Well well, what a week! Tears, sweat and adrenalin fuelled, I could do with a rest…well, my nerves could anyway! All will become clear…
The Real Littlist Hobo
First leg of the journey was really hard, that’s when it hit me that I’m on my own. I was fortunate enough to be seated with the old gummy man but it made me wonder if I’d be as fortunate on my next train journey.
So, here it is, train 36 headed for Surat Thani, Thailand..this is it, my dream of reaching Thailand is now just a mere 8hrs away! This train is actually a lot nicer than the previous one..the seats are facing each other and there is so much more leg room. Being a sleeper train, the seats will be turned into beds just before the light falls.
Hmm..so who am I’m going to be sitting with? Lots of people are getting on and secretly (and don’t say you don’t do this too) you’re hoping they bypass your cabin..so far everyone had avoided my seating area up until the last minute..an american guy got on and placed himself (and his fold up bike) in the seat opposite me. Immediately he strikes up a conversation and to be honest, I just wanted to switch off and stare out the window! He’s sitting there in a bright yellow t-shirt, dark shorts and a straw hat plus hes hardly got any teeth (not sure what it is with the teeth situation round here)..”So, you headed for Bangkok?” “No no. Just one of the stops in Thailand.” I said, hoping he doesn’t ask me anything else! I was being very offish with Jeff hoping that’ll put him off a conversation but then he’d ask me something else! I didn’t like him to start with, I thought he was rude and too direct but actually, with the 8hrs I spent with him, I actually grew to like him a little and in fact, he became a beneficial influence!
Jeff has been travelling for 8 years straight! He was actually on a visa run which is something I too will need to do at some point (basically when you need to exit the country but you can re-enter from another point and get a top up on your passport). Jeff’s seen it, done it and even bought the straw hat he was wearing sat there in front of me haha! I think it became obvious to him that I was a novice at the travelling game but he spent a while giving me tips and advice. First of all, Jeff told me what to expect in Thailand;
1. Forget Western culture and the ways we live, that goes out the window when you reach Thailand
2. Men don’t really respect the women
3. There is no shame or guilt
4. Sex trade is huge
This is all Jeff’s opinion so please, nobody sue me ok hah! I started to get worried thinking, somebody please remind me why I’m going to Thailand again!? Well, I wanted to make it how I found it but of course, I listened good and hard to what Jeff was telling me that day.
We reached the Thai border about 7pm. It’s strange..the train warden shouts ‘border, border’and then you all have to get off the train, passports at the ready. Jeff explained we were obviously at the border of Thailand..you literally get stamped out of Malaysia and into Thailand, easy! Then back on the train and its plain sailing (or training).
It was really interesting chatting to Jeff and hearing his stories, he was a highly intellectual fella and it was exciting hearing about all the places he’d been to.
Monkey Boot Camp
So the Readders made it to the monkey school! The owner (whom I shall rename for privacy reasons), ‘Roberto’ came to pick me up from the Queen Hotel in Surat Thani at 10am. I was really glad to be leaving that hotel, it was just awful..coachroaches running about all over the place, cracked tiles, grubby walls etc but hey, it was good for a stop over and it served its purpose.
Roberto drove me to the monkey school which seemed around a 45 minute drive and we’re doing the ‘get to know’ along the way. He seems nice, originally from Holland but he moved to Thailand around 12yrs ago when he married his wife.
So, we get to the monkey school and Roberto shows me around. Wow, it’s pretty remote! The bungalow home stay is a relatively new feature. There are 2 huts and I’m the only person staying this week so I pretty much have free range!
It’s so peaceful here, I sat and wrote my journal everyday on the balcony..all you could hear were birds singing, the gentle tunes of the wind chime on my balcony and Robertos wife chopping up coconuts in the background! Now and then I would hear visitors clapping in the distance showing their appreciation for the monkey demonstrations.
Roberto was going to give me the smaller bungalow hut but bees had decided to make a nest under the bed but not only that, a family of rats had also moved in..right behind the headboard! Naturally, I didn’t fancy that one haha so was glad to be offered the bigger hut!
Roberto then shows me around..I’m shown where I can boil up some hot water should I want anything and also where extra provisions are etc..I’m then shown the fruit and veggie patch..well, more than a patch, Roberto is growing over 700 pineapple plants as well as tomatoes, bananas and of course coconuts! There are 2 types of coconuts, the lower ones are the drinking ones and the higher ones are the brown and hairy coconuts that we see in the shops – these are the ones the monkeys are taught to fetch.
So..then I meet the dogs! They have 6 dogs, all cute apart from 1 who’s name I will change to Bullet!
Bite the Bullet
Ok, so I meet Bullet and shes looking at me in a ‘back off’ kinda way and I know straight away she doesn’t like me! Roberto then tells me she actually bit one of their guests the day before I came and that was only because she could sense fear on this woman…well, that was it, a rush of adrenalin came over me and my blood instantly went cold! Roberto and his wife are then talking and Bullet is standing next to him (and watching me all the while)! We then started to walk towards the monkey pen and Bullet was walking behind us when suddenly, I could sense she was behind me..next thing..all I could hear was the snap of her jaws right behind my butt!! Woah! Adrenalin pumping, I wanted to scarper but I knew if I ran off that would invite a ‘catch em kill em’ kind of senario!
