Back to (and through) Bangkok

Ko Samui airport. Very pretty indeed!
Ko Samui Airport – very pretty!

After virtually no sleep at Andy’s, I was up just after 5am to walk down to Hammersmith and onto the Tube to Heathrow. Again. A virtual repeat of my trip earlier this year. My flight to Abu Dhabi was delayed slightly, but was enjoyable. My only quibble was the starter with the meal being fish-based. Yuk.

During the flight I watched The International, Pink Panther 2 and most of Escape to Witch Mountain before I fell asleep. A quick switch over in the UAE and I boarded the connection flight to Bangkok – which was also delayed. I managed to squeeze in Paul Blart Mall Cop and the newer version of The Day The Earth Stood Still and then the next thing I knew I was having immigration forms thrust at me.

The queue at Bangkok was the usual, and the single guard in front of me using his mobile phone didn’t speed the queue up at all. I was in time to catch the 9:00 flight to Ko Samui, which is a shame as I’d booked onto the 9:40 in case I had difficulties. The 9:00 one left bang on time, and mine – surprise – was delayed.

As a result I missed the earlier boat to Ko Tao, but ended up chatting to an Irish/Spanish couple and a family from South Africa who I’m meeting tomorrow night for dinner and drinks.

The dive shop and accommodation (Sunshine Bungalows and Sunshine Divers)was easy enough to find. It was nice to get a shower at last, and a change of clothes was well-needed especially after the humidity hit.

Plans for tonight are to grab some grub and crash. I’m in two minds about going on the morning dives as I reckon I’ll be awake early enough. I’m going to crash before 9pm for certain. There’s no wifi here though plenty of places in town I can use. I still need to get hold of the hostel in Dili and figure out what’s happening with KL. I think tomorrow’s my deadline for getting those organised. Not helped by not knowing exactly when I’ll get to Dili!

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And we’re off. Again. Almost.

I will be in a few hours anyway. I’ve been rather busy since getting back from Graspop (details when I get the time to type it all up) and I will be lucky to get four hours’ sleep before I have to be up for the walk to Hammersmith; the Tube to Heathrow; and my flight to Bangkok (via Abu Dabhi).

And then my flight to Ko Samui and my ferry to Ko Tao. I will be very relieved once I dump my bags at the Sunshine 2 Bungalow Resort on Wednesday afternoon!

Once more, a big thanks to Andy for putting me up / putting up with me for a night in London. I hope the scraps of the KFC bucket I left is enough for rent.

There may be a couple of tweets from the airport before I leave, and then we’ll see what access is like in Ko Tao. Catch you all from the islands!

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More plotting – Ko Tao to Kuala Lumpur

When I travel places, I often hit the same cities. One thing I do like to try and vary is how I get between them. As such, I’ve been trying to suss out how to get from Ko Tao to Kuala Lumpur by bus and I finally found a web page with instructions.

I need to decide when I need to get to KL. I have friends there I’d like to see, but that would mean getting there before the night of July 6th. However, the bus journey arrives at 5am which would mean spending another entire day in a city I’m not a huge fan of and have seen everything in. Pre-dawn is never a good time to arrive anywhere!

I might, instead, opt for getting there early on the 7th instead and enjoy an extra day on Ko Tao – or a stop-off on Ko Phang Nga. Decisions, decision! Either way, around £13 for a 22-hour journey isn’t that bad.

The route is roughly thus:

  • Get a ferry from Ko Tao to Koh Samui in the afternoon or evening
  • Spend the night in Koh Samui
  • Set off on a bus from Nathon at 7:30am
  • Cross on a ferry, with the bus, to Don Sak on the mainland
  • Continue on down to Hat Yai
  • Wait around two hours and board a second bus at 6pm
  • Arrive in KL at 5am

Better start booking…

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I hate airlines

I’m trying to fill the gaps in for my schedule in July. Thanks to Matt, I have some info regarding flights from Bali to East Timor and this is causing me some bellyache.

