Sunday, August 8, 2010

How to Travel like a Thai Citizen or Why I Favor a Revolution

Want an authentic Thai travel experience? Here's how...

1) Buy a round-trip train ticket on the International Express Train to Malaysia.
2) Go to the train station in Butterworth for the return trip to Thailand.
3) Discover the train from Thailand has been cancelled and will not provide the second half of your r/t journey.
4) Have the Malaysian railway staff stamp your ticket as unused from Butterworth to Hat Yai in Thailand so you can receive a refund for whatever portion of it goes to waste.
5) Get a seat in a mini-van that will take you to Hat Yai where you can possibly take your assigned seat on a train that has inexplicably refused to pick you up in Malaysia.
6) Sit tight as the mini-van driver races through Northern Malaysia to get you to Southern Thailand in time to catch the Little Engine that Couldn't (Be Bothered to Complete Its Journey) and ignore the truly spectacular auto accident that you speed past. (How did that car end up in a standing position, anyway?)
7) Take your seat on one of the dirtiest train carriages it has ever been your privilege to ride in.
8) Hold your breath when you have to visit the toilet. Try not to retch as you observe the clogged sink become fuller and fuller with grey, scummy water. Pray that cholera isn't on the rise at this particular point in Thai history.
9) Reach your Bangkok destination an hour behind schedule. Discover that although you spent 400 baht to reach a train that should have come to you, your refund will be 20 baht. Talk to a Thai lady who spent double the amount of your mini-van expenditure on a share-taxi to reach the same train and also received 20 baht. Notice on your train schedule that the cost of a ticket between Butterworth and Hat Yai is 50 baht.
10) Leave your 20 baht refund on the counter staffed by the surliest man in the Kingdom of Thailand. Try not to tell him to buy himself some manners.
11) Find out that your train failed to pick you up because it had "too many delays." Try not to wonder why, even though it left on time from Hat Yai, it was still an hour late in reaching Bangkok.
12) Realize Air Asia, a Malaysian carrier, is a much better bet than the Thai Railway .
13) Understand that for Thai citizens, this lack of consideration on the part of government bureaucracy is a fact of life, although judging by the lady you talked to, it still pisses them off.
14) Hope it pisses them off enough to change it.
15) Congratulate yourself on having an honest-to-god, genuine Thai experience--many farang never attain that privilege.
16) Pray that the motion sickness that was the souvenir of this journey will eventually go away.


Dr. Will said...

Jai yen yen, as my friend tells me. Patience (which is why change occurs so slowly?). At least you have humor as compensation (what can you buy with that?).

janet brown said...

Jai yen yen is just fine until it erupts into jai rawn. How about the middle path of the warm heart as opposed to the cool or the hot? Warm hearts effect change, cool hearts are sluggish, hot hearts---well, we've seen where that goes, haven't we?

Judy said...

I really didn't get it when hearing of the cancelled Penang-Hat Yai leg from our friend Bou. You definitely filled in the missing detail, and oh so colorfully!

Bouwou said...

When I tried to book my outgoing one way ticket from Hua Hin to Butterworth they told me there was only room for me to Hat Yai, for which I paid 770 Baht. The following day, I got the bright idea to ask for a one way ticket, for the same class of service, between Hat Yai and Butterworth. There was space available and they asked me 550 Baht for it! My total cost, one way, from Hua Hin to Butterworth was therefore 1,320 Baht.
Question; How much is the stretch Butterworth - Hat Yai worth?

janet brown said...

How interesting is that! According to the Thai Railway officials, 20 baht...

arun said...

Even at 50 I oftenshoose the 3rd class train over flying. The most recent trip from BKK to hat yai (339 baht) departed 4 hours late and arrived 5 hours late. No worries lots of good station local specialties to eat. Lots of time to read sleep and view the beautiful natural scenery of southern Thai. On reaching hat yai Enjoyed some tasty muslim curries laad kow, waited approx 30 minutes for the 300 baht mini van that sped me to penang. Its Thailand, it has always been this way as far as the 24 years I have have been in its clutshes. And then there is the orderliness of penang, left with a legacy of Brit both worlds and love the challenges they provide for spontaneity. If I didnt love all of this I would be travelling First class as i do in the US because I cannot stand the greyhound bus system. Here it is always an adventure,and most generally the method of travel is available on many different levels, from local to first class. I am rather surprised with your love of thailand you see so many negatives in every adventure... by the way the air VIP 28 seat double deck bus is a very comfortable clean way to get to the south...and cheap.

janet brown said...

Thank you for commenting, Arun,and for all of your helpful travel tips. At 62,I am always delighted to have you young people adding your perspective and giving me your lovely wide-eyed 50-year-old take on the world.