The long tail boat ferry back to Ranong comes in the morning. We square up with Noi and Fon, say our goodbyes, and wade out to the boat. Back in Ranong, we catch a saleng (motorcycle with a sidecar) at the ferry dock to the bus station.
Our next destination is Koh Phra Thong. The name means Golden Buddha Island and the local legend says pirates buried a stolen golden buddha statue on the island that has never been recovered. Information on Koh Phra Thong can be found at Tezza’s Koh Phra Thong, Blue Guru Diving’s Koh Phra Thong, and Travelfish’s Ko Phra Thong Travel Guide. Prior to our trip, I saved these web pages to pdf files and copied them to my gadget (smartphone).
At the bus station, we check on when the next bus is heading south to Khuraburi (most go as far south as Takuapa before either heading further south towards Phuket or east towards Surat Thani). We then find a pay phone and call to arrange lodging on the island. We had attempted to arrange lodging before departing for Koh Chang. We exchanged emails with Andaman Discoveries, a community tourism outfit, about a home stay in Baan Lion. Their program includes a home stay, meals, and organized activities that sound great but were outside our travel budget for this trip.
We call Mr. Chuoi’s Bar and Huts (pronounced Chew-ee). We talk to Mr. Choui who says he has bungalows available and will arrange a long tail boat to pick us up in Khuraburi. After lunch, we board our bus. An attendant comes by after awhile and collects our bus fare. We settle in for the two hour bus ride.
Khuraburi is the jumping off point for Koh Phra Thong and renowned diving at the Surin Islands National Park. There’s not much to the town – the bus station, a bank, a night market, and a few shops, restaurants, and hotels. We walk from the bus station to the main street and find a young woman at a dive shop who speaks English. We inquire about how to get to Khuraburi Pier to catch the boat to Mr. Chuoi’s. She arranges for a couple motorcycle taxis to take us.
These are literally motorcycles, with no sidecar like a saleng. The drivers wear green vests to show they are licensed motorcycle taxis. They give us each a helmet and we climb on to the seat behind them and hold on tight. After a half hour ride, we are deposited at a shelter on a dock next to a line of fishing boats. We sit on the benches in the shade and wait for our boat.
A man stops and chats with us. He too is wearing a colored vest, but his is either a faded orange or tan. He might be a motorcycle taxi driver or maybe some kind of security for the pier and the local market or maybe someone who helps tourists like us. I’m not sure. He calls Mr. Choui’s on his mobile phone for us. Mr. Choui says the boat will be there in “30 minutes.”
We wait. We wander through the market that’s set up along the road next to the pier. We get to the village on the other side of the market and buy some bottled water. We walk back to the dock and wait some more. Our new friend with the mobile phone comes by and calls Mr. Chuoi again. “30 minutes” we’re told.
Two and a half hours after the first “30 minutes,” a long tail boat stops at our dock. Some supplies are loaded on the boat. At first I think we’re the only passengers. A couple of Thai women ask if they could go along. They work at the Ecolodge on Koh Ra, the island just north of Koh Phra Thong. No problem.
The long tail chugs along. We settle down for the hour long trip. Behind us a full moon rises above the hills behind Khuraburi. In front of us is a glorious sunset. We look forward, then back, forward and back. Awesome. Things work out as they work out. If the boat had shown up after the first “30 minutes,” we would not be giving the Thai ladies a ride. And we would not be seeing this amazing moonrise and sunset.
The light fades as we reach Koh Phra Thong. The boatman manuevers in the dark up an estuary and stops the boat at a dock. A short Thai man riding a saleng meets us: Mr. Choui. He drives us through Baan Lions, then out a paved road that soon turns into a sand track. We get off the saleng at one point so Mr. Choui can navigate a sand pit. We turn off the main track onto a small one and are there. Mr. Chuoi shows us to our bungalow and tells us the generator turns off at 10:00 p.m. No lights, no fan, no restaurant, and no bar after that. We have dinner then call it a night well before the lights are out.