Tha Kham – the town I stayed the night in Surat Thani – really was a no horse town. As such, I had to take a tuk tuk back to the largest city in the area – confusingly also called Surat Thani. This place was similarly devoid of attractions, but I saw on the map that it was close to the sea, built on a large river delta system, which I thought would be interesting to explore. I headed to the main river channel and there found a man who was about to set off in his boat to deliver huge bags of rice to houses downsteam, houses that had no roads and no other connection to the rest of the world. He offered to take me on his circular journey around the confusing network of rivers.
The journey was amazing. The huge river was almost completely empty, just a few other narrow wooden boats speeding from house to house. The banks were covered in thick tropical vegetation, only periodically driven back to allow a house and its pier to stand out. The boat’s captain waved or chatted to nearly everyone we saw. I find it hard to keep track of my neighbours back home, and they live only a few feet away. Maintaining relationships separated by hundreds of feet of water and jungle was impressive.
The river diverged a few times, getting narrower, and harder to navigate. Soon, tree branches were slapping me in the face from both sides, something the captain didn’t seem to try particularly hard to avoid. We dropped off our cargo after about half an hour, and carried on down stream, since the rivers would eventually join up again. Here, I saw a crocodile suddenly surface and swim under the boat. Up till that point I hadn’t realised there were even any crocs in Thailand, making me think twice about my next swim. Luckily, this one was no man eater, being only 1 or 2 feet long.
The captain, with out telling me, decided to stop off at his house and fix his other boat for about 30 minutes. I felt a little self conscious – an ignorant tourist trapped on an unknown island in a river whose name I didn’t know, in a backwater region of a country half way round the world from home. The captain’s family looked at me with a similar degree of bewilderment. Luckily, I wasn’t trapped there permanently. The man seemed to have fixed whatever was wrong with the other boat, and he graciously took me back to where we had set off.
It was a welcome distraction, that boat trip, seeing as for the rest of the day, there was absolutely nothing to do. i trudged for an hour or two down backstreets, looking at the odd temple which are ubiquitous here, envying the dogs lying in the streets sleeping the hot day away. I found an internet cafe, and discovered that a night train was available that night to take me out of Purgatory (or whatever this place’s name was). I splashed out on the 10 hour train journey for 700 baht (only 14 quid), found a place to have dinner and waited for the train.
As usual,I missed the train. I think i misread 19:00 for 9pm. This left me thoroughly depressed, at the thought of wasting another day here, but luckily another bed was available on the midnight train. In a few hours, I would be in Bangkok.