I just booked Kuala Lumpur to Denpasar at a time that won’t suit Leah. Thing is, while I was waiting for her to get back to me I was watching the Air Asia flight prices rise before my eyes. So I just went for it. This means I’m leaving KL about 5-6 hours before her, but it’s still half the price of flying the next day. Then take into account accommodation and the loss of an entire day until the next flight and I didn’t have a choice.

The problem is that I land in Denpasar at 22:00. I don’t expect the Merpati or Garuda ticket offices to be open at the airport at that time. From what I gather, Merpati have a flight out at breakfast time to Dili, which I’d be interested in… but does their ticket office open early enough to book a seat on that flight in the morning? I can’t book online as their web site is still under construction.

Garuda’s page is more functional and tells me I can get a flight to Kupang from where I know I can get a bus to Dili. The downsides: the flight’s in the afternoon so I’d likely have to stay in Kupang for a night and get the bus the next day (it’s a 12-hour journey)… and you can only book online with Garuda if your credit card was issued in Indonesia. Therefore by the time I get to Indonesia where I can book over the counter with them, all of the cheaper seats (and they are cheap) will almost certainly have gone.

Earlier in the trip I have a flight landing at Ko Samui airport at 10:45 in the morning. Ideally I want to get a ferry from Samui to Ko Tao. There are two companies (Lomprayah and Seatran Discovery) with boats at suitable times and both around 550 Baht each way for a 1½ hour journey. Lomprayah offer a free bus transfer from the airport, but this bus leaves at 11:00. Do I have time to get off the flight, grab my luggage and be on that bus? I don’t know, so I emailed them a day ago to ask… and haven’t had a reply yet.

Alternatively, Seatran’s boat leaves a couple of hours later but I’d have to make my own way down to the port… and I can’t find out which one of the several ports I’d need to get to!

You know, I much prefered traveling when I just turned up in places and winged it. I hate being on a schedule.

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And the quickest way to get to Ko Tao is…

Bangkok Airways Boeing 717 at Koh Samui Airpor...

Not much bigger than a bus...

…to fly. It’s not too expensive, either. My thanks to Honey who translated the Thai Transport Authority web page and helped me work out the bus times (which weren’t suitable).

If you’re not in a rush, you can get to Ko Tao two ways: bus or train then boat. Thing is, they’re both six-hour journeys and both will get you to Chumphon around 9pm. This is too late to get a ferry onto the island. Also, the train can be very busy so if you can’t book far enough in advance you may find yourself stranded in Bangkok waiting for a seat. Also, the new Southern bus terminal is way out on the wrong side of the river.

If I’d used eitherof these methods I wouldn’t have been diving until the 3rd.

So I’ve opted for a flight. Bangkok Airways do around 12 flights a day between Bangkok and Samui. It’s only an hour’s flight and with me arriving at 7:15 from the UK, I’ve opted to catch the 9:40 flight down. A slight gamble, but I have an hour’s leeway in case of delay.

This gets me to Ko Samui, not Ko Tao, but I’ll arrive at 10:45. This should allow me plenty of time to get down the road to the port and catch one of the ferries up to Ko Tao. Or I could stay on Samui. Or settle on Ko Pha-Ngan. They’re all pretty nice, but wherever I settle I can organise diving for the next day – something it doesn’t look like I could do if I travelled by land.

Another hint – book Bangkok Airways flights directly via their website. Through Expedia or Opodo (who often I do recommend), I found the price increased substantially. Skyscanner, however, got it pretty close once it had updated and located the “live” price. It only failed to add the tax.

I’d also recommend booking as far in advance as you can. Their prices do seem to vary depending on demand.

As I said earlier, though, land transport is perfectly viable. Were I not on a tight schedule I’d definitely have gone that route, but by flying I get an extra day diving which was the whole point of getting a flight from the UK arriving so early in the morning in the first place.

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