 'Led , led (red) sticky – you go to Bangkok by bus - Yes??', followed by ' Gleen, gleen sticky?? You take a dah tlain no?? You get a bus to tlain from boat – understand me – say yes if you undersand ??' - I think she knew she sounded funny and the way she did it with the little loud hailer and then getting us al;l to clap the guy holding the stickers board made it even better – she was cool though and had a big smile all the way through her speech.
We were lucky as there were only about 100 of us leaving the island so there was a bit of room for us to spread out – even though the 1st people onto the boat had decided to take more seats than they needed. Buffy decided to spread herself out on the floor at one point and got some good sleep. It wasn’t a comfortable journey, but after 3 hours we arrived at the port of Chumpon, which looks much like any port town in Thailand or Malaysia with coloured fishing boats everywhere and a ramshackle bus that once we got off the boat we were all expected to board for the transfer to town and the train station.
There must have been 50 people on our bus, with a tiny wooden bench running down the middle of two other tiny wooden benches, much like the army trucks of the 90's and earlier. It was a 40 minute ride to the train station and every-time we passed a 7/11 Nicki decided we were there and that the restaurant recommended by her guide book should be right there and we should walk there from the train station. However since most of the 7/11's were about 20 minutes drive from the station we ended up in a restaurant next to the station called 'Enjoyable place' with free wifi and a Thai boxing ring that was taken over by some kids while they were waiting for their train too. My chips came really quickly but the rest of the order got lost so everyone else had a long wait before finally reminding the waiter dude. I took a walk around while they ate and saw a massive rat get hit by a car before running off as well as a car with its doors wide open and blue neon lights shining out as it played bad, loud music. Obviously there isn’t much entertainment around here! Finally as I got back to the restaurant, I was accosted by a Thai English student who had a questionnaire to practice her English, which I spent a couple of minutes filling in as she asked me the questions in English. All in all a fun hour or so!
|Slightly busy boat!!|
|Nightlife Chumpon style|
|Overnight train 2nd class!!|
|Buffy finally gets her new camera|
|The reclining Buddha|
Later, when we finally left the restaurant we had spent our evening in, we said goodbye to the friendly staff and made our way across the road to the train station. Soon after arriving on the platform our train arrived and we tried to board it, but were told 'No! Next train'. By a surly security guard. The train had arrived on time and appeared to start at the correct city and go to Bangkok, but obviously, somehow, it wasn’t our train. We continued to wait and as the next train arrived a local dude, started to say '170', '170 Bangkok', which was our train number, so in the end we boarded this one and as we did a ticket collector saw us and seemed relieved that we had found our correct carriage – he showed us to our beds – all top bunk beds, above a slightly wider lower bunk. Beside the beds was a luggage rack and ladder to climb up to our pits. It was all very organised and surprisingly comfortable, once you climbed up to your sleeping area. It was nearly midnight by now and so after am excited chat and a quick look around the train, we all piled into our beds, pulled our privacy curtains and went to sleep.
The night was a bit of a mix – good sleep when we managed it, but interspersed with the noise of coffee/fried chicken and other food sellers, making their way through the carriage at every stop, shouting in Thai about what they were selling. Its weird that they are allowed onto the train to sell stuff and I’m surprised none of them ever get trapped on the trains as they seem to still be walking through the carriages as the train moves off. But in-between all the noise we actually got a not bad night sleep and arrived only a little tired in Bangkok just after 9am.
A taxi took us to Sivarin Guest-house – our home for the next 3 nights and soon after we were off out to get a new camera for Buffy and to see some of the 'local parts' of Bangkok. We ended up walking for well over an hour to find the camera shop Buffy had discovered online and after getting her camera, her, Joel and Nicki also had some passport sized photos taken for their visas when they pass into Cambodia and Laos. We also found an Imax 3D cinema showing the final Harry Potter movie later that night so we booked seats went home and got changed and were back at the cinema a couple of hours later after pizza for dinner. The movie was really good and made even better by the massive IMAX 3D screen and it was a nice relaxing night out in the madness of Bangkok. On the way back we stopped by at the Kho San Road, the backpackers haven lined with pubs, travel shops and clubs, where everybody seems to go. Its not actually as bad as some places I have been to, but after a wander along the road and back we headed off home to bed.
The 2nd day in Bangkok was taken up with visiting the Temples of the Emerald Buddha and the Reclining Buddha as well as the palaces that have lots of Thai history. It started with me getting pissed off though when I saw that one of my flip flops (expensive flip flops) had been nicked overnight – The guest house owner at first thought it was funny and I nearly lost my rag – But when he then spent nearly an hour searching the local streets and bins for it, I forgave him. He also tried to pay me what I paid for them (about 5000 Baht), but I couldn’t really blame him as you leave your shoes outside everywhere here and its just bad luck – plus he thinks a dog probably ate it!! So I let him keep his money (which is a lot of money for the locals here) and shook his hand. He seemed might relieved, but he is a good bloke and Ill get myself a cheap new pair sometime.
I know how big the Reclining Buddha actually is, but the girls seemed particularly impressed with it – it is about 46 metres long!! They also seemed impressed with some of the shopping malls here and the fact that you can buy a top for as little as 20Baht (About 40p) If it lasts a day its worth every penny. In the evening Joel and Buffy went out to see a Lady-boy show while me and Nicki went around the corner to a local restaurant for dinner. It was called the 'Aloha' and the friendly host wore a Hawaiian shirt to add to the atmosphere. He served me a can of coke with a photo of the Chelsea team on the side and when I pointed to it he apologised and admitted to being a fellow Man United fan who had actually met Bryan Robson when he was manager of the Thai football team. After that he was the best host for the night and served us great food with a big smile. It was a good hour or so and a great way to end the day.
On the 3rd day we were up early and on a minibus to the floating markets by 7.30am. It looked like the same market I visited last time I was here, but I cant be sure. Either way it was a good half day out, taking a long boat around the canals and then following the girls and Joel as they bought presents and clothes for themselves and friends at home. We also met a couple of Americans from San Diego, who we had a good chat to on the way home. After a restful afternoon we went out in the evening to a cool rooftop bar to get a drink, some dinner and to see the city from a different angle. It is called 'Moon Bar' and we spent a good couple of hours up there chatting and taking in the sites of night time Bangkok. It was a great way to spend our last full night in Bangkok.....
|Floating Market boat trip|
|Things you cant do in a Bangkok taxi - !?!?!?|
|The city at night|
|Me and the Buffter|
|Nicky Buffy and Joel at The Moon Bar|
However, it turned out that it WASNT our last night in Bangkok. During the next 24 hours we had a change of circumstances that meant our departure day was spent doing something entirely different and unexpected – although when you think about it, it wasnt THAT unexpected. I would tell you all about it now, but the story will continue over the next 2-3 days and hopefully get to a conclusion. We ARE leaving Bangkok early tomorrow morning and after spending 12 hours on a train will arrive in Thailands 2nd city of Chiang Mai in the evening. Give me a couple of days up there and I will endeavour to explain the circumstances surrounding our change of plan and the reason that I now have a sore arse..........
To be continued.....