So Roberto tries to spend some time teaching her that I’m ok and we thought that would be the end of it. Later on, the same day, we were walking round the monkey pen again and there was Bullet, waiting! Again, she walked round us, then behind us and snap..but this time she went for my hand, woah! Ok, that was too close for comfort, I felt teeth this time. I was then afraid of her and there was nothing that was going to change my mind on that dog after that..I was too scared to come out my bungalow all week!!
One evening, I did surface for dinner but only because Roberto promised the dog was locked up. After we ate, I promptly snuck off back to the safety of my bungalow. So, torch in one hand and keys to the padlock of my bungalow in the other. I can hear the dogs barking in the background behind me..I’m bricking it and my imagination starts going wild. Right, I’ll get the key ready and the right way up to get that lock opened so I can get straight inside hah..ok, picture this, have you ever seen that horror film ‘Evil Dead’? The one which is based on that old wooden cabin in the middle of the woods? Well that is what this place looks like! So anyways, its just like a scene from a horror movie..I’m thinking over exaggerated thoughts as usual ‘what if the dogs don’t recognise me and attack’ or worse still, ‘what if Bullet is out?’ Ok, bungalows nearing and the dogs barking is getting louder so my speed picks up and my breath quickens. I get to the porch and suddenly my hands feel fat and clumsey and I can hear the imaginery audience shouting ‘Quick, quick’.’ Imagining the dogs are bounding towards me now (which they weren’t) keys jingling and fingers fumbling I get in, phew!
That was when I knew I couldnt see that dog up close again haha!
So one afternoon, I’m sitting chilling on the balcony when Roberto comes over and offers me a beer. We’re happily chatting when the subject of countries come up. I don’t know why I said this (maybe through nerves or through something to say) but I pipe up with “I’ve never been to Holland before, my friends have for the smoking side though” Well, I’ve immediately offended Roberto! He said it was very rude and that he hates foreigners that associate Holland with the cannibis culture, which of course I can understand there’s more to the Netherlands than that but I was only stating what my friends had been there for so it was an unbiased opinion. I have to put up with other nationalities associating Britain for having a pub culture but hey.
Sadly we had another disagreement the following night too which made me want to check out there and then. Roberto had sunk a few beers and he was complaining that even though he promised Bullet was kept locked up, I still hardly ventured out the bungalow! So I put my opinion across but it was falling on deaf ears! “My poor dog is kept locked because you are scared of her” Well, that is because she is a dangerous dog Roberto and if this was the UK, she would have been put down.
Finally, it’s the last day and it couldnt have come sooner!
Roberto actually filled up a paddling pool for me probably out of guilt knowing I had been bored all week! It was certainly the best way to cool off from the 40 degrees heat!
All in all, I did get to spend time with monkeys and I also saw some pretty cool wildlife too..including geckos, and even bigger gecko (forget the name but it was huge) and also spotted a monitor lizard too. It was an experience and one that made me think..its not just about the places I’m discovering but I guess it’s also about the people I’ll meet along the way. At least I know I can be tolerant of people like Roberto but I hope I have shown him that he needs to become a more considerate and patient person!
Next stop Bangkok
So Roberto drives me back to the station and he’s actually giving me hints and tips about the types of people I may meet. He explained being a woman on my own, the taxi drivers may try to cheat me, apparantly they don’t like to turn the meters on hmm…and other people may approach me to try and coax me into a ‘free cab’ ride which reaches an expensive store which of course they’ll try to push you into buying something!
When we reach the station, my train headed for Bangkok is only slightly delayed but I can’t help wonder (and be slightly) apprehensive as to what might await me at the end of the line.
When my train pulls up, I find my cabin and start to get comfy for my 12hr ride. I have a private cabin..well..I’m sharing with a Thai lady. At first, I thought she seemed rather sweet but then I twigged she was only after my money! “I take you to Wot Po. I do massage, I teach you” well, it was all rather strange. She even gave me a bundle of packets of cakes, very odd. Of course I didn’t eat them! She soon got the message and went to sleep in her top bunk whereas I on the other hand, snoozed with one eye open! I even hugged my backpack close for the whole 12hrs..nothing and no one was getting into that! I did fell bit scared at that point again wondering what ‘sharks’ might be waiting to gobble me up but I passed that test no probs!
Tuk tuk…more like Tut Tut
Wow…the Readders made it to Bangkok! I can’t believe I’m here. Its manic with cars and people and just like at Butterworth station, you get the calls from money hungry taxi drivers “Excuse me miss, where you go?”
But its not just taxi drivers, you now have a choice of tuk tuks, mini buses and songtails (longer version of tuk tuks). So knowing my hotel is nearby, I try to walk it, again, lugging the invisible man hah!
Its no good, I know I’m not far but the heat and weight is killing me. A tuk tuk stops and the temptation is too great! I bartered him down from 40 to 30 baht but then once I was in the tuk tuk, he wanted to take me to some fashion store. I can only think it was because he knew the owners perhaps or that he got some kind of sponsor for taking tourists there but I wasn’t having any of it the cheeky swine! So he pulls up outside and is pushing hard for me to go in. I played dumb that I didn’t understand and I wasn’t going to budge but then I sharply said I wasn’t going in and I wasnt going to leave my bags on board his tuk tuk!
Anyways, I won and then the now very irritated tuk tuk driver finally takes me to my hotel!
So first 2 tests passed…I think the Readders will be ok!
Next stop, Chaing Mai to meet elephants and Hill Tribes and I cannot wait! I will update again once I can source the internet but for now…..x