After missing the flight to Krabi, delaying beach paradise by 24 hours, I had no idea that the worst was yet to come.
The travel agents at Bangok told us it would be 11 hours, not 24 like we had expected, to drive straight to Koh Lanta from Bangkok. Perfect.
So my travel companion and I had our drinks in Bangkok, ate some Pad Thai, and although no Mexican man whisked me away to (even more) exotic lands, a Turkish hairdresser did at least try to. A whole day of 3 massages, 2 temples, 2 purchases and only one attempted scam, and we were ready to board the bus. In high spirits, with calmed muscles, exfoliated skin, pedicures. How could this ride ruin our mood, huh?
Well. After walking for about 15 minutes with 17kilos on my back and 10 kilos on my chest, I was still happy enough. We waited at the standard ‘bus station’, actually known by travellers all over SE Asia as ‘random spot at the side of the road’.
There is something that no one bothers to warn you about when you plan your trip to Asia. In Thailand, there are no sleeper buses. Let me repeat, so you are warned where I was not. There are NO sleeper buses in Thailand. Travel agencies will tell you they have ‘same same but different’. Cut out the ‘same same’ part and they are dead right. These buses have reclining seats and blankets, but that’s your lot. Your legs hang like dead weights, stuck under the chair in front, wedged into the window, and curling into the usual fetal position is just not an option. No matter where you sit on this bus, and regardless of whether the toilet is used or not, the smell will reach every nostril in every corner of the vehicle. And someone will snore. Someone else will talk in their sleep. Some might even kick. And just as you doze off into a peaceful slumber, where you can escape the air con blasting -2 degrees directly into your left eye, the driver will pull over and chuck you all off the bus, in the middle of the night, for a rest stop.
You get the gist. It was a painful bus journey. And remember our lovely travel agent, who promised 10 hours? Ha. Try 17.
Needless to say, we dumped our bags at the hostel and went straight to the beach to pass out on the sand. It was beautiful.
So that was travel hell story number one. Number two is the return flight, which we did manage to catch (I know right, what am I expecting, a pat on the back?) We were incredibly sleep deprived after three nights on Koh Phi Phi (if you’ve been, you’ll know. Nobody sleeps in Koh Phi Phi…)
We struggled onto a boat, slept the whole ride, then a man approached us at the pier to offer a minivan ride to the airport. Perfect! Wait here, 5 minutes, he said. He left his friend with us and said ‘follow him’. So we collapsed into a chair and just about stayed awake. And then the friend asked me ‘why you didn’t take minivan?’ I told him I thought that’s what we were waiting for. After some back and forth, his broken English and my foggy brain just not cooperating with each other, I established that man number one had left us minivan-less and that his ‘friend’ had been allocated to tell us. What a business man. There are other words I would also like to call him.
So a few more hundred baht, some petty angry chucking of suitcases into a taxi and thirty minutes later, we roll into the airport. Not in the best of moods. But relieved to have made the flight this time.
We jump straight into the check in queue and thirty minutes later we meet the front desk, where the lady tells us we can’t check in for another hour. Great. So we sit in a cafe for a bit before queue number 2. This time, we get to the counter, and there seems to be a problem. ‘You haven’t booked baggage. You have to pay 900 baht.’ Of course! Of course there’s more money to be paid. A long argument, lots of emails pulled up on my phone and thrown across the counter. I pointed out that there would be no earthly reason to book one bag for one person on the outbound flight but to book zero bags on the return flight. But she didn’t seem concerned. So I said fine, I’ll pay. But folks, by this point, you will not be surprised to hear that it was not that simple. There was a whole different queue for this. I had to queue for the privilege of paying double the price for something I thought I had already paid for. And then – yep, you guessed it – queued all over again at the check in counter. If I had found someone deserving, I really would have punched them in the face. As it was, I just ate a sandwich and got on the plane.
I slept the whole flight, which was uneventful, thank goodness. We staggered off the plane, more tired than we had ever been. It was past midnight. We followed signs to the taxi rank, ready to fall through the first door we found, but the driver was strangely uncooperative. He kept pointing behind me, and I just knew that the huge queue of people in the tiny horrible box room just COULD NOT be what he was pointing to.
But of course it was. So we queued. Again. For another twenty minutes. And once our driver had called our hostel to ask for directions, we were good to go. He even found it.
Four flights of staircases later, beneath 17kg of clothes I wanted to burn, it was time for the best cold shower of my life and an 11 hour sleep on the firmest mattress in Bangkok.
I know people say that ‘it’s all about the journey’, but, folks, trust me – sometimes it’s about the destination. The journey can go f*** itself.
Feature photo credit: Ed Gregory