We rolled into Bangkok around 10pm with no plan and nowhere to stay. We took our chances and headed back to the Sawasdee Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 8, knowing we had already payed for 2 nights in advance for when we should of arrived back from Chiang Mai. The manager was sympathetic to our situation and kindly switched the dates of our stay, which was a huge relief.
After a hard night’s sleep, we return again to Khao San Road and got a full refund on our tour. Heidi and I then booked onto a new tour that would take us to Erawan Falls and the Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi, which was about 3 hours north west of Bangkok. The rest of the day was spent visiting ‘Big Buddha’ and museums, while dodging a huge down pour when we jumped into a Tuk Tuk. As crazy as it sounds, a Tuk Tuk ride in monsoon rain is as much fun as a ‘wet and wild’ roller-coaster. The Tuk Tuk dropped us off at Hua Lamphong station. There Heidi and I booked our tickets to the Floating Market and for the same day our VIP bus and ferry trip to the island of Koh Tao. A good tip if you’re purchasing train or overnight bus tickets in Bangkok; always get them direct from Hua Lamphong station, they are the cheapest price (no tour operator fees or add-ons) and the information staff are very helpful.
Erawan Falls and the Tiger Temple
Light pierced through the blinds and I dived out of the bed with panic towards my phone. We were suppose to be at Khao San Road at 7am, which was a 30-40 minute taxi ride across town. The time was 06:26. Damn! My alarm hadn’t gone off. A space of 10 minutes of erratic scrambling saw us finish packing, check out, put bags into a lock-up and dive into a taxi. The taxi driver sensing our hurry, hit pedal to the metal and shot off up the street. Time was ticking away and we were hoping a 30 minute journey on a good day without Bangkok traffic would magically turn into 24 minutes. As 7am approached I took a chance and called the tour’s driver. He told us that he would wait 10 minutes but no later. No word of a lie, we arrived at Khao San Road exactly 07:01. We payed quickly with a generous tip and started running towards our pick-up point. We had made it! Other people on the tour were stood waiting and the mini bus hadn’t even turned up yet.
I slept most of the 3 hour bus journey to Kanchanaburi. The tour took Griff (Heidi-Louise) and I to Erawan Falls first. The waterfalls have many levels and I believe we reached the 4th level with the time we had. On the 2nd level you were able to go for a swim and climb up onto the rocks below the waterfall that lead into an opening. I sat there for a good 10 minutes soaking up the moment before leaping off, through the waterfall and into the pool below. Anyone who knows me well, will tell you this adventure is ‘right up my street’. Griff on the other hand wasn’t having as much fun. Heidi’s irrational fear of fish was stopping her from getting into the pool. To be fair there was roughly a hundred big fish swimming about and they’d have a nibble at your feet once you stepped into the shallow water but they were harmless. It took about 20 minutes to coax Heidi into the water. Once in, she was still uncomfortable having the fish around her and even with me helping her along in the water, she was erratically swimming towards the waterfall. Then came problem number 2. Once Griff had got behind the waterfall, we now had the issue of getting her off the rocks, as Heidi also has a phobia of having large amounts of water around her head. Again it took a while to get her off the rocks but she threw her self off and swam as quickly as she could to the other side to get out. In all the panic and adrenaline, Heidi hadn’t realised she cut her foot on the rock as she had landed into the pool. Poor Griff wasn’t having a good day so far but I was proud of her for facing her fears.
Onto the Tiger Temple, which is run by Monks. This was well worth the money as we were able to wander around and have pictures taken with both adult tigers and cubs. The Tigers’ keepers, which were mostly British and Australian assured us that the Tigers weren’t sedated as all of them had grown from cubs in the complex and were use to having humans around them. Though they stressed that didn’t mean that they weren’t still highly dangerous. The Tiger Temple also had farm animals wandering around freely including Wild Boar and there was also a pen for a family of Black Bears.
With the exception of the mad rush across town and Heidi’s mini panic at the falls, it turned out to be a great day.
