I left Khao Lak the day after I returned from the live aboard. There was time to leave the day we returned but I was too exhausted to do but lay around. I stayed at Monkey Dive again because I loved it so much the first time (they had the next live aboard advertised for the discounted price, I got a sweet deal). I asked the staff how to get to Ranong, a town I read about in my guidebook for having a good hot spring spa). They told me to wait on the side of the road, catch a bus, any bus, to the bus terminal outside town and catch an actual bus from there.
I stood on the side of the road awkwardly for about ten minutes before deciding to walk a bit down to the supermarket. In front of the supermarket were some other backpackers also going to Ranong. They had been waiting for over an hour for a bus to pass. Within fifteen minutes of joining them a bus came past and picked us up. We arrived at the bus station just in time to catch the next bus to Ranong. It was about a three hour bus ride and the scenery was beautiful. The southern part of Thailand that I have seen reminds me a little of southern China with the huge, tree covered, rolling hills.
It was quite hot when I arrived in Ranong so I splurged on a motorcycle taxi to take me to a hostel (when I say splurged, I don’t mean it was expensive, I mean I just hardly take motorcycle taxis unless I have to). I picked the Luang Poj out of my guidebook because it mentioned a purple room. “Luang Poj is a gorgeous remodel of Ranong’s first hotel: a 1920s-era building. Most rooms are windowless and all share warm-water bathrooms and are decorated in a signature colour (we like the purple room).” When I arrived, I asked to see the room before I agreed to stay (a common practice, one you should do to avoid bad experiences). She showed me the purple room so I had to stay there, it seemed like fate, or she just knew how to sell me on a room. The room was 600 baht which seemed to be the standard price for a room in Ranong.
The motorcycle taxi drive wasn’t too bad, so I decided to walk to the spa. Lonely Planet’s maps are so wrong. Do not trust their maps. It was not just me getting lost, their maps are not to scale at all. The road I wanted to take was right outside my hostel, literally across the street, but in the book it said it was down the road 100-200 meters. It also says the hot springs are 100-200 meters from highway 4. That’s wrong, it’s much farther than that. I was a sweaty mess by the time I arrived at the spa.
There are the natural hot springs, which you can dip in, and across the street was the spa. I would have gone to the hot springs but I didn’t feel like dealing with Thai modesty and wet clothes. I was exhausted from all the diving (and the sweaty walk to the spa) so I splurged again on a mineral bath, a massage, and a salt scrub, all 900 baht (a little more than 25USD) for three hours.
First, they let me frolic in their mineral bath. It was a giant tub full of hot mineral water, there was a smaller tub full of colder water to cool off in, a steam room, and a sauna. I had to try everything. The sauna and steam room were fun and they had nice smelling herbs in them; I wish I could have stayed in them longer but I overheat in them so quickly. This part reminded me of the public bath house in Japan my roommate and I tried out while we were on our Asia tour last year. Except you could wear your swimsuit in the spa, Thai modesty. I got away with wearing my bikini since it was not in public. They let me play in the water for a half hour before the massage.
I tried out the 90 minute Thai massage. Thai massages are different than the traditional Swedish massages. Who knew that having another person’s elbows digging into your legs could feel so good? The masseur gets up on the table with you at some parts to contort your body. It was a lot like getting stretched out. I had to wear a large white shirt and giant pants, they were one size fits most, and they were necessary for all the bending and stretching involved. The massage itself was slightly painful, with the woman digging into my muscles, but I felt better afterwards. It wasn’t the sleepy relaxed of a Swedish massage, it was more like she put everything back in its place, aligning my body. At some parts she was massaging my joints which was painfully wonderful; I didn’t know my joints needed a massage until she started working on them.
After the massage, the woman had me take off the huge clothes and lay under a blanket for the salt scrub. She would rub oil over the part of my body she was going to work on before she scrubbed it. She scrubbed away all the dead skin, dirt, sweat, ocean water, sunscreen, and aloe from my skin. I had resigned myself to the fate that my feet would never be clean in Southeast Asia and she got them clean. After she thoroughly scrubbed my whole body, she had me wrap up in the blanket and led me to a shower where I could wash off the salt and oil. Surprise, the oil was kind of like a soap and kind of difficult to wash off.
After showering, I toweled off and the woman brought me back into the room. She rubbed my body with some sort of subtly nice smelling lotion which quickly absorbed into my skin. Once done with my spa experience, my skin was softer than babies’ skin. Really, babies are probably jealous of how soft my skin was. The whole experience didn’t leave me feeling sleepy like a normal massage would, instead I felt fresh, almost like a new person. I felt pampered like a princess. It was cooler when I left the spa since the sun was setting so I was able to walk back (without getting lost) and not end up a sweaty mess.
The downside to staying in a historic place is that it’s old. Which seems like a silly statement because being historic would make it an old building. However, when you think of historic you don’t think of the things that come with it. Like the fact there was no insulation between the walls so I woke up in the middle of the night thinking there was someone in my room when it was actually the person next door coming in late. The floors were so old there were cracks in them where you could see down to the first floor (scary, I didn’t peek through too often). Light shone through the floor all night. At one point, some people checked out at the wee hours of the morning and I woke up thinking there was someone under my bed.
Ranong was a cute place, though it is used as a stop off point for some islands and the crossing into Myanmar, most people breeze right through it. I had to leave the next day (Saturday, April 23) to go back to Pattaya for a job interview. One of the backpackers I met outside the supermarket while waiting for the bus had asked me about my plans. I told him I have been planning as I go along so I didn’t know how I was getting out of Ranong. He said that’s a dying form of travel, but he suggested taking a bus to Chumphon and then the overnight sleeper train to Bangkok. It seemed like solid advise.
I arrived at the bus station at noon on Saturday. I still wasn’t sure if I was going to take the bus to Bangkok or to Chumphon; I decided whichever one was leaving first I would be on. The one to Chumphon was leaving right now, so I bout the ticket for that one. It was a van not a bus. There are 494 curves in the road between Ranong and Chumphon (fun fact I read in a shop) and my stomach felt every one of them. I arrived in Chumphon with six hours to spare before my train. I found a little coffee shop with wifi. It is amazing how long you can make an iced tea last when you really put your mind to it, three hours later I finished it. The conductor on the train punched hearts into my ticket because he said I’m beautiful.