So we are in Sydney, Australia right now. We are currently staying about an hour from the CBD (central business district). We’ve had a rental car since being in Australia (3 weeks so far). Today we met up with some friends that we made on one of the cruises, and decided to take public transit instead of driving down and trying to find/pay for parking. As we were on the bus heading back home, I was zoned out in my own little world when I was surprised to find that I understood all the chatter and talking going on around me. It was kind of a funny realization: I have gotten used to being on public transit and not understanding the language spoken around me 😉 So I guess it’s going to take a bit longer than 3 weeks to readjust to being back in English speaking countries.
Anyways, back to the second half of our visit to Thailand. From Chiang Mai we took the train down to Bangkok. It was a longer one (12 hours), but it was sooo pretty going through the jungle, mountains, rice fields, and then into Bangkok. I also really enjoy travelling the way locals travel. We were definitely the minority on the train, and it was cool to be served a meal of canned herring (some of us tried it, some of us didn’t try it, but I don’t think any of us finished it), meat and rice, and snacks of taro buns, coffee, soda, or water. We arrived in Bangkok and stayed there for 5 nights. We took taxis, rode commuter boats (they pack you in those suckers like sardines), walked and walked, and ate and had fun exploring with the Kinnis and Turners. We had a day at the zoo, a day travelling up and down the river and checking out the markets, a day of chillaxing at the park and pool, and a day walking around downtownish….
Then it was on to another 12 hour train ride, this one overnight. We booked second class tickets, and were each assigned our own berth in an open train car (not open air, but open seating). Because the train was late leaving, as soon as we got on the train, the attendant was making up beds, and we were more than happy to climb into our selective bunks and have some nice down time. It was really nice having our own space (hahah, you know you’ve been travelling a lot when you consider a bunk in a train car with a curtain around it a nice private space). I pulled that pink curtain shut, started to write in my journal, only to wake up 11 hours later almost at our stop. Gotta love being rocked to sleep by a train 😉 We took a bus, then a ferry, and then a taxi to an amazing little hotel/resort on Koh Samui, an island on the east side of Thailand. It was gorgeous. Amazing. place. We ended up having two full days (arrived at 10am and left at 5pm the next day), and spent a few hours of each day at the beach. We also walked around and checked out the area we were in (the quieter side of the island Mae Nam), which was awesome. I would go back there in a second. We had the beach almost to ourselves, and it really felt like a piece of paradise down there. A very nice rest before hitting the road again and heading to Malaysia.
The only train to Malaysia that we could find left the Surat Thani train station at 1am. So we booked it and hoped we would still be awake when the train came through, and the station would be safe. We considered renting a hotel until midnight, but Surat Thani is a small town, and there weren’t any hotels close to the train station. I looked up tonnes of reviews of the station, and found a few by single females travelling who said it was safe, and they had no problems. So after leaving Koh Samui at 6pm, we got to the train station at around 9pm, and settled in for the wait. It was HOT…open air train station, old station (no air conditioning, so electric outlets, no vending machines, open air toilets). Just some plastic seats out in the open with some stray dogs wandering around, locals waiting for trains to come in, and lots of bugs. It was a long wait…we didn’t have our usual electronic entertainment, since our iPads and phones were running low on juice and there was nowhere to charge them. But we felt safe. And it was kinda fun. The police did a regular walk by, and there were guards on the other side of the tracks. Every time a train was a few minutes away, one of the guards would run across the tracks and ring this HUGE bell and yell that the train was coming. No automatic boards updating times here. There was a chalk board that was updated by a lone female worker every hour or so. Our train didn’t end up arriving until 3am. We made some friends with a group of “kids” in their early 20s. They weren’t sure if their bus was picking them up at 4am or 6am. Jo had a nap and then chatted with them while we walked around in circles and tried to stay awake. One of the policemen asked if he could get a picture with Jo (this has happened a couple of times in Thailand…the same with Jo’s cousin Roscoe). I can’t tell you how tired we were when the train finally arrived. We stumbled onto the train, crawled into our beds (yep, pink curtains for privacy again), and were asleep before the train even left the station.
So final thoughts on Thailand: We loved it. We loved the food. We loved the people we met. We loved the flora, fauna and amazing, gorgeous beaches and water. We loved meeting other tourists, but also loved meeting locals. We loved bartering. We had taxi drivers who spoke a little English, and some who spoke zero English (we used goolemaps and cellphones a LOT). We can’t wait to go back and experience Thailand again some day 🙂