Feb 2 -3, Feb 7
After eating at our favorite vegetarian restaurant in Trang, Miguel and I piled into a minibus headed to Surat Thani.
We were tired and didn’t want to walk around much with our bags, so rather than checking out a few rooms and comparing, we settled for the first cheap place we could find. I can’t remember what the name of it was, but it was a basic cheap hotel room. Kinda dirty, nothing special, and with a slightly creepy vibe to it. The guy who showed us our room had a giant mole on his face with long hairs sticking out of it. He didn’t speak much English and we tried our best to explain that we wanted to stay only one night, but store our bags there for a few days and pick them up later. He seemed to agree, but we weren’t exactly sure whether he understood us or not.
Once we walked around town a bit more and started talking to people, they’d ask us where we were staying. And when we told them, they’d all gave us the same strange look without say anything. We couldn’t quite pinpoint why, but that evening when we headed back to our hotel room…and saw the large group of scantily clad Thai girls sitting in chairs outside the entrance to our hotel…we understood. Then it all became so obvious and we were suprised we didn’t pick up on these clues earlier. For one, there were large signs posted outside the hotel and along the hallways advertising Thai Massage.
For another, we had a creepy bedspread that said “romantic feather” on it.
Then in our bathroom, we found this sign. Ew.
Not sure what this says, but maybe it explains the whole thing a bit better.
Anyway, Surat Thani isn’t all that special…but it’s a nice enough place to spend a day. Most tourists only stop there to cach a ferry to islands like Ko Samui or Ko Tao or to break up the journey along the way to somplace else. We were stopping there to rent a motorbike and go on a road trip to Khao Sok National Park. Once we sorted out the motorbike rental, we spent the day wandering around town.
Surat Thani has an excellent street market with all kinds of foods. I bought some sort of warm soymilk drink that had corn, beans, tapioca balls, and all kinds of interesting things floating in it. And I spotted the Phad Thai lady just as she was about to make a fresh batch of noodles, so I was able to get some before she added the egg and fish sauce. She handed it to me in a plastic bag. After adding lime, fresh bean sprouts, ground peanut, some green onions and sprigs of cilantro, a tofu kabob mixed into it, and some sort of chili sauce…I had a delicious feast for super cheap. Makeshift street food is the best!
Our favorite place to eat in Surat Thani was at a vegetarian buffet underneath the Thaitani Hotel. Had we known about this place before we had settled into our whore house accomodation, we would have obviously stayed here. Next time we’ll know.
This was one of the best veggie buffets in Thailand. We managed to eat there twice – once before our road trip, once on the way back.
They had lots of dishes to choose from – including various salad dishes, spicy curries, and even some vegetarian fried chicken.
To order, just walk up to the buffet counter and this cute, tiny girl with glittery makeup and a huge smile (who we nicknamed “the sprite”) will start piling food onto your plate. With all her enthusiasm, she definitely fits into the Mama Oi category. Both times we went there, she was so excited about her food that she put a bunch of extra things onto our plate just because she wanted us to try them. We even got tea, some sort of soup, and some sort of desert. Even after we bought some seaweed snacks and cans of soy fish from their store, the bill in the end turned out to be super cheap.
After returning from our trip to Khao Sok National Park (more on this in another post), we returned to our creepy hotel to collect our stuff. Luckily it was all still there and in one piece. I was a bit worried.
We had quite a few hours to kill until our night bus to Bangkok and weren’t sure what to do with ourselves. Not wanting to return to Boogie Bar, a humurous “cowboy-themed” bar with cover bands and thai boys dressed as cowboys (I really wish I had gotten a picture), we wandered around a bit further in search of someplace interesting. Eventually we happened across GM Club, a really chilled out bar full of thai hippie guys. They happened to be having a party that evening and we spent many hours hanging out there until it was time to catch our bus.
Since the local bus booking company clearly didn’t want to help us because we weren’t Thai, we booked our bus through a travel agent (paying quite a bit more, but still not too much). When the travel agent said we needed to pay for our ticket in advance and to wait outside his office for a ride to take us to the bus station (even though his office would be closed at this time)…I was really skeptical and convinced he was going to rip us off. And when he showed me a picture of the “VIP bus” we’d be riding on (a fancy looking double decker bus with a DVD player, AC, and fancy curtains), I was positive our bus would look nothing like the picture.
Wow, was I wrong. When we walked back to his office that evening, the travel agent was waiting patiently outside exactly as promised, ready to take us to the bus station. And when we joined a bunch of other tourists to pile into the VIP bus, I was shocked to see that every detail – even the pink, frilly curtains – was exactly like the picture.
The tourist police even came onto the bus to give us a talk about watching out for our belongings and he gave us the number to call if we ever got into trouble while in Thailand. And of course we joined all the other buses at the usual overpriced restaurant stops along the way.
The bus played one of the most horrible movies I’ve ever seen in my life (Disaster Movie). I’m not sure who chose the movie, but it was embarrasing to think that the Thai passengers on the bus might walk away thinking all tourists actually like this crap.
When we arrived in Bangkok around 6am, we marched right over to our favorite hotel (Siri Baan Thai). Luckily we didn’t need a reservation and the nice folks let us move into a room right away. Home sweet home.
- Health food stores are pretty common around Thailand. You can find all kinds of flavored soymilks, cereal mixes, grains, and seaweed snacks.
- A note on booking buses: In most tourist areas, you’ll have quite a large selection of travel agents. It’s best to shop around and bargain until you find the best price. While all the travel agents advertise different prices, all the tourists end up on the same bus in the end anyway. So it makes sense to make sure you’re getting the best price. Also be sure to ask where the bus will be dropping you off (as sometimes they conveniently drop you off at a hotel where they receive a commission or they’ll dump you just a few kilometers outside of the city so you have to pay a tuk tuk to take you the rest of the way). But of course if you get stuck with one of the unscrupulous travel agents, they will lie to you just so you’ll buy their ticket. So sometimes these inconveniences are unavoidable.
- A note on renting motorbikes: Be sure to check out your motorbike and do a test run before you commit to renting it. And like always, shop around and bargain. Also, many motorbike rental places will want you to leave your passport with them. This is quite common and sometimes unavoidable, but you should strongly insist on leaving a photocopy with them instead. This way they can’t trap you into paying for previous damages that aren’t your fault (happened to a friend of mine). Also, make sure they give you a helmet. It’s against the law in Thailand to ride a bike without a helmet (not to metion dangerous) and if the police catch you, you’ll be fined.
- Like most toilets in Asia, don’t put toilet paper in them. Put the toilet paper in the trash can.
- I think this cutip has seen better days.