At Suratthani, you found your bus, depending on the destination, and we were off to Phuket!
Or not. We drove into the city of Suratthani from the port, turned onto a dirt road, and wound up at a legitimate bus station (signs, ticket windows, other buses) surrounded by the setting of Deliverance. It was incredibly weird. “Suratthani town, get off here!” A girl near me expressed what everyone was thinking: “Suratthani town? What town? I’m not getting off here.” They made her get off.
We continued on with a half-full bus, until we stopped at this “did you know there’s a bus stop here, next to this Muay Thai gym?” location. I had some fried rice while waiting for whatever shenanigans would happen next, and happen they did. We were told to line up, then told “not all at once, I will call you” by the cranky husband of the really nice lady running the kitchen. We showed our tickets, signed the passenger log, and made sure to not approach the counter until called (“Mr. tatttoo in red shirt, you next!”).
I wound up in a shared van, and we were off toward Phuket. Oh, there’s a catch, of course: the van was going to Phuket town. If you wanted to go somewhere else on the island (EVERY SINGLE PERSON did…), it was another 200 baht ($6).
We stopped at this “did you know this is a bus station? because it’s really just a snack shop and noodle cafe” spot for the dinner break. Funniest part? We spent 20 minutes here, then drove about 8 seconds down the road to stop for gas. Why couldn’t the driver do that during the break? It was hilarious.
Also, the driver kept complaining that the way we were sitting wasn’t balancing the weight and causing problems for his driving (with all seats full, how else could we sit?) and forcing someone to come sit in the front and talk to him. It was a poorly-hidden excuse to have some company in the front.
When we were getting close to my hostel, I became the last passenger, which I’d dreaded. Luckily, it didn’t last long, the conversation managed to stay interesting (we talked about Obama, which is everyone’s favorite topic, I swear), and I happened to double-check my booking to realize that I hadn’t booked it to start tonight, but tomorrow night. Arriving at 11pm without a place expecting you, during low season, could be interesting.
When I showed up at the Pineapple Guesthouse, the lights were all off, but there was a doorbell. I rang the doorbell, the lady came out and greeted me by name (it’s REALLY LOW season, I guess) and showed me to the dorm, gave me some sheets and towels, and said we could do the paperwork in the morning, then she went back to sleep.
Having the entire room to yourself with 9 empty beds is pretty funny. I slept like a baby.
In the morning, I started my malaria meds, since I was going to India soon. Don’t take them on an empty stomach. I started feeling queasy, ordered some breakfast downstairs, and then had to run out and puke in the street, to everyone’s amusement. They understood when I said “malaria meds.” You apparently have to take them on a full stomach.
I fell into a relaxing pattern while staying in Karon. I had a daily walk (about 15 minutes) down to Sai Than Boon vegetarian restaurant (8 changing dishes on the food bar every day, choose 2 + rice for $1.73), sit on the porch of the guesthouse in the afternoon to do some work/plan my India trip on my laptop, and then eat dinner at the restaurant across the main street. Late nights included the 7-11 around the corner for bottled water and maybe some chips.
The only change to that pattern was on a Saturday. Sai Than Boon is closed on Saturdays, and my friend R, who I met in North Korea and saw again in Laos, was 2 towns over at some sports-detox-yoga retreat, so we agreed to meet up and go to the beach. We had lunch at an empty restaurant on the road to the beach and caught up on life. It was really nice.
Swim here we did! We also fell asleep when the sun went behind the clouds, and just had a lazy afternoon at the beach. It was great, other than donating my sunglasses to the ocean. Oops!
There were some amusing times in my spell in Karon.
1-on my first night, the owners’ daughters (approximately 5 and 8) were trying to jump rope by both turning the rope while one of them tried to also jump. I offered to help turn the rope, and they loved me from that moment. They convinced me to jump a few times and were really impressed that I got more than 30 jumps without a mistake (they’re easily impressed). They were also impressed that I could do solo jumprumping backwards & also do 2 turns of the rope in 1 jump. Minds=blown.
2-because of my friendship with them, whenever the girls would play hide & seek while I was in any of the public areas of the guesthouse, I’d often be the object behind which they’d hide.
3-on my last night, the girls introduced me to their favorite game: you blow up some balloons, lay them on the ground, count to 3, and then try to pop as many as you can, as fast as you can, until they’re all gone. The member of the group who pops the most wins. I wasn’t amused, but OK 🙂
4-I loved the Thai writing on Coke and Fanta bottles
5-the tablecloth at Sai Than Boon is all about coffee, but they don’t sell coffee.
6-this sign implies that there are no holidays between the arrows
7-quotation marks are killing the English language. Don’t order anything that comes with “cashew nuts.”
8-this sign at the guesthouse.
I spent 5 great days in Karon. I really enjoyed my time there. Some other guys showed up in the dorm half-way through my stay, and one of them had the WORST snore I’ve ever heard. I had to sleep with ear plugs in. However, I relaxed a lot, worked on my tan, and got a lot of work/errands done.
On the 5th day, I got picked up in a shared van for the ride to the airport and had some funny conversations with other people in the van, since all of our countries are having weird voting issues right now (US, Austria & Australia).
At the Phuket airport, I checked in for my flight to Bangkok Don Mueang airport, where I’d collect my bag and go to the Suvarnabhumi International Airport for a flight to Kolkata India.
Thailand was good to me, and I plan to be back in a while. Until then, these cool statues were there to watch over my journey.