No photos for this day I’m afraid. There wasn’t anything worth photographing with all the rain! Got up early for the mini bus to leave Khao Sok. Mr Bao kindly gave me a free breakfast as a parting gift which I wolfed down as I was running late and the pickup was waiting for me. Everything I had was wet after my recent exploits and it all stank of damp, both my clothes and my bags. Pity the person who has to sit next to me on the bus! I said goodbye and was taken to the mini bus stop, chatting to some other travelers whilst I waited. The mini bus was packed full of other travelers and I chatted in the back to some Dutch guys and an Aussie girl. Turns out she was going to Nepal too and would be spending some of the time doing voluntary work. Good way to see things on the cheap, I should give it a go sometime.
The journey to the west took a few hours and took us past more impressive jungle and hills, though of course it rained the whole time. At Krabi, as I’d learned in advance, we dropped a few km outside of town in a useless location where the travel office was, effectively forced to get a taxi anywhere useful. I was prepared for this but some of the other travelers were understandably annoyed. It’s undoubtedly a cynical way to get more money out of travelers, the travel companies work with the taxi drivers. I grouped in with the German guys and another girl who were heading for Krabi centre and we haggled to an acceptable rate to get a taxi to town.
Krabi is the stepping stone to a lot of the western isles and nearby beaches, and so It’s a tourist haven filled with hotels and travel agents. In the wet season though it wasn’t that busy and seemed a fairly unremarkable town, the only thing of note being a big blue and white temple we saw whilst we wandered looking for a café to have a break. We found a streetside café frequented by muslims (who make up about half the population here), and I had a tasty pancake (Roti) with curry sauce. Yeah yeah, so pancake with curry sounds wrong but trust me, it’s good. We chatted and the Dutch guys were heading off to a nearby beach. I thought they were mental, it was raining now, but they were optimistic the weather might get better in the next few days. I wasn’t. I wished them luck as they got a bus off. The girl, who was a 28 year-old German, had come from the same islands as me and also done a tour to the lake at Khao Sok, the day after I’d come back. She had done the mental river trek we did and said the conditions were as bad as ours, with them having to cross in chest high waters whilst their guide stood in the middle of the river holding the bamboo bridge up. We weren’t alone in the madness after all!
I had the day to burn, there weren’t buses heading to Bangkok till the late afternoon and all I had to do was use the internet to get some more organizing done. So I accompanied the girl (I admit it, I’ve forgotten her name after a month!) as she looked for a guest house. She was heading down to Malyasia in the next day or two. We found her a hotel and then we went to a nearby café with wi-fi to hide from the rain. We chatted for a few hours. I had a stress when when I turned my laptop on there, it failed to boot with an error message appearing. But the next time I tried, it was ok. A bit worrying, it was only a month old and already flaking out! Then we went for a quick walk around town. We found the big temple we’d seen earlier and it turned out to be brand new and really nice. Big white dragons adorned the staircase leading up to the temple and a garden was on the hillside beside. Inside the temple intricate and colourful paintings covered the entire walls depicting Buddhist scenes and on the back wall was a massive battle showing demons and humans fighting. The window shutters had nice carvings and the main doors were bronze embossed with warriors. The whole place looked great and the outside looked cool, not garish like most Thai Wats.
I’d been having a good time and had decided to get the last bus to Bangkok at half 5, according to my info. I was running a bit late now, said goodbye and jogged to the bus stop. I caught a songathew packed with people heading for the bus station. I cursed as it went on a round-about route through town, stopping regularly to let people on and off, as my time was ticking away. I only had about 15 minutes left to get to the station. The locals on board were friendly and understanding of the space I was taking up with all my bags! Two boy scouts were standing on the back step, hanging on the rail. I willed the vehicle faster but it was rush hour and we moved at a snails pace.
Five minutes before my bus was due to leave the driver dropped me off at the side of the road. “The bus station’s here?” I asked. He pointed up a side road – the songathaew follows a fixed route. Crap. I grabbed my heavy bags and shuffled along as fast as I could (bearing in mind I’m one-armed because of the shoulder) following the side road as my last seconds drained away. A bus for Bangkok passed me and I tried to flag it down, but the driver pointed behind him in the direction I was heading. I tottered along in the rain and as I finally saw the bus station I saw the second Bangkok bus leaving. That would be the last one. Shit. I was just a few minutes too late!
I decided to check out if there were any night buses I’d not heard about and went into the station. An official lady asked me where I was going. “Bangkok. Am I too late?” “Last one’s at 6 o’clock”. Well thank god for that! I had wanted to travel on a local VIP bus as they are super-comfy and the trip is about 12 hours, but this final one was the standard local coach. It had air-con and standard reclining seats, but no meal or other niceties. After my bag woe in Surat Thani I stuffed my main bag under the seat which just about fitted, and was sat next to a fat Thai guy who I pitied as I smelled badly of damp. There were only two other tourists on board, the rest were Thai including some soldiers in camo.
I was really hungry and ate two packets of crisps hoping that a meal would appear from somewhere. Sadly it wasn’t to be. It was after 6pm and getting dark. I got a shock when the voice of god boomed out from the speakers saying something in Thai. It was really echoey and way too loud. Inexplicably, five minutes later they turned off the interior lights. I was reading and tried to turn on the light above my seat. It didn’t work. None of them did. We’d been plunged into darkness and it was only 7pm! Are you kidding me?! I was annoyed, I wanted to read. We had a 12 hour ride ahead of us!
Thankfully I had my iPod on me. I passed some hours listening to music and a few podcasts, before it ran out of battery. The landscape we passed seemed similar to Khao Sok, in the dim moonlight I could see forested strangely shaped hills passing by. Other traffic at this hour was mainly haulage. Occasionally the driver would beep, presumably to get dogs out of the road. At about 10pm we reached Chumpon on the opposite coast, and stopped at a bus depot for a break, filled with stalls and restaurants. I grabbed a bowl of rice and pork. In the break I extracted my laptop and torch. Now I was set. I turned on the laptop to write some of the diary, and to my horror the same error message as earlier appeared before Windows even started. Again and again I tried, with the same result. It sounded like a hard drive error. This was bad, although I had all my photos backed up elsewhere, I’d only have one day to try and get the computer fixed before I was off to Nepal or my photo management was going to be a nightmare, plus I could wave goodbye to the photo blog and convenient internet research! I knew my chances of getting it fixed in Nepal were slim at best. I tried to forget about it and read my Kindle using the torch until I managed to get some really crap sleep.