We wake up early enough to pack up our things and check out before the bus is due to pick us up at 11:30am. We are finally on our way to Koh Phangan for the Full Moon Party! Woot woot! We have a full day of traveling ahead of us first though, where we will be on long bus rides and overnight sleeper boats. Our first mode of transportation is a van. We are fortunate, and get to climb into a very spacious van and toss our bags in the back. We pick up many more people on our way to the ferry, and quickly the van feels less spacious, but is still quite comfortable for what we expect to be a short ride. The ride however, is not short. We’re in the van for over 2 hours, on our way to Krabi. This doesn’t bother me though, because it means less transferring of heavy backpacks to and from boats and busses. We finally arrive at our not-quite-half-way destination of Krabi town, where we are supposed to be transferring to another bus, and then to a ferry for Koh Phangan. The bus driver drops our bags on the curb outside the Matcha Tours office, and drives off before returning our original ticket back to us.
When we go inside to ask what time our ferry is leaving, the awkward and gangly man at the desk, Sam, tells us that the ferry is full and we can’t get on until tomorrow. Obviously we are not happy about this, especially after booking our ticket two days in advance to avoid this problem. When we ask what went wrong, he tells us that there are no overnight ferries on Sundays, yeah right. Ilona walks down the street to another travel agent to confirm the fact that there is indeed an overnight ferry leaving tonight, but that it is full. We have paid for the ferry tonight, and counted that as one night’s accommodation as well, so the last thing we want to do is stay in Krabi and have to pay for a hotel. We ask for our money back for the ferry, knowing that they have screwed up by forgetting to book our boat ticket. But of course, he refuses to refund our money and tells us our only option is to for him to book us into (definitely a flea bag) motel for the night at their expense, and get on the ferry the next day in the afternoon. This is not acceptable for any of us. We had traveled through Krabi on our way to Railay Beach, and it’s a shit hole.
We argue with Sam for hours. First off, Carrie tries a friendly approach where she sits down alone and calmly tries to reason with him, but he’s not having any of it. He refuses to call the original office we booked through, or to let us use a phone to call them ourselves. He blatantly tells her that it’s not his problem, and he doesn’t care. He’s rude to her, despite her calm tone, and clearly has no interest in trying to fix the mistake he’s made, he just continues to lie about there not being a ferry. Next, I try my approach. I can’t say I am as calm and collected as Carrie is; my approach is more similar to the one a ONE restaurant clientele would have used, but I like to think it’s more dignified. I basically just tell him that he has made the mistake, and needs to find a way to fix it…now. But he simply plugs his ears like small child and tells me he doesn’t want to listen, he doesn’t care, etc. I raise my voice and we yell at each other for a few minutes. Soon enough, Sam becomes aggressive. He is pointing his finger in our faces and throwing our bags across the room. He later tries to spray us with a hose to get us off the sidewalk when we have given up, and are standing there with our backpacks trying to figure out what we were going to do next. It is out of control. They complain to us that they lost money after booking us a 50 baht hostel (basically free, which is why I know it would have been garbage) and having to cancel because we refused to stay there. All we want to do is get on a boat. We don’t even care if it’s all the way to Koh Phangan, we just want to get closer, but I certainly did not pay 900 baht to get to Krabi. No.
Eventually, after about 4 hours (I am not kidding) Sarah and I decide to go to the police station because he keeps telling us to go and saying it won’t make a difference. We decide to call his bluff, and go anyway. It’s about a 5 minute walk so we leave our bags behind and climb the hill to the police station. When we walk in, I approach a police officer sitting at a desk doing nothing. I speak slowly and clearly so that he can understand, but he says nothing the entire time. Just stares blankly at me. Eventually, he gives me a piece of paper and motions for me to write down my problem. I do so, again as neatly as I can, and explain that this travel agency has essentially stolen our money. He walks out of the room in silence and returns with a cell phone. The person on the other end speaks English and asks me to explain the problem. I do, for the third time, very calmly and very clearly, and at the end he tells me that he will translate everything to the police officer. He listens to the translation for about 5 minutes, and again gets up silently and walks out. We are not sure what to do so we follow him. He walks outside to where some other police officers are watching TV and smoking casually. They chat and laugh for a few minutes, not even looking at us so I’m pretty convinced their conversation has nothing to do with us. Right when Sarah and I are about to leave, a man on a motorcycle comes to get us and says he works for Matcha Tours and that they’ve finally arranged for us to get on a bus to a town closer to Koh Phangan. Sarah and I have to cram ourselves onto the back of a motorbike with this stranger (and after what happened to me yesterday I am not too excited). He drives us back down the hill and drops us off. It turns out that they are not actually taking us to a closer city at all. Sam has changed clothes. Why? I cannot tell you, but it’s weird.
He continues to yell at us and tells us to leave the property, and we continue to hold our ground and ask for our money back, or just SOME form of compensation that doesn’t involve a crappy motel. blah blah blah this goes on forever. Eventually after hours of this garbage, his manager/maybe the owner comes out. She is much more friendly but still won’t get us on a bus or a boat. She apologizes for his mistake, and tells us that we are booked on a ferry tomorrow morning at 11:30am. We’re all exhausted and they aren’t budging, so all we can do is trust them and hope we can actually get on a boat tomorrow, but we won’t know until it happens. We find the cheapest accommodation we can right down the street so that we can get up bright and early to be waiting for this so called bus. I swear to god I am going to lose my mind if they mess this up again.
At the end of the day it’s only 30 dollars that I lost, but the fact that he lied to my face, was rude to my friends and me after HE made a mistake, and wouldn’t help us at all, made me absolutely hate him. Raging. I don’t want him thinking he can just push tourists around, it’s ridiculous. This would never happen if I were Thai. I begin writing negative reviews on Lonely Planet and TripAdvisor before we’ve even left the property, which is conveniently when the manager comes out to remind me that it was his mistake, not hers, and not the fault of Matcha Tours…which is bullshit. I notice that Sam is wearing yet another outfit, WTF, why are you changing clothes so frequently?
As I am Googling the company, I notice that the first results on Google begin with “beware of Matcha tours”, “don’t book through Matcha”, which now I wish we had seen earlier. All I can do now is try to spread the word to every traveler I encounter, and hope that they go out of business. As other travelers walked into the tour office, we would tell them to leave and not to book with the company, which Sam didn’t like and told us to shut up numerous times. It was worth it though, because everyone who walked in turned right around and left. They’ll thank us later. We. Hate. Matcha. Tours. All I can do is pray that we get on a boat tomorrow. And if not, if the Matcha staff have the balls to screw us over AGAIN, I guess I will just spend the extra 30 dollars to book through a different, reputable company, and some old smelly eggs…
The only upside to us having to stay the night in garbage Krabi, is that some of our friends we met on Koh Phi Phi are here as well. We meet up with them and visit a fun night market where they have lots of games to win prizes, some prizes being a fish. Sarah wins a fish, but we don’t know what to do with it. She gives it to the boys who have also won a fish, and asks them to keep him alive as long as possible. Oh no. We come back to the room early and sleep, preparing ourselves for what madness surely awaits us at Matcha Tours tomorrow morning. Dear god.
Oh, and if you’re a current or future traveler and didn’t get the message, DO NOT BOOK ANYTHING THROUGH MATCHA TOURS.