Saturday, May 2, 2009

holy travel batman!

sitting in an internet cafe in chumporn, thailand, realizing how crazy today was--and with an 8-hour overnight train ride to bangkok in just three hours, realizing it's not even close to being over.

false start.
location: ko samui (island, 5 hour boat ride away from chumporn). ferry to catch @ 8 am. wake up at 6:45 for taxi or tuk tuk to the pier. nadine's phone alarm is an hour off thai time. back to sleep.

6:45 am. snooze. 7:00 am.
us: "taxi! how much to mae nam?"
driver: "500 baht"
us: "no way, too expensive. it's close! we'll pay 300 baht."
driver: "no it's on the other side of the island. price is 500."
us: "ok bye."
driver: "ok ok 2 person 300 baht."

first two hours were ok. american film was played to pass the time, and visions of passing islands were enough to keep us occupied, despite gloomy weather. but the ferry stopped at 3 islands before arriving at our destination on the mainland, and nadine and i managed to pick up a pack of hungry, uppity children who feasted on potato chips, yelled in our ears and pulled our hair. for three hours. and the boat played a thai pop showcase dvd, which at first was an interesting look at thai culture, but seven costume changes and 2 hours later became downright tedious. and there was something about the husky voice of the woman making port announcements that really irked me.

to the train station.
despite having exhausted our friends' thailand travel book the night before, transport from the pier to the vicinity of the train station proved to be the most difficult twenty kilometers we will ever travel. having suffered a total of 80 mosquito bites on a gnarly hike yesterday, i had resigned myself to leprosy and hoped nadine would take the reigns when we arrived at the pier. she came through and found out we could get a bus there, but the crowd's stares were making my welts throb, so when i saw a motorbike taxi driver pull up, i jumped at the opportunity to leave judgemental eyes in the dust. after haggling a suitable price, we locked in like lincoln logs and set off for chumporn station. if only it were that simple.

five km in, he stopped the bike on the side of the road, pointed to a section of his bike, pointed at nadine, pointed back at his bike, and spoke thai. confusion. luckily he had stopped at a little shop/shack housing an english speaker, who told us he would go fix his bike and come back in 15 minutes. we could wait in their hut. so nadine got a snack, i silently cursed my failed insect repellent, and we both kept our eyes on the road, sure he would return for his 300 baht.

after 15 minutes, our hero returned--and right on schedule for the thunder storm, which was in full force no more than 5 km after our return to the road. our man pulled over yet again, this time to show us it was raining (clearly, as the motorbike is uncovered) and settle into his poncho. i put on a jacket, knowing it wouldn't help, and all nadine needed was her jamaica tank to brave the storm. so we set off for the third time amidst thunder, lightning and a torrential downpour fast-forwarded by the forwardness of our motorbike. soaked to the bone, polka-dotted and unsure if we would ever reach our destination, i couldn't help but smile--because i knew despite all the beautiful beaches, sugary-sweet mangoes, and friendly people we've met, this day, that moment, was what we would remember first.

chumporn station.
so we finally arrived, sopping wet, at chumporn station. changed clothes, found out the next available train was at 11:30 p.m. (it was 2 p.m.) and asked for directions to the nearest restaurant. we were directed to a cafe, which ended up serving only dessert and coffee, so we vowed to return after a proper meal. just down the dirt road we ate a delicious meal that we figured out cost 50 cents each--our cheapest yet--and headed back to the cafe for cake and shelter. our original plan of staking out at the cafe for the next 7 hours quickly became unimaginable, as the aircon was too high and we could not envision eating anymore cake.

guest house.
nadine and i found out about a guest house near the station, which is costing us a few dollars to seek refuge before our next trek. luckily it's also near a mall with $3 jeans, which i desperately needed due to my previously-mentioned leprosy. they're men's mustard-colored cords, but combine the right price with desperation and you've got yourself a deal. so we've been relaxing in the minimalist guest house compound all day, nadine ipod-ing and me rubbing my legs with anti-inflammatory cream.

so that's our day. starting off on the southern coast of thailand at 8 a.m. and (hopefully) ending hundreds of miles north at the nation's capital exactly 24 hours later. what's next for us in bangkok? a hotel, a shower, laundry, a thai massage, and a high five for finally making it.

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