We live in a small village about an hour from the city of Surat Thani. I was going on my own as Yuri didn't need a new visa, he got his work permit. We left on the Friday straight after school to meet up with a friend to have some pizza and catch a movie. They only show one or two English movies on a Friday. So it has become some what of a ritual to go to Surat at least once a month. On Saturday morning me and Yuri said our farewells and I took a van down to Hat Yai. My ticket on the van was 240 baht(R77), which I think is really a good price as we paid a Songthao (local "cheap" transport) 100 baht(R32) for maybe 10 km! And to Hat Yai its about 330 km! The Songthao driver was really nice though and we will use him again, his name is Non and his English is pretty good.
From Hat Yai there are only 4 vans per day to Penang, first one at 9am then 12:30, 3:30 and 5pm. After a late night or early morning we didn't make the 9am van so caught the 12:30 one. You can pay between 450 and 550 baht, which again is quite reasonable I think. If you can, try NOT to sit on the back seats in the van as this is REALLY uncomfortable, because of the speed these vans drive and the conditions of the road you will feel like a tossed salad, trust me on this.. Because everyone knows this they all run for the van as soon as it's ready to leave and pile in from the front so we got stuck with the back seats. Huh ...bump...ow...!
From Hat Yai to the border is about an hours drive. Once there you have to get out of the van and go through passport control. SA passport holders go to an air conditioned office to get stamped, while all other passport holders have to go through the queue's outside in the hot humid thai weather. Me travelling on my British passport had to queue and it took much longer then Louise and Anna that was traveling on their SA passports. After the " friendly" thai immigration officer stamped my passport we proceeded across the bridge to Malaysia to go through the Malaysian side. There you have to take your bags and get your passport stamped again to enter Malaysia. This process takes anything from 10 min to maybe 50 min. As it was a Sunday the border was very busy and it took us about 40min. Back on the van, now the last stretch to Penang which is about 3hrs depending on your driver.
Huh .....ow...ao ow....bump!!
Got back to Banana at 5:30pm, so a 6 hr tour ended up being a 8 hr tour. Next off to the shopping mall for shopping and food. We tried out a place called Kenny Rogers restaurant. Which looked good and we thought we are getting a great deal. But in hindsight it was pretty expensive. Off to bed we thought, but we decided to stop off at the local grocery shop next door to get a water. It's there where we met David, a lovely Malay guy that owns the grocery shop, a hostel and a little cafe. He is such a friendly helpful man so we ( him, his fiancé and his business partner Lloyd, also from SA living in Penang) all sat chatting until Tuesday early morning hours. It doesn't seem like Penang ever sleeps. I would definitely recommend you stay at the Super K hostel, his rates are 25 ringgit for a dorm. And your bed has its one little curtain for privacy. The grocery store downstairs is open 24 hrs and it's next door to Banana, so stay at Super K and get Banana to do your visa for you. That's what I'm gona do my next visa run.
Looking forward to my next visa run in dec.