Friday, March 1, 2013

Raja Ferry from Koh Samui

Whew, we finally made it to Krabi after a long 6 hour Thai ferry & drive trip.

I'm not sure how many of my readers will be in Koh Samui and trying to get to Krabi like my family did yesterday, but just in case, I thought I'd help other babies and their parents by posting our experience.

Recall, we originally were going to just fly from Koh Samui (USM) to Krabi (KBV) on a short 1 hour flight but since we changed our plans, all reasonable flights we wanted for Feb 28th were completely full, and we didn't think it made sense to go to the airport to try to fly standby.  So now we were on our way to Krabi via the ferry to Donsak Pier on the mainland where our driver was going to pick us up and take us the 3 hours to Krabi.

We started off the morning of Feb 28th like any other morning.

9:00AM:  We got up and went to breakfast

9:45AM:  I started getting restless and was playing with my food more than eating it.  My parents and I went back to our villa and finished packing.

10:15AM:  We called the front desk to tell them that we would be checking out and needed help with our luggage.

10:18AM:  Bellman arrived to collect our bags and drive us to the lobby.

10:30AM:  Our taxi arrived 15 minutes before the scheduled pickup time but we were happy to take the early ride to Lipa Noi Pier where we would catch our 12PM Raja Ferry to the mainland.  We didn't use the hotel car service (too expensive) and asked the hotel to get us a regular taxi.  It cost 600 THB (or $20 USD) for the 20 minute drive to Lipa Noi.

10:45AM:  We arrived at Lipa Noi Pier.

As you can see, the pier area is not that developed because the ferry is more commercial use (delivery trucks & passenger vehicles) than it is for individual passengers.  However, they did have a small convenience store, ATM and restaurant inside if you wanted to spend some time there.

10:50AM:  My father goes inside the Raja Ferry ticket office (seen below) to buy our 2 adult tickets (150 THB / person or about $5USD).  Adorable infants ride for free.

Most of the time while traveling in exotic countries like Thailand, you'd be better served by purchasing your bus/train/ferry ticket 1 day in advance to make sure you get a seat.

However, the Raja Ferry online booking system (accepts Visa or Mastercard) only lets you buy tickets for ferries 2 days in advance (so we were too late).  Or we could have come in person to the ticket office the day before (but my father didn't want to pay an extra $40 for a taxi round trip just for the security of buying our $5/person tickets in advance).  Given the Raja Ferry had an hourly departure, he took the chance that we'd be able to buy our tickets 1 hour in advance.  And so we did.  No issues at all.

The 11AM ferry (the one on the left) was running 10 minutes late so the Ticket Office people tried to convince us to try to get on it, but our driver was already scheduled to pick us up at 1:30PM on the other side and wouldn't be able to get there earlier.  Made more sense wait here (where we knew we'd have access to a store/restaurant) than at Donsake Pier.  Better the devil you know...

And also, my father was too lazy to run the down the long pier with our heavy luggage in the 90 degree heat.

11:25AM:  After having some cold drinks and waiting in the outdoor (but covered) terminal, I passed out.  But my mother and father took me and our luggage over to the 12PM ferry so that we'd get a good seat.

It was a shame I was sleeping because the ferry was decorated with some funky Asian cartoon octopi.

The ramp to get onboard was actually for cars and trucks but my parents got some help from the staff with their precious cargo (ie, me).

11:30PM:  Now we were in the main cargo hull where all the cars are parked for the 1.5 hour journey.  They suggested we leave our large luggage along the side wall (the yellow line in the photo marks the area where people can store their bags).

But after reading some scary reports on TripAdvisor, my father was paranoid about thieves and leaving our unlocked bags out in the open for literally anyone to come by and take.

So instead, we planned to keep all our luggage with us at all times.  Easier said than done because little did we know that to get from the cargo hull to the passenger seating area, you had to negotiate some steep and tight stairs.

Despite almost being 16 months old, I haven't learned to count yet (much to my father's intense disappointment), but my mother tells me it was about 30 steps in a very narrow stairwell only wide enough for a fat Thai man (which is like a regular American woman).

Given we were traveling for 1 month and I needed all my countless baby supplies, we had some large suitcases (including one weighing about 50 lbs and another large bag carrying my precious car seat).  Plus, my father was really out of shape and already sweating profusely.  But he manned up and got all our luggage up the stairs after taking 4 trips.

11:40PM:  My father finally made it inside the air conditioned passenger seating area where he found my mother and I resting comfortably (that's our backpack in the corner there).

The seating area looked like some cartoon version of a Las Vegas casino lounge.  Pictures make it seem nicer than it was, because almost all the seats were ripped and in pretty bad condition.  The floor looked pretty dirty, but you really can't expect much when you're paying $5 USD for a ticket.

12:00PM:  The ferry pulled away from the pier right on time and we took over the entire little children play pen area with all our bags (even though there were 2-3 other babies/kids on board the ferry).  My mother even kept our shoes on. She didn't care at all, but for me, it was soooo embarrassing!!!

The ferry's cargo hull was completely full but there were only a handful of passengers so it never felt crowded.  Some people preferred to stand outside the entire time and smoke enjoy the sun and the lovely Gulf of Thailand views.

However, I preferred to watch television where the Thai news had a report on some viral Youtube video about a pregnant woman dancing/singing to a mock version of an LMFAO song.

1:20PM:  The ferry started approaching Donsak Pier on the mainland and the passengers started to go down to their cars in the cargo hull.  We waited til everyone cleared out since we had some big bags to take down the steep stairs.  Luckily for us, a nice Raja Ferry employee saw us and helped bring some of our bags down.

1:25PM:  As soon as we got off the ramp and touched the ground, the pre-arranged driver saw us and showed us his sign with my father's name on it.  He was smiling ear-to-ear as he took the large suitcase and led us to his shiny new car.  Sometimes, the taxi's in Thailand are pretty small, and we have to keep our bags on our laps.  But this car was large enough to store all our junk in the trunk.

And we were on our way!

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