Never mis-read the Rough Guide. It's sketchy enough as it is (hence the title, I suppose. Either that or the mistakes are just lazy journalism) without skim-reading it and costing yourself a few hundred miles and a night in a one-horse town. I got to Samui expecting a month extension, but because I didn't have the printed visa in my passport, just an entry stamp, I was offered 8 days by the girl on the counter. For the bargain price of 1800 Baht (36 quid). Don't think so, love. "You go to Burma, then" Ouch. So instead of Lipeh in the South, I have to run for the boat from Samui over to Suratthani, stay there a night and then up to Ranong. Would have been so much easier from Tao to go to Chumphon. I was gutted, especially with No & starting to ache again under the weight of my pack. But, no choice...it was that or Malaysia for Xmas.
The boat ride to Suratthani was quite nice, actually...and I forgot about the inconvenience and just enjoyed it. Stop whinging, you're not stuck at home in the cold. The place was pretty crap, nowt going on...so I wandered down to the street market to eat. The food was great, and very cheap. The old lady shouted over as I tucked into my Pad Thai "You from British?" "Well, English, actually...don't lump us in with the rest of them" and I smiled. She understood little of that, but just brought me a beer without my asking. I didn't argue. Our reputations precede us, and I didn't mind her judging me with a cold Singha.
An early start from there saw me on a bus North. The Krabi region is certainly good enough to take your mind off an arduos journey...all limestone rock and dense jungle. And the sun was out. After hopping off the bus, I made my way to the easiest guesthouse, Kiwi Orchid. They arranged for me to go get a visa immediately as I dumped my bags. Ordinarily I'd have shopped around, but it expred that day, and it was 3pm. 20 quid sounded OK, so off I went to the harbour.
Ranong harbour stinks. It smells like something's died there, it's horrendous. Diesel fumes and dead fish, not a good mix. I gently lowered myself into the proferred longtail, and off we went out of the pier. It sounds more complicated than it is. You get stamped out of Thailand, then stop at the mouth of the river to clear Immigration. Then out across the bay, clear Burmese Immigration...and onto the nearest harbour to get stamped into Burma, and immediately out again. For which the Burmese pocket $10. And various beggars say they're your best mate, they love Wayne Rooney and Posh and Becks, and can they have some money please? No. A kid with a Chelsea baseball cap asked for tip. "Get a new hat." The boat ride is great, though...my Dad would love it. That's why they call him Skipper Don.
I was a bit perturbed to find that the new Thai government, after the crisis recently, had cut the allowance from 30 days to 15 for new stamps. 2 days before I got there. Swines. So, instead of heading for Lipeh immediately, I thought it best to do Koh Chang and Phayam for 2 weeks, then head South. It was my original plan before I flew from London anyway, so I didn't mind.
I got back to Kiwi Orchid, and got chatting to a girl who'd been born in Preston. Leyland, in fact. i laughed...a lot of mates back home are from there, including The Colonel. So we had a good chat, and she recommended another guesthouse instead of Kiwi, with hot springs nearby, waterfalls outside and plants in the room. Sounded lovely. It wasn't. The springs were out of order, the waterfall deafining to the point where sleep was nigh on impossible, and the plants in the room were plastic. Never trust anyone from Preston.
As I'd left Kiwi, there were a group of kilt-wearing, tattooed Germans getting pissed in the lobby. Very odd characters, so I was pleased to change hotels just for that reason. Didn't like the look of them. And they'd cost em money when I'd seen them a few weeks previously on the Khoa San Rd. I'd seen the kilts and remarked to Jocky "Look at the state of these freaks...some of your lot" "Nah" he shook his head "too many tattos...German." "Bollocks, next beers on whoever's wrong, then." I was wrong, and Jocky made a smug drinking motion. But I didn't think I'd run into these guys. Especially a third time...