As D mentioned in our last post, after Koh Tao we decided to skip Koh Pha Ngan and head back to the mainland. Yes, we had the chance to go to Koh Pha Ngan for the ‘full moon party’ and no, we had no regrets in declining this opportunity. Due to the sudden change of plans, we decided to stay in Surat Thani for a day to regroup and get some planning done.
Yes, the music is the same. No, I don’t care. YouTube’s options of legal music is limited and the search function is poor. As such, I’ll be using this song until I can’t.
- Night ferry from Koh Tao to Surat Thani. Transportation PLUS lodging….sign me up! It left Koh Tao a a little after 9:30 PM and arrived in Surat Thani a little after 5 AM.
- From the outside, the ferry looked like a cargo boat. We had serious doubts it would have actual beds until we saw the beds with our own eyes.
- When you buy your ticket for the night ferry you do not get a bunk assignment at the same time. Instead you have to show up early and ‘check-in’ to get your bunk. The lady who sold us our tickets said we should get there around 6 PM to check in. Turns out it was more like 7 PM. After our night train experience (when we had two top bunks) we attempted to get a top and bottom bunk for this journey. Fail. Somehow the check in person misinterpreted Danielle’s request and gave us two top bunks again.
- Sleeping on the night ferry was MUCH easier than sleeping on the night train. Less noise.
- Bandon Hotel. This was the first hotel we stumbled upon after arriving. Keep in mind it was 5 minutes before 6 AM when we found this place. Amazingly, the owner let us check-in immediately. We wanted to hug her.
- 350 baht for a room, 400 for AC, 450 for AC and hot water. 350 baht is about $10. CHEAP for a private room with an en suite bathroom.
- WiFi was solid.
- Close to the night market, see below.
- Night Market. BEST. MARKET. EVER. The town hosted a night market 4 or 5 blocks north west of our hotel. Since we were only in town for one day I’m not sure if this is a regularly occurring market, or if it is only on select days. Either way, it was wonderful. Basically it was an entire city block of food, clothing, and other vendors (with an emphasis on food vendors). As Danielle and I have professed in the past, we love street food. If my memory serves me, we tried the following items:
- Mochi. This is a Japanese ice cream treat that we’ve had in the USA before. It’s just as delicious in Thailand.
- Meat on a stick. Interesting.. not sure I’d repeat this buy, but as they sell meat on a stick EVERYWHERE, we had to try it out.
- Banana waffle. So delicious.
- Jackfruit. We had to Google this when we returned to the hotel. Also, I accidently ordered an entire kilo of it. And by accidently, I mean I asked for ‘one’ and when you do that you get 1 kilo. Jackfruit for everybody! Danielle liked it, I was (and still am) on the fence.
- A few kinds of fried dough. Because you can never have too much fried dough.
- Pad Thai. The search continues for the best pad Thai.
- Yellow rice. Not at the night market, but so stinking delicious. We had read rave reviews about Thai yellow rice in other blog posts and they were accurate. So good. Essentially, it is yellow rice (I think with saffron and other spices?) and chicken. It is also served with a sweet and spicy sauce that is quite tasty.
- Walked. Surat Thani is a smaller town, so we were able to walk around most of it in one day. It has a nice river front area, a ‘fitness island’, and a good sized ‘downtown’.
- We are noticing something of a trend in ‘fitness islands’ (or ‘fitness areas’) in Thailand. A few places we have been to now have parks with many people walking or running and then many stations with gym equipment (like pull up bars, reverse sit up structures, etc). All outdoors. It is pretty awesome. And the best part is that people actually use the walking paths and the equipment! All the areas we have seen have been packed.
- Planned. One of the non-glamorous parts of long-term traveling – planning as you go. We spent a good 5 hours of the day holed up in our hotel room figuring out transportation and lodging for the next week. Not sexy, but necessary.
- One run. The river walk area is very wide and the ‘fitness island’ has a great trail. Strava detail HERE.
- Night Market. So much fun.
- Run. This was the easiest place to run on our trip thus far.
- Skipping town. We had read several reports on the internet remarking on how Surat Thani was a flyby town. As in, no need to spend time there if you can help it. But we absolutely loved it. Few tourists. Great food. Nice people. Smaller town. It definitely had a more authentic feel to us. If you have a day or two to spare, we definitely recommend spending it here. 3 days might be a little bit too much though.
- Interview with middle school girls. Danielle and I were stopped by a group of middle school (we think they were middle school age) girls while we were walking around town. They asked us if they could interview us in English – they said they were supposed to find ‘native’ English speakers to interview. It was adorable. We could tell they were incredibly nervous, but one girl held the camera and the other two took turns interviewing Danielle and then me. They asked us the same questions – where we were from, why we came to Thailand, what we enjoyed about it – and then presented both of us with a bag of snacks (which were delicious by the way).
- Get into and out of town. Surat Thani has three bus stations, a train station, and a pier. And a reputation for folks trying to scam you at all of these places. We managed to make it into and out of town without an issue thanks to the detail provided on the Surat Thani wikitravel page.
So interesting to see the difference in what a tourist sees. I go to Surat Thani a couple of times a year and it is my least favorite. But I don’t go all the way to the town center. I end up at the Diamond Plaza with bus loads of Chinese tourists.
Haha! Go figure. Expectation versus reality was probably another factor working in our favor…we weren’t expecting much based on what we had read/heard. Definitely interesting to hear!
Beth and I got stopped a few times too by middle school kids wanting to interview us! They were always super polite and adorable. We didn’t make it to Surat Thani (partly because we probably read the same reviews to skip it). Interesting to hear your perspective on it. Love reading your posts!!
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They were so polite! We saw them later, and they gave us huge smiles and waved. I can see why you wouldn’t have made it, especially with less time. Where did you all go again?
I’m so glad that you two are blogging your travels – please keep it up! Very interesting. If you’re going to be going back to Bangkok, by the way, you should look up Title, our exchange student from 2012; he’s attending university there. Or, if you’re in Udon Thani, stop by his family’s jewelry shop and introduce yourselves – I’m sure they’d love to meet you!!
We are definitely heading back to Bangkok sometime. Not sure when yet, but when we do I’ll be sure to look them up!! Thank you!
By the way, should you get to Udon Thani, here’s the contact info: Taerattanachai is the last name; address is 362-366 Phosri Rd, Ampur Muaeand, 41000 Udon Thani. Not sure of parents’ names, but I can find out. His mom speaks English.
If you’re going to go back to Thailand, Title’s address there is: 808/15 Thanon Rama Five, Dusit District, Thanon Nakehon Chai Si subdistrict, 10300 Bangkok. I can ask him for his phone number if you’re going to be going there.
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