After the beauty and luxury of Bali with private villas and king sized beds, we went to the opposite side of the comfort spectrum and tackled a flight (Indonesia to Singapore) followed immediately by a bus ride (to a boarder city of Johor Bahru) then back-to-back overnight train trips (Johor Bahru to Kuala Lumpur then Kuala Lumpur to Hat Yai). It was a marathon! But eventually we made it to Thailand…though not without incident.
Matt: Thailand opened with a bang, and I mean that in the most literal sense possible. Our train was only kilometers from the Malaysia boarder when a cement truck had the unfortunate timing of being on the tracks when the train was coming through. Thankfully for us in the battle of train versus truck, the train won. While there was a massive sound and impact, by the good graces, no one was killed. I watched as the truck driver climbed out the front window and waited patiently for the ambulance. He seemed to be favouring what looked to be a broken arm and had a nasty scrape on his shoulder, but he managed to walk away. The driver of the train seemed to be pretty shaken as well, but in the end, it was all one scary incident that was just a small speed bump, well rather large speed bump actually, in our adventure.
As we arrived in Hat Yai we were again bombarded with “travel agents” before we got off the train. As they know Hat Yai is more of a hub than tourist attraction for Western tourists, they tried to speed us away to their shops and convince us they had the best prices to go anywhere. By this point in our journey, we’d like to think we’ve learned a little something from all the traveling and told them firmly that we were going to spend a night thinking about it instead of buying from them on the spot. I think it was at this point they felt their sale slip away. It turned out that their prices were far from competitive asking upwards of 600-800 baht to go to nearby locations. As we did some research, the mini-buses from other companies were at significantly lower prices. I even felt a little adventurous and took a little trip to the bus station to see about booking our way to the coast on a larger bus. It was a little more challenging than anticipated as virtually no one spoke any English. After reading online that even at the bus station one should be wary of tour guides up-selling certain routes, I discovered this was true and felt a bit like the bewildered prey with hawks circling above me. After a while of trying to figure out which of these companies were legit and which were up-sellers, I finally conceded I knew zero Thai and could not make out the difference. Resigned to the fact that I would have to struggle my way from desk to desk looking for competing prices, in swooped a man who saw I was lost and ushered me over to his desk. As I was preparing myself for the first of many inflated prices, the woman behind the counter pulled out a calculator showing 167 baht to Krabi! That was about a 1/4 of the price of the mini-bus, and even lower than the 200 websites said it would be. The search was over and we were booked on a bus the next morning to the beach!
Emer: After the exhaustion from too much traveling and the unnerving of the cement truck incident, we weren’t as keen to go on our usual mission of finding a nice place to stay and ended up taking the first place we saw. Except for the terrible disaster of a place we were in in Mumbai, this was the worst! The mattress had zero give and less comfort. (It was called Asia Grand Hotel…not grand at all….recommend avoiding.)
Once we were up the next morning we missioned to find a better place and relocated the newly built V-Ocean Palace which was fresh, clean, and walking distance to the bus stop. It also had restaurants all around…none of which had any menus, signs, or servers with English. Hat Yai is a tourist destination, but not for Westerners, it’s a hot spot for Malaysian and Singapore vacationers. We wandered and poked our noses in different establishments until we found one that was fairly full and had pictures on the wall we could point to. Despite the charades, we still were uncertain as to what we would be eating. It turned out to be pork and pork soup. After adding some of the mystery sauces we saw other tables spoon in their bowls, they were two tasty dishes that we devoured in no time. And truly, they were the only highlight we had in Hat Yai.