I am not one to make New Year’s resolutions, but this year I resolved to write more about the ins and outs of our travel rather than just the sights we see. This is a travel blog after all, so bear with us while we take you on a long winded journey from Bangkok to Hat Rai Leh.

After reading many posts about bus travel in Thailand, it became clear taking a government bus was the safest option. Tourist buses leaving from Khao San Road and the like are notoriously known for leaving passengers lighter of their baggage. Unsure of what time the government buses left for Krabi (jumping off point for many limestone karst-filled beaches) we decided to book our ticket in advance. Trusting the Lonely Planet (don’t ever put too much faith in the LP), we caught bus 30 to take us to the Southern Bus Terminal. Now, perhaps some bus 30s go to the terminal, but not the one we hopped on. Confusion filled us as the attendant and bus driver ushered us off the bus at what appeared to be the end of the line but clearly not the bus terminal. We asked where the Southern Bus Terminal was located (perhaps it was within walking distance?) but just got “yes, yes” in response. This is something people should take note of—be weary of the “yes” in Thailand. Yes, seems to be the answer whether the person understands you or not. For instance, another bus stopped and waved us on but its markings indicated it wasn’t a city bus. Asking whether it went to the bus terminal, the attendant enthusiastically responded “yes” and frantically waved us on. Being 99.9 percent sure she did not understand us and that we would not arrive at our intended destination, we decided to pass.

Eventually we found someone that spoke English, and she gladly gave us the writing in Thai for the terminal along with what buses went there. Heading back to the bus stop, we made note of the buses on her list that stopped at our location. As one approached us, we tried flagging it down but it flew past. Snickering could be heard behind us and as we craned our necks to see if the passing bus was listed on the sign, a gentlemen approached. Pointing to the sign, he indicated which ones stopped by pointing to the number and saying “yes” while nodding his head or “no” while shaking his finger in a reprimanding fashion. How anyone knows from the sign which listed buses stop is beyond us. Within no time though, the number 66 came along and we headed off to the terminal.

The Southern Bus Terminal is brand new. It is so new that our taxi driver the next night takes us to the old terminal, not knowing there is a new one (but we’ll get back to him later).

Ok, so we knew to take a government bus from the government bus terminal. Simple enough, right? Well, no. Arriving at the terminal there are orange counters and blue counters. Blue counters far outnumber the orange, but the orange have computers while the blue do not. Of the numerous blue counters, three offer buses to Krabi. Of the less numerous orange counters, only one has a bus to Krabi. Which one is the best? Your guess is as good as ours. We ask each counter the price and how long the journey lasts. We ask several workers and foreigners alike the difference between blue and orange. Those that might know the difference don’t understand us, and the foreigners are like us—-clueless. So, we make the oh, so logical decision that computers must mean better and book our transportation with the orange counter.

The next night when the time approaches to leave for the terminal, we opted for a quick taxi ride rather than the complicated bus ride. Everyone says to insist that your taxi driver use the meter. Flagging down a taxi and handing him our handy Thai scribble for the bus terminal, he responded “20 baht”. Earlier, fellow travelers told us that the government was paying the gas of the taxi drivers and thus all rides were 20 baht for the day. Thinking maybe this was part of the special, we said ok and didn’t force the meter issue.

Arriving at the bus terminal and hurriedly unloading our bags (the driver made a series of wrong turns and stops which caused us to be dangerously close to missing our bus), I handed the driver 20 baht. “What’s this?” he retorted. “20 baht” I responded. “NO, NO, NO—200 baht!” he screeched while shaking his head.

This trip should cost 70 baht, not 200 baht. Plus, it is fairly difficult to confuse 20 baht with 200 baht, but he tries fairly convincingly. Changing his syllables ever so slightly his 200 baht does sound oddly like 20 baht. But no, we are certain he said 20 baht. I hate scams, but I believe in paying someone fairly. We offered him 60 baht, which he promptly refused. With him cursing and yelling, we just walked away. Realizing the scam wasn’t working, he caught up to us and grabbed the 40 baht out of my hand. We continued walking without looking back, but could hear his ranting as we made our way into the terminal.

