When I travelled from Pattaya to Koh Samet it took me one hour by minivan and one hour by ferry to reach my destination. All in all for the roughly eighty kilometres it was only two and a half hours from door to door.
From Koh Samet to Koh Chang it is around 170 kilometres. My mathematics capabilities have never been my strength, but I could still make the simple calculation that for about twice the distance I would need twice the time. I even took the road conditions into consideration, i.e. they were the same good national roads.
I left my hotel at 8 am. Luckily one of the hotel staff carried my heavy luggage to the ferry boat on the beach. The departure was scheduled for 8:30 am. I sat down on a plastic chair when I was approached by a man similar of my age. He asked me something in German and I answered in German. Then he said “I could see, that you are German!”. I replied: “Yes, I too can usually identify Germans without a problem. But I always asked myself what it is, that makes us identifiable at least for our countrymen.” He answered: “Whatever it is, it is good that our race is not mixed too much!” A statement that I naturally ignored. I just realised that he is travelling with his male friend, and if he was, what I suspected, at least I thought that he would certainly not have any impact on mixing the German race!
We were then transferred to the small and pretty old ferryboat. You could only sit in the front. The boat was a typical Thai fisherman like ship with a sloping bow making it really hard to sit on a narrow bench in a very unnatural position for one hour.
After we had arrived at the port I went straight to the bus operator walking 400 meters only to hear that the bus had just left and the next one would go at 11:30. This was really annoying for me as I had deliberately asked the guy selling me the tickets for the bus and the ferry, whether the bus would wait which he confirmed.
On the other side of the road there was a little Café. So I went there, had my breakfast and was writing my blog.
The minivan arrived and nine other passengers and myself were boarding. The luggage was stored on the seat just next to me and I had to watch this big pile in every sharp curve to make sure I would not be buried by all those backpacks. On the other hand I definitely had the best seat in the van in the first row with plenty of space for my legs and no one sitting next to me. I made myself comfortable and checked the route on my smartphone.
My comfortable seat!
After one and a half hours the driver made a stop at a restaurant. A break for twenty minutes. When I asked him how much longer we would be on the road, he answered “another one and a half hours, maybe two hours”. I could not believe it. But he should be right, especially after we had to wait another thirty minutes queuing at a petrol station.
The driver was a rough guy, and that is also the way he was driving like. Since I have started travelling around Asia in 2010 taxi and Tuk-Tuk drivers became my special friends. Or in other words, I hardly ever met likeable or trustworthy drivers. And in no other country do I dislike those guys as in Thailand.
Our driver never smiled. When we should leave the van at the petrol station he commanded us to get out in a military style. It comes to no surprise that he did not get any tip after we arrived.
That is when I sometimes wonder. If the guy would just be a little bit more friendly and communicative like maybe: “Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I am your captain for the next few hours on our trip to Koh Chang and my name is Blablabla. If you have any question or problem, do not hesitate to contact me, as I can´t help you anyway, hahaha! Make yourself comfortable and enjoy the trip which will take around four hours. Our cruising altitude will be 10 meters about sea level. Thank you!”, then he would surely get a 100 Baht from each of his passengers. And if he makes one return trip per day he would roughly get 2000 Baht a day or 50.000 Baht a month. Just as a tip. Easy money!
We finally reached our destination Laem Ngop. There are two piers in operation being around four kilometres apart from each other. The van stopped at the Laem Ngop pier. The driver “ordered” us to immediately buy a ferry ticket at a small boot and, order is order, we obeyed. It was 100 Baht one way. We were told that we would then be taken to the pier from where our ferry departs, the Centre-Point-Pier of Laem Ngop. This was a real surprise, although nothing really surprises me anymore travelling in Southeast Asia. So we were all packed on a Songthaew and taken to the other pier.
Now you wonder why the bus did not drop us off at the right pier straightaway where we could have bought our tickets just as easy as from this little boot and certainly cheaper? I can only speculate! But it seems clear to me that it is all about getting commission for the bus driver, which in the end is paid by us tourists.
I have boarded the ferryboat, an old and extremely rusty pot also carrying vehicles. The ground floor was reserved for the cars, the upper deck for the passengers. I was sitting not too far away and just behind from the captain´s cabin. The captain arrived ten minutes before departure, a relatively young Thai man weighing an estimated 200 kilos which forced him to slide through the door sideways. I asked myself how this man would act in a case of emergency.
A typical ferryboat. Mine was same, same, but different!
The vessel was finally off to the sea at such a slow speed that I thought I could swim faster. Maybe the miserable condition of the ship did not allow for more power and speed. Safety first! And that´s right!
After one hour of relatively enjoyable shipping towards the sunset we finally reached Koh Chang. And from now on it was a challenge to get on one of those Songthaew pickup trucks, basically the only means of public transport available in the island. There seem to be some moto taxis offering there service. But you cannot find taxis or normal buses. Only these Songthaews.
On the nearby parking around ten Songthaews were waiting for the passengers. They all go to different destinations which are usually written on the side of the vehicles. But this does not tell you really which one to choose, if you are new to the island and have no idea of what beach lies on what route. So you ask one of the drivers who are already busy, busy loading luggage on top of the roof. They point their finger to another truck. You fight your way through the narrowly parked trucks with all the heavy luggage to this specific vehicle and ask the driver: “to White Sands beach?” and he will point his finger to the next car. This procedure was repeated several times until I finally ended up at the very last row of Songthaews while the ones in front were about to drive off. To cut it all short. I eventually found a seat on the last Songthaew dropping me off right in front of my hotel. It was 18:30 by now! Puuuh!