Yesterday, I left my hostel in Georgetown, had an early lunch and made my way back to the dock to catch the ferry back to the mainland at Butterworth. It was only about a 25 minute walk to the ferry and the ferry took about another 20 minutes. Disembarking the ferry, there is another 20 minute walk to get to the train station. When I arrived at the station I learned my train had been cancelled. Huh? My first thought was… “Why?” and a quickly following second thought was “What do I do now?” Well, the “why” was the decision to suspend all trains heading toward Bangkok due to the planned “shutdown” of the city by the protestors. The train company handled it well, immediately explaining the situation, refunding our money, and arranging to have a nice, large bus pick us up to take us into Thailand. For me, it wasn’t too bad because I only wanted to go to Hat Yai and that is where the bus went. For those who had planned to travel to Bangkok, however, the cancellation meant they had to take this bus to Hat Yai and then scramble to find some other way to get to Bangkok. A nice couple from Melbourne, Australia, had the right attitude about it: they said they would just figure it out on the fly, reminding me that these kinds of things are best expected and regarded as part of the “adventure.”
The bus went through two customs stations at the border; one for departing Malaysia and the other for entering Thailand. Other than some annoying confusion about where to get my “entry form” for Thailand, all went fairly smoothly. However, upon arrival in Hat Yai, I realized that the bus station was nowhere near the train station so my plans for getting to my hotel were useless. Having no Thai money, I first found an ATM, then purchased a couple of small things at a 7-11 so I would have smaller bills for a taxi. When I asked three young men hawking “taxi!?” at the bus depot if they could take me to the address of my hotel, they said it would be 50 baht (less than $2 USD) so I said “let’s go.” Then I realized my “ride” was on the back of a motorcycle. First, I thought there is no way he can take me with my large suitcase but he grabbed the suitcase and set it on the frame between his legs. I climbed on the back, grabbed his waist and off we went. It was quite fun, actually, and he was a pretty safe driver (perhaps he realized he might have to provide a smoother ride than he might with a younger person on board :-).
I greatly enjoyed the private hotel room I had here last night in Hat Yai – not only my own bathroom and total privacy, but lots of room to spread out my “stuff” and get organized. I will be leaving here in about an hour: I’ll take a minibus to a town on the east coast called Pak Bara (about 2 hours) and then a speedboat to Koh Lipe (about 90 minutes) where I will enjoy 4 days of beach and scuba activities. I’m feeling a little scratchy throat this morning and just took some Airborne and throat lozenges: hope this doesn’t develop into a cold as scuba diving with a cold is not a good idea: germs can easily get into your middle ear. Even if I don’t scuba dive, it will be nice to relax on the island. (I will also have a private room there!)
Sorry no photos this time: they’re on my camera and I don’t have time to transfer and upload them right now.