One spice of travelling is misadventures. It makes ordinary travel so wonderful but sometimes so scary. Last 2006, a friend and I decided to have a one week tour of Asian countries like Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. At that time, we thought one week is long enough to experience touring some of their key cities. We decided to make Singapore our hub, so we booked a roundtrip flight of MNL-SIN. Later on, Tiger Airways posted a seat sale of SIN-KVB, so we booked a one-way flight to Krabi, Thailand. We researched like crazy and somehow made a great itinerary. We could get the cost and schedules of vans and buses from Krabi to Hatyai to Kuala Lumpur, then back to Singapore. We were able to book Singapore, Krabi and KL hotels that fit our budget and near the tourist spots. It was a very good itinerary, but there was a downside: our itinerary was so detailed that there was little room for error.
First day’s misadventures
Our flight to SG was in the afternoon, so it was evening when we arrived. We got lost while looking for our hotel. My map-reading skill was poor at that time. Our second day was flawless. Somehow, we were able to follow our itinerary right on schedule. The only problem we faced was looking for a good place to eat. We’re not used to Indian and Malay food, so our choices were limited. We found out that some restaurants were closed in the afternoon. We decided that we’ll just have a hearty meal in the evening, so we bought some rice meal in the 7-11 beside our hotel. That was a bad decision because we ended up with a bad stomach right after eating our food. I’ll never eat another rice meal in that place. But anyway, we had a good dinner at one of the Chinese restaurants I saw when I first toured SG.
Misadventures: day two
The next morning, we prepared for our flight to Krabi. We left our luggage and some clothes in our hotel. Our plan was to bring a small backpack while we tour Thailand and Malaysia. Unfortunately, we had a little misadventure at the airport. We didn’t realise that we have a keychain with a mini-scissor in it. We ended up signing in the logbook of Changi airport while the keychain was confiscated. We actually thought that we will be detained and thrown out at that time. When we got to the KRV airport, we were surprised that there were no money changers there (as in!). We have no Thai Baht, so we literally have no money.
We ended up riding a taxi to find a money changer. Most Krabi locals don’t understand English. They have their own alphabet drawn like squiggly characters, so that was a significant barrier we haven’t foreseen. We were 2 young girls in the world of the unknown. With no local money and the language barrier, who wouldn’t be afraid? Besides, that was our first time in Thailand. Since it was early and the banks were still closed, our driver suggested trying to withdraw from the local ATMs. Western foreigners do that. We even saw some foreigners withdrawing some money from the ATMs. We tried that approach but it didn’t work! The banks were starting to open at that time, and thank God, we could change some of our dollars. It’s good that we brought some for emergency purposes.
Tip: When travelling abroad, it would be better to bring currencies accepted by most establishments.
Going to Ao Nang
So we proceed with our itinerary. We went to a travel agent to book a van going to Hatyai the next day. There were only 2 departure times. To meet our itinerary, we booked the earlier one. We get a tuk-tuk (a local transport that looks like a mini-multicab) and go to Ao Nang beach. Since the one-tailed boat drivers were still looking for passengers, we went to a Thai restaurant for brunch. The food was delicious. I never thought that authentic Padthai really tastes good? After that, we tour Ao Nang beach a bit.
Last 2005, Thailand was one of the countries that were devastated by a giant tsunami. Still, we were not aware that Krabi was one of the affected areas. So we’re scared when we saw this sign, “Warning: tsunami hazard zone. In case of an earthquake, go to high ground or inland”. And I think we’re thinking too many negative things because the clear blue sky seemed to be getting darker because ironic enough. Rain was pouring in some areas of the sea.
Tip: Just like when visiting the Philippines, local drivers ask for a bigger fare to tourists than locals. Be ready.
Since we were crazy and scared, we hung on for our dear life during the boat ride. Looking back, that was a dumb thing to do. But that taught me to enjoy the trip because you’d be missing out on many things if you worry too much.
