Chumphon

I woke up early having spent the night dreaming about my friends and family. For a minute I can’t even think where I am and it takes me a while to get going. Simon goes off to get train tickets to Hua Hin but returns empty handed, all the trains to central Thailand are full for the next few days and it looks like we won’t be going anywhere at the moment

After breakfast we decide to pack up our gear, check out and head to the bus station in the hope of getting a bus somewhere. The local orange buses go to Chumphon and as we arrive one is just pulling away. The conductor, a scary old lady snaps at us to get on quickly and we stumble up the steps as fast as our rucksacks will allow. The local buses are almost works of art. Although they are quite old the seats are made of red and blue leather and the ceilings laminated in shiny red, yellow and green with highly polished silver fittings, neat little curtains at the windows and whirring fans.

Despite them sounding quite nice though this would be a false impression. They are so hot, bumpy and can be noisy with karaoke music blasting out of the speakers at about 100 decibels. The journey is supposed to take around 2 to 3 hours and costs us 340 baht.
Four and a half hours later and we finally arrive at Chumphon. It has been a long and sweaty journey made only slightly more interesting by watching 3 monks who got on half way.

The landscape is fairly uninspiring too, quite industrial with lots of palm trees and the occasional small town. The roads are straight and I reckon if we had been in any type of half decent vehicle we would have chugged along quite well. As it is, we watch the km signs to Chumphon going down agonisingly slowly.

All Thai men are supposed to don monastic robes at least once in their lifetime; usually this is for a fairly short period of time (3 months) between the times when they leave school and prior to commencing a career or getting married. Some men spend as little time as a week living as a monk but many are ordained for life. We haven’t seen that many monks in the Lower Southern Gulf of Thailand but these 3 seem quite friendly and offer us a drink.

They go to sit down on the back seat. Simon is sat there next to a young girl with her sleeping baby across her lap and the dragon conductor lady makes her move immediately. We weren’t too sure why, women aren’t allowed to touch monks and we wondered later if it was because she may have touched them. Not sure. As we have seen lots of pictures of monks we guessed they don’t object to photography and they agreed readily enough when Simon asked if they would mind posing with him!

When the “oh so friendly” conductor finally snarls at us and motions that we should get off (and quickly) we ask a women where Suda’s Guesthouse is. We’re pleased to see it’s just up the road and after quickly checking out the room. (Very old fashioned, spotlessly clean and cheap) we head off back up the road for a beer and some food. We have some decent Thai food, I have shrimps with eggplant and wild basil and Simon has chicken with steamed vegetables in peanut sauce. I give Nicky a quick ring it’s good to hear her chirpy voice and have a little chat.

We’re so tired from the travelling and tomorrow have a vile journey ahead. We have decided we must head straight to Bangkok to get visas organised and are catching the train at midnight tomorrow. The main flaw in this plan is that we couldn’t get on a sleeper train and our tickets are for 2nd class overnight seats only. Oh my god will I make it through. At the moment I do feel a little doubtful.