We took an overnight train from Bangkok to Chumphon. We left from Hua Lamphong which is the old station. Bang Sue will replace Hua Lamphong Station as the main station of Bangkok in the near future ( projected date is Jan 19, 2023). We bought our train tickets in advance, from home using 12Go Asia. It was not our first choice for booking but we could not find another way to book from home. If you book with 12Go Asia you have to pick the tickets up from their office which is by the train station but not at the train station. First class and second class tickets tend to sell out. You can also do the trip by overnight bus.
Our train left Bangkok at 7:00 pm. Due to COVID the trains here are not currently serving food. We planned to buy snacks at the train station but almost everything was closed at 6:00 pm. When we boarded the train a vendor showed up selling dinner plates. We were not really interested but our lack of interest cut the price in half, so we bought two and had dinner after all. Due to COVID we booked a first class sleeper. It was a little more expensive but you get a room for two. Second class sleepers get you a berth in a train car with curtains. In general we find Thai trains get you where you want to go, but they don’t always get there on time. Our train was an hour late.
We travelled to Chumphon in order to take a ferry to Koh Tao. Chumphon is the closest land point to the island. You can also get to Koh Tao from Surat Thani. We decided to spend a night in Chumphon, but you can get a transfer directly to the ferry from the train for 150 Bht. There was a very excited gentleman trying to herd us into the back of a pick-up to make the ferry on time as the train was late.
We were staying on the water between the town and the ferry and had to negotiate to get a 500 Bht fare to the hotel.
We stayed at De Sea Almond on Sairee Beach. We arrived several hours before check in and they kindly let us check in right away. Sairee Beach is a tourist area but they see very few non-Thai tourists.
Almost no one spoke English. There were several places to eat along the beach but all the menus were in Thai, some did have photos!
The room was very nice and very clean. It was the Thai theme room.
It had an ocean view and breakfast was included. There was coffee (instant) -they grow coffee here but 95% of coffee, unless you go to a coffee shop, is instant. Most of the instant coffee is 3-in-1 which is coffee, whitener and sweetener combined. We bring our own instant coffee and buy milk. we also got toast, sticky rice, bananas, eggs and a sort of fried cheese puff which we have seen in other places as well. We were the only westerners at the hotel. They were selling home made jam, coffee and sets of IKEA cutlery in the lobby!
It was very windy so we walked along the road but we were not able to swim in the sea. We discovered the Khet Udomsak Shrine. It was built to honour the son of the king who died at sea. There is an entire complex which includes a navy ship you can walk all over.
Two shrines, several places to sit and view the ocean and a gift shop. As with most shrines and Wats you can buy incense and candles to light.
Here they also sell big boxes of firecrackers. We were not sure what they were for? Turns out you buy a box and take it to a concrete hut with a chimney on top. Someone there sets off your firecrackers for good luck. There is a row of tables by the hut where you can buy lottery tickets with your new found luck.
We also walked to the khao Chao Mueeng Viewpoint which had great views of the sea and a local island which we were told by the only other westerner we met,a British guy who had been here for five months, was a great place to snorkel when the sea was not as rough.
We went to the local waterfront restaurant suggested by the British guy. We were the only customers. The food was really good. We did have an audience of 6 or 7 dogs, 6 puppies and a cat. None of them were aggressive and they left us to go and bark at any scooter going down the road.
We bought ferry tickets and a transfer to the ferry terminal from the hotel for 750 Bth each. They don’t get many non-Thai guests so google translate was very useful. There was a bit of a panic on their part when we did not have Thai tourist cards. On our previous trips here we have been given these cards on arrival and they have to be returned when you leave. We both came in through Bangkok airport and they were not giving them out. We also got 45 day visas not the usual 30 days but that is currently only a temporary program.
We were picked up the next morning and taken to the ferry terminal. It was still very windy and the sea looked choppy.
As soon as we got on the boat they passed out barf bags to everyone. Not a good sign! It was a rough crossing. I would say 1 in 3 people used the barf bags and there was one poor guy who barfed the whole way across. He looked pretty awful! It was about a 1 ¾ hour crossing. We literally had to hold on the whole way. I must confess I was glad to see dry land!
It’s mid December so we are in the Gulf at the tail end of monsoon season and the seas are definitely rougher.