As soon as we finished the meditation course on Koh Samui, we headed to the opposite, west coast of Thailand. We had an option of booking a door-to-door ticket with a travel agent but we preferred to act as ‘real backpackers’.
Coast to coast
A Thai boy participating in the course gave us some advice and estimated how much would we spend for an independent travel from Lamai beach on Koh Samui to our accommodation on Koh Lanta. He explained that the price he calculated was still much higher than the local price but this extra cost was simply impossible to avoid in Thailand. Despite all the preparations, the trip didn’t go as smoothly as expected.
We woke up very early in the morning as we had a long travel ahead of us. The first songthaew to Nathon Pier appeared later than expected, after at least half an hour wait. The driver tried to convince us it was too early for normal working hours hence we had to use it as a taxi.
We sensed he wasn’t honest but as we had to catch a ferry, we didn’t have much choice. Instead of 100 baht each, we were forced to spend double. A Thai lady who hopped on later appeared surprised and sympathetic when she heard how much did we spend.
Because of a long wait for a songthaew, we narrowly missed the ferry we aimed to take and had to wait 50 minutes for the next one. We used the cheapest carrier, with mostly Thai people on board.
A bus from Donsak pier to Surat Thani town (1 hour drive) was included in the price of the combined ticket. We knew from the google maps that the bus station was just 5 minutes walk from where our bus stopped. Upon leaving the bus, some lady invited us to board a pickup van. She ensured us it was also included in the ticket’s price. Since it was hot and we didn’t fancy carrying our luggage, we hopped on.
Scamming at the bus station
The van took us to the bus station but stopped in front of a tour agency. An agent swiftly approached us, asking where we were going and encouraging us to buy the tickets from him. We were wise enough to completely ignore him.
We spend another hour at the bus station, trying to figure out when the bus to Krabi was coming and how to buy the tickets. It wasn’t a particularly easy task due to the fact very few Thai people speak English and there was no information in English anywhere at the station.
In the meantime, we sat down at one the station’s numerous eateries. We had there one of the cheapest meals during our stay in Thailand. Two noodle soups (one vegetarian and one meaty) cost us 60 baht.
Asking around about the tickets didn’t bring expected results: we were directed to the agents twice. One of the agents was shameless enough to ask for 400 baht! When we laughed at his face, he immediately dropped the price to 300 baht. Eventually, we decided to buy the ticket on-board. It cost just 150 baht.
Bus journey with an unexpected destination
We boarded a half-empty bus carrying – apart from the passengers – a scooter. People had to maneuver around the two-wheeler to get their seat. Most of the passengers were locals but there was also one far- Asian tourist and two British – Thai couples.
The journey went remarkably smooth. The bus was quite comfortable and we stopped for a meal and a pee-break midway through around 5 hour long journey. Complications started only at the very end. The bus came to Krabi bus terminal and we were preparing to get off when it turned out it was not going to stop there. We just encircled the station and carried on to an unknown location. Neither the driver nor the ticket controller spoke English so asking them what the hell were they doing would be pointless.
After a short ride we stopped at a deserted and rather dodgy looking bus depot. A lady selling minivan tickets was sitting at a ticket counter. The Asian tourist demanded bringing him back to the proper bus station. The lady selling tickets told him he could walk there if he wished so, as ‘it’s just 500 meters away’. I’m 100% sure the distance was actually longer, though. He just said: ‘You guys are so mean’, picked up his backpack and left.
We weren’t very much up for roaming around in the heat with the backpacks so we agreed on the price which was just 50 baht higher than the one we expected. It turned out later it was a completely legitimate price. I was pissed off as the bus driver clearly got some commission for bringing the farang (foreigner) to this particular agency. We waited for some time for the minivan to turn up, sitting on a kerb and nibbling some snacks we got from a very basic shop located within the premises.
The last leg of the journey
I stopped complaining about the price when I realised how long was the drive to Koh Lanta. The island was 60 km from Krabi, thrice the distance we covered in the morning on Koh Samui. Moreover, our bungalow was located actually quite far from the beaches, on the other side of the island. It was already dark when the minivan got onto a car ferry and reached Koh Lanta. We were the last passengers to be dropped off, arriving at our bungalow after a 14-hours journey.
Not worth the effect
The whole journey left a sour taste in my mouth. We made all this effort to save some money but eventually didn’t save much only because of the dishonesty of the songthaew driver. Lesson learnt: independent travel isn’t necessarily the cheapest option available.
How to get there?
Get a door to door transfer from any of numerous tour agencies on Koh Samui
A Songserm ferry from Nathon Pier to Donsak Pier (combined ticket to Surat Thani Town)
A public bus from Surat Thani bus station to Krabi bus station
A private minivan from Krabi bus station to your destination on Koh Lanta (directly to the hotel).
Prices [in Thai baht as of May 2018]
100 THB songthaew Lamai- Nathon Pier
230 THB combined ticket ferry to Donsak Pier+ bus transfer to Surat Thani Town
150 THB bus from Surat Thani to Krabi
300 THB minivan Krabi bus station- Koh Lanta (with a drop off at your accommodation)