Phuket is a mountainous rainforest-island in the Andaman Sea that has attracted both the international cinema industry and visitors from all over the world – for good reason.
Wide coves and bays, golden sunset capes, powdery beaches, a vibrant nightlife, and exotic markets are reasons why travelers flock to Thailand’s largest island, including myself.
After a short getaway to Krabi, I felt like seeing the country’s west coast too and booked a land-based trip to Phuket, because I just loved the idea of watching the scenery roll past. Read on and get a vicarious thrill of the minivan ride from Krabi to Phuket with Krabi Sea Pearl.
Getting picked up at my hotel
“Ringggg, ringggg…” the landline phone in my hotel room in Krabi rang. Holding my cell phone in my hand, I was about to call Krabi Sea Pearl, the tour operator, to make sure they were really collecting me from where I was staying.
At the time of booking, I could set my pick-up point and choose from a selection of Krabi hotels that are located near Krabi’s bus station. Now it was 10 am; I’d just got up and hadn’t taken a shower yet, and the receptionist on the other end of the line said, “Sir – your taxi is here.”
I knew what taxi that was. “Now? They didn’t tell me they’d come so early. I’ll ring up the company; I’ll call you back,” I said disconcertedly and hung up. The scheduled departure time from my hotel was 11:30 am.
Krabi Sea Pearl said they’d told the receptionist to tell me they’d come earlier, which she didn’t. “Please tell the taxi driver to wait ten minutes,” I said to the receptionist and hung up once again.
A guy collected me in an SUV and drove me to some street where the minivan was waiting. He said the bus had left at 10 am already, because due to the lack of travelers, they’d only go to Phuket once today.
Hopping on the minibus in the nick of time
Taking some pictures of the minivan, I noticed how a local man glared at me as if to say, “Hey tourist, you’re late. Get the fudge on the bus now.” It was ironic. I recognized myself in that guy’s angry look. How many times had I been upset when a fellow-passenger had turned up late, making me wait? Now I knew that it’s not always the traveler’s fault.
The driver was unperturbed. He smiled in his affable way; I recognized him immediately. It was the same guy that had driven me to Phuket after visiting Koh Lanta, an island in the province of Krabi.
I’d barely got on this 20-seater when he slammed his door and turned the ignition at 10:25 am.
Riding the minivan to Phuket
It was loud on the minibus. A 10-year-old boy sitting in the passenger’s seat – probably the driver’s son as he helped him move around stuff and talk to the people that he picked up along the way – listened to the radio on his phone; people were talking, and kids were screeching. The seats were comfy, and the interior was spotless. The minivan was near-full though with suitcases stacked up near the slide door, and this meant the AC was fighting a losing battle.
Also, as I was the last one who’d got on the bus, I couldn’t pick and choose and ended up sitting on the middle seat in the first row behind the driver – not the best one to take great pictures. Also, my seatmate, a local woman in her thirties, drew the curtain as the sun blinded her, and I looked through the windshield in a bid to spot something of interest, and I did.
The journey from Krabi to Phuket takes you from gigantic, jungle-swathed limestone rocks to endless plains and palm and rubber tree forests. The karst peaks tower behind shacks and tin huts on stilts that intermingle with golden dome mosques, jewel-encrusted temples and religious sculptures, painted in gold.
A while later, the chauffeur pulled into some bus terminal in the Phang Nga area. “Pai hongnam,” (I’m going to the toilet) I said to the driver as he didn’t officially announce this was a stop to relieve yourself. “Pai duai,” (I’m going too), he replied.
Good, I thought to myself as it meant I was not at risk of missing the bus.
The last leg of the ride to Phuket
Some people started to get off the minivan before we reached Phuket, and the kind boy helped an old woman and other passengers unload bulky suitcases.
Crossing the Sarasin Bridge that links the mainland to Phuket at 12:20 pm, I marveled at panorama views of mountains and local fishing villages flanked by casuarinas and coconut trees.
Just two minutes later, people had to get off the minibus at Phuket’s border-like checkpoint for the sake of temperature checks. Also, everyone had to jot down their name and phone number or check in via app.
If your body temperature is 37.5 degrees Celsius or higher, you get into trouble. I was lucky; my temperature was “only” 37.2 degrees Celsius; that was still okay. A guy, however, was screwed; his temperature was above 37.5 degrees Celsius. The checkpoint officers took his luggage, sanitized his seat for what felt like five minutes, and led him away.
The driver didn’t pull into Phuket’s bus terminal 2, but he stopped on the street right there at 1:15 pm and let me get off. It was a fuss-free end of a largely well-organized trip through the limestone paradise.