People walking on the Chumphon Pier to reach the Lomprayah Ferry
Thailand Tourism Travel

#TheBeachTrail2017-Part 1- From Bangkok to Phangan

#TheBeachTrail2017 is a trail followed in the movie ‘The Beach’ and aims to capture the spirit of independent backpack travel. This continues from the first in the series already published here

As soon as we made our way to the intersection of Khao San Road and Rambutri Road, I had a look at the dawn that was slowly changing from violet to orange. Khao San Road, known to be the place where most backpackers from the world congregate over the years, was still waking up to a quiet dawn.

“The first I heard of the beach was in Bangkok, on the Khao San Road.”
Alex Garland, The Beach

Rambutri Road at 5:15 am. Alive and Beautiful
Rambutri Road at 5:15 am. Alive and Beautiful

The bus was a double decker bus, and we were to head to seats 15,16 and 21 and it had very narrow stairs to climb with our luggage. Given we had camera equipment, there was inadequate space to keep the bags even around us, since the upper lugagge rack that is usually there on flights/buses was missing on the double decker. My eyes were threatening to shut down, and the Air conditioning was doing everything it could to lull us to sleep, and I poked around a bit, before I clumsily kept the luggage on the walk way, hoping no one else was going to walk right yet, since the bus was in motion, and everyone had dreams to check-in to at this un-godly hour of 6 am (My body clock had it showing 4:30 AM, which was the time in India).

I kept looking at the city-scapes changing to rural scapes, from the big windows, whenever I was awake, and I was curious to know how Thailand is able to keep standards for roads very high. They seem to have a very good highway network of roads and over bridges from the parts that was visible on the route. We had a few French girls in our bus, who were sharing a Lonely Planet book and browsing it for places and things to do, and they also seemed to have a large physical map. I borrowed the map for a bit and was telling my friends on our #TheBeachTrail2017 plans.

Large Windows on the Lomprayah Bus
Large Windows on the Lomprayah Bus

We reached Chumphon in the afternoon, and we gathered our luggage, and stood in a queue, where the Lomprayah team distributed our second set of stickers in Pink and Green. I think a color code basically meant the route combination in the bus and ferry, since the Ferry stopped at Koh Tao, Koh Phangan before finally alighting at Koh Samui. After getting our stickers, we ate the ‘brunch’ bought at the 7-11 convenience store at Bangkok. A few bananas, cashew nuts, Cake-Bread and we settled for some Tender Coconut before we heard the staff point us with green stickers, the route to getting on the pier.

Thai Flag against the Chumphon PierThai Flag against the Chumphon Pier

Chumphon Pier in ThailandChumphon Pier in Thailand

Once on the pier, we were not really feeling like walking on the pier, as we were thrilled by the beauty of the pier, in the bluish-green sea all around, and the extra dark layer of palm trees growing on a hill, and this being the constant view all around. Just by seeing sights like this, with the slow movement of the water below the pier, can relax you. The moment when you see things with your own eyes, after seeing it in videos and magazines is surreal. It’s a bit like the youthful excitement of a  ‘coming-of-age’ flick, where the adrenalin manages to find its way north. Your favourite song plays in your head, and you feel like the hero in the movie, walking with your step a little higher than the plank of wood you are walking on. Our cameras were out, and we saw scores of people walking through, while we were clicking photos of the pier. We walked the length of the plank and hurried as we got closer, out of the fear that the upper deck seats would fill fast, but we later realized that most of the passengers were making a bee-line for the air conditioned seats. I perched myself on the upper deck, and let the cameras out and then took out my notepad to make some notes. As I started penning down, I remember this little quote from the book.

