Leaving Koh Tao?

Day 30 – Koh Tao  – Thursday March 31st 2011

We were up early, to get to Mae Haad pier as soon as possible. Trying to check out, the staff didn’t have the key to the safe, so couldn’t get my passport out. Eventually the key was found and we were trying to escape Koh Tao for a second day.

The pier was pretty quiet when we got there, so we were right at the front to get our tickets re-confirmed. One way or another we would be leaving today!

In the queue we saw the Basingstoke trio again, and also got chatting to a Melbourne couple who seemed pretty chilled out. It’s a shame that we don’t plan to as far as Melbourne. They made it sound like our sort of place.

Sea Legs

Nic and I took some travel sickness tablets and by some amazing fluke we survived the whole return trip without revisiting our breakfast. The journey was loads better, but there was still a load of sick bags being passed around.

The pier rumour may have been correct, as we ended up docked in a fishing village, where waiting TV crews were interviewing people as the loaded off the boat.

There was a free coach into Chumporn Town, so we got that. We found Fame Guesthouse near the Railway Station, and paid £1.50 each for a basic room with no fan and shared bathroom. It was fine by us, and the perfect place to recover from the island.

Fame have a decent restaurant downstairs which serves good cheap food, and even makes their own fresh bread every day.

We went to the Tourism Authority of Thailand office to find out about trains south. Bad news. No trains yet, but there should be one to Hat Yai in the next couple of days.

The Thai Met Office have advised against all non-essential travel to islands in the east or west and also advised caution in Southern Thailand. I am getting worried about missing our flight from Singapore to Bali on April 11th. Bali could be our only chance of getting on the beach.

Hidden Gem

Although not here by choice, Chumporn actually seems quite interesting. We ate some good street food at the night market, and the whole place is not really geared towards tourists. Often people pass straight through here on the way to the islands, but I will be happy to explore around here for a couple of days until the trains are running again.

Going South? Not Today!

Day 31 – Chumporn  – Friday 1st April 2011

Nic and I were up early, so we went for a walk to check at the Railway Station and TAT office. We thought it was an April Fools prank when they said no trains south for 4-5 days.

Despite the weather improving where we are, there are still large parts of Southern Thailand underwater. Roads and train tracks have been washed away, there are landslides, and buildings are collapsing due to structural damage. The death toll is still rising, and some areas have been entirely cut off to outside communications for days.

Although shocked by this new revelation, we still had plenty of time on our side. We found a brochure in the TAT office, “Chumphon Tourist’s Attraction,” which lists loads of things to see nearby.

We decided to stay put for a few days and explore this area. First on the list is a beach day to make up for the washout Koh Tao trip.

Finally a beach

We got a Songthaew to Hat Thung Wua Laen beach, which was highly recommended in the brochure. The Wikipedia page for Chumporn says this about the beach:

Hat Thung Wua Laen (??????????????) is perhaps Chumphon’s most popular beach. Both native swimmers and experts will enjoy this beach as its fine white sands slope gently into the sea. Sea fans, marine flowers sponges and a tremendous variety of reef fish make the scenery below the surface of the water every bit as spectacular as the beach itself.

 It didn’t disappoint. 25 minutes from our Guesthouse and we were frolicking gayly in the surf of a white sandy beach. The sun was shining, palm trees swaying, and mountains providing a beautiful backdrop to it all.
I Christened the day “Fuck Koh Tao Day.” I love Chumporn.
Note: Chumporn is frequently spelled differently, like many words in Thai, there are no exact English translations. Some versions we saw were Chumporn, Chumphon and Chumpon. There are probably more, but I chose to standardise on the Lomprayah Catamaran spelling, “Chumporn”.

Local Bus & Annoying British Business Owner

Day 32 – Chumporn  – Saturday 2nd April 2011

View From Our Room In Chumporn
View From Our Room In Chumporn

We have booked a tour of the local national park for tomorrow, which is combined with a snorkelling trip and fresh seafood. In the meantime we are making the most of this good weather and heading for another beach.

Hat Sai Ri (another beach) was also in the guide book, which recommended the local bus service to get there. The local bus is actually a giant wooden pickup truck, which we eventually found after a lot of walking.

Language barrier

The driver said 125B each, which we knew was too much. We went back to Fame Guesthouse and they explained that it was actually 1 x 25B each, not 125B. It was the way the driver said it that made it sound wrong.

After wasting so long, we decided to get a taxi there, and then use the bus to get back. Sai Ri was very different to yesterdays beach. Fish stalls lined the road, with strange looking dried seafood looking like aliens hanging from hooks. There was a short strip of stony sand and then the sea. A beautiful island, Koh Mantra/Maprao, almost felt within walking distance.

Later in the afternoon we waited at the local bus stop, where a bunch of people were already waiting. As we waited, a taxi turned up and offered to take us into town, but he was a lot more expensive than the bus. Luckily a local family helped us, told us we were in the right place, and showed when we reached town. All this without any English spoken. I love the helpful people you find when you need them.

Sitting in Fame restaurant, I was listening to a British woman, who runs a dive school on Koh Tao. She was trying to say that Koh Tao was fine, and that it was business as usual. She had lobbied the Thai met office to remove the weather warning, and talked of some sort of conspiracy theory about the evacuation. It really wound me up that a business owner was more worried about getting people onto the island than their welfare. When we left the island there were food shortages, power failures, no internet, landslides, buildings collapsing and no running water. Not most people’s idea of fine. Bloody British business people.

Looking forward to the National Park and Snorkelling tomorrow. Not looking forward to the seafood so much.

This Time Last Year

So my blog project has now come to an end after 32 days. I have decided to stop now, before I go mad. I will probably finish off writing up the whole trip at some point, but the pressure of writing daily was just too much.

Some of my favourite days: