Tuesday, January 10, 2017

NIGHT FERRY FROM KOH TAO TO SURAT THANI

This is a post on how to get from Koh Tao to Surat Thani airport (all land and sea transfers) in the most comfortable and economical manner.

I had to get from Koh Tao to Surat Thani, where I was due to get back to Kuala Lumpur on a 1 pm flight. You have a few ways of going about this

  • Speed boat 
  • VIP Night ferry  
  • Local night ferry 

Let's talk about your options.

Speed boat 
Tickets with the Lomprayah speed boat cost between 1200 - 1500 bht (depending on how hard you bargain / which agent you buy from). There are 2 departure times every day, 6.30 am and 1.30 pm. The journey is supposed to take between 4-5 hours on average, but remember that this is dependent on weather and it is safe to allocate extra time for delays.

VIP Night ferry (what I went with)
I can't remember the name of the company ; tickets range from 800-950bht (again, depending on how hard you bargain / which agent you buy from). Departure times are at 9 pm and you reach Surat Thani airport at 9.30 am the following day. You get a private sleeper bunk of your own, light refreshments, it is fully air-conditioned, you have your own reading light, and so on. I'll talk about it my experience further down in this post.

Local night ferry
I did not go with this (I wasn't even aware of this option til boarding my night ferry) but from what I later learnt, tickets are from 500 - 600bht. Everyone is spread out to sleep on the floor with no air-conditioning and out in the open. It largely carries locals but from what I heard, it is not uncommon to have the more cost-sensitive backpackers on board.


Image from somewhereorbust.com

Despite being the dollar-savvy traveler that I am, I probably would not have gone with this option even if I had known in advance. (Looks really uncomfortable / awkward / unclean / etc)

***

Anyway, here's my recount of the experience with the VIP night ferry.

I had scouted around Koh Tao and weighed my options. Eventually I decided that the morning speedboat would be cutting it too close for timing, so ended up with the night ferry. I bought my tickets for 800 bht from a travel agent directly behind Nat Resort.


Image of Nat Resort Koh Tao from travelfish.org

(Sidetracking a bit, Nat Resort was where I stayed after my free accommodation with my dive school ended upon completing my open water course with Phoenix Divers Koh Tao - review here. For the convenient location in the middle of Sairee beach, it is the most economical accommodation on the island ; for 300 bht you get a private room (fan) with a queen bed and shared bathroom. Air-conditioned rooms with private baths are available for around 600 bht. WiFi is in the main reception area though it gets spotty further away.)

On the day of departure, my agent picked me up at 8.30 pm for the short 5-min ride to the pier. 

I checked in, boarded the ferry and went to see my bunk. 


The sheets, linen, and pillows were relatively clean. We got a bun and a bottle of mineral water. I hung out on the deck with other passengers until they announced it was time to depart. Washrooms are up on the open air deck and cleanliness was decent by Asian standards.

At 9.30 pm, the ferry departed from Koh Tao.

They turned out the lights at around 10.30 pm. No wifi on board, but there are plenty of charging ports for your phone / electronics. Perhaps due to the time of the year (November - December is the monsoon season for Thailand's east coast), the bunks were occupied at only about 50% capacity.

My experience throughout the night was quietly peaceful. The air-conditioning was on the colder side, but I just nicked one of the blankets from the empty bunks and was fine. As the ferry moves slowly and steadily and the sea was calm and glassy (as opposed to the speedboat I took getting in to Koh Tao which was bumpy and nausea-inducing as heck ; people were throwing up left and right), I slept well in the darkness.

The night passed by uneventfully and we reached the mainland in the wee hours of morning, with different passengers stowed off to their respective locations (Bangkok, Railay, Chiang Mai, Koh Lanta, whatever - it's easy to buy a bundled transfer to wherever you want to go). I was directed into a minivan headed to the airport and arrived at Surat Thani airport at 9 am, slightly ahead of schedule.

It was a lot better and more comfortable than the speedboat, with the only possible drawback being time if you are in a hurry. Overall, it was a relatively alright experience and I would have done it again. 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

THE COOL KIDS


When I was younger, all I cared about was having a good time now and having fun today. I certainly didn't care very much about the long term, whether what I was doing was beneficial or meaningful to me, nor deeply think about who / what / how I wanted to spend my time and effort on.

Anyway, I recently met up with a friend of mine whom I haven't properly caught up with for a good 10 years or so. Neither of us have kept in touch much with the crowd we used to in high school. 

It made me think and reflect.

*** 

Stop wasting time with the wrong people

When you're in school / college / uni, you're surrounded by others who have little in common with you aside from being in the same proximity. Whether you wish it or not, you spend your time together because you have no choice. You have a lot of free time from extra periods / between classes so you sit together and talk smack about nothing and everything and get up to all sorts of random meaningless mischief.

As you mature, you start to realize that time you have is precious. You realize that you can't spend time and hang out with everyone and anyone, so you become more selective about the company you keep. Choose wisely. 

You will learn that different people will have different priorities and different ways to expand their time and energy - and that is truly OK. 

Some might go drinking every weekend, and every day in-between the weekend. 
Some might get married and start a family.
Some might get a job and climb the corporate ladder.
Some might remain unemployed and claim an allowance from their parents for as long as possible.
Some might become an entrepreneur and start a business.

What is important is that you learn to distinguish your own priorities and how you will manage your own resources - and surround yourself with company who have aligned goals and values.

Different does not mean evil

I was brought up in a rather sheltered environment. Picture something along the lines of a white picket fenced house, manicured lawn, neighbourly  community, and you wouldn't be far off. 

From a very young age, I had it drilled in me that those who looked, sounded, acted, and thought differently were bad. If heaven forbid you did not march to the beat, your life would be a miserable outrageous despicable mess. 

Among the things I used to believe when I was younger (and I am deeply ashamed to be admitting I once thought this way)

Divorce doesn't happen to good people.
You don't fall in love with someone of the same gender.
Premarital sex is for sluts.
Co-habitation is a God-punishable crime.
Ad infinitum.

Being so young and not knowing any better, I naively believed the above baloney and more with unquestioning naivete. It also didn't help that all around me were the same upper-middle English-speaking people who listened to the same music, watched the same TV shows, hung out at the same malls, dressed in the same clothes, spoke the same way, and so on. I used to think that if someone wasn't like us, there had to be something wrong with them.

It wasn't til I ventured out into the big wide world where I started to interact with others did I realize that there were so, so, SO MANY different people out there. And there was nothing wrong with them! They were happy, healthy, intelligent, independent, useful, and productive members of society (contrary to what I had been brought up to believe).

It was then I realized that different does not mean evil. 

Learn to value the right people

The right people are the ones who genuinely delight in your presence and your time and vice versa. The right people lift you up and encourage your endeavours. The right people are also not afraid to challenge you if you go off track or slack off in your goals and values. 

" Quality over quantity. " 

You can only have so many people with whom you can maintain a constant ongoing connection. Treasure them and hold them close. Show them they matter by putting in the effort and time, no matter how small or menial it may seem.

Grocery shopping.
Health checkup.
Airport run.
Moving to a new house.
Coffee or brunch catch ups.

***
Above all, learn to value and love yourself.

You're going to be spending a pretty long time (to be precise, the rest of your life) with the person that is yourself. So start doing (if you haven't already started) things to improve and be a better version of you.

Drink plenty of water.
Work out 3-5x a week.
Eat well - lean protein and lots of veggies.
Read consistently.
Get adequate sleep.
Carry yourself with respect.
Wear moisturizer.
Dress well and smile a lot.
Travel often and never stop learning.
Always be thankful.

Never stop taking care of yourself and doing things for you.