Right around the time I wanted to get from Chiang Mai to the islands is pretty much when I realized I should never listen to anyone. Chiang Mai – while still an incredible experience – wasn’t this mecca of Thai culture like it was talked up to be, and worse, the regional flights from the area to the beaches were outrageously priced – where are all these “cheap” regional flights everyone is talking about? I wasn’t particularly in a rush to arrive anywhere, so a long journey I took via train… back to Bangkok. Oye.
I’m not good at math but I’m pretty sure no matter how I add it up, the length of the journey from Chiang Mai to Koh Tao is still a complete joke. I stayed in one country the whole time and it still took longer than my flight from New York to Singapore. Something like 40 hours? Seriously. Now I know why people will pay so much for the flight.
On the train span headed towards Bangkok I met an ageless woman named Renee. I say ageless because she was cool as hell, but actually probably in her early 50’s. Renee was a hippie older sister type, had a zillion stories to tell about Thailand in the 80’s, life raising kids in Africa, and pretty much anything you could imagine to make you feel like you hadn’t lived yet. Where she was leaving and where she was headed hardly mattered. We both were looking to kill a few hours in Bangkok (it was 8am my next train wasn’t until 6 at night) so she took me to the famous Sunday market, a market so big they hand out maps at every entrance. As the market became too hot to bear we bought some coconuts and a mat and sipped the water from under the palm trees by a pond in the park. The things that happen when you travel alone are weird. I don’t even know this woman, and we just created a postcard moment together. Why would anyone bother with that budget airplane after all?
My second sleeper train arrived in Chumphon at 5am, followed by the most immaculate sunrise ferry ride to Koh Tao. At this point, who knows what day it is? Who cares how long it’s taken? Who cares that I paid like, 70 baht to shower in a train station bathroom yesterday? The other passengers and I sprawled out across the deck of the boat on our backs, heads on our luggage, closed our eyes, and soaked all of the rising sun in. Koh Tao, we’re finally almost here.