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BANGKOK 2012 SERIES : PENANG-BANGKOK-PENANG VIA BUS

Tina and I chose to be practical and frugal on our recent trip to Bangkok to celebrate our 10-day-paid-working-holiday within 4D3N vacation in Thailand’s capital city. We didn’t have too much cash to spend to begin with, so instead of shelling out 2,000 Malaysian Ringgit or equivalent to almost twenty-eight thousand Ph Pesos or 643 USD for the 3 of us (Tina, Gabby and me) for just ONE WAY airfare tickets from PEN-BKK , we initially wanted to take the train from Butterworth to Bangkok but tickets were already sold out 3 weeks before the Hari Raya holiday (FYI, that  sleeper train travels from Singapore-Kuala Lumpur-Butterworth-Hat Yai-Bangkok) We went for the second best thing; we decided to take the van-bus-bus-van route, crossed the Malaysian and Thailand borders and enjoyed our days the way we know how. 🙂

We left Butterworth, Penang via bus from our apartment and took the usual-12-minute ferry ride from Penang Sentral Bus Station to GeorgeTown in Pulau Pinang.

Junk foods are necessary for us when we travel. Unhealthy, I know but it’s like reminiscing those good ol’ days of educational field trips in school (lame excuse!). Gabby and I loved what Tina prepared and what we selected from the grocery shelves together. So these were our baon we munched en route to Bangkok.
junk foods! baon sa trip

Can you spot my family on this photo taken inside this ferry?
penang ferry

Komtar building. The tallest structure in this UNESCO Heritage Site. We arrived in GeorgeTown a few miuntes past 7AM, August 17, 2012, Friday (We’re on official work leave, ya know! Holiday at work stretched  from August 18th to 26th, 2012; we filed a leave and went a day in advance!).

komtar in georgetown penang

We pre-purchased one-way tickets from Penang-Hat Yai-Bangkok from one of the travel agencies in Prangin Mall, near Komtar few weeks before our trip for only 120 ringgit each or a total of 360 Malaysian Ringgit for the 3 of us, equivalent to 5040 Ph Pesos or 115 USD (Please do the math on how much we saved, Thanks!).

We were supposed to depart in a 12-seater-van at 8:30AM, but the it arrived and picked us up at almost 10AM. Super late. #iamnotcomplaining #justsaying

It was almost 2PM when we reached the Malaysian border in Kedah. Like what we had last year, the driver parked at a bus stop station for mandatory lunch. There, one could find mini-grocery, toilets, foreign exchange and eateries.  We ate but only for the sake of eating lunch. There was not much too choose from. #iamnotcomplaining #justsaying

Tina and I agreed that Penang versions are way too better than Kedah’s. #justtryingtobehonest

My favorite Char Koay Teow but not this plate; It fell flat on my standard.  I love CKT from that hawker in Gurney Drive, Penang.
char koay teow in kedah
Koay Teow Soup. This should have been good tasting noodle dish but this one didn’t even impressed Gabby.
koay teow soup in kedah

Finally, we’re about to exit Malaysia.

malaysian flag at the border

It was our second time to cross the Malaysia-Thailand borders on foot; our first was last year when we just went to Hat Yai. Obviously, this is the nice traveling experience you miss when you cross borders on board an aircraft.
at the border
Someone who will cross borders of two countries must at least have coins from the 2 nations’ currencies. They come in handy when you need to use the public toilet.

The queue at the Imigresen was quite long but manageable. We breezed through Immigration proceedings without a single word, actually. It only took a smile and a passport to pass through. 🙂

queue

After exiting Malaysia, we hopped on the van again. About 15 minutes after, we found ourselves on queue at the Immigration counter to enter Thailand this time. Just the same as the process in Malaysian border, it was hassle-free in entering Thailand. 🙂

After an hour from the Sadao border in the Southernmost tip of Thailand, we arrived in the travel agency office in Hat Yai. Yes, the Thailand border is an hour away from Hat Yai town proper. The passengers of our van who left Penang for Hat Yai were all Thailand bound but to different areas. Some went to Samui and Krabi for Thai beach and resorts, and it was only the 3 of us who went to Bangkok. All of us were distributed to various vehicles of the travel agency depending on our destination.

A little while later, the lady at the office asked us to go with Uncle (salutation for an old Malaysian man), to ride his car, free of charge or inclusive of the fare we already paid in Penang. Uncle took us to the Hat Yai Municipality Bus Station via his vintage Mercedes Benz. Cool eh? 🙂

mercedes benz

Uncle first went down his car and bought us bus tickets for our Hat Yai-Bangkok trip. Remember everything was paid at 360 ringgit in a travel agency in Penang. So we only had to wait for the tickets and get on the bus.

