We are landing in Bangkok. Like two soft rocks we barely ripple the surface of this bustling metropolis. It is my first time in Bangkok. The hot humid air stick to our bodies and it doesn’t take long till we are both soaked in sweat. The smells, the sounds, the sights – everything is in abundance.
My first mistake is to take a taxi into town. My brain isn’t awake after 15 hours of travel and little sleep. My second mistake is to not bargain with the driver. I am certain the man says the price is 50 bath when really he says it’s 650. So we take a 650 bath taxi to our hotel near Hua Lamphong station where we will be taking the train the next day.
Our room is small with no window and very damp. I say to A that i need to sleep before we can go explore before i let myself colapse on the bed. A slept well on the plane here so she is content to play on her iPad. I get a little sleep, maybe three hours and then we go explore. There are pharmacies everywhere and we walk to the nearest pharmacy to buy rehydrating salt. I am anxious about how A will take to the heat. Then I buy A an ice cream and we sit and people watch for a while. I wonder where we should go. I have no idea since I don’t know the city and decide that anywhere is as good as the other place. We want food but first I want to buy the train tickets to Koh Tao.
My third mistake is to take a tuk-tuk to the station. Tuk-tuks are expensive. Our ride to Hua Lamphong is ridiculously overpriced but A really enjoys sitting in the tuk-tuk. She can see everything and she says she feels like a woman. I think she means she feels grown up. I look at her and smile with a mixture of happiness a kind of sadness that her careless childhood days are so quickly becoming something else.
We go around the city mostly riding tuk-tuks during the first couple of hours. We eat vegan street food for 50 bath a dish in Sukhumvit soi 38 and we buy train tickets for Koh Tao. Then I learn that taxis are way cheaper than the tuk-tuks if they use the meter and we don’t ride tuk-tuks anymore. A is a little sad that we aren’t using the tuk-tuks since she really likes them but she accepts my explanation that the taxis are way cheaper. I actually want to walk or take the public buses but I can’t seem to find my way around the public bus system and we don’t have a map so for now the taxis must suffice.
Our train leaves at 23:00 the next day and we have plenty of time to go for an ice cream and food. We get some supplies for our train ride. At our hotel A is playing with the daughters of some of the people who work there. One of them gives her a bracelet and a pack of sweet and spicy crackers.
In the afternoon we leave for the train station. Walking with our backpacks we are immediately approached by tuk-tuk drivers who ask where we are going. A man riding a taxi wants to take us to the train station for 200 bath but I decline their offers and we walk to the station. It is very hot and A keeps asking me when we are there. I keep telling her it will only be a little while and finally we reach Hua Lamphong station where we go inside and sit on the floor along with all the other people who are waiting for trains.
The hours go by fast as we people watch and read and A plays the iPad. At some point I realize I need to get some more food for our trip. We haven’t had a decent meal since breakfast. I anticipate bringing A along with all our stuff to the other side of the road to buy some food at the street vendor. But I decide against it since it would only be uncomfortable for her to have to carry her backpack outside, across the road, wait for the food and then go back inside again. I think to myself that it will only be a few minutes and I look around at all the people on the floor. There are lots of children and parents and everybody is sitting and talking or reading, simply waiting for their trains. I ask A if she will be all right waiting by our stuff while I go and buy some food. She says she will be fine. She is playing her iPad and she barely looks as I get up to leave. I cross the road and head for the street vendors.I buy food and fruit. It all takes about 15 minutes. When I get back to the station A is the only one sitting on the floor with all our stuff. A young woman sits next to her quietly talking with her. A is upset. I run to her and ask her if she is all right. I thank the young female backpacker for staying with A. The floor has been cleaned. That’s why everybody has taken to the benches on each side of the station. A tells me she thought everyone was leaving for the train and that we wouldn’t make it. I hug her and apologize for not being there with her. I silently curse myself for not bringing her along to buy the food. Some monks gesture for us that there is a bench behind them where we can sit and we go and sit there. After a little while everything is back to normal. A is not upset anymore, we eat our food and people are sitting on the floor again. Then finally our train arrives and we get onboard.
There were no sleeping berths left when we bought tickets so we have to sit up. We wrap ourselves in blankets and sweaters because the train is airconditioned and really cold. The man in front of us asks if we’re going to Koh Tao and I smile happily telling him yes. A falls asleep with her head in my lap and I try to get some sleep but it gets very uncomfortable after a while sitting up and not being able to move my legs. I don’t get much rest.
We finally arrive in Chumphon and are ushered off the platform and onto a bus that will take us to the ferry. I move as if I’m in a haze not being able to answer all the questions A is asking me. Where are we going? How hot is it? What was that man saying? When will we be in Koh Tao? What is this place called? How long will it be till we get there? And so on. I try to answer her question the best I can. Like her I long to be in Koh Tao and be able to lay down on a bed.
On the ferry they show a really bad animated remake of tarzan. A is happily engaged with the movie while look out the window dozing off every now and then. And then we finally arrive in Koh Tao – a small and beautiful island in the Gulf of Thailand.
Koh Tao is beautiful. We swim, eat delicious food, read, snorkle, laze in the sand and plain enjoy life while we are here – it is wonderful. A plays with some German children who are also visiting the island while I read and work (a little bit). I speak to a German couple who came with their daughter. The mother tells me how they fled from Nepal where they had come to hike but were surprised by the earthquakes. They are staying in Koh Tao for three weeks to recover from the shock.
Both A and I love Koh Tao and it is with dread albeit full of sunshine, happy memories and sandy feet that we leave the small island and head for more adventures.