It is really impossible to feel good about yourself when you haven’t taken a shower for the past 24 hours. And then you won’t get that dream luxurious bath until after completing another 8-hour bus ride and another 2-hour ferry ride to your destination.
It was 10am and the sweltering heat from the Thailand sun, was making me all the more sweaty and shitty (pardon me, for the word).
I just arrived in the town of Hat Yai in southern Thailand after withstanding a grueling 13-hours train ride from the city of Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.
Being cramped in the semi comfortable recliner seat aboard the KTMB intercity train was not exactly my idea of a perfect holiday. But since it was the cheapest way to Koh Pangan from Malaysia, I took a risky gamble.
Even before I began my trip, I was really decided in visiting Koh Pangan to experience the world-famous Full Moon party at Haad Rin beach once and for all.
Straight from my hotel room in Chinatown, I took the LRT train in Pasar Seni station in Malaysia and purchased the 1RM fare to KL Sentral, the main transportation hub in the city. It is where the rapid KL (LRT), KLIA Express and KTMB Intercity trains converge.
The KTMB rules say that you have to purchase a ticket prior to your scheduled departure so I went to KL Sentral very early in the morning to make sure that I make a reservation. I was able to secure a ticket, all right but as it turned out, the intercity train between Kuala Lumpur and Thailand won’t leave until 9:10 that evening and will arrive at its final destination of Hat Yai at around 10:12 am the next day, (9:12 in Thailand because of the one-hour time difference.
Fortunately, the train was on time. Passengers from all walks of life took the train ranging from elderly Malaysians to employees hoping to get to their provinces. The huge number of foreign passengers was also noticeable.
It was the night before the full moon party and numerous travelers, most of whom are on a tight budget, took the train for its low rate, rather than flying from KL to Hat Yai, which would have easily cost them 300RM at least.
The duration of the train ride was uneventful except for the loud snoring of some of the passengers. There were also passengers who were playing cards and other board games to pass the time.
It would have been a very comfortable travel if not for the fact that the coach toilet is shared by 59 other passengers. And when you have that many passengers using it, you can’t expect it to be clean.
It made me realize that a nice hot shower is one luxury we often take for granted just because it’s almost always readily available when we want them.
But for budget travelers crossing the Malaysia-Thailand border, it is one luxury we definitely wished for.
Granted, the air conditioned coaches won’t make you sweat, but the sticky feeling and that grime you accumulated from the day’s wandering are things you want off your body when you sleep. But no such luck.
We filled up exit forms from the Malaysian side and entry forms into Thailand at the Padar Besar station, during which, the train took its mandatory rest. After an hour, all passengers were asked to get on the train and traveled the final leg of the trip to Hat Yai.
Now as I’ve said, almost all passengers , looked like a train wreck (pun intended) the morning after the 13-hour ride. Sure some of us were able to wash our faces and brushed our teeth inside the train but not all of us were lucky.
What’s worse is that, you won’t get to clean yourself up until after you take another eight hours of bus ride from Hat Yai town proper to the Donsak Ferry terminal in Surat Thani, where you will take another two hour ferry ride to Koh Pangan.
I paid 750 Thai baht for the bus and ferry combo but I was disheartened to hear that some of the others paid only 600 baht. I was ripped off but I couldn’t care less. The 750 baht or $25 fare was still very cheap.
Upon hearing the next transits we have to complete to get to Koh Pangan, I started to feel sad, not because of the long journey, I’m used to that, but because of the hot shower I have dreaming since the night before.
I looked around the bus terminal and somehow, I was comforted by the fact that all of us, and I mean all, looked like a total mess. Ladies haven’t brushed their hair, and everyone’s eyes were pluffy from the meager sleep. Men already have one-day stubbles.
It struck me though that despite the messy appearance of most of my fellow passengers, not one of them feels down about the long journey. In fact, they looked like they were readying themselves for the long journey ahead of us.
I checked myself again in the mirror. It has been a day since I last took a luxurious shower at my hotel room in Kuala Lumpur. I looked a bit messy and really tired. But what the heck, my journey isn’t even complete.
I wore my sun glasses, lifted my heavy backpack and joined my fellow passengers for yet another part of our very long journey.