I opt for the 17.50 crossing from Langawi’s Kuah Pier (30RM). Crossing takes 1 hour to Satun arriving the same time (17.50) with the 1 hour time difference between Thailand and Malaysia. My original plan for Langkawi to Bangkok was to forward to Hat Yai which is not possible arriving on the 17.50 boat. The only option at this time for Hat Yai was taxi (1,200 Baht). Instead I jump into a waiting Songtaew and 15 minutes later arrive in Satun (15 Baht). The Songtaew drops me at the central tour office to book a bus for the following morning (920 Baht) and to find a hotel. My bus to Bangkok leaves Satun bus station at 07.00am, takes 14 hours, and includes hotel pickup (06.30).
Satun Simple Life
I have no idea why I had planned for Hat Yai. Satun is by far the best option. This simple seaside town brings an authentic introduction to Thailand for those travelling from Malaysia. Night markets, great food and a welcoming and vibrant local life. Hotel prices are tiny here. The luxury spa option is Gleam Resort and at 1,200 Baht / night it is hard to find better value in Thailand. Being cheap and alone I opt for a local motel (350 Baht). In the evening I search the streets, relax with a two hour Thai massage (300 Baht) beside Pinnacle Hotel, then poke around the food market. I grab kai tod (deep fried chicken) then join local booze hounds for some Ya Dong (don’t let the Regency bottle fool you).
Get up when the Cockerels doodle-do (or as Thai’s say Eggy Egg Egg). As with small towns in Thailand it is well worthwhile waking in morning hours. This is when cool stuff happens. The moon lingers, squirrels scamper across power lines, teak doors open and early rising locals appear. At the top of the street local monks are out for ‘Bintabat’ and are circling local neighbourhoods with alms bowls. Bintabat is a morning ritual where monks collect donations of food and ceremonial items for their temple. Locals approach from homes and passing vehicles and donate to be blessed by the monks. Feel free to join in. Pop 20 Baht in their bowl then kneel, pray, or stand awkwardly as the monks recite sanskrit. A local family invite me for a khao tom kai breakfast (chicken rice soup) before my 06.30 pickup arrives and drops me at the bus station.
Bus From Satun to Bangkok
I always chose the top, front seats on the bus. Extra legroom with panoramic window views. 14 hour bus journeys can be tedious so the view makes it palatable. Cons; no escaping the sunlight. The bright coloured ‘air-bus’ steward will help secure your seat on arrival. Not so many people on-board locals (4), tourists (0) leave Satun.
The 15 Hour Journey
Morning wet markets, locals walking buffaloes, palm fruit and coconut traffic going north. Hard to be bored by surroundings especially for newcomers to Thailand. The first stop break is at 11pm where food is free; included in the ticket price. I join tables for kai tom (chicken soup), kai pad prik kaeng (stir fried chili paste chicken) and a mix of other Thai food. For the less adventurous there are shops selling drinks, crisps and chocolate bars. Use the bathrooms. It was 8 hours before our next stop (8pm). Here I bought two curries at the Khao Rad Gaeng (30 Baht) and again the usual shelves of drinks, crisps and chocolate bars. Final arrival time was just before 10. Journey took 15 hours on this occasion.