We love train travel. This is a legacy of the epic journeys across China that we shared in our early days together and the sheer joy of moving on the ground and being able to clearly see the scenery outside change before your very eyes. Actually on the Shinkansen Bullet Trains in Japan the ability to see out the window evaporated due to the speed and tunnels but we still love those trains too.
We were in our absolute element boarding train 85 from Hua Lamphong in Bangkok. What could be better than first class sleepers with bus and boat connections that take us all the way to the pre-booked island resort of our choice? Well only a longer journey on the train as it turns out.
Like excited school children we were at the station a good 2 hours before departure and had thoroughly inspected the waiting area, departure platform and amenities long before our train pulled in. There was the usual crowd of backpackers, dubious characters, locals carrying all manner of boxed items and precious little luggage and gentle, smiling Thai officials. One very young boy who appeared to be a street urchin took up a seat between us and 3 young foreign travellers and proceeded to devour his KFC meal and belch loudly at each of us in turn, taking obvious delight in the reactions he got.
By the time our train rolled into the station, we had positioned ourselves on the platform at the point we estimated our carriage would be and were feeling smug about having just small backpacks and less luggage than we have travelled with in years. (Mainly due to the mountain of things now stored in the hotel we love to frequent in BKK) Of course we were the first to enter the carriage and were nicely settled in air-con comfort by the time the 14 high school graduates poured on with their well-wishing parents. A graduation trip and at least one Indian parent was glad to hear that those 14 girls had a couple of high school teachers placed smack in the middle of their group in terms of berth allocation.
When we purchased our tickets, we had been assured that there was no need to worry about the 4.13am arrival time in Chumphon, as the train would certainly be late. Reassured, we resigned ourselves to only fleeting glimpses out the windows as night fell and we departed Bangkok. The conductor confirmed for us that he would wake us before our destination and within no time we were soundly sleeping. The regular rocking movement and repetitive sounds of the tracks is actually comforting and a lullaby for someone (like me) who usually doesn’t sleep deeply or soundly. True to his word we were woken by the same conductor just minutes before our arrival and we felt somewhat cheated to discover that it was just before 5am and only just getting light. We stumbled sleepily along the platform only to be herded into the bus zone feeling that the journey was over all too quickly.
Like clockwork, less than an hour later we were cruising towards the ferry port on a luxury bus with about 60 other likeminded tourists. After the same smooth transport transition, the high speed ferry then began depositing scantily clad backpacking youth at the first of the 2 islands and we were feeling very pleased with ourselves at having chosen the less popular and more distant island of Koh Phagnan. Unexpectedly as we alighted Ian spotted a driver for the Salad Buri Resort as we stepped up to retrieve our luggage and what do you know, within minutes we were the only passengers in a van heading past the ramshackle port town of Thongsala, with its cafes, bars and sweltering heat and directly towards our little slice of paradise!
We are now perched on a hillside in absolute luxury, by our standards, with views over the aquamarine ocean, sandy white beaches, and a swimming pool and time to enjoy them.
Why is this the first time we have ever stayed on an island in Thailand?