The Floating Market
With the rucksacks in lock-up waiting for our overnight trip to Kho Tao. Heidi and I were on a tour to see the Floating Market in Ratchaburi, which is roughly 2 hours west of Bangkok.
The Floating Market is a photographer’s dream, not to mention a brilliant place to pick up a bargain. As the name states the market is floating on various linked canals in Ratchaburi and they also have stalls up and down the banks of the canal. There is a variety of goods on offer, from a lite bite to your full weeks groceries and cheap souvenirs to amazing pieces of hand crafted sculptures. It’s a buzzing market atmosphere from 7am until 3pm. It’s worth paying the little extra to have a hand paddled boat (Thai equivalent to a Gondola) tour for 40 minutes on the canal, that way you get right in the heart of the action. At any point in time you can get the boat to stop if there’s something that catches your eye. But make sure to bargain, usually the best way to start is to immediately half any price the seller gives you. Unluckily for the lady we came across selling a beautiful vase, she had met her match in ‘The Griff’. Heidi’s background in buying and previous experience of roughing it out with China’s tough pearl market dealers, saw this lady’s value of the vase drop from 500 baht to a mere 180 baht, which is about £3.60.
After the Floating Market the tour took us on a Longtail through the canals to view the local village. Each house sat on the bank of the canal and the front entrance was via the river. The houses were quite run down and looked to have been built by the villagers but at the same time there was something honest and homely about their simplicity.
Another fantastic day out and now we were both looking forward to getting to Koh Tao to get some beach action.
The VIP Bus to Chumphon
Griff and I had eagerly arrived early for our overnight trip to the island of Koh Tao. The bus was picking us up at 8pm and we’d arrive in Chumphon at 6am ready to catch the 7am ferry.
At the front of the cue we were hoping to grab some good seats. Though our bubble was burst as when we got onto the rough looking double decker bus, it was already full with the exception of a few remaining seats. As none of the seats were together, Griff and I had to sit separately. Heidi plotted up in a window seat and I had to squeeze into an aisle seat next to a bloke who was well over 6ft 5″, myself being 6ft 1″ made this a very uncomfortable journey for both of us and I’m sure he was wishing I’d chosen somewhere else to sit. At least in 12 hours time we’d arrive on the sandy shores of Koh Tao. The journey however felt like it would never end.
I was wide awake and legs dangled out into the walkway. I was lucky that the bus was playing the movie ‘Blow’, which was able to take my mind off the situation for a couple of hours. While the movie was on a heavy down pour caused the back of the top deck of the bus to leak and water had reached a row behind me. Some people had to move to the lower deck with no seats, while others patched up the leaks with plastic carrier bags and ducted tape.
Around midnight the bus pulled over for a break. As I got off the bus my flip flop broke. Brilliant! Heidi then told me of her nightmare story of jumping spiders, lack of sleep and a leak above her head. She claimed that she wasn’t cut out for the backpacker lifestyle. I was tired and to be honest not in my most cheerful mood. My reply may have been a little harsh but if I recall correctly, I think I said something along the lines of; “Man Up!” and reminded her we were a few hours short of paradise. As we all got back on the bus, my fellow passenger next to me was greeted back on board by a giant cockroach on his seat. Things couldn’t have been more perfect.
Another 3 cramped and sleepless hours went by. Then at 3am the bus came to a halt. We were at the ferry port, 4 hours early. Everyone had to get off the bus and find shelter from the rain until 7am. How convenient that the only place open with shelter was the ferry port’s restaurant. Heidi thought my conspiracy theories were amusing but as you’ll see from future posts, this becomes quite a regular occurrence in Thailand.
As the sun arose it brought hope of the good times that lay ahead. Fingers crossed!
You can read more of my journey here:
From W5 to Bangkok
To Ayutthaya and back again
Waterfalls, Tiger Temple and the Floating Market
Koh Samui Archipelago
Krabi: Thailand Transport and Ao Nang
Krabi: The final days in Thailand
The highs and lows of Langkawi