After wrapping up our two week volunteering work in Langkawi, we packed our tent and one backpack and we’re on the ferry out of Langkawi into Satun, Thailand. We had been looking up Islands such as Koh Tarutao and Koh Adang. We read reviews after reviews and still weren’t 100% set on either island. We thought we would decide when we were at the port and see what the prices were.
When we got to Satun however we were to learn that Tammalang Port, which is where we were, was not the same port as the boats that go to the islands. We were told to take a minibus to get us to that port and that the prices for the boats were 450Baht to get to Koh Tarutao and 650 baht to go to Koh Lipe from which you can then go to Koh Adang. Furthermore the Tarutao National Park was closed hence camping was no quite possible as there were no operating amenities. The bungalows there were operating though but they were 600 baht a night at minimum.
We still decided we could just go to Tarutao and see what we could do with accommodation when we get there. Being in Thailand a few times in the past we already knew there wasn’t much else we were interested in the South of Thailand.
We managed to hitchhike a ride out of the ferry terminal to a bus station. It was pretty easy despite the man’s lack of English and our equally disgraceful lack of Thai. Even with English being my first language, I still think it is very unfair to be impatient or to look down on those who lack the ability to speak English. Some of us learn it as a first language by chance and it’s the only language they learn, yet they can’t master it let alone a non native English speaker. Also it should be a courtesy for those issuing a foreign country to learn a bit of the locals’ language rather than try to speak to them in English. Unless of course they request it themselves.
Our first hitchhike took us to a bus station where we didn’t have any baht at this stage to purchase tickets. Our intention was to hitchhike to the next port/town to withdraw money and purchase items then.
We stepped out of the bus terminal, unsure of which way to go next or where we came from. Simultaneously, an old man riding a motorbike with a small, yellow, ice cream cart attached stopped for us. He clearly didn’t know English and our knowledge on Thai was zilch. Somehow we managed to make him understand (or so we thought) that we needed to get to the port with the ferry that will take us to Koh Tarutao.
He was so happy to take us on his little vehicle. Asia had always been so much more convenient this way for their readiness to load as much onto a vehicle as possible. We were 2 on his motorbike and me on the ice cream cart as well as our backpack (we only brought one this time) and tent.
We were riding for a while until he brought us to a terminal. I looked around and announced with a profanity that I will omit from the following sentence, “****, We are back at the same terminal!”
Two hours of walking, waiting and the heat was enough for me. I didn’t sleep well the night before, the thought of going somewhere new as well as leaving our puppy behind was churning an inconsistent mixture of excitement and worry.
I asked Clément if he would be willing to change plans and go somewhere else?
“Where do we go? ”
“How about Pai?”
I had heard many wonderful stories from other people about Pai, this small village in the high hills in Northern Thailand, close to the border of Myanmar. More famously known as a hippie community though the perception of that was to be challenged during our stay.
So we changed some currency at the jetty and took the next scheduled minibus to Hatyai, the closest domestic airport. The problem was, the bus doesn’t go to the airport but we learnt that a bit later.
The driver initially stopped at Songkhla’s bus terminal and asked everyone to get out. The rest were locals who looked confused. So the driver then asked where each person had wanted to go including us. We said the airport. It was already about 2pm in the afternoon. We didn’t have a flight but I could only predict as long as we get there before 5pm we would have a flight that same day.
Finally after the driver had finished dropping everyone else off on his round he took us back to the station and told us we needed to get a taxi instead to get to the airport. I kind of expected this and every nerve in me wanted to scream at him “Why did you not tell us sooner and delay us by at least an hour by taking us on a useless ride around the city?!”
It was not something new for us to expect a service that was initially promised only to be told that wasn’t the case and be thrown out to the waiting pool of sharks waiting to take an unethical nip. Taxis started at 300baht.
We went to the bus station ticket counter in hopes of finding someone who would actually be honest with the prices of taxis to the airport. Usually people who have no profit to be expected from monopolising the tourism industry are the most trusted sources of information. It couldn’t be 300baht, how do locals afford that? After all the airport was about 10kms away from where we were approximately.
The ladies at the counter sank my heart when they said that was indeed the price to go to the airport as there were no other means of getting there from the bus station. We could take the local mini vans but we didn’t understand the colour systems and routes.
A bus driver that does the regular route from Satun to Hat Yai and back overheard our conversation. He engaged in a bit of conversation with us and showed us directions to the airport on the map. It was much too far to walk. Perhaps we could hitchhike but it’s always a challenge in cities to get a car to stop for you. Everyone in cities are usually living their own lives detached from those that aren’t related or affiliated with them. And they tend to find a
satisfaction from living in this manner.
“I can take you there,” he said, and pointed at an intersection. The vertical Road was his route, the one perpendicular to it goes to the airport. He said from the intersection we could jump on a blue big tuk tuk and it should only cost us 60 baht. “For free,” he added with a matter of fact face.
We were happy to accept the offer of course. He was due to depart at 3pm so we waited until then.
He was very true to his words. He dropped us off at the intersection, we stopped the right blue tuk tuk without troubles, and were confirmed the right price of 60baht. A flow of events as smooth as this when you’re in a race against time (and your time is running out) definitely puts you in a more determined mood.
We arrived at the airport before 4pm. We straight away went to several ticket counters to compare prices. We have done this in the past. Nok Air was our chosen airlines as they had the cheapest last minute flight including luggage. Of course the tickets were not the best prices we could have gotten but we both agreed to close our eyes on this one (I couldn’t even recall the price now as I blog about it). The tickets were purchased and we were about to board the plane to Chiang Mai in 2 hours!
We realised we didn’t pack any clothes for the cold weather/airports..