“I don’t keep a travel diary. I did keep a travel diary once and it was a big mistake. All I remember of that trip is what I bothered to write down. Everything else slipped away, as though my mind felt jilted by my reliance on pen and paper. For exactly the same reason I don’t travel with a camera. My holiday becomes the snapshots and anything I forget to record is lost.”
Alex Garland, The Beach

People walking on the Chumphon Pier to reach the Lomprayah FerryPeople walking on the Chumphon Pier to reach the Lomprayah Ferry

Was I actually selectively taking in just what I was observing? Was I creating a bias in recording stuff? With time, I put the notepad away for some camera away time, before I started shooting again. I had a young Thai Family from Bangkok, that was starting early for their weekend. A lady with her partner and brother boarded the upper deck, and opened up their bags to bring out a huge bottle of Songserm Whisky and a box of ice. They started their party early, and Vikram from our group, said yes to her invite for drinking along with them. There was a strong wind blowing there and the funny part was that each of these 4 people who were drinking did have to cover the plastic cup with a hat. At one point, as Vikram tried drinking against the wind, and lost focus on his hat, which succumbed to the strong winds and flew out of the ship into the sea.

Thai Traveller Drinking against the Wind FlowThai Traveller Drinking against the Wind Flow

We made friends with another Australian Traveller-Kelly, who told us about a couple of waterfalls in Koh-Phangan which we should explore. We noted that as points on our trail and were loving our conversation over the next couple of hours, where we exchanged notes on our lives, on places we have been to and Thailand in general. Kelly was returning to Ko-Samui to pack her bags and head all the way north to Chiang Mai, where she was volunteering at an organisation to save elephant poaching.

Enroute to Koh-PhanganEnroute to Koh-Phangan

We enjoyed the sights of clouds, merging into the mountains, while the other side had bright sunshine in the distance, and had greens contrast with the blues of the skies over another builsh-green shade of the water, as speed boats punctured the view every now and then. We reached Koh Phangan at about 5 pm, after taking a shared van taxi to our hostel. We had decided to stay in a hostel to cut costs, and meet new people and listen to their stories. The hostel cost us about 4000 INR each for 5 days of stay with Air-con dorms. A new world and a new experience was awaiting us, as we reached our hostel and let out a little stifled war cry and why not. 20 odd hours of travel across a Flight, A Ferry and a bus, with little sleep, left us drained out, and so did our mobiles. Mushroom soups were on its way, and we were re-charging ourselves and our devices for the adventure ahead.

To Plan this Trail- Look out for cheap flights to Bangkok which starts at about 10,000 INR from Chennai to Bangkok. From Bangkok you could directly fly to Koh Samui through Bangkok Airways, but since its a private airport, fares are usually high. You could alternatively fly to Surat Thani from Bangkok, which has direct connections from the airport to the pier and to Koh Phangan/Ko Samui.You could take the train from Bangkok (Hualamphong Station) to Chumphon or Surat Thani, and head to the respective piers in those cities to catch a ferry to Koh Phangan.

PS: If you have come this far, do watch the video footage we have filmed on our journey so far, shown below.

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22 comments

    1. Yes Kaustubh. These were taken by me. Go ahead and watch the documentary on Facebook/Youtube by searching for ‘#TheBeachTrail2017″. You will see a lot more nice places and photos.

  1. I didn’t realise that people still followed the Beach trail! I know it was a really popular movie several years ago, so I just assumed it had fallen out of the public consciousness! The photography looks lovely though.

  2. Wow looks and sounds like you had a fabulous time. Plus who doesn’t love some great money saving travel tips. Thanks for sharing

  3. You have captured some beautiful photos of the area! I have been to Koh Samui which is next to your island. I flew from Bankok instead of going the boat route. Looks like I missed some pretty scenery.

  4. I like how you included your inner monologue in your storytelling, it made your experience in Thailand very engaging and your photos/shots are beautiful. It’s true that sometimes, by constantly recording your travel experiences you may end up losing out on the real experience, so I guess it’s important to create a balance between recording and experiencing.

  5. Brought back many memories. Such a wonderful part of the world. I love the reference to the classic Thai lunch – bought a 7-11, I tried one of their hot dogs once, regretted it.

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