Uncertainty at Hat Yai

Reaching Hat Yai (a.k.a. Had Yai) was no fun.

Though I could speak to a couple of people in the train for 2 minutes, people in my coach were a bit hesitant and not too keen on interacting with each other. After all we were all strangers to each other.

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Hat Yai railway station.

Before the train could even halt, hordes of travel related touts entered our coach. Since this sleeper coach is full of foreigners, they attack it first. Cries of mini-bus, mini-bus, Phuket, Krabi, Bangkok… and you know your train has reached its destination.

I had heard and read about mini-bus scams and the only thing that was selling here was mini-bus trips. I asked an Australian traveler who claimed to be a regular. He advised against it and so did an American. They told me, “Just go out of the station, you’ll see horde of travel agents. Book through them”.

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This was not the day I had arrived at Hat Yai.

Avoiding the touts all passengers hurriedly went out. I too followed them. When you come out of Hat Yai station, you have roads going in 3 directions and tens of tuk-tuks waiting for you. Not waiting but watching your every move. Except me, all others looked seasoned or at least confident travelers; they moved in different directions, mostly in groups of 2-4.

I didn’t know which direction I should take. Earlier I had thought of spending a day or two in Hat yai to plan on the towns I wanted to visit and chalk out a route. But this place looked very strange and unfriendly. I had never felt so before. Probably I was nervous. I did not want to stay there.

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The road in front of station.

I took the road in front of me. The weather was hot & humid; I kept crossing the road from left to right and again left looking at the boards. The shop signs did not help me much as most of them were in the Thai language.
I was sweating, I could not walk faster. My bags were heavy and my left ankle was swollen. When I noticed 1-2 boards in English in some side lanes, I checked them out. I did not like the rooms.

I was alone and nervous in an unknown town of an unknown country surrounded by unknown people who were speaking unknown language.

I decided to move to another town. Krabi, Trang, Surat thani, Phuket … where should I head for? After some struggle I found two travel agents with whom I could converse in English albeit with difficulty. It was already past noon. My shoulders were aching, my throat was dry.

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The bus station has more mini-vans than regular buses..

The travel agents again could offer me only mini-buses and that too only for Krabi and Phuket as most of the buses had already left. And for these two places they were leaving in half an hour’s time.
To explore other options I would have had to go to bus station (bus depot) outside the city. These travel agents do not provide any information for buses plying from bus station. I was told it’d take half an hour to reach there by tuk-tuk and chances of getting a bus from there were not many.

I was stuck. I had to decide fast and I had to take a mini bus ! Phuket would be around 6-7 hours. Reaching a place after dark was not in my agenda.

I decided on Krabi. I wanted to visit Krabi anyway. Didn’t have much option. Three hours of journey… 300 THB (Thailand baht). Bargained to 280 THB.
Entered a shopping mall nearby, visited restroom and I was ready for my next journey.
No time for any food. I had a roll of Polo mint to survive. I don’t know why but I felt good on leaving Hat Yai.

Reached Krabi when it was just getting dark.

Note:- The pictures are of a later date, on my return journey. Don’t think I had the guts and time to click when I had reached there. 🙂

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11 thoughts on “Uncertainty at Hat Yai

  1. What a trip! It’s fun to follow your journey.

    I don’t think I have ever seen touts (scalpers in North American English) in trains. Weird…

    It’s funny how important transportation is when you travel. I could write pages and pages on buses, boats, trains etc. When you are home, you just don’t see transportation that important because you are so familiar with the system.

  2. next time go to the bus depot and i guarantee you you will find a bus that will get you there safely and cheaply AND on time. it’s just like india… always better to take gov’t run buses than private sector ones. you will also get the more authentic experience with locals rather than a mini-bus full of white people. 🙂

    i highly doubt the bus depot was 30mins by tuk-tuk… yeah, right! 😉
    .-= neeraj´s last [post] ..Movie Movies Movies – Part 2 =-.

  3. Zhu,
    Every place has a stamp of its own. In India we see porters coming in the coach but I was surprised to see touts in that prestigious inter country express train.

    And transportation is itself a vast topic to write on. 🙂

  4. Neeraj,
    I agree with you. On my return journey I went to bus station. Of course the scene was different with other types of buses lined up but we have to agree on one thing… mini buses rule Thailand, for whatever reason.

    Ok, they deserve a separate post. 🙂

  5. Magiceye,
    Thank you.

    Manish,
    Yes, I agree.

    Krabi was fun… not a very big place but well connected with other places. I liked it very much.

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