Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Journey Back to Bangkok.


We said goodbye to Koh Lanta this morning.  We basically had to retrace our route back to Bangkok.  Ferry from Saladan Pier to Hao Yat Pier.  Shuttle van to Trang Airport.  Flight back to Don Muang Airport.  According to our itinerary, the ferry would depart Saladan Pier at 10a.  From our hotel, it would only be about 5 minute car ride so it was an easy departure for us.  Our hotel had a shuttle back to town.  The nice man who helped us with our luggage when we checked in three days ago was our driver.  Our *taxi* was another small flatbed truck - this one had a cover.

We arrived back at Saladan Pier around 10:20a.  First thing we did was I got us checked in.  As was the case on our way here, we each got another round sticker, with the letters TR manually written on it,  indicating our final destination - Trang Airport.

Strolling down one of the streets in Saladan.

There was a covered waiting area.  While Ayşe and I sat and chatted, Bro went to check out a nearby restaurant.  By the time I walked over to see what he was up to, he had already ordered two entrees to go.  He was thinking ahead.  This would be our lunch.  He told the lady he was waiting for the 10a ferry and needed the food ASAP.  She replied it would be ready in 15 minutes.  That would leave him about 0 minutes before departure.  Plenty of time.   There was no ferry in sight yet and I figured that by the time the boat  pulled in and passengers disembarked, it would be past 10a before we would even be able to board.  Nonetheless, if the cook is back logged, Bro might have to walk away empty handed.


A view of Saladan from the pier.  There's a bit of a quirky charm to these ramshackled buildings.  I love the one with the tent perched on the *balcony*.

Around 10a, a young man shouted out that our ferry was late arriving.  Something about big waves.  Okay.  We continue to wait.  In the meantime, Bro was over at the restaurant waiting for his food to appear.  When he returned to us, he was carrying a white plastic bag with two styrofoam containers.  Sure enough, there was no need to rush the poor cook.  In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if late ferries are a common occurrence here.

About half hour later, our ferry did arrive.  You couldn't miss it - the Nok Air ferry is as colorfully painted as their  planes.  I think this was the ferry we would have caught had we arrived into Hat Yao on time three days ago.

Today's boarding process was much better organized than the previous one.  There were designated spaces, indicated with destination signs, where we had to leave our luggage before boarding.  Unlike the previous ferry, the seats for this one were all inside the main cabin.   The section of the seats on the right side where three to a row so I just took a row for us.


As soon as people and luggage were all on board, we pushed off.  I looked around and not all the seats were taken so the ferry was not full.  I had the window seat and what I saw when I looked out was the deep blue waters of the Andaman Sea.  The land of Koh Lanta passed by on the left side of our ferry.


Before we had even left Koh Lanta behind, our ferry stopped and another ferry came up alongside.   We had a similar stop on our way to Koh Lanta.  If I remember correctly, the ferry originated in Phuket.   Passengers going to the islands on our route, boarded our boat.


There were a LOT of passengers transferring over and I think only a few going in the other direction.  All the new luggage got piled up at the front of our cabin.


When we went on our way, all the seats were taken and the luggage....well, the pile pretty much reached the ceiling!


By now, we were familiar with the long tail boat transfers.  Somehow, for me, the return trip to Hao Yat seemed to just fly by time wise.  Maybe it's because I knew what to expect.  As we chugged along, we dropped off more and more passengers.  By the time we neared Hao Yat, the cabin was relatively empty.

If I had any complaint about the ferry it would be that I did wish that there was an upper deck.  Then, some of the people in the cabin would have gone up and it would have felt a whole lot less claustrophobic on the full ferry.


At some point, Bro broke into his styrofoam packs and he and I shared a few bites.  Ayşe is still a bit wary about eating food from small eateries.  I can't blame her.  This is her first trip to Asia and she's still trying to gauge what is safe for her to eat.  So far, I think the food cleanliness in Thailand is really good.  Everything is well cooked and well packed.  No tummy issues so far.  Keeping my fingers crossed that it will continue to be that way for the duration of the trip.  Otherwise, I will have to break out the Pepto and Immodium :-(

We arrived back at Hao Yat pier just in time to catch the 1:30p shuttle to Trang Airport.  The timing was close.  I don't know what would have happened if we had missed the shuttle.


The driver was also the luggage man.  Everyone had to hand their bags up to him.  Luckily, mine is light enough that I can easily hoist it over my head.  On the other hand, Ayşe's bag weighs a ton.  It took two of us to lift it up and then a fifth hand appeared out of nowhere to help us out.  The suitcases were strapped down to make sure they stayed in place as the van moved along.


We arrived at Trang Airport with plenty of wait time for our 5:55p flight to Bangkok.  Trang Airport is a teeny weeny airport.  Aside from two small vendor kiosks selling souvenirs, there was nothing else to distract us.  We decided to head up to the second floor where there was a small restaurant.  There, Ayşe managed to get some food to eat.  I know she must have been hungry having skipped lunch.  

