Out of all the time spent backpacking throughout Southeast Asia, travel days are by far the most unpredictable. Certain times we will arrive at our destination on schedule and unscathed, whereas other days we will find ourselves dropped off miles out of town, suffering from a serious case of the Hangries (hungry + angry), only to have to pay for another tuk-tuk into the city center. Add a language barrier on top of that and pretty soon you have a scene from the Incredible Hulk with Kyle transforming into a monstrous traveler cursing this Godforsaken country for its inefficiencies and ineptitude.
Luckily, our bus ride from Bangkok down to Chumpon (the port leaving for Koh Samui) went off relatively well. Granted, the bus left almost two hours later than the scheduled departure, but this is something we’d come to expect from Thailand. We arrived at the port around 5am after traveling overnight, and swiftly passed out on the ferry to our first southern island destination in Thailand. I have to give it to my parents (who traveled the first part of Southern Thailand with us), they are champs when it comes to travel, and had no issues with the entire mode of transport…until we hopped in a minibus/taxi on Koh Samui.
Multiple minibuses were parked at the port waiting for travellers to arrive, and seeing as no tuk-tuks were in sight we opted for the closest bus already filled to the brim with passengers. Considering we were only staying on the other side of the island (which really is not that big), I didn’t mind sharing a seat with my mother for most of the journey. However, if we had all known how long this cab ride would take things would have been done a bit differently.
The man asks each individual the name of their hotel/hostel, responding with a nod of encouragement that (for most people), conveys the meaning of “yes, I know where I’m going.” In the words of Lloyd Christmas from Dumb and Dumber, “Don’t worry! I’m a limo driver!” In reality the main thing these two characters really have in common is their complete incompetence. Nevertheless we weren’t aware of these facts until half an hour had passed and the only person delivered at this point was a backpacker willing to pay an extra hundred baht for a quick drop-off at another ferry port down the road.
We continued on, then stopped for the driver to grab a quick snack of pineapples from a vendor on the side of the road, then waited an additional five minutes as it took him forever to merge back into the flow of traffic. By this point we were getting to the hour mark, stuck in a minibus with a pineapple-eating Thai man whose food was looking more and more tempting by the minute, with a load of tired travellers running on empty. In short, tempers were dwindling and as time went on it became more and more apparent that this guy didn’t know where the hell he was going.
Driving by a small lake Kyle jumps up to show the driver a screenshot of the map with our hostel location. The conversation went as follows:
“Excuse me, I think our hostel is really close to here.”
“Yes, our hostel. It looks like this is the lake on this map” [points to lake outside].
“Right, but where is it? I think it’s on this road, is that correct?”
“Yes OK, hotel.”[Muttered in clearly audible, but under-the-breath tones] “F*cking useless.”
We continued on with the man stopping occasionally to ask for directions (or at least that’s what we thought he was doing. For all we know he could have been chatting to his buddies about the stupid tourists stuck in his minibus yelling directions at him in English). Finally he stopped, generally in the maybe-please-God-let-this-be-over area of where my parent’s hotel was located. At this point we were pissed off at the entire situation, and started walking down the road without paying him a cent. Finally after walking for a few minutes we saw the sign for the hotel, walked into the lobby, and were thankful that the entire ordeal was finally over.
Or so we thought.
The driver comes running into the hostel yelling in Thai, and proceeds to speak to the two people at the reception. At this point my Dad is clearly angry. Growing up the main parent that told me off in a fit of rage was my mother, with my Dad taking the more calm and collected approach. Since him showing this more irritated emotion was a rare occurrence, you knew that when he did get mad, it meant business. That time my brother punched a hole in the wall, he was mad, and as the taxi driver continued to yell in Thai I could see a similar vein start pulsing beside his temple ready to be directed into a full fit of Dad Rage. Mom Rage is scary, Dad Rage is terrifying, and if something wasn’t done swiftly he was soon going to fall into this rarely seen territory of emotion.
Finally Kyle and my mom took out a couple hundred baht each and handed it over. Either we paid the guy, or ran the risk of the hotel staff not even allowing my parents to check in for fear of being ripped off by some western tourists. He left, muttering under his breath, and finally the ordeal was done with…at least for my parents. Kyle and I still had to find our hostel, which was eventually done by hopping in another 200 baht cab only to be driven around the corner to the exact same spot that Kyle pointed out to the previous driver.
The lesson? When traveling in Thailand, be prepared for things not to go as planned. Overall it’s extremely easy to book transport, as travel agencies are situated on every corner ready to pop you on the next ferry or bus to pretty much anywhere. However, it’s tough to say how smoothly the ride will go, but that’s Thailand. We only stayed for a couple of days on Koh Samui in the main area of Chaweng. It was alright, but very commercial with a ton of resorts and bars. Out of all the memories of this place, the main one that will stick with me was this damn cab driver. Next time I’ll remember to order the pineapple.