A Thai Goodbye

7 Dec

We were picked up from Goodtime hostel at 6:30 AM during pissing rain the day we were heading to Phuket. It had thunder stormed the whole night before and it didn’t appear that it would be stopping any time soon. We were fearful that the boat would be canceled, but by some miracle when we go to the dock we were allowed on right away. The boat journey, all 2.5 hours of it back to mainland Thailand, was miserable. The boat AC hit us with arctic temperatures and I couldn’t feel my feet around ten minutes in. Angela resorted to using her sunglasses sock case for both her feet, and her beach towel over her. Josh was wrapped in his somewhat damp bath towel and I had emptied my iPad case, which is lined with fur, to zip my feet into. At one point I got up to go to the bathroom and stayed sitting on the toilet for 10 minutes because it was much warmer than the rest of the boat. I also noticed that the luggage room was warm, so went back and grabbed my bag and returned to the land of backpacks, where I posted up amongst them. When we finally arrived we were quickly shuffled onto a bus and I realized I had left the iPad case and my water behind. Fallen soldiers due to my freezing delirium.

After being on the bus for about one hour, we stopped at a rest stop area for nearly an hour, wasting our time waiting on a minibus. Since we were going to be going to Patong, the beach area on the other side of where the bus station is in Phuket, we had to cough up 200 more baht each to have the minibus drive us there. After a fairly long journey with a driver that constantly yelled the same shit over and over at us, we finally made it, 12 hours after our initial taxi pick up on Koh Phangan. We stayed at a place called Sea Horse hostel, which actually had great beds and excellent showers, leaving us with no complaints. At the point of arrival we were so hungry and didn’t feel like trying to find a place to eat, so caved in and got McDonalds. To get to McDonalds, we had to walk down the main party street in Patong, a terribly depressing, over-the-top place, with people calling at you every other second to lure you into bars or sell you tickets to ping pong shows. Very quickly we determined that this was a place we did not want to spend long in. The next morning we tried to strategize our next steps, given that Josh had two days left on his Visa. Turned off by Phuket and over the lazy island life we determined that we would just go straight to Malaysia instead of getting Josh a visa extension and heading to Phi Phi. We inquired about buses to Malaysia and realized that there are no true direct solutions. Instead, you have to take a bus to Hat Yai, a small city about 45 minutes north of the border and from there take a bus into Malaysia. However, there were no more buses to Hat Yai that day. With the hostel we were staying at fully booked for the night, I determined we should move closer to the bus station so that we wouldn’t have to wake up at a ridiculous hour to take a taxi to the bus. We hopped on Hostelworld and booked a hostel right next to the bus station, packed our things up and got ready to move yet again. A taxi would cost us about 200 baht each, which we were not looking forward to, but the hostel owner told us about a local bus that you can get from the beach road into Phuket town for 30 baht. Of course, we hobbled with our bags down to the beach and asked a few people where we could get the bus. Eventually, we waved down the decrepit, blue bus and embarked on the journey into town. With the windows down and the breeze strong, I was definitely glad we figured out the local bus rather than a taxi.

The bus dropped us straight into town and we were able to walk to our hostel. Right away, you could see the stark contrast to Patong. The area had very few tourists yet a great, quaint atmosphere. That evening, Angela and I strolled to a night market that had so many vendors selling trinkets and what seemed like endless amounts of delicious food. It was one of the better night markets that I have been to. I had a panang curry puff, a cup of the most perfectly sweet corn, and some sort of fried, doughy taro filled treat. Angela had dim sum and a chicken and mushroom pie. Of course, we finished the evening off with some coconut ice cream.

The following day we were up early yet again for another bus journey from Phuket to Hat Yai, which would take about 8 hours. We were shoved into a shady mini bus by a driver who was, for some reason, mad that we had luggage and had no where to put it. The ride, while mostly okay, was filled with the terrible sounds of the driver’s beats music, bumping through a speaker in the back that was tied into the vehicle. After a few stops picking up locals, rest stops and driving through some insane flooding, we made it to Hat Yai. We were quickly whisked away by a man who brought us to a travel agent, correctly assuming that we wanted to go to Penang, an island off the northwest of Malaysia. It was 4:30 PM at the time and they were trying to get us onto a 5:00 bus. While we were tempted, we realized we hadn’t eaten and would be getting into Malaysia super late with no hostel booked. Given that Josh had one day to spare on his Visa, we waited til the next morning to leave on yet another bus and spent the night in a cheap hotel room with the comfiest beds and the strongest showers we’ve had in maybe all of Asia. While we were going to venture out to find food, it started to thunderstorm, forcing us into one of the first places we saw. The food was less than spectacular, leaving us sad that our last Thai meal was a disappointment.

The following morning we walked back to the bus station and FINALLY got on what would be our last bus for a few days at least. After about an hour we pulled into Thai immigration, which was hands down the nicest immigration center I’ve ever seen, and were easily stamped out of the country. We hopped back into the bus and a few minutes later pulled into Malaysia immigration, where the officials greeted us with smiles and stamped our passports with a free 90 day visa and no questions asked. It was the most flawless border crossing experience I have had. Afterwards, the bus dropped us right near the hostel hub in George Town, Penang, and we got to eating and figuring out where we would be staying that evening.

And with that simple entry into Malaysia ends our 41 day Thai adventure. The north of Thailand was absolutely amazing, offering up strong culture and beautiful sites and drives with a slow pace unparalleled in my previous travels. Bangkok emitted so much life and energy through both its old city and new, central hub. And the south offered us a vacation from our travel, living the lazy island life on some beautiful islands that may not have much longer before they become completely built up and Westernized. While I loved Thailand, the last few days filled with so much travel and disappointing, yet not totally unexpected tourist traps have me ready for a new place and a re-immersion into culture. And with Malaysia being the home to multiple different cultural influences including Malay, Indian, Chinese and European, I think it will be the perfect place.


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