Getting to Koh Phayam
A small, kangaroo shaped island in Southern Thailand, Koh Phayam is often described what backpackers remember Koh Samui being 20 years ago. Desperate for a place to rest, relax and rejuvenate, I made my way from Bangkok to Koh Phayam two weeks ago. I had booked only 4 nights, but I knew as soon as I stepped off the ferry that I’d be staying much longer. Instead of breaking down my trip day by day, I’ll be doing a five-part series about my time here. As I share each post, I’ll add a link here.
Air, Bus or Train?
For me, getting to Koh Phayam was an adventure in itself. You must take a ferry or a speed boat to get to the island itself, but there are a few options to choose between to get to Ranong Pier. You can fly into Ranong, take a train + bus combination or, the most common, an overnight bus. Almost all of the people I met came to Ranong via the overnight bus from either Bangkok or Phuket.
There are three bus options to choose from. A 40 person day bus or two overnight buses: VIP 32 seater or VIP 24 seater. I chose to pay 200 baht (approx $7.50 CDN) more for the 24 seater and I am glad I did!
Anxiety Changing Locations
I don’t know if I’ll feel this way each time I move locations, but as I left my hostel in Bangkok, I felt anxious the second I got in the taxi. Even though my hostel had given me a piece of paper with directions in Thai to give to the driver, I was unsure. My phone wasn’t working and I couldn’t tell if the driver was taking me to the right place. At one point he said “50 baht, 50 baht for toll. You pay. 50 baht.” As I handed him my money, I was sure I had been scammed. Then I did something I’d never recommend… I googled “taxi scams in Thailand.” While I was IN the taxi. Not my smartest move. About 15 minutes into my freak out session, I reminded myself about what I had written in my journal just hours before. It was time to trust the Universe. Even if things didn’t go as planned, I’d trust my instincts and if something did go wrong, well, I’d have a good story to tell.
Thankfully, there was no good tourist story to tell with this one. After we passed the highway toll booth, my driver’s wife and two year old son called on video chat. As I listened to the big burly man laugh with his son, I was immediately comforted. Love for family crosses any language barriers. He dropped me off where I needed to be, I got my ticket from the booth and made my way to the bus stop. All with perfect timing.
I got a little bit lost in the terminal, but following my “look for the nearest group of tourists and follow them” rule, I made it to my bus with 5 minutes to spare.
My first scam experience
When you take the bus to Ranong, be sure to get off at the main Ranong bus station. It has a big sign and looks like a giant parking lot and bus station. The lovely, English speaking Thai told me that this stop WASN’T for me and the next stop was the main one. Myself and the other 4 white people on the bus listened to him,
Then as we came off the bus, we were bombarded by Thai guys shouting “50 baht to pier” and holding signs. I knew I was supposed to be taking a blue number 6 bus to the pier, so I asked the Thai guy. All the sudden, he couldn’t speak English at all and kept saying “taxi to pier, taxi to pier.” Annoyed and frustrated, I collected my bags and then stood near the nice couple with a baby I’d met on the bus. I kept saying “No, 20 baht” because that was how much the local bus should have been. Finally when we were the last 3 people, one of the guys said “ok, 20 baht each.”
This actually worked out really well for me, as the island doesn’t have an ATM, and there was no ATM at the pier like I thought. When the guy found out I didn’t have cash, he stopped at the 7-11 and I used the ATM. Thank you again, Universe for taking care of me.
The Second Scam
When the taxi driver tries to tell you that there’s no more normal boat at the time you saw, only a more expensive speed boat or “express boat,” always be cautious. Thankfully, the couple I’d met had been to the island before. They both kept shaking their heads and saying “No thanks.” I followed suite and walked away. Just around the corner was the REAL pier. I bought my ticket for the slower 2-hour ferry that locals take for 200 baht (much cheaper!). After a lovely breakfast with Michelle, Silke and baby Zoe, I board the ferry and away I went!
My first scooter taxi
As we walked off the pier, I felt a little overwhelmed and anxious. I had two big bags (although both carry on sized) and I’m also quite large. I doubted I’d be able to fit on a scooter. Turns out, like a lot of my weight-related fears, I was fine. An awesome Thai lady put my bags in front of her and told me to hop on. That 8 minute scooter ride to my bungalows felt more freeing than anything I’d ever done. As my hair trailed behind me, I could feel my stress and worries melt away. I was home. And adventure definitely was to come!