I took the overnight train to Surat Thani, in an attempt to get away from the tourist. But it didn’t work. Despite of being travelling in a lower class, the train was still full of tourists. Just a few locals were scattered and not very interested in interacting with another tourist. I was frustrated. But I tried to enjoy the novelty of these trains and I did. So much space, just a few berths and way cleaner and organized than the Indian trains. There was a person in charge of each compartment and he even organised the beds, made them for everybody putting clean sheets and a blanket and everything you could dream of. It seemed super luxurious to me. Was it too much? I was sorry I could not pay half of the ticket and get half of those things, to be honest. But the thing kept going and there was a restaurant compartment, where I enjoyed of a 4 dishes dinner that was ridiculous. I wasn’t prepared for anything and didn’t bring my own lunch so that was the only solution to my hunger. The dinner consisted in two different kinds of soup, a main with rice and curry and some fruit for dessert. You could even smoke in the car, you had your own table with a table cloth and proper seats, it was like a restaurant inside the train. And this is probably normal everywhere, but again, I was coming from India and I was shocked and overwhelmed by the comfort. Too much comfort.
I slept quite well, as I am used to by now and when I woke up, I found out that all tourists were getting down at my stop, which I thought it was a town in the middle of nowhere… Strange, I thought. But I understood when I came out and found out lots of Thais trying to lead everybody to their bus/minivan. They were asking me for my ticket. What ticket? I didn’t have any ticket and they were very surprised by that. I leaded to the public bus I was looking for and finally was only surrounded by locals. Hurray! I arrived with the main local bus station in the town and got off and asked where I was going. I was afraid that people were trying to mislead me, as they do in India, but when I assured the guy that I knew I had to cross the street to go to the other bus station and take a bus to Khao Sok he agreed with me and left me alone. Not a tout, I guessed. I went for breakfast, but the place was so in the middle of nowhere that all I could get was rice with some chicken and chillies and an egg. The rice felt heavy in my tummy but I was hungry and needed energy. So, about to take my bus to Khao Sok, that’s where I think I got scammed. They guy pushed me to get the ticket as the bus was departing and got me a sticker in my T-shirt with my destination written on it. ‘And you pay me now’ he said. The price seemed a bit more expensive than expected, I bargained, got something better….But when I got to the bus the locals were paying inside the bus less than what I did a few minutes before. Damn it! I got pissed off.
Finally at my destination, I got a free ride in a tuk-tuk. Finally something going well! Wohoo! And then I decided I was tired and the park seemed huge and there was not much you could do on your own and had to take a bloody tour (which I hate) so, I decided to stay one more night, take the day easy and do the tour next day. That day I only walked a bit through the park, but the trekking was not very long as it was about to get dark, the trail was in the middle of the jungle and it was forbidden to go beyond some point without a guide. I could understand: snakes, bears, elephants…were around. And the noises of the jungle were overwhelming to me. I was saying hello to every single person I was coming across during my trekking just to make sure that people had seen me, while I was thinking “this is the last person that has seen me”. Stupid thought, but I could feel the adventure and though a bit scared, my heart was jumping on my chest all happy again. I found the feeling I was looking for since my arrival to Thailand! Finally! Happiness was coming along with the adventure and it felt great.
After that, I enjoyed the tour so much! We were brought to the lake, at the other side of the park, where we enjoyed lunch and followed with a trekking through the jungle. We were told to use closed shoes and make sure we didn’t bring anything we didn’t want to make wet. They also said there would be a bit of climbing. After a while I understood: we had to cross rivers, rocky rivers. Everything was muddy, slippery. And some of the rivers were deep enough, water getting to my neck… That was fun!!! We crossed like 3 or 4 rivers, different depths and situations. While at the beginning everybody was checking for leeches and stuff, after a couple of them nobody worried anymore. We got to a river with a kind of lake or pool and we were left there for a while to enjoy. I showed everybody an improvised Jacuzzi coming from a waterfall and the massage area in the very waterfall. I have my own ways! Everybody was delighted. Then, he headed to the cave we were visiting. And… Surprise! The cave was full with water, which meant we were walking on rocks under the water and even almost swimming (swimming for some short people like me) in the darkness. Thankfully, we were advised to get lanterns and torches. It was amazing! And I understood what the guide meant when he said climbing: a small waterfall with a rope and…up we go! I put my torch on my mouth, to be able to see and up I went, of course, at the same time the water was falling on to you. The feeling of power and strength was exactly like the one I got the previous day or even better.
On the way back, nobody cared anymore about getting muddy. All of us had red muddy runners and clean ones after crossing every river and back to the start. As wet as one can be, we got back to the lake, enjoyed a bit of swimming…and that was the day!
It was quite interesting to see how different people were doing this tour: a couple of English women with their very old dad with a walking stick (he enjoyed so much just the boat ride and the lake views… His face was pure happiness and grateful to be there); girls alone, guys alone, couples, families with small kids. Of course not everybody did the trekking, as it was too hard or scary or they didn’t bring proper shoes. I got to meet an American originally from India that had been living in Phuket for 6 months and got the chance to exchange a few thoughts on things and also to learn and come closer to the Thai culture, especially what comes with boyfriends and girlfriends and customs and traditions of these people that we were discussing and comparing to other cultures and societies. Super interesting, I will get in touch with him again in Phuket, hopefully!
And after two days of adventure, I gave up and instead of trying the local way to get back somewhere to get ripped off, I understood that it was actually cheaper to get a minivan organised with transfers included and follow the tourist trail, despite my refusal. So I took a minivan that picked me up in my place towards Krabi, which I knew nothing about but was willing to find out.