A Travellerspoint blog

My 2008 Travel to Singapore, KL and Thailand

Phuket Leg, Part 1

“SAME, SAME, BUT DIFFERENT”. I read this phrase in a black t-shirt worn by a co-passenger who turned out to be a Filipino. He explained to me that this phase is popular in Thailand. When Thais meet Filipinos, they will say, ”Thais and Filipinos are same, same”, to our kababayans with the purpose of establishing a friendly rapport. This happens during introductions or even during shopping time when a Filipino will haggle with a Thai sales clerk for discount on the price of an item.

This phrase would appropriately describe this leg of my latest travel. I saw a lot of things we shared in common with the Thais but definitely we are different.

Our train made the penultimate stop at Padang Besar, the border station for immigration formalities. The border station is not as tightly secured compared to the Singapore-Malaysian border. There was no military presence. Well, the Thais and the Malaysians are known to be friendly neighbors. There was a money changer. But, I changed only a small US dollar bill since the exchange rate was only 1 USD to 30.4 Thai Baht. I thought that maybe in Phuket, the rate will be better.

The landscape as the train moved closer to Hat Yai (the first province of Thailand after the border with Malaysia looked like Agusan del Sur! There are large tracks of Palm Oil and rubber plantations and rice paddies close to the railroad. However, when we reached residential communities, I noticed a big difference: almost every house has a Buddhist altar/pagoda like structure which is being used as a place where the Thais make offerings (fruits, flowers, incense, etc..) while back home, the images of Santo Nino are placed in pedestals being offered also with sampaguita and lighted candles.

We arrived Hat Yai two hours late at 12:30 p.m. The Hat Yai station is an old structure. Before we could disembark, Thai porters went up to our cabins offering services of carrying our baggages. Very Filipino. I did not get their services. Funny, just when the passengers will have to finally get out from the platform, we have to climb over a pile of lumber, two regular steps higher! I was really puzzled why those stock pile of lumber was there blocking the way! I asked where the bus terminal to Phuket is. Instead of leading us to the bus terminal, the men pointed us to an office in front of the train station. When I asked the man who turned to be a booking agent for the van service from Hat Yai to Phuket where the bus terminal is, he told me the bus will leave at 2:30 p.m. yet and since the travel time is at least 6 hours from Hat Yai to Phuket, I agreed with him that it will be faster to take the van service because if we decide to take the van service, a van will leave in a minute. The fare of the van service for Hat Yai to Phuket was 300 Thai Baht. However, there is a hitch: he told me that passengers will have to change van in Krabi, a town between Hat Yai and Phuket. But, he assured me that the van service will still be faster than the bus. My main consideration is to be able to reach Phuket early, if possible before sunset. So, I chose the van.

We left Hat Yai at 1:00 p.m. and arrived Krabi at 5:30 p.m. The van made only a stop for coffee break. When we arrived Krabi, the contact agency of the man in Hat Yai told us to wait for the connecting van. She was only able to make arrangement for another van ride to Phuket from Krabi by 7:30 p.m. But that time it was already dark. Just like in the Philippines! We were again delayed, it was already 10:30 p.m. when we arrived Phuket town.

Too late, the banks and the money changers in the Phuket town were already closed. After two long train rides, the Kuala Lumpur to Hat Yai being delayed for two hours, I decided that for the Phuket to Bangkok trip , I will try the VIP Bus. I must get an early booking to be sure that I will get a ride otherwise I will miss my plane for Manila which I will take in Bangkok. However, the ticket counter for the VIP BUS was closed too.

I was asking the people in the terminal where I can change my dollars but the local Thais have difficulty communicating well in English. Another difference between the Thais and the Filipinos I told myself. You see, the Thais were never under any foreign colonizer. That is why it is named Thailand from the word thai which means “free” thus Thailand means freeland. This is the reason why the Thais have difficulty in speaking English.

I saw two Americans in a company of a Thai woman. I decided to ask help from them since it was getting late. I have to change my money and I need direction on how to get to Phuket Youth Hostel in Chalong area. The Americans were very helpful: One of them led me to the parking area where the motorcycles (the same ride I had in Vietnam and similar to the Habal-Habal in some Mindanao provinces) are. Please note that it is not a tricycle, it is a two-wheeled motorcycle like your Honda or Yamaha or Suzuki without any side care! The drivers are wearing numbered red chalicos indicating that they are authorized by the government.

(to be continued)

As Always,

Edgar Sandalo

Posted by E. Sandalo 08:10 Archived in Thailand Tagged motorcycle

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