South-East-Asia Part 3: Disaster and Uncertainty

Long time no post, I am aware. I hadn't even realised that Part 3 was online on my Youtube but I hadn't written about it here.

Exams have decided to hit me with full-throttle, and now I find myself standing amidst the post-exam period with far too much time but also far too little to complete all the tasks I had forgone previously. In other words, all the responsibilities I rejected and post-poned earlier have now come glaring in my face. Yet, here I sit playing Pokemon Sun.

But with that finished up and in the trash, it's time to channel my writing skills yet again.

Part 3 mostly consists of us travelling through Thailand's natural landscape. Away from the city, away from the crowds, the shops, and the busy, death-defying streets of vehicles. Instead, we discover the rainforests of inland Thailand and a humidity that would make a sauna jealous.

Headaches, ahoy! Disaster moments may hit.

One of the most difficult things about organising this trip was the uncertainty of how our reality would turn out. Sure, we may plan to catch a bus at a certain time, for a certain cost, but often the resources we use for this information are out-dated, incorrect, or... people just do things differently. And there is absolutely nothing you can do about that.

With our heads set on a sturdy itinerary, we had planned to catch a bus from Phuket Bus Terminal 1 to Surat Thani, which would allegedly drop us off on the main road in Khao Sok, in front of Khao Sok National Park, which was where we were headed.

Taken from here.
It literally still says we can take this bus.
But, of course, no trip is free of disaster! I had found it suspicious that the first five days had passed without any major hiccup (except for a moment where our airport transfer tried to force us to purchase tours), and here it was, finally.

At least, this is what they told us: The bus route no longer ran. Our only options (according to the shady men lurking around the bus terminal for tourists) was a private transport van that cost a few thousand (overpriced) Baht. Yeah, no thanks.

So the five of us stood there in sweltering heat, starting to panic a little bit, and our fear slowly rising. These men weren't people we wanted to trust, especially with thousands of Baht, when the bus ticket we planned to purchase was only 160 Baht each. A flurry of vicarious hand-motions were used to assist our conversation with the ticket-seller at the terminal (as we ignored the men trying to strike up conversation and shove their signs in our face), who spoke very little English. Calling the help of her colleagues who had a slightly wider English-vocabulary, we still struggled. 

"I think she means we can catch a bus to this little town, and then catch a connecting bus to Khao Sok?" (add a heap of uncertainty to that statement and you can start to imagine what our thoughts were like at the time). 

Not the most reliable path to take -- we placed our entire trust into this ticket-terminal lady. If this didn't work, we would miss our entire tour and accommodation at Khao Sok, which we would not be able to go to afterwards as we had plans for Patong and Phi Phi. 

So, we hopped on. We emptied out a few hundred Baht between the five of us and gave her all our trust as we huddled onto the most cramped and uncomfortable bus I have ever, ever, (ever!!) been on in my life (and hopefully, for the rest of my life). Even sardines in a can would stare at us with a twinge of pity.

Taken from here
Behind where I sat was also a radio speaker. Apparently, the bus driver is either an asshole who likes to deafen everyone, or maybe is slightly deaf himself, because by golly it was the loudest insult to my eardrums in a long, long time. And, it wasn't even music. It was some random talk show that consisted mostly (87.53%) of insanely bad animal sounds and emphatic voice tones that screeched the ears and tore at your eardrums.

I managed to fall asleep at one point and woke up with my back superglued to the seat. Superglued doesn't even cut it. I was ultraglued. Megatonne-freaking-stuck. And the animal sounds were still going. 

Suddenly, the bus pulls over. In a small town. On the middle of the highway. And it's our stop. The five of us huddle off, no freaking clue where we are on the map, and are given the wise, journey-fulfilling instructions that all young heroes are provided on their achievements of destiny: "Bus come, twenty minutes. Wait there (points on other side of the road)."


Crossing a six-laned high-way is no easy feat with suitcases and slightly deafened ears, but we manage. Three of us decide to go to the bathroom, whilst two remain behind to watch the suitcases and for the bus, in-case it arrives. Just as A, M, and myself have walked about twenty-five metres away, our periphery catches an enormous bus start to slow down and travel at a steady pace on the sides of the road. It hits us all at once like a baseball bat -- Is that th-- THE BUS??

A man sticks his head out the window of the bus and yells out something (???) to which I shout back "KHAO SOK!" (What did he ask? I shall never know.) He seemed to just nod, close the window, and then pull the bus over to the side. The three of us rush back (without relieving our bladders, but far too anxious, relieved, and also fearful, to even notice) and we hop onto this massive bus, full of people already, settle down and pray that this bus will make things right.

(Spoiler: it did.)

Standards drop

Kayaking has never been so shifty in my entire life.

Normally you anticipate that tandem kayaks can hold the weight of two, young men such as M and J (who likely total a mass below average) without any major difficulty. Well...

The kayak sunk.

Now, calling it a 'kayak' would be offensive to all the kayak population, so I apologise. It was more a plastic mould, reminiscent of the childhood giant plastic containers:

Taken from here
Without the balls, and floating on green-tinged water.

I admit, it was a beautiful lake with gorgeous surroundings, fresh air, and just an amazing view. But I was fairly safe in the kayak with another small friend, our weight totally less than one and a half adults. M and J were not so lucky, spending half their time bailing water out of their 'kayak'.

Though, my point is this: one thing I noticed was our standards drop considerably in a place like this. Perhaps it's the higher levels of confidence, feelings of invincibility (that seems to accompany tourism), or being far too excited and forgetting the word 'caution', but somehow, these 'kayaks' were perfectly acceptable at the time. Had this been in Australia, perhaps not -- perhaps we would have second thoughts. Perhaps. (Or maybe not.)

A bus ride like the one mentioned earlier, anywhere in a developed nation would be unacceptable, full of complaints, and just would not fly. I know it's obvious -- I mean, a developing nation is going to have a lower quality of services, goods, and logistics -- but at the same time, it's interesting how our personal mental acceptance can change so drastically, simply by the context we are in.

Is this change in mentality part of the travel experience? I don't know the answer to that, but it's a thought.

Different sides of things

Just a little side-note on how beautiful Khao Sok was. 

One thing I loved most about this trip was the chance to explore a multitude of perspectives. Within a time-span of one and a half weeks, we were able to explore the beach-side, sea and island life, national parks, cityscape, and nightlife/red-light-district (next post) and have a balance between tourist attractions, culture, and simply immersing ourselves in the Thai streets.

To me, that's a big part of travel. 

Despite all the hiccups and obstacles on our way to Khao Sok (I haven't even had my rant on the mosquitoes and poorly done mosquito nets -- I ended up sleeping with three mosquitoes sharing my bed. Wonderful.) the place was breath-taking and I saw things I hope I never forget.


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Hello! I'm a student from Australia. I like photography, am aspiring to be a Doctor, have fallen in love with many things that life has to offer, and hope to see more of it. I've been blogging for a while and over the years what it means to me has changed. Currently still trying to figure that out, but here I am in a weird hybridisation of photography, film, blogging, and the confusion of a young adult, you'll find me here writing about my experiences and life. Or whatever tickles my fancy. Whether that's entertaining or not is yours to decide. Stay hydrated, kids.