Our room in Sand Sea Resort at Railay beach was great, and we booked it for just $11. And more, the buffet breakfast included in our trip was delicious. The beach was good as well. The sand is brownish-white, polvoron-like powder. It’s not as white as Bohol’s or other white-sand beaches of the Philippines. Honestly, I’ll recommend our beaches more than this beach. But one thing that I really like here is the degree of saltiness of the beach water. It’s not salty at all. You can open your eyes underwater, and it won’t hurt at all. So, in short, our Railay beach was almost a perfect vacation… if not for the biggest blunder we made that affected our tour…
Thailand has a different timezone than ours. They are one hour behind us. We were aware of this, but we somehow lost track of time in the morning. We needed to get a boat back to Ao Nang. By the time we got to the terminal, the van going to Hat Yai already left. We looked around for another van/bus going to Hat Yai, but there was none. We had no choice but to get the next trip scheduled that afternoon. The setback: since we would be getting later than our planned time to Hatyai. We won’t get the late-afternoon, 12-hour bus ride of Hatyai to Kuala Lumpur.
More misadventures: Stuck in Thailand
So we’re stuck in Thailand. It was scary. We were in a different country, with only a few English-speaking people, and with billboards of squiggly letters. We were in a foreign world, and we haven’t planned this part of our trip. We literally talked using sign language because the locals couldn’t understand us. Back in the van, my friend and I were talking about contingency plans. We don’t know anyone in Hat Yai, and our driver couldn’t understand us. We thought of asking to be dropped at a bus terminal and find a way to get to KL. Or perhaps we could be dropped at a bar, restaurant, or 24-hour convenience store, but it was tough to communicate. Our driver knew that we don’t know where we’re going, but fortunately, he was a good man. He first dropped all the passengers then communicates with us afterwards. We talked using sign language. We gestured “sleep” by using our face sleeping comfortably in our “pillow-like” hands. We finally understand each other, and he drops us at a hotel.
Fortunately, he dropped us at the Hatyai Rama hotel, and he talked Thai to the helpdesk. We never found out what they talked about. Maybe he was laughing at our silliness. Anyway, since we had little money, we used my credit card to book the 500BAHT room. It was spacious, and I would recommend it to anyone. Not only was it budget-friendly, but the room also contains all the basic amenities. It even has a sofa. We thanked our driver. I hope he’s doing well right now.
Our misadventures did not end there. Since we don’t know anything about Hatvyai, we went to an internet café to search for bus terminals. After that, we somehow lost our wallets. Anyway we had separated some money earlier for budget reasons, so we still have a few BAHT remaining in our bag. As soon as we returned to the room, I broke down and cry. That was my most stressful travel day.
In our research, and through the hotel receptionist, we learnt the departure time of a bus going to KL. The following morning, we asked for directions on how to get to the travel agent where we’re supposed to book our bus. The receptionist was kind enough to write it in Thai and tipped us how much we should pay the Tuktuk. In the travel agent office, the sales agent thought I was Thai and talked in Thai. I said I was not Thai, and in English, he told me that I looked like one. What the hell? Asians look the same, right? We finally have a good day and were able to get to KL.
Tip: When travelling abroad, always ask for the local translation of where you’re going. If possible, write it using the local language.
That blunder caused us a day’s worth of our Malaysia tour. We arrived in the evening, so there are no more money changers anywhere (here we go again). It’s good that we had a few Ringgit taken from my last Malaysian tour. My friend also had a few Ringgit given by her Tita. It’s also good that we have booked a hotel in Malaysia. When we got there, the receptionist replaced our USD with its corresponding Ringgit. And since we were in Chinatown, we were able to tour KL’s Chinatown. (Yahoo..tour at last — after a long travel time and a bad day). We also bought a ticket for a bus going back to SG that night.
We have no more time in the morning, so we only toured Genting and visit KL’s Petronas tower, then spent most of the afternoon(5-6hours) travelling back to SG. In short, we got to SG at around 7 pm. We have no more time to tour the city, so we visited Merlion, Esplanade, Clarke Quay and its surrounding area. Too bad, my friend was unable to see Merlion because it was under renovation at that time.
The next day, we have the whole afternoon, so we shopped for gadgets and perfumes and went to Sentosa. Finally, our tour was over, and we got back to the Philippines.
Since then, I have better luck with my travels. Looking back, despite the misadventures, that was one of the best travel experiences I have. I learnt that it’s okay to be super-particular in your itinerary. Still, it would most likely be put to waste anyway, so better not overdo it. Looking back, I would laugh at our misadventures and thank God that we were able to come back home unharmed and a bit wiser.