Thailand - Round The World Tour 3 2004 Day 258 (68)
Sunday 21st November
As was also the case yesterday, we spent most of the day today doing nearly nothing – and what a good feeling it is to do so. It was a slow start with a lot less coughing than yesterday. I’ve been nursing a sore throat for the past few days and have managed so far to keep it relatively in check with lozenges but late in the evening and early in the morning is when it’s most bothersome and I can sometimes have real difficulty swallowing. This morning was particularly irritating, as I couldn’t get rid of the tickly cough.
Breakfast downstairs was the same as yesterday. There aren’t that many people here in the resort as far as we can tell and we were again the only customers for this morning’s buffet spread, although this did nothing to diminish the enthusiasm of the staff in greeting and serving us.
Shortly after I polished off my toast and specially prepared fried eggs, I went off to find an Internet café to see whether the Bangkok Air web site was functioning again. Alas, it still had that annoying message about the online booking engine being down for maintenance. Bangkok Air is the only operator that I’ve found that flies the Bangkok to Siem Reap route for a decent price. At just 2,600B (€50) per person for a one-way flight, it seems almost too good to be true and I certainly hope that I can relocate those fares when the web site starts working again, assuming it ever will. We now have about a week before our initial thirty-day tourist visa for Thailand expires so we need to leave the country before then and I’m now banking on this flight to Siem Reap for this.
Whilst at the Internet Café, I noticed an e-mail from the Apple repair centre in Melbourne. I’ve been communicating with them about trying to arrange a warranty repair for my defective CD/DVD drive on the laptop. We still haven’t been able to watch any of those new release DVDs that we bought on the cheap in China. I’ll be so very annoyed if they are confiscated from us upon arrival in Australia before I’ve had a chance to watch any of them. Anyway, I had previously sent the repair centre the serial number of my little aluminium baby in the hope that this would be sufficient to validate the warranty but, alas, their e-mail indicated that they still needed some form of proof of purchase to boot (no pun intended). I did think of this potential scenario at the outset of this trip and printed off credit card receipts documenting the purchase for just this eventuality, so I e-mailed Lisa back in England to see if she could find them in the special stash we left behind. The repair will be quite a chunk of change if we can’t get the warranty validated.
I went back to collect Sandy and we both walked the couple of hundred meters up to the one main road that is Khao Lak. We popped into the Sea Dragon offices again to see about our wreck dives for tomorrow but none of the regulars we’ve been dealing with to date were there this morning. Instead, there was an austere Australia girl that I took an immediate dislike to. I kept asking her questions about the dive, such as visibility, whether we could arrange our own dive master, currents and so on, but she kept either evading the questions or giving me non-committal answers. In the end, I got so fed up with this that I decided on the spot that we would not do the wreck dives after all. Instead, we would travel back to Bangkok tomorrow, so we moved on and shopped around a bit for travel tickets to that end. We may be coming back this way to do the Surin Islands live-aboard so we might re-consider the whole wreck dive thing again then. Hopefully, a more competent rep will help us with our questions then.
Making phone calls here in Thailand, even local national ones, is very expensive and cumbersome compared to every other country we’ve been to so far. If ever there was a country where our own cell phone would come in handy, this was it, as there have been several times now that we’ve needed to make a call but have been unable to do so easily or conveniently. As we looked for travel agents, we also tried to find somewhere that sold a tri-band mobile phone. It has to be a tri-band phone if it’s to also work in the other countries on our destinations list. The one place that we were directed to didn’t seem to exist anymore so we’ll have to shop around in Bangkok instead.
Everybody and his brother here in Khao Lak has a travel agency outlet set up either inside or just in front of their premises. Not all travel agencies here are born equal, however, and if nothing else, our shopping around showed that there was some degree of difference between them all for prices to the same destination. Khao Lak is on the West coast but the closest and most conveniently located train station from here is near Surat Thani over on the East coast, a two to five hour bus ride depending on the type of bus. The air-conditioned, overnight sleeper carriage from there to Bangkok should cost something in the region of 550B (€10,58). One gentleman quoted me nearly 900B (€17,30) for this ticket. I queried this but he claimed that he had to book train tickets via special agency and it was this other agency that was charging the high commission. I thanked him politely and we were on our way.
After passing through a couple of different travel agencies, I was starting to get a good feel for the costs involved in getting us back to Bangkok. The Surat Thani train station is actually in a closely neighbouring town called Phun Phin and according to the train timetables, trains arrive and depart to Bangkok from there every half an hour or so throughout the evening so it seemed that the most cost effective option for us would be to just worry about getting to Phun Phin and buying the tickets ourselves directly at the train station – without having to pay anybody any commission at all. It turns out that there are several options for getting to Surat Thani by bus. Ranging from 90B (€1,73) all the way up to 300B (€5,77), you can take anything from the public bus all the way up to a small, air-conditioned minivan. The public bus took five hours but the minivan would traverse the slither of Southern Thailand in just two and a half hours without having to stop every fifteen minutes to pick up or drop off passengers. For this trip, time on the road was more of an issue than cost, so we elected to go with the minivan option. We booked this ticket with a rather nice, young, plump woman we felt comfortable with at one of the agencies down the main road.
With the immediate need of how to get out of Khao Lak now taken care of, we went back to the hotel for some more of the very serious business of lounging around the pool. Yes, I know, it’s a very hard life but, well, somebody has to live it, don’t they? We supplemented our time out in the heat with some more time lazing in our room. All of this hard work had to give way eventually, and after several ours of this backbreaking resting, we dried off and went into town to find something to eat. In fact, I already knew exactly where to go and we returned again to that one restaurant that is owned and operated, indeed also mostly frequented, by Germans. If Koh Lanta was teeming with Swedish, the Khao Lak is the hangout of choice for Germans. There was really only one choice on the menu for me – a whopping great lump of schnitzel that is a fare bit larger than most large dinner plates. Even after slicing a third of it away for Sandy to enjoy, I still barely managed to get through it al – but did! With a belly that full of schnitzel, there is little else a man can do but climb into bed and doze off – so I did.