Suratthani, or “City of Good People,” is one of Thailand’s oldest towns. It dates back to the fifth century and is the gateway to Thailand’s blockbuster islands Koh Phangan, Koh Samui, and Koh Tao.
This time around, these islands were not on my itinerary. Still, I had to travel back from Khao Sok to “Surat,” as locals call this city, because I’d parked my motorbike in Suratthani town. I’d chosen to give my 125cc scooter a break and had ridden a minibus to Khao Sok National Park, a picturesque mountain range with peaks towering 400m on average.
The moment I’d made the reservation online in a few clicks, I looked forward to a comfy taxi ride from Khao Sok to Suratthani through the limestone paradise with Kanokwan Travel. It did not disappoint; it was literally cool. Dive in and get a vicarious thrill.
Waiting at Phantip Khao Sok Minivan Office
The cabbie had called the day before the trip to confirm I was coming on the agreed date and time. Today, I rang him because I wanted the guy to show up at 12 pm rather than 1 pm. He said coming earlier was cool, but he could only make it by 12:30 pm.
Waiting for him to turn up, I enjoyed the fresh jungle air, took deep breaths, and listened to exotic birds twittering happily in the midday heat.
At 12:30 pm, a car pulled up, and I was pretty sure this was my driver. “Bookaway, chai mai kap?” (Bookaway, right?) I said, but the guy shook his head and went inside the ticket office.
I quickly realized that this was an official, checking if everyone around was wearing a face mask. The governor of the Suratthani province had imposed a 20,000-baht-fine ($635) for everyone not wearing one. He told the ticket seller to take a picture of him and wanted me to be in it. I guess he had to prove to his boss that he was doing his job properly.
Fair enough. I did as told, held one thumb up, smiled behind my face mask and shades, and before I knew it, heard the camera shutter, “Click.”
Riding the taxi to Suratthani
The taxi driver arrived at 12:50 pm and was obliging. He smiled, took one of my two backpacks before I could even say something, and put it in the trunk of the car, a classy Toyota roadster.
I didn’t have to check in; this guy didn’t want to see the Bookaway voucher. It was apparent who was headed for Suratthani as there wasn’t a single traveler at the minivan office but me.
Opening the door, he motioned for me to get inside. I sat down in the back row and instantly perceived the leather smell and cool air. That’s called air conditioning, I thought to myself, remembering the poor AC you usually find in minivans. The seat was exceptionally comfy. I loved the luxurious feel to it.
“Alcohol gel mai?” (Do you want some sanitizer gel?) the friendly bloke asked and handed me the sanitizer dispenser. I pushed the button and rubbed the viscous blue gel all over my hands. Even though there was only him and me in the car, we were both wearing a face mask. You never know these days. Anyway, I didn’t want to risk getting fined 20,000 baht.
The cabbie drove off at 12:55 pm. Looking back through the rear windshield, I said bye to the awe-inspiring limestone rocks. They towered behind the road that cuts through the scenery as straight as an arrow.
This was a private ride; there were no fellow travelers. There was no package pick-up and delivery service along the way, which is standard on minivan tours in Thailand. I can definitely recommend investing a bit more money in a private taxi ride. Three passengers are allowed, and it’s still cheap at $46.20.
Apart from a better AC and toilet stops whenever you want, you’ll also have more space. I flipped up the middle armrest and asked, “Is it okay if I lie down?” He checked if I’d taken off my shoes, said, “It’s okay,” and offered a small pillow.
I didn’t mind that the driver hadn’t turned on the radio; sleep-inducing engine sounds were pretty much all I heard while rubber trees and palm tree forest rolled past.
Arriving in Suratthani
Reaching Suratthani at 2:30 pm, I spotted the snow-white City Pillar Shrine with its four-faced Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva. It beckoned behind the railing under looming clouds, and I knew that I was about to arrive.
The cabbie stopped at 2:40 pm at Talad Mai Road, right next to Phangan Tour 2000’s office, which sits opposite Wat Tritharam. The sight of this golden temple with its white pillars and intricate ornaments of gilded holy snakes or dragons was a nice end of a 1h-45 min-ride.
The driver opened the trunk and gave me my backpack. He didn’t appear to expect a tip and just took his leave. Cool, I thought to myself and remembered Suratthani’s meaning, “City of Good People.”