Most of our posts on this blog will be happy recollections of some moments of our trip. But life on the road won’t always be fun. We feel like we’d like to share some of these moments of misery too. (OK, and vent a little about them too…)
Sometimes travel is exhilarating and challenging… sometimes it is just frustrating. When you’re on the road, you have some relaxing days, some big adventurous days, and some just travel days. The travel days are the ones where you have to move between locations and if you’re lucky, it is a quick and comfortable trip. If you’re unlucky, it can be the opposite.
We had spent a long time deciding which Thai beach to visit and had ultimately picked Koh Lanta after reading some amazing reviews on other blogs and looking at some pictures. The only problem with Koh Lanta is that it is relatively far south of Bangkok, actually a bit closer to the Malaysia border. We had heard that it wasn’t really that hard to get to though – just a quick flight from Bangkok to Krabi and then grab a minibus from the airport that will drop you off at your accommodation on the island. Sounds easy right?
Our long day started in Bangkok where it was hot and sticky. We knew we could get to the airport via the metro/train and were intrigued by the challenge of getting there on our own. Even our hostel hadn’t known about this connection! Their first instinct had been to take a taxi! But, we thought we could do it more cheaply (and more adventurously) ourselves. This involved a 10 to 15 min walk to the metro and a quick trip (just one stop) to the Hua Lamphong stop which is also the main Bangkok train station. We bought our tickets quickly (and cheaply for only 20 baht… though for some reason they were more expensive than the train tickets we had bought a few days earlier that had taken us all the way from Ayutthaya to Bangkok), got on the train, and headed to the Dong Muang airport. It actually all went according to plan! We should have been pleased… except we didn’t take into account how horribly humid Bangkok is. We were leaving relatively early (about 7:15 am) in the morning so we had figured it wouldn’t be too hot yet. But we were wrong. By the time we arrived at the train station, we were already dripping (yes, actually literally dripping) with sweat. The train was unairconditioned. We got some seats (which was lucky) but they weren’t right under the fan which was unfortunate. So we sweated more. When the train was moving it wasn’t too bad as the windows were open, but for some reason the train stopped a lot! By the time we arrived at the airport, Della felt like she had just stepped out of the shower, except instead of being fresh and clean she was stinky and dirty.
The Bangkok train station
Our flight actually went quite smoothly, no problems at all! But it was on a budget carrier (Thai Lion) that we hadn’t used prior and the space for your knees was the smallest we had ever seen!
The next part was what we were least sure about. Multiple sources had indicated to us that we could just grab a minivan from the Krabi airport straight to Koh Lanta. So, once we landed, we set out to do this. Unfortunately, information at the airport was unhelpful and told us we had to go into Krabi town. We found another desk selling minibus transfers to multiple islands. They had one to Koh Lanta, but it was 490 baht instead of the 350 baht we were expecting. They told us they could take us into Krabi town to the pier for just 90 baht. They also said that the only way to get any bus at all would be to go to Krabi town. We thought we might be able to find the cheaper transfers from there so we got the ticket.
We piled onto a crowded bus and headed into Krabi town which was unfortunately 30 min away (in the opposite direction from Koh Lanta). When we arrived in town, we definitely did not go to the pier, or even to downtown, or even where there were any businesses at all. They dumped us off the bus at their main office and we had one choice – to take their expensive minibus. Either that or to head off into town on a hot day with our bags, not really knowing where we were going or how far that might be. So, we bought the tickets.
They said they would drop us off at our accommodation at Klong Nin Beach in Koh Lanta. There was some confusion as they had never heard of our place and didn’t seem to be able to read the map we were showing them. But they threw up their hands and just shoved the tickets at us. We assumed that meant that the driver would know. After the exchange was made, it was 1:15 and we thought we were going to get on the 2 pm bus. They hadn’t bothered to tell us that the 2pm bus was full so we would have to wait for the 3pm bus. Ugh.
With nothing to do but wait, and having had no food since breakfast, we decided to eat (at their restaurant). We were a little frustrated to give this annoying company more of our money, but we were hungry so we did anyway.
At 3pm, our bus pulled up. We tried to talk with the driver to make sure he knew about our accommodation. He didn’t speak much English and walked away from us without ever communicating. Rude. But, we piled on with several other tourists. We were almost full to capacity when we left. Then we drove back to the airport! Here we picked up about 5 more people… even though we had been told when we were at the airport 2 hours earlier that this was impossible. The new arrivals crowded into the bus that only had 2 seats left… Luckily for us, we weren’t squished so badly, but others in the bus had to sit 3 or 4 to 2 people seats. Then, finally we set out for the island.
It is a long drive (about 2 hours by any calculation) with 2 ferry crossings. The first one was fine. But, for some reason, the second ferry crossing took us about 45 min. The crossing itself is quite short, but it must have been rush hour on the island or something because we waited in a line of vehicles for about 35 min before we even got onto the ferry. By this point, everyone on the bus was hot, crowded, and grumpy.
Other cars getting loaded onto the ferry
After the long ferry crossing, we headed farther onto the island. The minibus stopped at the first main beach where some people got out either to stay there or to be transferred to a taxi to get to their accommodation. Here we tried to communicate again where we were staying. Our driver still didn’t understand us so got one of the taxi drivers to come and help. We said we needed to go to our place on Klong Nin Beach. He said, oh no, this minibus doesn’t go there, you will have to pay for a taxi. This seemed outrageous to us, so we absolutely refused. We had been told we would get to our accommodation and the minibus was going to take us there.
Ultimately, it was no problem, the minibus headed for Klong Nin, and we weren’t even the last ones off the bus. However, they did not take us to our accommodation and we did have to walk a ways. By that point, we were just happy to be off the bus.
We finally arrived at almost 6:30 pm. Luckily, our room was waiting for us. It was fan only, which we knew, but we could have really used some AC just then. We were also surprised that while having a toilet and a shower, our room did not have a sink. Strange?
Our meal location once we got settled was pretty relaxing
Decompressing after a long day
But nothing really went wrong, and we made it safely and in one piece. Still, days like these can be so taxing. Heat, frustration, fear of getting ripped off, and delays can really take their toll.