This is the bus station in Hat Yai…
hat yai
bus station in hat yai
Bought this bottle from Tesco Lotus grocery store right across the station. Coke is undeniably refreshing wherever, whenever.
coca cola
The bus we rode from Hat Yai to Bangkok was unremarkable. It wasn’t a double decker, had little leg room and not as comfy as what we rode going back. The ticket that Uncle from the travel agency bought was priced at 55 ringgit or 550 baht per pax only. It was way cheaper than what I personally purchased for our return. Lesson learned : Do-it-yourself-travel is better unless you’re traveling on an unfamiliar place where you need aid from a travel agent and a tour guide (like in the moon perhaps? hehe!).

Malaysia (and the Philippines) is 1 hour ahead of time in Thailand. We left Hat Yai for Bangkok at around 6PM, Thailand time.

bangkok bound

Have I told you the trip to Bangkok from Hat Yai is about 12 hours? We’re on a budget travel, remember? 😉 We just thought that we’re on a trip from Cubao in the Philippines to its Northern part, say Pagudpud in Ilocos Norte (God, we miss those places!), only that in this journey, we crossed two countries. 🙂

Stops at bus stations, eateries and souvenir shops for some shopping and bladder breaks were mandatory. Few more hours to Bangkok, this was one of the stop-overs we had.
pasalubong
food
bus stop

At 5AM of Saturday, August 18, 2012, we arrived in Mo Chit Central Bus Station, Bangkok. The first thing I did was to ask my family to sit and wait in one corner with our luggages and bags and I left them to buy our return bus tickets from Bangkok to Hat Yai.  It is always wise to secure a return ticket days (or weeks ahead) before your trip. It spells security, convenience and worry-free.

We hailed a cab from the station to our hotel, freshened up, and enjoyed the weekend until the first few days of the following week.

Sawadee Kap! 🙂
sawadee ka, mcdonald's
We maximized our travel by experiencing riding the tuk tuks, taxi cabs and of course, the ever reliable, BTS train…

my family on BTS train station
train passengers
Oh yeah! We’re proud commuters, baby! 😀
commuters
bts boy
bts train bangkok
When in Bangkok, ride the tuk tuk! 🙂
tuk tuk
photography inside tuk tuk
Then after 4D3N of fun-filled family bonding, we had to face the most difficult part of traveling. Leaving the place where you spent memorable moments has always been a challenge, at least for us 🙁  Parting, indeed according to Shakespeare, is such a sweet sorrow; separation anxiety with Bangkok kicked in as we arrived again in Mo Chit Central Bus Station at half hour past 3 in the afternoon for our 5:50PM departure to Hat Yai.

Don’t you wish every bus station would look like that of Mo Chit’s or even better?
mo chit bus station bangkok thailand
Try to find my family again on the next photo. This time with that monstrous bag! 😛
mo chit central bus station thailand
Mo Chit Central Bus Station is a few minutes away from Mystic Place Rooms in Bangkok, the wonderful hotel we stayed in. This bus station has ATM machines and our favorite convenience store…
atm machines at the bus station
711 at the bus station
And this was the ticket counter where I personally bought our return bus tickets from Bangkok-Hat Yai.  Although the lady at the counter didn’t informed me of the inclusive of the bus fare, I forgave her easily because the purchase was sulit (worth it!)
bus station counter bangkok-hat yai
Cluelessly, we went inside our double decker bus, saw the bus captain and a crew geared like flight attendants. We didn’t expect that the bus ticket fare of 831 Baht or 83.10 Malaysian Ringgit per pax included the following :

A blanket, with seal of laundry shop for assurance 🙂
clean blanket
A cup of distilled water and a box filled with sachets of coffee, creamer, sugar, tissues, a couple of wet ones, and a croissant for snack. 🙂
freebies in the bangkok-hat yai bus
Best of all, there’s so much leg room per seat. We loved it! #makakaulit!!! 🙂
my family on a bus
We all slept on the bus the whole night, we had restful sleep. And at 6AM, Thailand time, we were back in Hat Yai Bus Station. Right across the street was the travel agency where I bought our ticket for a 12-seater-van that took us back from Hat Yai to Penang. Since it was still holiday in Malaysia, they charged us more; a usual ticket of Hat Yai-Penang would only cost 35 ringgit or even less, but we paid for 49 ringgit per pax but it was the earliest trip back to Butterworth at 8:30AM departure; it was OK nonetheless. 🙂
double decker bus

This Blog’s Bangkok 2012 Series includes :

36 Comments

  1. rob rob

    .. daig pa ako ni gabby at kinaya nya yung ganyang kalayo na land travel – pero ansaya ng ikot nyo! 🙂

    • di sya gaanong nakakapagod kasi tulog naman kami sa bus at gabi ang longer trips. ang saya! it’s not only being practical but getting out of comfort zone. 🙂

      • Cheque Cheque

        Hello!

        What about the last trip sched from Hat Yai to Penang by 12 seater mini van? Thanks

        • hi, thanks for dropping by my blog; i really appreciate it however, i’m just a blogger, not a travel agent, neither a mini-van dispatcher nor an info center. i only document our experiences and could not comment on what i don’t know. i hope you understand. thank you.

