One of my worst nightmares about traveling alone is turning up in a new city late at night with no place to stay. Thus far, I’ve been able to avoid this by making sure that my transportation (be it plane, train, bus, van or tuk-tuk) arrives during daylight. Unfortunately, sometimes fate takes the matter out of your hands and you end up living a backpacker’s worst nightmare.
I booked my transportation from Ko Lipe to Ko Samui through my accommodation like I’ve done many times before. The journey would be long, but the all-inclusive ticket would take me literally from one side of Thailand to the other via long-tail boat, ferry and minivan, several times over. It seemed understandable that the length of my trip would be upwards of 8 hours, especially when so many modes of transport had to link up.
If all went well I’d meet up on Ko Samui with Franzi for dinner. Too bad the travel gods saw it fit for me to experience the backpacker’s worst nightmare. Midway through the journey, the minivan broke down. This left us stranded at a roadside shop for hours in the heat. I’m thankful that we even made it to the small store so food, water and toilets were available. It would’ve been much worse if we had to pull over on the dirt shoulder and pee in the bushes.
After what seemed like ages (the heat really messed with your mind) of watching other minivans come and go, our relief transportation finally arrived. We piled into the new minivan and sped off trying to make up for lost time. As we drove, the afternoon’s setting sun greeted us with brilliant colors.
In the end, it was no use. When we reached Surat Thani, it was nearly 9 p.m., and they dropped me off near the ferries stands for the islands. Unfortunately, no ferries leaving from this dock went to Ko Samui, and the next boat for Ko Tao didn’t leave till after midnight.
After wandering aimlessly looking for someone who spoke English (who didn’t want to sell me a ferry ticket), some guys finally pointed me in the direction of a hotel. I was beat after such a long day and just wanted a shower. According to the locals, there was a hotel a few blocks away from the water’s edge, so I headed off into the dark night in search of shelter.
I don’t mean to make this sound so dramatic, but after the day I had, I was really on edge. Normally, I’m not so suspicious of the locals, but I was obviously not from around here. Maybe they were leading me astray? Maybe someone would jump me once I hit the darkened streets leading to the “hotel?”
It was a scary three-block trek during which time I constantly looked around. My eyes and ears were hyper aware of everything around me. After all, a single girl arriving in the middle of the night in a strange town is an easy target, eh? Finally, I reached what seemed like a major street. I couldn’t really tell which way I was supposed to go. All the signs were in Thai, of course, and totally undecipherable. I approached two women leaving an ATM and asked if they knew where I could find a hotel. They pointed down the street, and I hoped they were right.
Eventually I found a very Western-looking hotel lit up in bright lights. I fumbled through check in as the front desk staff didn’t speak much English. I assume the hotel was used for local business travelers and didn’t see many backpackers. When I got to my room, it was like I was in heaven. The hotel offered modern amenities and everything was sleek. It could easily have fit in any major U.S. city but probably cost only 20 percent of the price.
After such a long day, I had a hot shower to wash off the day’s dirt and grime. The air conditioner blew hard and cold and quickly relieved me from the effects of Thailand’s humidity. I plopped on the bed with Thai TV softly playing in the background and happily rewarded myself with a small tub of ice cream. Not such a nightmare after all!