The train from Hua Hin to Trang was an overnight train and Miguel and I had planned to get a sleeper car. Unfortunately, we didn’t realize that it would be necessary to book these tickets in advance. So when we showed up to buy the tickets a few hours before departure, the only seats available were 4th class. We DID NOT want to stay in Hua Hin any longer, so we went ahead and bought the tickets. It was gonna be a long night.
Our train pulled into Hua Hin’s train station about 2 hours later than it was supposed to. And when it finally arrived, there was a lot of confusion as to which car to get into. One of the ticket handlers at the train station came over to help us out…but in the hustle and bustle of hurrying onto the train, I’m pretty sure he accidentally held onto our tickets while we hopped on the train without them. Since we didn’t have our tickets and we didn’t know which seats were ours, we just walked through all the cars until we found some vacant seats. The ones we ended up sitting in were in the area reserved for monks, the elderly, the disabled, and women with children (a category that obviously does not include us). When the man came by to take everyone’s tickets, we nervously sifted through our bags while trying to explain what happened. He made a phone call to the train station in Hua Hin and decided we’d be allowed to stay. Whew!
And like expected, it was a long night! The 4th class seats are just clusters of metal benches facing each other, but we made do. I made a bed on the floor underneath our seat. And since I was curled up in my sleeping bag, I could ignore how filthy the floor was and I surprisingly slept pretty well. Miguel slept in the seat with his head leaned up against my backpack. I’m not sure that he slept much. In the morning, a man came by to sweep up all the dirt and trash from the aisle and I woke up just in time – as his broom was nearing my face! When the train finally pulled into the Trang train station, we were relieved to be getting off. Miguel said he wanted to experience riding on a train…so at least we can say that we got the full train experience.
Trang is not a pretty place and you wouldn’t want to stay here for long. Actually, you should avoid sleeping here if at all possible. Trang is stuffed full of optical shops for some reason, so if you need to get glasses for some reason, maybe this is the place for you. Aside from that though, there isn’t much. Since Trang is really just a launching place to get to the islands nearby, it’s best to arrive in Trang, arrange a ride with one of the many travel agents near the train station, and leave for an island immediately. There are many travel agencies to choose from. Here is a map and overview of the islands in Southern Thailand. Here is an article about picking the Trang island that’s best for you.
While I don’t like using travel agents if there is another option (traveling the way the locals do is USUALLY cheaper and a better experience), a travel agent is definitely the best bet when getting to an island from Trang. Miguel and I learned this the hard way….but it makes for a funny story at least.
First of all, the tuk tuk drivers in Trang are among the sketchiest I have met. They seem to all be in cahoots with the taxi drivers and they sit around on a street corner waiting for the opportunity to confuse you into getting into their one of their friend’s cabs. We hopped into a tuk tuk who said he would take us all the way to the boat dock and we arranged a price with him in advance. But instead of taking us to the boat dock, he just drove us a few blocks to the taxi stand and tried to usher us into a cab (expecting us to pay him the price we agreed on, in addition to the price for the taxi). We were not amused and got out without paying anything. Clearly a waste of everyone’s time!
This actually worked out in our favor because we managed to find a good veggie place that we wouldn’t have found had we gotten the ride right away. Once we ditched the sketchy tuk tuk driver, we realized we were hungry anyway and spent a while wandering around from shop to shop saying “mangsawirat?” (vegetarian). We were really just looking for any kind of vegetarian food (most of the restaurants in Trang consist of steam tables with premade food that is not veggie friendly), but a guy at a sausage stand helped us out and gave us directions to an actual vegetarian restaurant. Lucky us. This place was great! And cheap. In fact, I think this is the only good thing about Trang. We ate here again the next time we passed through Trang. They also have a small store with some snacks you can bring with you to the islands.
Anyway…Once we ate, we wandered around trying to figure out how to get on the local bus. Eventually we realized that the bus stand was right where all those taxis were, so we had to walk all the way back there and deal with those dudes again. We kept trying to ask people where to catch a minibus or a bus, but everyone kept giving us conflicting information (I think in hopes of frustrating us so much that we’d break down and pay for the taxi ride). After a lot of standing around and being frustrated, a bus came by and we were assured that it would take us where we wanted to go. But as it turned out, they dropped us off at the junction – 3km from where we wanted to go.
There was noone around (except for a sketchy dude who got off the bus with us and seemed to be following us for a while) and it was the hottest part of the day. So we improvised. We strapped our backpacks to Miguel’s skateboard with bungee cords and Miguel used his belt to pull everything like a suitcase. Every now and then, it would all topple over, but overall it worked out fine. Everyone we passed, did a double take and stared at us as we walked by. I don’t blame them – we were a funny sight.
Eventually some off duty police offers pulled over and told us to get in the back of the truck. We weren’t exactly sure what was going on, but they seemed to be trying to help, so we figured we’d go along with it to see what would happen next. They took us to the police station, where a group of police officers crowded around us as we pointed to my map and explained where we were trying to go. It turned out that the boat dock we thought we needed to go to, wasn’t the correct one at all. And since the police officers knew we weren’t going to find a ride in the middle of nowhere, they drove us many kilometers back to the main road so we could hopefully find a car willing to take us to the dock. Nice guys.
We didn’t have to walk very long before another off duty police officer pulled over to help us out. The police officers in Trang are great! He tried to wave down buses and sawngthaews to stop for us, but they were all full with schoolchildren. In the end, he told us to get back in the truck and he and his girlfriend drove us all the way to the boat dock (a pretty far distance out of their way) and helped us arrange a longtail boat to take us to the island. Since there weren’t any other people to share the boat fee with, we basically had to pay to charter the entire boat. The whole ordeal ended up being just as costly (and much more time consuming) than if we had just prearranged everything with a travel agent in the first place. But…it was more of an adventure this way. And even though it did take all day, we managed to make it to the island before dark.
- It’s common for school children to come up and ask to interview you. They’ll usually have a list of questions (sometimes nosy ones like “How much do you weigh?”), they’ll write your responses down on a piece of paper, then they’ll take a photo with you. Be nice to them – it’s part of their school assignment. Sometimes you’ll even see a teacher lurking in the distance to make sure they’re doing their work.
- These drinks look pretty cool, but I didn’t try one.
- Photos of Thailand’s King can be found all over the country. Here is an article about the Monarchy of Thailand. Here is another one.