It was really hard for us to work out where to go to in Thailand, after all there is a plethora of destinations all vying for your tourist money. What also made it hard is we aren’t looking for anywhere too touristy. As Thailand newbies we had to wade through a lot of information to try to work out where we did and didn’t want to go.
While we were recovering in our hotel room in Bangkok from our bout of food poisoning Alan came up with the genius idea of heading somewhere south before all the islands that Thailand is famed for. A quick bit of research later and we decided that Bang Saphan would be our next stop.
And a good choice this turned out to be. On the train down from Bangkok we could see as we passed Hua Hin big monstrosity hotels along the coast, the type that dominate and blight the skyline. I started willing Bang Saphan not to be like that. Thankfully it wasn’t.
At the train station only one other couple got off the train as well as us. We were accosted by a taxi driver who was lying in wait for customers on the platform, we agreed to go with him. Then we discovered he was a motorbike taxi driver and that he was pretty much the only option at that point. I wasn’t too keen on balancing on a bike with someone whose driving I’m not familiar with, possibly without a helmet and with a backpack to contend with. He saw our concerned faces and offered to go get another vehicle which we didn’t catch the name of.
He returned with his motorbike and a sort of side trailer strapped onto the side of it which we both had to get in with our luggage. Then we whizzed off down the road, well whizzed might be an exaggeration as the motor bike had a heavy load to contend with, so rather we sputtered off down the road skirting the numerous potholes. Our taxi man was very cheerful, he put his music on, resetting it every time a pot hole made the CD jump. Alan and I grinned at each other at the novelty of the situation.
Once we arrived at our guesthouse, Apple Bungalows, we found out that the nearest shop was back in the town, about 5km away. The people who ran the guesthouse though were fantastic. They took us later that day into town, to Tescos of all places (I don’t have my clubcard with me!), to stock up on food and drink for our stay. The guesthouse is definitely up there on our list of most hospitable places we have stayed. They really looked after us; taking us to the market, feeding us fresh pineapple, giving me a bottle of after sun when I burnt myself, helping us with our onward travel. It was a great place to stay.
So what did we get up to in Bang Saphan? Well to be honest, not a lot! We took the opportunity of being somewhere peaceful and quiet to just relax, something we don’t do very often on our trip.
Our first day was spent by/in the pool where I burnt my shoulders to a crisp not realising the intensity of the Thai sun on my bathroom white skin that hasn’t really been exposed to daylight prior to this point. This meant I had to stay covered up for the next few days and couldn’t go snorkelling at the nearby island for fear of making it worse. The good thing about that though was this meant we looked for other things to do.
We found a waterfall marked on a map, Sai Ku, which also benefitted from a swimming hole at its base. We hired a moped, finally putting into practice our moped skills we learnt before we left home, and headed off to explore.
The first day we totally failed to find the waterfall, mainly because I drove us 30k down the wrong road, oops, and by the time we realised it was getting far too hot to carry on that day. We did however get to go down some exciting rural back roads and it was just nice to see a different side of life in Thailand away from the beaches and tourist hubs. We also got to see monkeys riding on motorbikes with their handlers which was a bit surreal. We found out later that these monkeys are used for picking coconuts.
The next day Alan checked the map and marked the waterfall up on Google maps on his phone. We were determined to make it that day! Once we hit the highway though my confidence had a little wobble, it was a very fast road! Although thankfully not too busy. I opted to copy the other mopeds and drive along the hard shoulder away from the speeding traffic. It got worse when Alan checked his phone and realised we had over shot the turning on the other side of the highway and this would require us taking the next u-turn lane to go back again. I had to get us across two fast lanes of traffic! When it came to the manoeuvre there was thankfully no other vehicles in sight and we made it across unscathed. Phew!
We turned off the highway, grateful to be back on slower roads again, and headed further inland. The tarmac gave way to a gravel road which was ok, occasionally I had to get Alan off the back to navigate over any particularly tricky bits, but we made it to the top in the end.
We parked up the bike and headed on foot to the waterfall. The best bit about it was not only was it beautiful (if you ignored the copious amounts of litter in the vicinity and just focused on the waterfall itself) but we had it all to ourselves!
To get to the swimming hole took some clambering over rocks. At this point I had flash backs to Taiwan and the leech incident. Was it a good idea to enter the water? Was I going to be on the BBC news website in 6 months time when I discover the giant leech that had been residing in my ear hole since taking a dip in the swimming hole in front of me? Or was I just being paranoid? Alan was clearly having similar thoughts and wanted me to go first, to be the “canary in the mine,” I think were his exact words…
I told myself to stop being such a wuss and to get on with it. I entered the cool water and headed out to the middle. I couldn’t touch the bottom so held onto the rope which is strung across the swimming hole whilst encouraging Alan to join me. Eventually he waded in too and we both relaxed against the rope letting it take the strain while we watched the water crashing down over the waterfall only metres in front of us. On exiting the pool I did a full body inspection as did Alan, no leeches.
On our final day in Bang Saphan we had a lazy day by the beach. Although it won’t win any awards for the best beach ever, we quite liked the beach here mainly because it was deserted! I doubt there will be anywhere else in Thailand for the rest of our trip where we get a whole beach to ourselves.
We really enjoyed our time in Bang Saphan, it’s just what we needed after being ill as it gave us a chance to recharge our batteries and to take things slowly for a change. The place is still quite small and undeveloped with only a handful of tourists and a few small bars and restaurants where we had no problems getting a seat for dinner each night. This isn’t a place for anyone who wants to party, but for a few relaxing days in nice surroundings Bang Saphan was perfect for us.