Two days ago I flew to Ranong. Since there is no direct air connection between Chiang Mai and Ranong, I had to change planes in Bangkok. The flight from Chiang Mai to Bangkok (DMK) I did with Lion Air. This airline company has a rather dubious safety record, and is banned in Europe, but at only 815 baht it offers by far the cheapest flight from Chiang Mai to Bangkok. From Bangkok to Ranong I flew with Nok Air. Both airlines seem to cut costs by cramming as many seats as they can into a plane, which results in absolutely tiny seats. I wouldn’t recommend flying with either if you’re over 1.80m tall (which I am) or if you weigh more than 100kg (which I don’t). I guess I got lucky, because on both flights I got a seat in the emergency exit row (for which I didn’t even have to pay extra)… and also because the Lion Air flight didn’t crash of course.
Once at Ranong Airport I fell prey to the local taxi maffia scam. The Ranong taxi drivers seem to have formed a block, with a price agreement to charge each tourist 200 baht (about $6) from the airport to the city in a shared minivan. The distance between the airport and the city is about 23km, making it unappealing to hike, or to get stranded while searching for other means of transportation on the main road. (Note that elsewhere in Thailand a drive like this should cost about 250 baht in a private taxi seating up to four, or about 50 baht in a shared vehicle.) I’m not sure if this kind of thing is legal in Thailand–it wouldn’t be in Europe–but they are pulling it off. When I arrived at the airport there was no public transportation or ‘normal’ taxi in sight… somehow the taxi maffia had effectively kept the competition off their turf. There wasn’t much I could do other than just pay the extortionate fee (which was still a small amount by Western standards).
Ranong itself turned out to be a surprisingly pleasant town. There aren’t that many tourists here, so you get a taste of ‘real’ Thai city life. The people are quite friendly and helpful. I’m staying at the ‘China Guest House’ a small dig a bit out of town, close to the local ‘hot springs’ attraction. Not really my cup of tea, but it’s at least slightly amusing to see the locals bathe there, of course fully clothed. The guest house is fantastic. I have a huge airconditioned room, the owner is super-friendly even though he speaks only three words of English, and there is lightning-fast wifi internet (which is a big plus for me, since I can get some work done). Altogether I wouldn’t have minded sticking around here for a bit longer, but the amount of time I have left in Southeast Asia is getting shorter and shorter. Maybe I shouldn’t have lingered in Chiang Mai for so long…
Tomorrow I will catch the boat to Koh Chang Noi, where I will be completely disconnected from civilization for a few days. It’ll be a good chance to catch up on some reading and write a few articles that I’ve been putting off for too long. Of course I will also spend plenty of time exploring the rich nature that the island supposedly has, and enjoying its unspoiled beaches. Until next time.