Border Beauracracy – Thailand to Malaysia

After Koh Tao I had planned to go straight into Malaysia to a place called Penang. I had a look around a few travel agents in Sairee and secured myself a ticket for 1500 baht. This ticket got me a ferry and a minibus. The ferry was from Koh Tao to Surat Thani. The minibus was Surat Thani to the border at Hat Yai then on from there to Penang.

After my previous, and favourable, night ferry experience, I was not concerned to be getting another one until I saw the boat. It was not a boat really, more a floating shed which looked as though it had been broken into a few too many times and needed some serious TLC in order to continue performing it’s function.

There were no individual beds, just 2 rows of foam covered in sheets, questionable ‘pillows’ and a horrible toilet. I was, at this point, still suffering the tail end of dengue fever and feeling delicate so I cried.

The water was pretty choppy when we got going. It got progressively worse as the captain did not seem to be interested in reducing speed to compensate for the large waves. Every wave that struck the boat made a sound like a thunder clap followed by deep and unsettling groaning of the boat’s structure. I counted the life jackets. There were 12. I counted the passengers. There were 52. I decided I would die if the boat sank. I highly suspected the boat would sink. I laid awake willing the wind to die down so that the waves got smaller. At about 1am, the waves did start to subside and the ride got less life threatening. I fell asleep at 3am. We docked at 6am. I was delighted to be alive.

I found the correct man for my ticket and was ushered into a tuk tuk for the transfer to the mini bus.

Once on the minibus, it was a pain free experience. We got to the border at Hat Yai and went through the normal rigmarole. Stamp out, back on bus. Drive to Malaysia border, get luggage, get stamped in. Back on minibus, off to Penang. There’s no charge for a 90 day tourist visa in Malaysia and you can get it at the border with a UK passport.

The roads in Malaysia are good so the drive was smooth. In Penang we were dropped off at the top of Love Lane. My accommodation was located on Love Lane. I was delighted to make a 40 yard walk, check in and collapse into bed.

Apart from being genuinely convinced I would die if the ferry sank, the actual border process was absolutely no hassle yet again. My advice is, if you do this trip, ask what ferry you are getting to Surat Thani. If it’s not the nice vehicle and person ferry, do not book with that company, go to someone different.

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