After some careful consideration it made more sense to leave Thursday afternoon for Hat Yai. Basically Hat Yai is the gateway to Malaysia and about 50km from the Thailand/Malaysia border. From there you can get a bus to most major places in Thailand and Malaysia and even as far South as Singapore. The journey is about 8hrs from Phuket but because we were trying to get to Kuala Lumpur unless we arrived into Hat Yai first thing in the morning we would have ended up in Kuala Lumpur either after midnight or in the small hours of the morning. Which I really could not be arsed with.
So we went to Phuket bus station, now id already called earlier in the week and tried to get bus tickets but no one would give me child prices for the kids, they wanted 366 Baht each. Which is about £9 each. I figured that if I just turned up I would get a better deal since no business likes to send a bus empty when there are paying customers willing. It paid off and we got a good deal, it was 366 for me and half each for the kids. It took some persuading though!
Basically there are 3 classes of bus in Phuket (coaches) 2nd class, which is just a normal coach. 1st class which usually is about 100Baht more expensive and exactly the same as 2nd class except it has a toilet on board. Then there is VIP which again is usually about 100Baht more than 1st and has business class style seats, water and big TV. We went first class because it was all they had available. We left Hat Yai at 1930 Thursday night and before long the lights were all switched off and we battled hypothermia courtesy of the air con as the driver showed that a coach really can take wet 90 degree corners at 100mph.
We pulled into Hat Yai bus station at 3am. Now, if someone ever bought me a nuke for Christmas I would send it to Delhi, however if someone bought me 2 then one would go and wipe Hat Yai off the face of the planet. I knew that Southern Thailand was dodgy, in some parts there are bombings daily. This trouble has pretty much killed off Westerners travelling through the Southern Provinces as most now fly. As far as I am aware no tourist has ever been targeted and the trouble is more of a civil dispute. Anyway, we stepped off the bus and the bus station was pretty much deserted except for a handful of tuk tuk drivers. They were all a bunch of scheming lying dodgy bastards. I had every trick in the book tried on me. I was told there were no buses to Kuala Lumpur even though I knew there was, I was told that actually there was but I needed to buy a ticket, suddenly a tuk tuk driver had opened up a shop selling bus tickets for the cut price of 600Baht each even though I knew it should have been 300 – 400. I finally had enough of them and knew that the train station was 1km away, but with our bags we didn’t really need the walk so went for a tuk tuk. The driver was stood right in front of the price list which said that the airport (13km away) was 40 Baht. He tried telling me it was 120 Baht and that actually the train station was miles away. When I laughed and walked away he was on the walkie talkie and suddenly no one would take us for less than 100Baht, all laughing in my face as they blatantly tried to rip me off. Not a single person we tried to get help or information from didn’t try and rip me off and it really bugged me. I mean do they really think I am that thick to fall for their lies! Even though I said I had kids and didn’t need the hassle they just saw this as a weakness and tried to exploit it. In the end we decided to walk. So at about 5am with a tiny map in hand we set off using the compass on my phone to gauge some sort of direction. Finally I saw a tuk tuk driver and he gave me a good price so we jumped in – Only to get to my destination and for him to have raised it by 50%. I refused and walked off, yet again I saw that smug laugh as he knew he had been rumbled.
I decided to head for a guesthouse where I hoped they could sort something for us. I decided our only option was the train and so we set off walking again and then we came across a tour place which had their own coaches. I enquired how much and was told 400Baht each, I moaned a bit and they agreed to do the kids for 300 Baht each. We booked the tickets and then got comfy and waited for our 9am departure.
It was a VIP bus and away we went. I think before it had even set off we were all asleep and an hour later at the Bukit Kaya Hitam it was a quick ‘leave Thailand/enter Malaysia’ and away we went again.
In total it took about 11 hours to get to Kuala Lumpur, substantially longer than the 8 we were expecting. I honestly have no idea where we were ditched off the bus but we walked for about 15 minutes and found ourselves a room near the Times Sq shopping mall. We were all absolutely exhausted and its been a while since any of us have looked forward to a good nights sleep as much as we do right now.
This post will be the last now until we get to Bali. The reason is simply because we have so much travelling to do. We leave Kuala Lumpur via rail for Singapore Sunday night arriving Monday morning. We have a flight to Jakarta and then its rail to Surabaya which is the launch pad for Bali. We hope to be in Bali by Wednesday at the latest but it’s possible if we can make some tight connections it might be Tuesday – Where all being well, paradise awaits us
Journey to the Southern Hemisphere pt 1