Having finished my diving certificate earlier in the day, I was ready to have a good rest. Initially when purchasing my boat ticket, I was nervous about an “overnight” boat. I was confused as to why the boat from Koh Tao would take that long to reach Surat Thani since it didn’t take an overly long amount of time to reach Koh Phangan. So began my 21 hour adventure…
Purchasing my ticket from a travel agency for 1600 baht (600 baht for the boat, 1000 for bus), I arrived at the travel agency to pick up my stuff from storage and then the lady walked us down to the pier at 8:30 pm. Waiting in line, I noticed that there were these slats with beds on them on the ground of the ferry, the area where typically cars go. As the line moved, I noticed that people were going to be sleeping on these. I then started preparing myself mentally to share what looked like a giant bed of mattresses with random people. Luckily, I didn’t have to sleep down there, instead I was on the third deck in the top bunk. Now I assumed they would be selling water on the boat since it was a long journey, but they weren’t so I had to quickly run down and out to a 7-Eleven.
At this point in my travels, being on a sleeper bus was normal but a sleeper boat was definitely unusual. Climbing into the top bunk with my most important things by my side, I laid there wishing that the air-conditioning would somehow reach me. After snacking a bit, and changing into more comfortable clothing I went to bed. The boat was surprisingly easy to sleep on and reached the port faster than expected.
Once disembarking, those with our particular travel agency were directed off to the side. They seemed to have some sort of method of ushering people into taxis and tuk tuks – in reality we all ended up at the same place. Once cramming as many people and bags into the tuk tuk and driving a short 5 minutes to this restaurant/bus depot we stood in line to receive our destination stickers. Deciding to try and use up my change I purchased a breakfast while I waited. After a good hour of waiting, it was finally my time to leave in a mini bus.
I’m not 100% sure how long it took to get to Hat Yai but once there we again had to wait at a mini bus depot. Our second bus driver drove even faster than the first! At around 5 pm we reached the Thailand – Malaysian border. The border crossing was extremely easy, especially if your visa wasn’t expired. Unfortunately, a British guy overstayed so he had to pay a fine and kept the rest of us waiting. Our driver was a bit weird with the fact that he was doing his grocery shopping along the way. With everyone having their stamp out of Thailand, we climbed back into the mini bus to go to the Malaysian border.
Now, I’m not sure why but this British guy seemed to have no clue about crossing borders, like he was surprised that he would have to get out with the rest of us. Once at the Malaysian border, I got in line with the British and Thai girls since honestly we picked the shorter line and I wasn’t sure why the French and British got into the longer one. A stamp and a sticker visa later, I was on my way through except with a short stop to have my belongings x-rayed. With all of us out, we stood waiting for our driver to pull on through. The rest of the ride to Penang consisted mainly of the French couple + one talking the whole way again, about what I have no idea. With a quick stop at Butterworth to drop off passengers we headed towards George Town. When arriving in Penang I was expecting a bit more colonial look since the pictures on Lonely Planet depicted that, but instead it was just a huge city. We were dropped off north of the bus station at the side of the road.
Find purpose in everything you do, and blessings will come. – Zee Avi
21 Hour Boat – Bus – Bus Ride
Total Cost = 1,660 Baht
- Boat & Bus ticket from Koh Tao to Penang 1,600 Baht
- Breakfast 60 Baht