Day 168: We’re On a Road To Koh-Where

We had one heck of a productive day today. I managed to prove it was worth while going to Penang after all. As soon as the alarm rang I jumped out of bed to turn the darn thing off. It then took us 15 minutes to gather our thoughts and begin getting ready. Our first plan of attack was to return to Banana hostel and enquire about the visa. The sun was on its way up, meaning the temperature was just right, and it was very peaceful on accounts of the early hour. When we reached the hostel it was twenty to nine and the receptionist hadn’t arrived yet. We took it upon ourselves to sit down and fill out a visa form. This turned out to be a waste of time, because when the receptionist showed up at 9am he said “wrong part, all you have to do is sign and put your address”. We asked him if we would be able to get the visa and a bus to Koh Samui the same day. To which he informed us the visa would arrive 15 minutes before the bus, and if not, the driver would wait. Happy with what the rather pushy man had to say, we handed over 510 ringgit (which was the best part of our withdrawal the day before) and left our passports in their capable hands.

We had one task left to do, and that was a visit to the hospital. The next plan was to return to the hostel to find its exact location. We ended up staying in the room for a couple hours, watching tv shows and the like, then after a quick shower I asked our receptionist for help. I explained what we needed and showed him the information Sarah’s brother had sent us. There was a number for him to ring, which he did, but then he handed the phone to me. I found it very difficult to understand what the person was saying, in the end I repeated the word X-ray and hoped for the best. I think she understood what I wanted as she put me through to another department. I ended up speaking with a man this time, I told him we needed X-rays to be able to go to Australia, but again there was a language barrier. He told me we could just walk in, then I thanked him and hung up.

After asking the receptionist for directions, he handed me a map and told me which bus we’d need to catch. There were three that ran regularly through George Town and past the hospital. Time was getting on by this point (around 11am) and check out from our hostel was midday. He told us we wouldn’t be able to leave our bags in storage because the whole building was to be fumigated. Thankfully we bought the bus ticket and visa through another hostel, as they were kind enough to allow us to leave our bags there all day. Then we crossed the street and waited on the 101/103/104 bus.

It showed up 5 minutes later, and for 1.40 ringgit each we were on our way. I did my best to check the street signs outside against the ones on the map, but eventually the map ran out of road, and we were off the grid. Thinking it was close to our stop, I told Sarah we should get off. I didn’t think to check the map on our tablet before we did, and we ended up in the wrong place. It wasn’t until we got off the bus, and I checked our location on the tablet, that I realised we were roughly 1km away from our location. This made Sarah a very happy girl to say the least (that’s sarcasm). For the next kilometre I had to endure Sarah yelling at me for making a mistake, and how I hadn’t helped her arrange everything in the past, and if I had been paying attention all those times this wouldn’t have happened – she later apologised for her harsh words. I knew which way we had to go when I looked at the map, so it wasn’t like we were lost, then I did my best to drown out Sarah as we walked along the streets. I promised I wouldn’t make a mistake like that again, and I had to listen to her explain everything I did wrong, and how she avoids situations like that happening.

Eventually we reached the location on the map, but there was still no sign of the building. In the end we stopped in a pharmacy and Sarah asked for directions. She claimed I was like her dad, saying I’d rather walk around for hours pretending to know the way, rather than ask for help. They pointed us in the right direction, and after asking one more person on the street for the Adventist Wellness Centre, we found it.

Inside the entrance we spoke with a young lady who led us to another counter. It was there that Sarah and I received a number and had to wait with all the other patients. Thankfully Sarah’s number was next and she explained to the woman that we didn’t need X-rays for our health, but rather for the Australian visa. Then things began moving a little quicker. It was lucky that we were seen so quickly, otherwise we would have been waiting all day just to be told we needed to be in the Wellness Department instead. They called for a shuttle bus (which looked like those golf carts in the airport) and it took us to the front door of the correct building. We spoke with some more women behind the counter and explained how we were pushed for time. Our bus would be leaving at 4pm, and wouldn’t be able to wait until 2pm for an X-ray. The X-ray was to prove that neither of us had contracted tuberculosis since leaving England. Sarah already had a jab from the time she moved to Birmingham for uni, making her immune to the virus. I didn’t. They told us if we had the X-ray and it showed any sign of infection we would have to return for further tests. After much umming, and ahhhing we decided to take the risk and go for it. Then an issue presented itself, we didn’t have our passports on us, which meant we couldn’t have the procedure done anyway. We all laughed, then Sarah and I walked away saving ourselves 110 ringgit each. They called for another shuttle bus, and the driver took us to the exit. He then gave us helpful information on what bus to catch to get back to George Town.

Within 3 minutes of our arrival another 101 bus pulled up, and for the same cost we returned. History repeated itself when we didn’t stay on the bus to our designated stop. Only this time I knew the way (sort of). This was the same place we got off after the Psy concert a couple months back. Much like that time, I winged it all the way through. Temporarily I lost my bearings, but got back on track when I noticed the large yellow Maybank building outside. We followed the road to the entrance of Prangin Mall, then went inside for food. Downstairs there was a restaurant with a specials of the day board. It turned out it was too good to be true when my food showed up. Sarah’s fried rice looked delicious, but my duck with flat noodles was anything but. I redeemed my poor meal choice by visiting McDonald’s. It was there we booked a resort in Koh Samui online. As soon as I was done eating, we left for Banana hostel.

