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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Vietnam and East Timor take shape

I have to throw a couple of “thanks” out here. First of all to Thao in Ho Chi Minh City who’s helping me plan what promises to be an awesome week or so motorcycling around the south of Vietnam. I’ve been wanting to ride round the whole country since well before that Top Gear episode, but time is short. However, covering around a quarter of the place and seeing many towns and roads I’ve not encountered before promises to be amazing!

I think the plan right now is to circle round from HCM to Da Lat, then Nah Trang, Mui Ne Beach and back to the city again. If there’s time I’d love to get as far up as the DMZ near Da Nang, but that might be pushing it.

Next up, TravelFish on Twitter put me in touch with Matt who’s been able to provide me with some very useful information regarding flights to and from East Timor. I was about to give up on this adventure (mainly due to time constraints), but now it looks like it could be both affordable and enjoyable. I may try and make part of the journey there by land, but fly back out to Denpasar. He’s done this journey before and knowing this gives me a quite a bit of comfort.

I’ll likely be flying with Mupati. Unfortunately, their web page is still at the “under construction” phase so I wasn’t able to check times and prices on there. The only other alternatives were from Singapore (far too expensive) and Darwin (stupid long route round and as a result, very expensive as well). Flying from Bali is still not cheap, but it’s a lot cheaper.

Any other time I’d have just turned up and winged up, but two to three years ago I wasn’t on any real schedule. I also had a hell of a lot more money!

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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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Vietnam flights booked

The trip is coming together. I’ve just booked my hostel in Bangkok (I’m staying in the HQ Hostel, recommended by Honey from and also my flight to Ho Chi Minh City, and from Hanoi back to Bangkok.

I have a friend in HCM who I’ve not yet met and I’m hoping we can work out a 3-4 day moped-based trip to Dalat and back to HCM from where I’ll get another flight up to Hanoi. I would use the bus, as usual, but tim constraints make that difficult.

My main task now is to work out how to get to/from East Timor, and how quickly I can get to Ko Tao from Bangkok airport.

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