We made the mistake of buying train tickets in Bangkok which included the ferry and bus to the overnight train. It seemed like a good idea at the time but If we had it to do again I would have purchased just the train tickets only In Bangkok and then bought bus/ferry tickets in Ko Samui because it would have included the transfer from the hotel to the ferry and we would have had an agent to answer our questions. As it was we had vouchers, no tickets and very little information. After asking around we were told the ferry would probably leave at around 12:45. We found a website that said the same thing so we flagged down a share taxi and headed to the pier. There were private taxis everywhere (600Bht) but we could not find a share taxi. We eventually found one who wanted 400Bht (double what we paid to get there) we got it down to 300Bht.
We arrived at the port at 10:00am after a speedy trip where the taxi ignored several passengers along the way. It turned out the woman in the front was trying to make the 10:00 am boat.
We found the right pier (there is more than one with passenger service) and ticket office on the second try and were told we could not get a ticket until noon. Harold left and the lady at the ticket office who had refused to give us a ticket before noon came rushing over and said we now had to check in right away. After we checked in they kicked us out of the waiting area because they appeared to using it as a VIP area for the Samui Festival which was starting that day. They sent us to a small waiting area on the pier which was actually fascinating. We watched the local fishing boats coming in and out and getting their fish processed. The ferry was 40 minutes late which made us happy we did not take the later one.
We took a high speed catamaran to the mainland. It was very windy on top and some of the passengers were having a wonderful time in the wind.
We took a bus from the ferry pier at Don Sak to Surat Thani, a 68 km trip. The bus was included in the price and surprize, surprize the bus delivered us to a restaurant just past the train station where we were told to wait for transport to the train station and buy some food. We had seen the train station and the night market so we skipped the overpriced meal, walked to the station, confirmed the tickets, actually found a bag check manned by a 10 year-old and then headed for the night market in search of better food.
We were the only westerners at the market. The signs were all in Thai and there was food we recognized and food we didn’t. Harold picked a soup which was good it had some lumpy stuff in it which he did not eat. I picked a soup which was so hot and spicy that even Harold could not eat it.
I was much more successful with desert something which looked and tasted like jelly doughnuts (4 for 20 Bht) , pineapple and a pineapple shake.
We explored the market and also found second hand clothes and shoes, cosmetics and a Thai reggae CD which we still play just to bug our kids.
We went back to the train station to wait and at 6:20 the board said our train was delayed until 10:00pm. There was another leaving at 6:37pm. Harold managed to change the tickets, I grabbed the bags and we were off.
We had births on the train. Both were upper it was a little rough but we got a reasonable amount of sleep. At each station along the way people got on the train selling food loudly.
We woke up at 5:30am and got very close to the station before the train slowed to a crawl. We would move 500-800m and then stop. This went on for an hour, other people got off the train. We thought about it but the tracks were surrounded by shacks and we had no idea where we were. Someone in the car in front of us bought breakfast out the window.
We arrived an hour late but still two hours earlier than we would have if we had taken the train we were scheduled for.
Lessons learned…the train is not a bad way to travel but make sure you have time to arrive late.