When I learned that my friends wanted to travel to Koh Samui, I decided I should get there by bus. After all, I don’t like flying, and nothings says “I don’t like flying” better than two shower-less days of crossing Asia by bus, minivan and sailing with a ridiculously small ferry (during the night, while trying to escape that old, sneaky taxi driver who insisted you should pay way more than you agreed on).
I’ve decided to write up this list of all the stages I went through while traveling.
The five stages of crossing Malaysia to Thailand by bus
Stage 1: The one where you probably should have considered the distance and read the small print on the ticket
When I booked my bus tickets online, I received a copy of my itinerary along with them. Ignoring the itinerary, I only printed the booking confirmation, then I packed light and went to grab a taxi to the bus station, thinking that the trip wont be that long and I will travel only a day at most.
If I had read the small print in the itinerary, I would have seen the description of the trip, and the part where they are telling me it is the Chinese New Year and the expected queues at the immigrations are longer than the ones in front Apple, when they released the iPhone 6 (and maybe every other gadget).
Stage 2: The one where you are waiting at the bus station expecting to board the Super VIP bus, but instead you get a crappy seat at the back of an old bus that is everything, but Super or VIP
Despite having traveled by bus in Asia before, I never lost hope that someday I will manage to board one of those glamorous buses, where you have your own entertainment system and they give you a fancy meal and a cute, small bottle of water. You know the type of bus you see next to yours on the traffic light and the people inside look so happy savoring those roasted pork ribs.
Your online booking will mean nothing when in Asia. People will tell you all kind of things like:
“We just ran out of those Super VIP buses, but don’t worry the one you’re getting on is as good as them”
“Don’t worry the bus is meant to smoke and we actually didn’t need all those parts that just fell off”
Stage 3: The one where you think the bus driver stops, because you have reached the place
This stage is so full of hope. Bright, shiny, delusional hope.
Spoiler alert: The driver is stopping, because everyone need to get a generous portion of fried noodles and fish head soup, while you will most probably be stuck wondering how to use the public toilet, without touching anything.
Second spoiler alert: This stage lasts for at least billion stops.
Stage 4: The one where you have to change buses in Kuala Lumpur and there is a rain storm and you end up sleeping in an air conditioned bus, covered with a sun towel – while drying your socks on the edge of the seat pocket
During this stage you have realized that the journey might take a little bit more time that you previously thought. You have already survived the insanity at the border checks (think of a Chinese market on a weekend), managed to find your way through the dense cigarette smoke to the bus ticketing counter at Puduraya and got the last available tickets to Thailand.
And while this may call for a celebration, mine was interrupted by a vicious rain storm that came down the city. Since I haven’t had any proper food I decided to battle the rain to get across the street in the so welcoming KFC. I got a little bit of dirty water dripping from an overpass on my mouth while trying to cross the street. I lost my appetite and didn’t want to risk having too much food in my stomach in case I just had some kind of mutated bacteria.
Luckily, I didn’t had to figure out how to use the public toilet without touching anything.
Stage 5: The one where you finally reach Thailand, but get cheated and left in the middle of the road
I spend the last overland leg of the journey jumping up and down in a speeding overcrowded minivan. The driver didn’t speak English, but we came to an understanding that he was rushing to reach the port so we can catch the last ferry for the day. And I believed him. After all he did stop only once to fill up his gas tank and threatened us that if we are not back in five from the toilet, he will leave us at the gas station.
As we finally reached the city of Surat Thani, the driver dropped us at a small local tour office. This wasn’t something unusual when traveling in Thailand and I wasn’t worried as I thought we were going to change vans to the port. Much to my surprise the lady behind the counter insisted we had to pay additional money, regardless we had already paid.
Long story short:
We managed to grab a songthaew and after an hour ride, pushing the open truck to its limits, we arrived at the port. We did miss the last scheduled ferry for the day, but it turned out that during the holidays they had released extra ferries and we managed to get on one.
The overland journey wasn’t all that bad after all. Yes I was hungry and couldn’t remember the last time I showered, but I got to enjoy views like this:
Traveling throughout Asia can be quite challenging sometimes, but it doesn’t mean it wont be adventurous or fun. Usually traveling by bus is way cheaper than flying and you get to experience more of the place. In conclusion I would say, that if you suffer from fear of flying, just try to cross Malaysia to Thailand by bus. I guarantee you wont be having any problems boarding a plane, after going for this kind of trip.