Leaving Bangkok I didn’t really have much of a plan other than ‘go south’ so I decided to get the train to Chumphon (about a 9 hour ride) and go from there and figure it out.
There is pretty much nothing to do in Chumphon itself. I stayed at Salsa hostel which is pretty nice, 2 nights in total as I had stuff to do online and i’d arrived late the first night. Anyhow, you can catch ferry’s to South Thailand Gulf Coast islands from there and that’s what I elected to do. I decided on Koh Samui, which was actuality furthest away, but I didn’t fancy Koh Tao as I suck at swimming and it’s a diving and snorkeling haven and the fact that Koh Pha Ngan hosts the infamous Full Moon Party instantly put me off.
I decided to stay in a hostel called Chill Inn (no relation to that on Koh Rong Sanloem) and it was a most excellent decision. Very relaxed, very fitting name.
I spent a day just relaxing at a place called Beach Club with some friend’s from the hostel.
Another day we visited Waterfall 2 and then Waterfall 1 (as they are commonly known) , which were both pretty cool. You can do a bit of swimming in both, which is useful to cool down as it was very hot and a bit of a walk.
Annoyingly though there was a lot of Elephant Riding going on at the entrances, lets not kid anyone here, it’s abuse plain and simple. In my view Elephant Riding is a disgrace, the animals are beaten into submission to be rode in the first place, they are kept in horrible conditions and biologically they are just not built to hold humans on their back, let alone when a seat is up there too. Sadly there is also a Tiger photo booth there, essentially the Tiger’s in those places are fed tranquilizers (I have heard Ketamin is frequently used) to subdue them.
I went up to the main Lamai beach strip one night to watch football in a bar (Southampton won, I was happy) but that unfortunately means I did see a lot of the side of Thailand (along with the animal abuse) that I dislike – namely drunk Westerners everywhere and multiple ‘girly bars’. Nothing wrong with drinking of course but that place just seems tacky and over the top.
From what I understand the island is half party and half chill, and our hostel was essentially at the half point between the two sides.
Anyhow the rest of my time was mostly just spent relaxing at the hostel and in the evenings at the nearby Rock Bar (named because it is built on the rocks, it actually plays Reggae non-stop) with a few folk from the hostel. It was a good place to take it easy!
From Koh Samui I took a ferry to Surat Thani.
There I got scammed out of 60 Baht annoyingly, as I wanted to get a mini van to Ranong and had no idea where to get it because I couldn’t see the stop advertised anywhere and had to ask a Travel Agent, who tried to charge me 400 to go there. I said no way, and after he asked me much did I want to pay I took a guess at 250. Of course when I was then taken to the correct stop (which had no English, just Thai, so I would have had a hard time trying to locate it anyway) I could see the actual fee was 190. Ah well, the 2 other Westerners on the bus had paid 290 each so I guess I got off lightly.
Ranong itself there turned out to be little of interest tourist attraction wise, though as a city it was interesting to observe the people which were a mix of Thai and Burmese (it’s really near Myanmar) and I think others as well. The highlight seemed to be the hot springs but given it was about 38C I had no desire to go and make my body even hotter! There is a kind of garden and palace to check out too but it wasn’t overly interesting. Some of the building’s in the city caught my curiosity as they seemed colonial in design, reminding me of the French style in Laos and Cambodia.
Anyway, if you are in Ranong at all there’s a kind of restaurant meets tourist centre called Pon’s Place that does good food (particularly on the vegetarian front) and seemed to have plenty of info for travellers. Guesthouse wise I stayed at Casa Teresa which despite being behind a building site was actually very peaceful and I managed to do a lot of blog, research and general life admin there. Oh and some Netflix time of course.
Why go Ranong? Well it’s the gateway to Koh Chang Noi (aka the smaller Koh Chang as opposed to the bigger one i’d been to already) and Koh Phayam, the latter which I headed to and will be the subject of my next post!