Ko Pha-Ngan to Chiang Mai.
Beaches be gone. I thought it would take me a couple of weeks to become bored by the paradise beaches of Thailand, but it took me less than a week. After the majestic landscape and subsurface beauty of Ko Tao, I moved onto the confused paradise of Ko Pha-Ngan.
Once I concluded that I was ready to leave Ko Pha-Ngan, I forced myself into waffling between wonderfully impossible destinations. Another beach paradise or satiate the culture junkie within? I constantly reminded myself that there is no wrong choice. It almost came down to the flip of a coin, but the call of culture and diversity won out. Destination: the culture of Chiang Mai, Thailand.
I’ve found that the greatest adventures lie in motion. I knew the trip from the Gulf islands to the north would be long, but how long I couldn’t appreciate until now.
- Leg 1: 4 hours on a “Fast Ferry” from Ko-Pha-Ngan to Chumporn.
- Leg 2: 9 hours on a Bus from Chumporn to Bangkok.
- Leg 3: 16 hours on a 3rd class rail car (no AirCon and non-reclining seats) from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.
Total trip time 35 hours. Total sleep ~4hrs. Total cost: $80 USD. What it could have cost: $30 USD. Yes, even the seasoned traveler gets scammed. Especially when having to make decision as to each leg of the trip while in process. I paid for 2nd class train, but got 3rd class.
Complaints, duration and heat aside, the trip was amazing. The ferry passed by some of the most stunning islands in the world. The bus skimmed the border mountains of Burma where thunderstorms crackled as they marched north with us. My train car was filled with locals, who rarely sweat and could actually fit on the tiny bench seats.
While flying would certainly have taken less time (and more money), I feel a sense of accomplishment over having completed by 35 hours transit with a smile. Not sure I’d do it again, but I’m grateful I made the journey.