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11.28.2002

I Get Around

I've been asked how we physically get from place to place. There is no one answer, it changes every time. But I'll describe our journey since Ranong.

We left the hotel in the morning and walked 2K to the bus station. We took the air-con government bus to the crossroads where Khao Sok starts wnd were dropped off. A chorus line of Touts waits for you there, all of them yelling, shoving and elbowing their way to your wallet. They want to take you to bungalows (the bungalows pay them to drop people off there.) Harper and I chose to walk, instead. So we hiked about 2K to the side track where a number of bungalows were set up. This doesn't sound like very far, but in 95 degree weather at 90 percent plus humidity with a 40 pound pack on your back and a daypack strapped on your front; it's a hike. It's slightly cheaper to stay outside the park, so that's what we did. We walked up and down the track (maybe 1K itself) and looked at several bungalows until we found one we liked.

When we left, the bungalow owner drove us to the crossroads in his pickup truck, where we waited for a local (non air-con) bus. When it came, we took it through the hills to the crossroads at Takua Pa. The driver specialized in terror, whipping it through the hills at top speed. In Takua Pa we almost took a local bus all the way to Krabi (there was not a direct air-con bus for another six hours), but decided at the last minute to take our chances switching at a town down the line. So, we hopped off of the local, and onto a Phuket-bound bus. I asked the driver if he could drop us at Khok Kloi, and if we could change busses there. After having previously been told this was not possible by the local bus driver and assorted workers at the Takua Pa terminal, the air-con driver told me that we could indeed do just that.

(I should point out that Khok Kloi was not on the map in our guidebook, and had it not been for the excellent Thailand map Steve Strang gave us just before we left, it would have been six hours in a hotbox).

The bus dropped us off at Khok Kloi, we were told that the bus to Krabi would come by at 2:15 PM. It was 11 AM. The street stank of urine. We quizzed a few other people also waiting (all Thais, no Farang here at all) to see if they knew anything about a Krabi bus, and 2:15 seemed to be the consensus. Every local bus that passed tried to get us to ride on it, no matter where they were going.

Since we had some time, I walked down the street a bit, looking for a toilet, and bumped into a bus station. They told me that, no, there was a 12 bus for Krabi, air-con at that. I needed to run to make it. So I did, jogging back to the bus stop where Harper waited with our bags. We grabbed our bags and ran down to the station. This was harder than it normally would have because we had stashed out packs in duffels (which we do on busses, longtails, etc.) and had not taken them out. But it was allgood, as the duffels also protected our precious packs from some street goo, that got all over Harper's outer bag.

The bus, which like all busses, blared Thai music the whole way (and I've really come to like Thai music, by the way. It's a mix of traditional Thai stuff and rock and roll.) eventually droped us off at the station outside of Krabi. Tuk Tuk drivers tried to get us to ride with them to our hotel, but we fended them off with a steady chorus of "mai ao khrap/kah"s (a must learn phrase for Thailand: "no thanks") and opted for the songthaeu, which was 40 Bhat cheaper (a total of 40B, rather than 80B). The songtheau is essentially a pickup truck with two benches in the back and a metal frame overhead. We took the songthaeu into Krabi, and then hiked all around town until we found a place to stay that was both clean and affordable.

When we decided to go to the beach at Hat Napharaat Thara a few days later, we once again rode a songthaeu there. This one was full, and we had to stack our bags in the roof, and ride standing on the metal frame on the back of the truck. Once at H.N.T., we put our bags on a longtail and took it across the river to the beach on the other side (10B). Then we hiked along the beach, looking at various bungalows. As you can see, we usually aren't packing more than a kilometer or two at a time. I went back and forth one time from HNT to use the Internet across the river.

When I was returning (also with six liters of water, which are cheaper to buy at markets than bungalows, 25B vs. 60-90B), the boatman wanted to charge me 20B, rather than the posted fare of 10. This was bad enough, but then he made fun of my Thai to this cronies. I couldn't understand it all, but I got the gist when he was repeating my phrases and they were laughing. I told him "mai ao, khrap, I'll swim." He laughed. "Too deep." Pissed off and determined, I swam the river instead, six liters of water in one hand, hat, shirt and CD-RW in another held aloft over my head. Since the river is only about 30 meters wide, and almost walkably shallow, this was no big deal for anyone but the boatman.

We reversed the longtail/songthaeu process back to Krabi, and a few days later, took a ferry to Ko Jum. The ferry boat-big, modern and full of Farang, was bound for Ko Lanta. But you take it to get to Ko Jum also. It stops halfway to Lanta, where it is met by four longtails from the bungalows on Ko Jum. The longtails tie off on the ferry, and you jump on, pack on your back. This is sorta nervy. Especially since only one longtail can tie up on each side of the boat. If yours is the outside longtail, you have to climb off the ferry, onto a longtail, across that longtail, and onto another. All the time rocking in the sea.

So, the long and short of it is transport is always different, always interesting, and usually really fun. Bits of it can be exasperating at times, but if you keep a good attitude it's one of the best parts of the travel experience.

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