The Great Affair is to Move: To Koh Phangan We Go
“In a flash I built a raft with twigs and vines I found on the forest floor complete with lady only chambers and a fresh water bathing area. ” Harriet, First Lady of the Adventurer’s Club 1937
Following 6 days at Kata Beach we felt it necessary to have 11 days at another beach. Is there a better way to spend January? After some research we decided that Koh Phangan a little island off the South East coast of Thailand was exactly what we were looking for, namely beach side relaxation and peace and quiet. Originally we were looking to go to Koh Samui but felt that Koh Phangan would be a better choice for us, reviews suggest it is less touristy and more remote, with endless heavenly beaches.
We were due to be picked up from our hotel in Kata at about 6.45. Over an hour later a packed minibus showed up with every seat taken with either a person or their luggage. Seeing no obvious place to sit, the driver managed to get us seated in one seat. Dan had to share his seat with a tower of massive backpacks which were precariously balanced to the roof of the bus. I had to sit on the edge of his seat and on someone’s suitcase. If I hadn’t have already suspected it, it was obvious at that point that I was not in for the most comfortable day. I was comparatively happy to be in the front row of seats though with Dan on one side and the door on the other. After about 30 minutes drive we stopped to let 2 people and their luggage off. I had to get out of the bus to let them out. Hooray..I was about to get upgraded to a seat of my very own. Wrong, two more passengers were to get on. The bus driver, who had the personality of a hand grenade, pointed at me and then at the back row of the bus. I pretended not to notice this. I was about to get relegated to the worst seat in the bus. With an audible sigh (and a few sweary words) I crawled over everyone to my place in the back row. My full arms were touching the full arms of the two sweaty men on either side of me, my knees were rammed up the seat in-front of me and I had my rucksack on my lap. My seat and the one next to me were the only seats were you had someone on both sides. The man next to me at least knew the person on his left, officially making my seat the worst on the bus. I am prone to projectile vomiting on long journeys and I pictured the scene later that day if the ride got a bit bumpy and I showered everyone in sick. I took one too many travel sickness tablets, put my hood up, closed my eyes, put my Malcolm Gladwell audiobook on and tried to zone out. Luckily my Thai motion sickness tablets are not non-drowsy and I spent most of the journey in a partial coma with no real sense of were I was or time passing. An hour or two into the journey we had a 20 minute pee break in the middle of nowhere. One man got off the bus with a promise from the driver that another bus would be along shortly to pick him up. Poor guy, hopefully he is not still sitting there. We were all put back on to the bus like a jigsaw puzzle and continued our drive for a few more hours. I was thankful for my tablets, not only was I zombied but without them the bumpy roads would have caused much vomiting. We pulled up at a travel agency and had to get out the bus along with our luggage. The agency was a one room affair and resembled a backpackers refugee camp. People got on to our bus and we were told to wait. We were called to a desk one at a time and asked where we were going. As we already had a hotel booked they didn’t waste their time giving us a sales pitch. With some new fluoro stickers on our bosoms we sat down again. I paid 5 bahts to pee in a hole. The staff at the travel agency made our bus driver look like Tinkerbell. I watched as one of the staff tried to force two young girls who were travelling together to go on two separate buses to the airport. One of the girls was crying and the driver shouted at her to move away. Four guys were complaining that people were getting on the bus before them even though they had arrived first. They were sent with their bags to a bus out of sight around the corner. We seen them an hour later heading back to the agency, having clearly been sent on a wild goose chase. None of the staff spoke to me, correctly sensing that being rude to me would result in a punch in their face. A large tuk tuk/bus came to pick my group up. They tied our backpacks to the top of the bus and I had to wrestle with the driver to keep my rucksack containing my precious netbook on my lap. We travelled for a few miles and then had to get off again to talk to another travel agent. I let Dan handle it while I snoozed on my backpack. We were loaded on to yet another bus, this time a spacious air-conditioned coach. Ironically, we were on the nicest bus for the shortest time. We got off the bus at the ferry dock where we were given new stickers from a stressed out woman at the desk who shouted “FOUR O CLOCK” into thin air at random intervals. We waited for about 45 minutes and then had a long walk to the ferry. On the ferry we chose to pay a few Bahts for a seat inside with some air conditioning. After our rough ride and my history of sea sickness we figured it was worth the cost. The ferry ride took over two hours and thankfully the sea was very calm. From a distance all the islands we passed looked beautiful and Koh Phangan was no exception. We got off the ferry and walked towards the main street. We were hounded by tuk tuk drivers and hotel touts. “SIR, SIR, LADY, WHERE YOU GO?, SIR, SIR, WAIT”. Not taking a tuk tuk whipped them into a frenzy and they were harder to get rid of than a tropical disease. We had not had any food all day and I was about ready to eat Dan. Luckily (for him), we quickly found a restaurant and had some dinner before we caught a tuk tuk to our hotel. Unlike the tuk tuks in Bangkok, these were bigger like taxis, and are actually just pimped out pick up trucks. It was pitch black at this point and I was hanging on for dear life as we bumped up and down numerous hills at a speed those vehicles should never be able to reach.
We were very impressed at the first look of our hotel. We had booked the Haadson Resort on Expedia because of its wonderful sounding room description. A bath tub, fridge, bath robes, cable TV, air conditioning, a balcony, a hammock, it sounded perfect. It was more expensive than other places we had stayed but we wanted this part of our holiday to be really special. We looked at reviews online before we booked and everyone we seen raved about it. The night before we arrived we realised that we had been looking at reviews for the wrong hotel- same name but different location. We felt pretty stupid but we were still excited after seeing the photos of the rooms on Expedia. We checked into the hotel and were taken up many flights of stairs in the pitch black garden. It was a really long trek and I was glad someone else was carrying my backpack. When we got to our little bungalow there was a hammock and balcony outside but the inside was tiny and empty. There was no fridge, TV, bath tub, bath robes, no pictures on the wall. Just an empty cell slightly nicer than the one we stayed in Phuket. After our long journey to get to this, I wanted to cry. I thought we must have made a mistake in our booking because we mixed up two hotels. We checked online and no, we had booked a Garden Room which is what we were in and we checked the room description. All the luxuries we had paid for were listed there but certainly were not in the room. We took the long walk back to reception and explained that there was some mistake, we had been put in the wrong room. They checked our booking and told us we were in the room we had booked and paid for. We explained that we had booked it because of the description on Expedia. The manager checked it and said that there was a mistake with the website. He said we could find somewhere else to stay but he would not refund our money. If we wanted the room we were expecting then we would have to pay extra for it. That was really not an option, we had gone well over budget booking this hotel. I was about ready to scream my head off so I sat down and let Dan handle it. He wanted to call Expedia but the manager would not let us use the phone so Dan had to go all the way to the room and back to get his phone and was then put on hold with Expedia for ages. I asked the receptionist for some water and she of course charged me for it. Eventually Expedia claimed responsibility for posting an out of date room description (according to the manager) and they were willing to pay the extra for us to be put in an upgraded room. Our new pool view room was much nicer than our first one but still nothing like what the website promised. I was too tired to argue for what seemed like a lost cause. The room was much bigger and it did have cable TV and a fridge. We went to bed completely exhausted and a bit dejected. So far, so not relaxing.
No pictures as sadly I forgot to charge my camera battery before I left Phuket