We had all of an hour to spare before our bus was scheduled to arrive. I used that time to write, while Sarah read her newly purchased magazine. She found it in the 7Eleven next door, it was called “hot”, and was an exact duplicate of every woman’s favourite “heat” magazine. The bus was delayed, and didn’t show up until 5pm. One by one we climbed aboard, I sent Sarah ahead like usual to procure two good spots, while I loaded the bags at the rear. For the next 3 hours we sat tight and watched tv shows. When we reached the border it was 8pm, there was nobody in sight, making it a very quick process. It was then another hour before we reached Hat Yai bus station.

We had performed the impossible. Everybody on that bus had just time traveled. It was 8pm at the border of Malaysia, then when we reached the bus station (one hour later) it was still 8pm. Making that the fastest part of the overall 15 hour journey. The pair of us had to wait a further hour and a half before the coach would arrive to take us to the ferry. The ferry would then take us on the final leg of the journey to Koh Samui. We used that time to eat a cooked meal (fried rice with chicken) then sat at the terminal to see out the remaining 50 minutes. All the while we were hoping and praying for a nice comfy coach, but with the amount of cardboard boxes and Thai people stood around, it was looking like we’d be getting a public bus. Our suspicions were confirmed, it was in fact a public bus.

The only thing we had going for us was the fact we purchased tickets ahead of time. There were already lots of people occupying seats, and it looked as though we weren’t going to get two together. I sent Sarah on ahead again, while I put the bags underneath the bus. Unfortunately there were no two seats together, that was until the ticket lady climbed aboard. She made it so, then we got as comfy as anyone could with minimum legroom. People who didn’t have seats then began filling the tiny aisle, it sound ridiculous I know, but when you look at the pictures bellow this post you’ll see the ludicrous of it. It only got worse for these people when one traveller produced tiny plastic stalls for them to sit on. They would have to remain like that for the 10 hour long journey.

It all made sense why the lady wasn’t letting certain people on before us. These people didn’t have tickets ahead of time like us, which meant they weren’t entitled to a seat like us. Although, we didn’t get off Scott free, as our seats were directly behind the toilet, and they had the worst stench of urine I had ever smelled. This was officially the worst bus we’d ridden in our 6 months. We’d always heard stories, but now we had one of our own. Suddenly the fish smelling bus we rode to Kampot in Cambodia seemed like a beautiful fragrance. Seeing as it was a Thai night bus with locals aboard, I’d have to be careful. I put a padlock over the zips of my bag, wedged it under Sarah’s feet (she was next to the window) and covered it with my blanket. Then I got as comfortable as I could for the next 7 hours.

I can officially go on record and say that sucked. My seat was upright the whole time, and my knees were pressed firmly against the barrier in front. If I wanted to put my feet in the aisle beside me, I couldn’t, because of the “extra” passengers sleeping in it. I swear I’m going to have to see a chiropractor when this trip is over, there is no way my spine can still be in alignment. We arrived at the ferry somewhere around 5am. Sarah and I then dismounted the bus with chronic tiredness and neck ache, then found a couple spacious seats aboard the sea vessel. Our sea voyage lasted an hour and a half, and you would have thought that would be it. We’d reached Samui and now surely we’d be able to locate our resort and sleep. Wrong. It turned out Koh Samui was one hell of a big island, and according to a taxi scout, our resort was 25km away. Fortunately for us we noticed the majority of our bus’s passengers stood around, so we went over to join them. It transpired everyone was waiting on our bus, because it was set to take us to the bus station. When I tried querying with the bus boy where I should put my bags, he frustratedly waved me up the stairs. They don’t seem to have much time for foreigners. The second they feel a language barrier coming on, they become very animated with their hand gestures and raise their voices. This is seen more so in the men than the women.

For the duration of the journey I did my best to keep my eyes open, but I found myself constantly at the mercy of my imagination. It kept playing tricks on me. Every so often when I’d feel myself drifting off, something would tell me our resort was out the window. Whenever I looked out, all I could see was the sea. It was difficult to tell how long the journey lasted, but if I had to hinder a guess, I’d say it was around 20 minutes. Even when we reached the bus station we couldn’t relax. By the time I got off with our holdalls Sarah was already conversing with a taxi driver. After he spoke with another man to confirm the location of our resort, he told us a price. 400 baht. That was the most expensive taxi fare we’d had yet, but we just wanted a bed, and got in his taxi. The driver explained it was around the other side of the island, and he proved he wasn’t ripping us off by showing us a placard with prices on. Even though it was a meter taxi, there were set prices for certain distances. We just happened to fall in the higher bracket because of how far away our resort was.

We were driven for half an hour down the road, following signs for our resort near the end. When we arrived we were greeted by a canine guest. As I stepped out the taxi he began barking in a loud deep tone, but was quick to back off as we approached. The receptionist was empty so we began calling out for people. Fortunately another guest pulled up, and he told me the owners were sleeping in room 14. There was a name card above the door which read “president”. Not wanting to disturb them I danced about on the spot with a look of confusion painted across my face. The other guest was kind enough to disturb them for me, I presumed he’d been there a while, as he was on first name terms with the receptionist. We thanked him for his help, then after checking in we were shown to our room.

The room was extremely spacious. It had a large king sized bed, a tv, five windows, a large en suite bathroom, a fridge, and a sink with work surface in the main room. I had a lovely warm shower straight away, and then the pair of us climbed into bed for a good mornings sleep. It was getting on for 8:30am by the time I’d written this, and then I thought back to what we’d achieved. We went to Penang to get a visa – which worked out. We could’ve got the X-rays done, had we had our passports on us. Now here we were in Koh Samui. I couldn’t help thinking everything worked out (bar the X-rays), and so I’ll conclude this post with Murdoch’s favourite line… “I love it when a plan comes together!”

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