Border Crossing: Hatyai to Penang (NOT A GUIDE)

Like everyone else, i have my own dose of "first time" in life. Little first like eating tomatoes (i hate them ever since) to big ones like my first solo. Everything is completely a new experience for me. Doing something for the first time means going out of my comfort zone and risk myself making mistakes along the way. Sometimes it could lead to the point of giving up and wasting precious time but it also means expanding my knowledge and learning from the mistakes to excel in it.

One of the many first i did was crossing the border of Thailand into Malaysia. So if you think this is a guide on how to cross the border.....well you can skip this article. This is my personal recount of crossing the border of Danok. Danok is a small town also know as Sadao located on the border of Thailand/Malaysia. Sadao district have a very interesting history though between British, Thailand and Malaysia, you should look it up.

I was feeling excited that morning in Hatyai for the journey to Penang. A group of other travelers i met in the hostel and i set out to the bus station on foot. All of us with different destination but departing from the same place. We scrambled to read the map trying to figure out the way. 30 minutes later, we were standing in front of a wooden counter next to a big electronic shop right across the bus interchange.

Booking Tickets
The two guys i met paid their ticket to Krabi while Sam and I were trying to get out of a totally different situation. The transport that we wanted to book had departed an hour before we arrived and if we wanted a cheap ticket we need to stay another night.

WAIT, WHAT? ANOTHER NIGHT IN HATYAI?

It is not that i don't love this small town but i can't stay another boring night here without breaking my neck. Just so you know, we were unprepared and did not book our tickets in advanced as we couldn't decide the exact date we are leaving for Penang.

We finally got a van that was supposed to leave at 11:30am. The lady that sold our ticket informed us that it is a VVVIP ticket. I have no idea what that is but i'm glad i have got the ticket out.

The Journey 

A mustard gold colored car came to pick us up and brought us to another travel agency. Over there, we waited for that so called VVVIP van to fetch us with the rest of the passengers. When the van showed up, i was amazed by how VVVIP it was. NOT.

The journey in the van to the border was pretty fast and we were being ushered out of the van to get our passport stamped in no time.
Thai side
There were a few booths stationed outdoor at the corner and there wasn't much people around. So i thought this should be good, little did i not know.....i lost my departure card. I was forced to re-queue once i have written on my new departure card while quietly observing the others that jumped the queue. Sleek move, guys.
Sam have already gotten his passport stamped and only i was still struggling in line. About 15 minutes later, Sam came up to the other side and told me that the van driver almost drove off leaving me at the border. With my backpack in the van? No way! Everyone was already inside the van waiting for me.
While in line, i made a few interesting observations.
  • Many vehicles were parked at the side and passengers came out to queue. 
  • I noticed that the officers in the booth were asking for 10 Baht (40 cents SG) from travelers which i realized many were Malaysians. When it was my turn, i was not asked any cash to be paid. This seems odd and it is particularly true as a few travelers told me the same thing. 
  • There was no bag checked from the Thai immigration.
  • You can just walked to the other side without stamping your passport. However you can't leave Malaysia without the exit stamp. DUH.
Malaysia side
It took us barely a minute to reach Malaysia's side in the van. We were told to bring our bags along to the immigration. The queue control over this side is much more organised and it is located inside an air conditioned building. My turn came rather fast and i had my backpack scan through.

Back on the road
Officially in Malaysia. No stopovers at all when were back on the road. I seriously wanted to pee though but endured the whole journey. We were stopped in the middle of the highway near the ferry terminal in Penang to Butterworth and made our way to the ferry/bus station across the road. Below is a video i recorded for the journey in between.



The whole journey was exhausting at rest and i got to catch up some sleep. I left Hatyai at 10am and reach my hostel in Penang at about 6pm. This includes waiting time at the various stations, ferry terminals, bus to Batu Feringghi etc. I couldn't recall how much i paid for the ticket but it was about 450-500 baht. One reason that it is expensive is because i should have said that i wanted to be alighted at Butterworth (Bus/Ferry terminal) instead of saying Penang. The van actually went into Penang Island to drop off passengers. So when we alighted at Butterworth, the driver seems surprised as we paid a full fare instead of a fraction. Well, we learned our mistakes and did not really fret over it because we had an amazing view at the big ferry to the island for 1.20 ringgit!

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