Let me preface this post by saying that not even the approximate 26 hours we spent in various methods of transportation en route to our final destination in Thailand could mar my feelings about this amazing, exotic, tropical and laid-back country. I loved every second of it, even — and especially, at times — the journey.
Evan and I began our adventure on Tuesday night at 7:30 PM, when we bundled up, grabbed some kimbap and chicken strips and braved the snow to hop on a three-hour bus to Seoul, from where we would depart to Thailand early Wednesday morning. Bus travel in Korea is extremely comfortable, so as soon as we hit our seats I snuggled in and tore into our food.
Evan thought it was hilarious that I ate my chicken with chopsticks, but what was I supposed to do? My hands were filthy and not acceptable vehicles to shovel food into my mouth. I’m sure the germaphobes in my family can appreciate that.
Kimbap is a Korean dish that is similar to sushi, but instead of fresh fish wrapped in the rice and seaweed, the roll is filled with egg, various vegetables (typically carrot, spinach and pickled radish) and usually ham. It is delicious and and staple in our diet. We eat it at least two or three times a week. NOM!
Thanks to family visits, my desire for a piping bowl of chili and Evan’s competitive urge to play FIFA, we got only a few hours of sleep before it was 4 AM, and time to catch a bus to the airport. Thankfully, my cousin Tim told us about a bus straight to Incheon that took an hour, which was such a relief because the subway wasn’t running yet and besides, it’s a pain to get to the airport by train.
We waited for our 9 AM flight, watching the sunrise from the gorgeous wall/windows at Seoul Incheon. It is literally the prettiest and most efficient airport I’ve ever been to.
Our first stop was in Shanghai at around 10 AM. The airport was alright, but what really made me uncomfortable was the utter curtness of the airport employees. Everyone seemed beyond annoyed, short and like I was being a total pain in the ass. Hmph.
I feared that this may have been simply the Chinese way, but that was before I had a completely different experience in Beijing. More on that later. We killed time during our 2-hour layover with spicy chicken, onion rings and Asahi (we’ve been on a chicken kick since Christmas Eve). Hee hee.
At 4 PM, we finally arrived in Bangkok! It took 30 minutes to get through security, which was a miracle since everyone and their mother from all around the world decided that was the place to be that afternoon. Before we knew it, we were in a cab to the Bangkok train station. Once at the station, we bought tickets for an overnight train/bus/ferry ride to the island of Koh Samui, where we’d be spending our time. We were sweltering when we got there (it was in the 80s) and had peeled off layers during our trip. After all, it was about 15 degrees when we left Seoul that morning!
We celebrated our arrival with Thai beer and fresh fruit. The sleeper train was amazingly space efficient. We ate more vendor food, chatted, and people watched all the backpackers interacting until a man came around to help us assemble our bunk. As soon as my bed was ready, I crawled in and passed out.
We awoke (well I awoke) at 4 AM, because our ticket said that’s when we’d be transferring to a bus. Well that was before I knew everything ran on “Thai time,” which is roughly 1-1.5 hours late. Eventually we bussed to the pier in Champong, where we boarded a ferry that would take us to Koh Tao, Koh Phangan, and finally Koh Samui. We caught a gorgeous sunrise at the dock :)
We got to our destination around 1 PM, and were able to relax until more travel excursions the following day. On NYE, we had joined up with Mimi and Matt and made our way to a ferry back to Koh Phangan, where we would celebrate the new year. The ferry was so rocky, the water was choppy and the boat was full of drinking 20-year-olds. You do the math. Eesh.
We took cabs (and I use that term loosely, considering it was a pickup filled with people) to and from the party once on Koh Phangan, which was uneventful until the cab we were leaving in broke down on our way home. Everyone had to get out and push, during which I (of course) ran right out of my flip flop. I had to run back and get it, while the cab started to speed away. I screamed, ran with Mimi, and we barely made it back on. I lept for it, while a guy just swooped Meems on. It was nuts! Oh and when we were ready to leave Koh Phangan, we were at the ferry station before we realized we had 2 hours to wait before the first one. FAIL.
On the island, we got around on little motorbikes. It seemed like the preferred method of transportation for everyone, and it was awesome seeing everything from place to place, and doing activities on our own time. Plus, it was much cheaper than cabbing!
At the end of our amazing vacation, Evan and I boarded our plane to fly from Koh Samui to Bangkok around 9 PM. Once in Bangkok, we hopped aboard a 1 AM flight to Beijing, switched planes with the help of very friendly Chinese locals, and landed back in Seoul at 12 PM. A much shorter ride than the way out. I would have more to say about the seamless trip, but I literally slept for the majority of it. WIN!
In Seoul, we got tickets for the 1 PM bus to Jeonju, grabbed Dunkin Donuts and lamented that our island vacation was over. Evan: Goodbye white beaches, hello white snow. Goodbye 30 degrees celsius, hello 30 degrees farenheit. Me: Wah, waaaaaaahhh. All in all, we were really lucky that no hiccups occured on any planes, trains, buses, cabs, or motorbikes. It was a lot more travel time than the Japan trip, but ran much more smoothly.