Although far more expensive than 2nd and 3rd class buses, we booked the VIP 24-seater for our 12+ hour ride to Krabi. Surprisingly, our bus felt roomier and more comfortable than the Argentinean buses. However, within the first 10 minutes of our journey the driver hit a motorcyclist. Luckily, no one seemed to be injured. But, we sat there for an hour as the police and tow truck took care of business. Once started, we stopped again at a phone booth on the side of the road for another hour. I can only figure the bus driver was making an anxious call to his boss.

The rest of the trip followed without incident. Overall, we enjoyed our first bus trip in Thailand. They served us fairly tasty raisin bread, yummy juice, and peanuts. We made a stop for 20 minutes where we could use our tickets for a snack or a meal. We didn’t understand this whole system and chose the snack because it was easier. Next time, we’ll choose the meal; it is by far the better deal.

Upon arrival in Krabi, we caught a pickup truck/taxi for 20 baht. Sitting on benches in the back, we made our way to the Krabi pier to catch a longtail boat to Hat Rai Leh. Walking to the pier, touts approached us offering rides for 150 baht. The LP claims this ride should only be 70 baht in a shared-ride boat, so we initially declined the offers. Reaching the pier, another traveler is waiting and luckily wants to head to Hat Rai Leh as well. Waiting for enough passengers to make the trip affordable could take hours, but in less than an hour enough people have accumulated. It is at this point we learned each passenger will be charged 150 baht. Two from the group decide that price is too expensive and back out immediately. While we debate our options, the rest of the group senses our hesitation and surrounds us trying to convince us the quoted price is fair. The longtail will not leave without at least 6 passengers, and the group clearly does not want to wait for more to join the group. After much hemming and hawing, we finally broke to peer pressure and decided to pay the 300 baht for the transport.

Pushing onto East Rai Leh beach long before the tourist crowds, we combed the island for cheap accommodation. After reading reviews, I set my mind on staying at Highland Bungalows (now Phurit Valley Resort). Located up a steep path, but set amongst the limestone cliffs and green vegetation, they look just as I expected—affordable luxury. We checked them out and they are nice—but Chris’ look tells me he thinks 950 baht (US$28) is too expensive. Inquiring about long-stay discounts, the attendant shakes her head no but informs us cheaper lodging can be found at Railay cabanas. Feeling defeated, we headed over to Railay’s to check out their cabanas. They certainly are no Highland Bungalows, but for US$8 less a night we figure we can make do. That is until we realized there was no bathroom sink, no towels, no toilet paper, and most importantly no mosquito net. Unfortunately, we realized this after paying for a four-night stay.

At times like this I am not a good travel partner. I bemoan our mistakes and contemplate what that extra US$8 a night is worth. Is it worth not contracting malaria or dengue? Yes. Is it worth a good nights sleep? Yes. Is it worth new furnishings and a comfortable bed? Yes. Is it worth a mosquito net? Yes. Is it worth a bathroom sink? Yes. Is it worth a working toilet? Yes.

Even Chris jumped on board with me this time. For some reason a lack of a bathroom sink really irked him. Thus, we made a plan to get our money back for the remaining three nights. And, that plan promptly failed. But, our efforts awarded us transfer to a new room which included towels, mosquito net, and toilet paper. Nope, no bathroom sink—Chris’ punishment for shooting me the “it’s too expensive look” in the first place.

We are now enjoying all the beaches of Hat Rai Leh and will post more on those upon our return to Krabi.

One Response to “Beachward bound”

  1. Elizabeth says:

    Wow. You are having quite the Thailand adventure! I tend to be the one who bemoans and regrets things, too, of the two of us, so I relate.