  2. Ganda nung bus na may ample leg room. Dami ng napapasyalan and natra-try na food ni Gabby. 🙂

    • yes, jo! there’s more space to stretch our legs with that bus. 🙂

  3. KG KG

    haay.. ang ganda nung bus station at nung bus mismo!

    grabe pala ang byahe nyo ano? pero what an adventure naman. 😉

    • may kasamang tiis at tyaga ang pagtitipid! 😀

  4. Gusto ko talaga ma try to soon, yung land trip lang tapos magccross ng border… IDK napakasurreal ng feeling for me. Hehehe.

    And oh, I can totally relate to “Parting…. is such a sweet sorrow”. Experienced that in KK. Grabe alam mo yung nageenjoy ka sa trip mo tapes kinabukasan uuwi ka na. Waaaaa.

  5. traveling by land is sometimes better. you see more, lalo na pag may time to kill ka. i’d prefer bus/land travel over air/plane anytime.

    • thanks, maria! i look up to you as one of the authorities to speak about traveling as you’ve tried almost all, if not all modes of transportation and set foot to countless spots in the globe 🙂

  6. Just in time I found this site. At least we know what we’ll expect tomorrow during the cross border queue in Sadao.

    True, tickets are sold 2-3 weeks especially for holidays. We bought ours 1st week of august for Aug 30 departure. Luck is on our side for getting the last two tickets for sleeper train..

    Hope we can meet you guys in Boleh Land. We’re in KL 🙂

    • hey, thanks for dropping by my blog; i really appreciate the comments.
      have fun in crossing the border! will it be your first time?

      i smiled when i read you wrote, “Boleh Land!” 😀

      we’re penang-based, but will go to KL again perhaps sometime in november to renew my passport.

      • boundfortwo boundfortwo

        Yes, our very first time crossing the border. I hope it will be smooth…

        hope to meet you in November!

  7. Buses in Thailand and Malaysia are really more comfy than what I’ve tried in the Philippines – haven’t even seen those double deckers in Manila (perhaps more maintenance-prone what with the road conditions back home I suppose).
    The best overnight double-decker bus service I tried so far was the one that took 16 hours from Iguazu to Buenos Aires – there were flat beds, dinner & breakfast, wines, blanket, pillow. Saved me a pricey hotel room hahaha!

    • sleeping on a bus over night indeed saves travelers from paying a room in a hotel! 🙂

  8. Hello DocGelo, just stumbled into your blog and I enjoy it, I enjoyed your family adventure to and from Bangkok. I bet you it gave you more memorable stories to tell than if you had traveled the easier way. And it’s probably a more grounding experience for your son. You’re lucky to be based in that part of Asia where you have that kind of alternative way to travel to neighboring countries. Growing up in the Philippines, I wished I could do that. Looking forward to check more of your posts. Your photos are great, by the way!

    • Wow, thanks for those kind words. Really appreciate it. 🙂

  9. Looks like you pack enough baon for the trip. Your photos makes us feel we’ve travel with you too. By the way, for a person with a Philippine passport, do you need a visa to visit Thailand, Malaysia or Singapore?

    • No more visa doc, as country-members of ASEAN, we’re allowed 14-day-stay with no fees on visa or anything.

  10. lea lea

    ang haba po ng byahe nyo, pero kinaya, esp Gabby, anggaling! haven’t been to any road trip this long and with your post i just wish i could experience the same, hopefully in the near future… 🙂

    i’ve been reading your blog esp the latest posts, for this Hari Raya holiday and love all of them! thanks for all the fab photos, i’m just so speechless i automatically click the Like button hehe,

    more travels, adventures, photos and posts! 🙂

    • wow, thank you so much lea.
      you don’t have idea how i greatly feel whenever i receive such kind words from readers like you. 🙂

      • lea lea

        u’re welcome po, and will keep reading,

        the way you write plus the photos makes us feel we’re also there, feel na feel bah, hehe, salamat po ulit! 🙂

        • a few more bangkok posts, soon! 🙂

  11. it was a relief to find this blog post. I’m currently planning my own solo trip across S.E.A. around last quarter of the year. I’m planning to go to penang from bangkok. I’ll definitely follow your tips 🙂

    • thanks for reading my blog, bees! have fun on your SEA trip! 🙂

  12. Philip Philip

    Very nice vacation with your family! May advise po ba kayo for me as I’m planning to do a 7day holiday with my girlfriend? Bale from Singapore to KL (2 nights) then to Bangkok (4 nights) then back to Singapore? Anong tips po sa pagtitipid for this trip?

    My initial plan is to take a sleeper train from Singapore to KL. Then train from KL to Penang, then to Bangkok. Is that the correct route?

    Then for the return trip from Bangkok to Singapore by bus as I think taking the train would take too long.

    Many thanks for the advise. =)

    • hi philip, sorry i got so busy packing my things and literally my life of 3 years in penang that it was only now that i get to reply to your queries.
      i guess my blog posts are more than enough to cover your concerns. i hoped you had a great asian trip!

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