Started the day by booking a ferry transfer to SuratThani on the mainland. In one day I hoped to reach Khao Sak national park, I could get a bus from SuratThani there, over half-way across the mainland (about 130km).
There must have been some miscommunication about the transfer times because over an hour waiting at the resort I was still waiting for my pickup. Eventually it showed up and we went on a death ride across most of the island. The driver was speeding and doing reckless maneuvers to make up lost time. We had one very near miss with oncoming traffic. We reached a dock miraculously unscathed and I was transferred to a coach which took me to the Raja ferry port. At the port were a number of big car ferries and we walked on board past the shell of a big boat on the shore. The coach drove on board. I stayed inside as I was knackered and the views weren’t anything magnificent and read my Kindle. There was a lounge and shop inside with comfy seats and tables, though the boat was pretty old and showing its age. It was fairly quiet, most of the passengers were Thai with some tourists thrown in.
A few hours later we arrived at Donsack docks and got back on the coach. About an hour later we reached the outskirts of Surat Thani and the bus stopped a few times with people getting off. I knew the bus terminated at the bus station or train station so I stayed on. We stopped in the centre and the last people got off, it didn’t look like the bus station so I asked the driver and his assistant, who didn’t really speak English – fortunately I knew the name of the bus station and they drove me a few blocks to there. I got out and asked for my backpack from the hold, miming what I needed and pointing. The assistant seemed confused and discussed with the driver. I kept repeating what I needed and tried to open the hold door but it was locked. The assistant told me, “No, at office” “Your bag at office”. Great.So either I was being lied to or there had been a mistake and my bag had been offloaded at one of the earlier stops. I insisted it was in the hold but they weren’t having any of it, telling me it’s at the bus office. A songthaeow was nearby and the assistant spoke to him and told me that he’d told the taxi where to take me. I was the last person left and didn’t really know what to do. Noone spoke anything but basic English. If they were trying to drive off with my bag, I could make a scene, but I didn’t even know if it was inside. The confusion about the bag’s location seemed genuine and they’d made the effort to drive me to the bus station beyond their normal stop. In retrospect I’m still not sure what the best course of action would have been. Refuse to leave the bus until they opened the hold? Then they could have driven me off anywhere or if things got ugly with my refusal, I wasn’t in great shape to defend myself with the shoulder. Actually I think know phoning the tourist police would have been the best option, that’s if they’d stayed around for me to make a phone call. Anyway it wouldn’t have worked because I later found out my Thai phone had barred me from making calls! Interested to hear what you think I should have done.
Anyway, what I did do, was get in the taxi hoping that I wasn’t being strung up. He took me to the bus office a few km away. The main road seemed familiar but I wasn’t sure if we’d stopped there earlier as the bus curtains were closed. When we arrived it was after 5 and the place was shuttered up. Bugger. Now I was really stuck. I had no choice but to stay here tonight and try the office tomorrow. Thankfully I still had all my money and most of my valuables on me, but the main bag had plenty of expensive stuff including all my travel clothes, hard drive, little camera, credit card and more. I asked the taxi driver to take me to a hotel from the guidebook. When we arrived he recommended I call the tourist police and to him it sounded like my bag had been taken. At the hotel, a little way out from the centre, the staff only spoke basic English. I was shattered and feeling light headed, it had been a hot day and I hadn’t slept well the previous night. I got into the hotel room and rested to collect my thoughts.
I thought I should call the tourist police to get some advice. That’s when I discovered that my Thai phone was blocking my calls. I assumed I’d ran out of credit. The way I saw things, if the driver had gone off with my bag, it would be long gone by the time the police tracked it down anyway, plus there were many places the bag could have been taken so nothing could be proven. Therefore there wasn’t a massive urgency to get hold of them, plus I still hadn’t verified if it was at the office, although the more I thought about it the more unlikely it seemed it would be there.
First step was to get some phone credit, if my bag was gone tomorrow I’d need to phone all the relevant companies. I’d also need to buy a load of basics to be able to continue travelling at all. I only had a very basic map of the city but knew I was near the Tourist Information, it would be helpful to find that for tomorrow. Noone spoke enough English at the hotel enough to help so I went out to hunt around 7pm. I passed shops and restaurants and eventually found a 7/11 and bought some phone credit. I didn’t have any joy with the tourist office and as it was getting late I headed back. I managed to get the hotel wi-fi working after a difficult explanation with the front desk, unfortunately the tourist police didn’t seem to have an English presence online. I tried to top up the mobile phone but got the same Thai voice message. Damn, something was wrong with the phone. I decided my best course of action would be to find the tourist information tomorrow and get them to help me with the phone, then I could go to the bus office and if there were any problems I could phone the tourist police from there. Had a restless night.