After my adventure through Koh Sok National Park it was time for me to head East, eventually making my way to Vikasa yoga resort on Koh Samui island. In my head I had it all worked out, I found the cheapest route, planned my time accordingly and crossed my fingers. I actually remember texting my friend "I hope everything goes as planned today" but of course that did not happen. The first leg of the journey was simple, the owners of Smiley bungalows drove me to the bus stop and, although 30 minutes late, the bus picked me up with no problems. It was once I was on the bus and decided to read the wikitravel article for Surat Thani that I realized I'd probably be encountering some problems.
I thought buying a ferry ticket would be easy, but I was mistaken, turns out this town is flooded with scammers. You can't really blame them, with the influx of tourists trying to get to the islands it's easy pickings. I'm glad I read through some of the warnings so that I was at least, mentally prepared for what happened when I got off the bus. To begin with I was the only foreigner on my bus so of course, all eyes were on me upon my departure, "where you go?!?!" I decided to play along and see what kind of offers I'd get from these men. The first one led me over to his 'travel agency' and told me a combo bus/ferry ticket would be 450 baht, not outrageous but also not what I was planning to pay. Actually my plan was to take the overnight ferry which was supposed to leave from Surat Thani pier at 11 pm and cost 150 baht (to Koh Samui). I asked the man about an overnight ferry but the price was the same, 450.
My main problem at this point is that I didn't know where to go to get away from these guys. As I walked back towards the buses another man approached me offering me big boat, very fast, only 800 baht, to which I abruptly laughed in his face. I proceeded to walk around the terminal area trying to orient myself and figure out where the real travel agents were located. I found a friendly Thai woman who I could tell wanted to help me but then almost sent me on a bus to Phuket, eventually we got on the same page and she pointed me in the correct direction.
I stumbled into an air conditioned office and explained that I was looking for the overnight ferry to Koh Samui. They understood immediately, pulled out a map and gave me simple directions of how to get to the pier to purchase my ticket, finally. It was only a ten-minute walk to the pier but having arrived at the peak of the day I was dripping in sweat, and my double backpacks didn't help much either. I arrived at the pier where the worry once again set in, there was a tiny stand selling tickets to Koh Pha Ngan with no mention of Samui, although the information I read online said it was the same boat. When I asked the girls they just replied with a firm no, no boat to Samui tonight. Are you kidding me?? A bit annoyed my only option was to return to the tourist office, dripping in sweat and probably smelling like a dirty gym bag. I spotted a bubble tea stand on my way which was like a glimmer of hope, until I took my first sip of what was supposed to be Taro milk tea but tasted and looked like regular milk tea (not a fan). I told them it was wrong but they assured me, "oh no wrong color but that is Taro." Sorry, but no.
Thankfully I arrived at the office just in time to buy a ticket for the 4:30 bus/ferry combo departing from Donsak pier, approximately 40 minutes north of town. I wasn't happy but I figured I'd deal with it, thankfully the ticket was only 250 baht, scammers avoided. When we arrived at the pier there was one boat directly ahead of us which appeared to be almost ready to depart and then a crowd of people to the left. Everyone on our bus was ushered into the crowd and told to wait so I followed along. 20 minutes later 'our boat' arrived and we started the boarding process, only problem is when I got to the front of the line they shook their head at me and said "Oh no Samui over there" and pointed to the spot a boat had just departed from. I wanted to yell "Are you F-ing kidding me" but settled with a slight sigh, another boat would be leaving at 7 pm.
Honestly this wasn't a huge problem but the fact that I was dripping in sweat, smelly and hadn't eaten since breakfast made me a bit of a crabby pants. I figured since I now had about 40 minutes to kill I should have a proper dinner, not know what was to await me when I eventually arrived on the island. Once again luck was not on my side, "Kitchen closed", and so that's how I came to have peanuts and beer for dinner, healthy I know. Thankfully the boat was on time and there were hardly any passengers so I had my pick of seats. I opted for a window, not that it mattered much since it was dark out, but I had a pleasant breeze and nice view for the ride.
I hate arriving in new cities when it's dark out but I guess I didn't have much of an option in this case. To make matters even worse I was basically the only foreigner on the boat (there were two others but they had cars, damn them). As the boat pulled up to the pier I also realized that I was not in fact at the Nathon, the main port town, but rather a tiiiiny port a few kilometers south. There was one taxi waiting in the darkness and the driver tried convincing me that he was my only option for getting to Nathon, where I hoped to find accommodation fro the night. He told me the trip would be 200 if there was a full car but for one person 400 - and that was him giving me a deal! HA I told him there was no way I was paying that much and kept walking, being Thailand I knew there was bound to be a mototaxi before long, and I was right. This guy seemed eager to drive me but started at a steep 200, after a bit of negotiating he agreed to 100 (still a rip but I was tired) and dropping me off at "cheap but good hotel."
He delivered me safely, as promised, to a nice little restaurant/hotel combo near the pier which had a room available for 300. When asked if I wanted to see it I told the woman there was no need, where else did she think I was going? So finally, after a day of buses, taxis, motorbikes, ferries and more than enough people trying to rip me off I was settled in my own room.
Despite all of this though I wouldn't have traveled differently, the transportation itself (bus and ferry) was fast and efficient, it was just the in betweens that drove me crazy. To those making a similar journey my main advice is to be aware of the scammers and if possible arrange your ferry tickets ahed of time, although that might come at a premium. I'll be doing a return trip in 3 weeks so here's to hoping that journey goes a bit more smoothly.
High on the tourist track for a reason, home of good food (mostly) happy people, rich history and culture. Thailand as many tourist soon learn is just easy. Easy to visit, easy to get around and even easier to stay.