Penang to Koh Phangan Via Hat Yai

While we were in Penang we made the decision to push on through and arrive in Koh Phangan earlier than originally planned. Our original idea was to spend a few nights in a series of places along the way but we thought the kids would be better off just getting to the beach and staying put for a while. And to be honest, none of the places along the way were jumping out as places we had to visit. So decision made, the obvious place to break the journey was Hat Yai in Thailand which is quite a transport hub for the area and the first major town after the border with Malaysia. We booked minibus tickets from Penang and were picked up directly from our hotel at noon.

Thailand ⬆! (Through dirty bus window).

Road sign to Thailand!

The minibus was old and had barely any suspension (I was seated over the back wheel and felt every bump) but the aircon worked and we were comfy enough for the trip to Thailand. The border crossing went smoothly and despite a false alarm nappy change between Malaysia and Thailand we were soon stamped in to Thailand. At about 4.30pm the minibus delivered us directly to our hotel in Hat Yai which was a nice surprise, the hotel, however, was not.

The only good thing I can say about the Laemthong Hotel is that it is in a good location in the centre of town. I had booked the hotel through Agoda and if I’d seen the room first we probably would have kept looking. I read all the reviews and thought we knew what to expect but I don’t think parts of this room had been cleaned since the 70s. The mattress on one bed was rock hard, and on the other felt like it was disintegrating under the sheet. The whole room stank of mildew and mustiness and there was a square hole in the bathroom ceiling, covered with a metal grill, that led who knows where. Ok, a few other positives: the hot water worked, the aircon worked, there was a fridge and tv, but for $AUD25 we have stayed in much cleaner and nicer places. That night was not a very good sleep.

bad photo bad hotel

It actually doesn’t look too bad in this photo

Hat Yai wasn’t all bad though. We found a nice coffee shop for an afternoon drink and a good Thai place for dinner. Our main task that afternoon was to book our tickets for the next day’s journey to the ferry to Koh Phangan. We tried around the train station there but were hounded by a tout and quoted way too much by the first agent we asked. We ended up booking the tickets through Cathay Guesthouse who were friendly and fair.

At 8.00am the next morning we gladly left our hotel and walked around the corner to Cathay Guesthouse to get picked up by the minibus. This minibus was from the same era as the day before. The suspension was much better but the aircon struggled. It was a hot drive on vinyl seats. The driver also appeared to be running a courier business and we made multiple stops along the way to pick up or drop off parcels and luggage that he squeezed into any available cranny.

Four and a half hours later we were deposited at the pier at Don Sak. We spent two and a half hours in the cafe there waiting for the 4pm ferry to Koh Phangan. The kids to this point had done pretty well. Ed had fallen asleep about 20mins before we arrived at the pier which was unfortunate timing. We fed them during the wait and they ran around a bit but they were tired.

Finally we were on the ferry and heading to Koh Phangan. The views were lovely.

Lil and Dave on ferry

Lil and Dave on ferry

The ferry took about three hours and was mostly uneventful except for the last hour when it absolutely poured with rain. There was water flowing down the decks and we couldn’t see a thing around us. The boat slowed right down and by the time we arrived the rain had pretty much stopped and this was the view.

Arriving on Koh Phangan at sunset. 4.5hr minibus, 2.5hr wait for ferry, 3hr ferry. Icy (literally, on ice) beer in hand right now. Beyond tired kids but we are here!

Sunset arrival on Koh Phangan

We were last off the boat, not wanting to hold people up as we struggled with the bags, Ed (too slippery for him to walk down the stairs alone), and the stroller. We were bundled to a sangthaew and charged too much for the short trip to the resort, but we were there, and soon had a cold beer in hand.

More about our first week on the island next week!

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2 Responses to “Penang to Koh Phangan Via Hat Yai”


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  1. 1 List 47/52 – Family Accommodation in Thailand | The places we go Trackback on November 24, 2013 at 2:43 am

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