From markets to sleeper trains. On the Sunday evening we headed back to Hualumphong to wait for our sleeper. Despite all the street food we had eaten at JJ we were all still ravenous so we took it in turns to look for a bite to eat that looked a little more appetising than that on offer at the station food court.
The Boss and I found a lovely street cafe, a few chairs and a small stall. A selection of pork, rice, half a hard-boiled egg and endless iced tea. The girls went in the other direction and found an apparently excellent noodle bar. All in all the food choices around the market are not great. There are several stalls selling fruit bags, banana rice and waffles and we later found a small noodle bar by the station itself but that was about it. To be fair it was a Sunday and we were in the middle of the business district and there did seem to be more on offer when we were there on Thursday but if you have time to kill and an appetite, eat before you arrive.
On the subject of food. We were in first class, which costs only a little more than second but sells out very fast. Tickets go on sale 3 months before departure so if you know your itinerary, book asap. In first they offer you food. Don’t bother. We got caught out by a steward offering us glasses of orange juice before we departed. How lovely we thought – how pricey we thought when we were offered the bill. We made the mistake of ordering breakfast and went for the sandwiches. The Thais like sugar. I have never tasted sweet mayonnaise before. Suffice to say one mouthful was enough. Apparently the fruit juice that came with it was even sweeter.
Fortunately we had stocked up beforehand with fruit bags, banana rice, seaweed (me only!) cremos (the girls – exactly like oreos but half the price), dried fruit and nuts. I suggest you do the same. There is a small store in the station and two 7/11 stores about 5 minutes walk away via the metro subway.
We had a connecting cabin with the girls – who insisted it was kept closed! The steward came to make up the beds around 8.30. They were excellent, larger and more comfortable than the Highland sleeper and the top bunk has a barrier put up so no falling off in the night.
A word about the air con. It is wonderful – but VERY powerful (apparently the top bunk is warmer – I’m having that one next time). We never found the controls so I had rather an icy night, however the girls worked out they were controlled manually on each air vent. Failing that bag the top bunk and let the cold air sink to the person in the bunk below!
We were woken with the aforementioned breakfast and a welcome cup of tea at 6am and pulled into Surat Thani at about 7am. Pretty much on time.
All very efficient, our ferry vouchers were exchanged for tickets. The Boss and the chap in charge of the buses to the ferry waxed lyrical over Phuket and Ko Samui 30 years ago and I went to investigate the parade.
This was one of the smartest parades I had seen for a long time, albeit with a rather incongruous bride like young woman at the front. Apparently it was National Health Day and health workers across Thailand were parading and being appreciated. Perhaps something the NHS should think about, it needs some love.
The bus ride from Surat Thani to the ferry is a lot longer than any of us expected – at least an hour, an hour and 15 minutes. But the bus is air conditioned – even if some of the signs are redundant. There are no seat belts!
We took the catamaran to Ko Samui, which is a lot faster than the regular ferry. If you manage to blag a seat on the top deck (where the views are amazing) do take lots of sun cream in your hand luggage, all cases (though not back packs) are put in the hold. Failing that there is a very pleasant air-conditioned room downstairs.
On arrival it is mayhem. We had a hire car ordered so it was a bit easier for us. There are hotel pick ups, taxi touts, everyone!
On the car hire front we were recommended to take photographs of all the scratches and dents on the car even if they had been written down. Just in case!
Then off to Sea Dance.
The roads are good until you turn off the main drag. Turnings can be very small and what you think is a dirt track may well be your road so keep your eyes open.
The oasis that awaited was stunning. We had a two roomed hut with private pool.
The main pool was pretty stunning too.
The food outstanding (more about our cookery lesson later). We were hungry. Margarita and lunch.
This is breakfast. I usually start with yoghurt and fruit salad.
The Boss prefers honey on his. My favourite juices are watermelon or carrot but there are all the usual suspects. I usually follow with dim sum and banana pancakes, I know, but it’s my breakfast and I like it. However if you feel the urge, there is pad Thai, Tom Gha, bacon, sausages, eggs cooked to order…
And endless pastries, croissants, toast and home-made preserves all in an airy dining room with a stunning view.
But most important the staff, they are out of this world, nothing is too much and they are friendly and helpful and just gorgeous. Faith is a star and can organise anything, I am sure she could arrange for Pink Floyd to play at dinner if we asked nicely enough!