Where the hell is Takua Pa? Today, I got to find out. It’s a small town, more a wide spot on the road than anything, roughly halfway between Phuket and Burma on the Isthmus of Kra. A couple nights ago, I got stranded there. I suppose on a trip of this magnitude, getting stranded somewhere along the way is going to happen. It’s inevitable, like the tides coming in to Capistrano. Could I have avoided being stranded here? Easily.
First, I got a late start. Phuket will do that to you. Patong Beach in Phuket is a drink until 4 a.m. kind of town, and I’m a drink until 4 a.m. kind of guy, so the math there is pretty simple. I checked out of my room at noon, somewhat sad to leave its relative palacios confines but ready to move on. Then, I took my time over my fast food lunch and swatted away the buzzing taxi touts as I waited for the slow, cheap bus to Phuket town and its bus terminal.
After spending a week on the party islands of Phi Phi and Phuket, I intended to travel to Khao Sok National Park to dry out in the jungle for a couple of days. I bought a ticket to Takua Pa, where I could catch an onward bus to the park. The bus terminal workers warned me that I would have to take a taxi or tuk-tuk to Khao Sok, that I would get to Takua Pa too late for the last bus. I bought the ticket anyway, figuring something would work out since it usually does. That, and 87% of the English-speaking Thais in Phuket are scammers.
Whiz-bang, they were telling the truth. Lots of people get into trouble because they believe lying touts, I did because I didn’t believe truth-telling touts.
On the bus ride north, we passed through Khao Lak, a beach town, and the bus conductor suggested I get off there rather than Takua Pa. I looked out the window. Dive Shops. Indian/German restaurants. Most every sign in English. I felt like I’d been in better versions of Khao Lak about 7 times already this trip, so I stayed on the bus.
I couldn’t find a hotel at first. Nobody spoke English, no signs were in English, and the only information I had to go by was from my would-be tuk-tuk driver, who wanted an extortionate 700 baht to the park. He said, of course, that there are no hotels in Takua Pa. Good to be back to lying touts again.
Someone finally pointed me in the direction of a hotel, and I walked there. They wanted more money then I spent in Phuket, so I moved on. The lady running the place wouldn’t come off her price at all, even though it was clear from all the hanging keys that she had lots of space available.
I kept walking, looking for another place. A woman smiled at me, so I asked her (via pantomime) if she knew of any hotels in town. She said she did, and I hopped on the back of her scooter. She took me to a nearby place that proved to be pretty disgusting, but it was five bucks a night. As it had a chair and and a table, it looked like a good place to drink a pint of whiskey and write.
At dinner, I saw something I never expected to see – a table filled with a large group of white people. I sat down near them but didn’t talk to them, since their large table had every seat filled. Plus, they were all kids, high school or college, I couldn’t tell. They seemed to be in town for altruistic reasons. They were all fresh-scrubbed, and none of them drank or smoked, at least not at this dinner. Coming off of 48 hours of vice in Phuket, these didn’t seem like people I could talk to. They seemed too young and too pure to be backpackers. I would assume that they were in town for some sort of Jesus-y reason. I was hoping one of them would separate so I could ask about who they were, but eventually they all left en masse and got into a van.
I took a walk around town after dinner. I saw a pool hall while I was on the back of the nice woman’s scooter, but I couldn’t find it again. Then, I came across a ferocious group of stray dogs and decided to call it a night. Strange. In Patong, the people are all cutthroats and scallawags, but the stray dogs are chilled out and sweet. In Takua Pa, total opposite.
At 2 a.m., I woke up to people yelling in my hallway. Since the top of my walls weren’t actually walls but screens, it sounded like they were in my room. Then they went on loudly talking for the next 90 minutes or so.
I got up at 6:45, not taking any chances on a late start. At the bus station, I had an unexpected reunion. The bus that I took into town from Phuket was there, along with the same bus driver and conductor/tout. The same tuk tuk driver was hanging out too. Everyone laughed. I wonder if these guys had stayed in a better hotel or if they had stayed on the bus, which itself would have been a better hotel.
I needed sunlight. I decided against heading to the jungle, and instead took the bus to Surat-Thani and hopped a boat for Ko Samui.
Since Takua Pa itself isn’t very photogenic, I’m adding some pictures I tool on the bus from there to Surat Thani. Turned out to be a really cool ride through the jungle, as you’ll see. We passed a couple of elephants walking down the road, but I didn’t get a chance to photograph them.
The rest of the pictures are all jungle from the bus window.