Bro polished off the lunch he bought in Saladan.

A few minutes before departure, we headed to the gate....clearing through security first.   There was only one gate and pretty much everyone in the departure lounge was heading to Bangkok so when the door opened, everyone who was seated got up to go.  We exited the door, took a short walk across the tarmac to the plane and boarded.

Nok Air is Thailand's low cost airline but I have to say, it's quite a good airline.  The seats are comfortable, good leg room and they serve a drink and snack on board.

We landed in Don Muang Airport and once inside the terminal, retrieved our luggage.  We followed the signs pointing to *Taxi*.   Before we reached the exit, we were stopped by a very, very long line of people.  The line led to a room where the single line split into six separate lines.  The line moved but it was slow.  At first, we couldn't tell how the system worked.  As we approached the front of the line, we could see women, who appeared to be dispatchers, taking pieces of paper from men who approached the dispatch desk.  I was thinking the dispatchers were issuing vouchers to waiting passengers and the men were escorting the passengers to awaiting taxis.   There was a woman servicing each line.

There was a young Thai woman just ahead of us so I asked her how the system worked.  She replied for us to just hand our destination information to the dispatcher.  Okay.  When we reached the desk, I handed the woman our hotel voucher, which had the name of the hotel and address in Thai.  The woman wrote something down in what looked like a log and then didn't hand me anything.  In fact, she turned to her colleague and started a conversation.  I kept waiting for her to hand me a voucher and I got nothing.

Then, one of the men walked up.  He  handed the dispatcher a piece of paper and she wrote some words down on it.  She then waved us to follow the man.  So we did.  Turned out he was our taxi driver and the piece of paper he handed to her was I guess his driving instructions.  We agreed on a fare and that we would pay for the highway toll charges.  With that our luggage was loaded into the trunk and we all got in.

I had booked us into an airport hotel as we are flying out for Bangkok for Mandalay tomorrow and I didn't want us to have to do the commute to from downtown Bangkok.  Traffic is horrendous here and I didn't want us to waste time being in it to simply get to the airport.

I expected the airport to be close by but I swear we drove for at least 30 minutes before we arrived.  Our hotel was located on a quiet side street.  I had booked us into a triple room and indeed we got three beds.  It was a very large room but was probably one of the most spartan rooms I've been in.  Beds were clean and so was the bathroom.  For one night, it's not bad.  For $33 USD, it's a bargain!


She came down with a case of the giggles!

We could have trolled the main road in search of dinner but everyone was feeling a bit lazy so we dined in the hotel restaurant.  Someone only wanted ice cream for dinner.  That's what you get for eating dinner at 4:30p!

 

I had a bowl of what looked like and tasted like a Thai version of wat tan hor fun.  Not bad especially for a small hotel restaurant.


As we were eating, two Chinese men sat down at the table next to us.  Bro noticed that they had a bag of different types of fruit with them.  He asked them where they got the fruit and they told us they bought them from a store located on the main road.  After dinner, Ayşe returned to the room while Bro and I wandered out to the main road....in search of the fruit that the men had bought.

It was about a two block walk, down our dimly lit street, to the main road.  In any other place, I would have felt a bit nervous walking out at night like this but it felt safe here mainly because we were in a quiet residential neighborhood.

The main road was hopping with food vendors selling.  Of course, I passed by a few that were serving up dishes that I would have easily ordered.  Hmmm.....should've skipped the restaurant.


We did find a store selling the fruits that the men had bought.  Everything was already packaged up in styrofoam packs.  Not quite we wanted.  I was looking for piles of fresh fruit that you could select from.  We were a bit disheartened.  Oh well.

There were about two blocks lined with the food vendors.  It was already a bit late so a few were already in the process of packing up for the night.  Even so, there were a few doing a brisk business....particularly the ones selling prepackaged meals.  I think we were near a metro stop as we crossed paths with quite a few people who looked like worker bees.  I saw several picking up food from the vendors.  I would do the same if I lived here.

Plenty of curries to choose from.

And lots of fried fish.
The one vendor that stopped me in my tracks was the woman preparing shredding papaya for som tum.


I was curious how she was shredding the papaya with just her knife.  I have to use a knife.  Perhaps I need to hone my knife skills to do this.  Watch her in action.


Back in the room, it was time for showers and getting ready for tomorrow.  We have to get ourselves from here to Suvarnabhumi Airport to catch our 12:05p flight to Mandalay so I am thinking of the logistics.  We're going by taxi but we need to figure out when to leave the hotel.  I think it's going to be earlier than we would expect as we'll be in morning rush hour traffic.  When we asked the woman, at the front desk, how long she thought it would take us she indicated it could take anywhere from 1 hour to 2 hours depending on traffic!  Her answer did not make it easier on us to figure out a departure time.  

As I wrap this posting, I'm a bit sad that we're leaving Bangkok and Thailand.  It was much too short a visit.  I already know I will be back one day.  For now, my thoughts turn to Myanmar.  I am excited that we're finally going to visit the country!

Goodnight from Bangkok!