“Pai nai,” (Where are you going?) asked a desperate ticket seller the moment I entered Phuket’s bus terminal 2.
“To Krabi,” I replied.
By “go now,” she must’ve meant, “Come with us; we’re leaving now.” Since I already had a booking that I’d made online in a few clicks, I told her I didn’t need a ticket.
“What’s your name?” asked the other woman who was waiting for travelers at the entrance in a more courteous way. I said my name and added, “Bookaway,” but had the impression she didn’t even need that info.
I was about to travel from Phuket to Krabi because I needed a change of scene. Krabi is only a three-hour bus ride away from Thailand’s largest island and came right on cue. With its Thung Teao Forest Natural Park and rich-tinted Emerald Pool, this area of outstanding natural beauty never fails to appeal to you.
Checking in at Phuket’s bus terminal 2
Pro tip: If you’re coming back to Phuket and have a motorbike, why not ride your scooter to the bus station and park it here? They’ve got a supervised motorcycle parking area, and it’s damn cheap at about 20 baht ($0.64) per day (don’t remember the exact price, but it was quite affordable!).
I followed Sri Trang Tour’s staff member to the check-in desk, and in less than 20 seconds, she handed me my ticket without asking for my passport. “Platform 7,” she said and pointed to where that platform was. “It’s a blue bus,” she added.
It now occurred to me that my temperature had already been taken automatically by some scanning camera upon entering the building.
The waiting hall features a large, smelly toilet and a kiosk, but I didn’t see any open snack shops. Thankfully, I still had half an hour to kill and stuffed my face at one of the restaurants just next to the departure hall. The departure announcements in Thai didn’t worry me; I knew I was not at risk of missing my bus.
There weren’t many travelers around, but noticeably more than on my last trip starting from here. I was in a jovial and optimistic mood today, which was partly because the skies were blue. There was lots of sunlight and it was hot. It felt as though I could see the light of this corona-tunnel.
Riding the bus to Krabi
Bus drivers were sleeping in the shade on benches, but I didn’t need their help, and neither will you. There are numbered screens above each platform; you can’t miss it.
“What’s your seat?” asked the driver when I got on the coach. I told him 1A and produced my ticket. This guy then removed his clothes and other stuff from my seat and motioned for me to sit down.
If you’ve got bulky baggage, you can store it in the bus’s luggage compartment. The overhead only has space for small backpacks. There’s a lavatory on the bus, but I recommend you relieve yourself before departure and during the short stops along the way. I paid dearly later on when I went to take a leak. The reek of stale piss was appalling; I barely managed to endure that half minute in that anti-restroom.
At 11:30 am on the dot, I heard clicking sounds of the indicator, the start of the engine, and then we left as scheduled. People were quiet. Everyone. There were 17 travelers, all locals but me. I drew the curtain that came in handy, sat back in my comfy pleather seat and looked forward to a pleasant ride.
The ancient gogglebox had probably stopped working a long time ago. Instead, a sign stuck on the TV’s black screen indicated that passengers would be fined 5,000 baht for not fastening the seatbelt. Just a pity that my seat didn’t come with a seatbelt.
“Pai nai, kaaa?” (Where are you going?) the hostess asked a guy who got on the bus somewhere along the way towards the mainland, then slammed the door shut.
15 kilometers from Phuket’s airport in the Thalang area, Wat Phra Nang Sang caught my eye with its intricate ornaments. This more than 500-year-old temple is Phuket’s oldest one and is surrounded by statues of various origins. I couldn’t take a proper look as we only passed by, obviously, but the temple’s boundaries look as though they’ve been adorned with gilded holy snakes. In the background beckons a Buddhist stupa with a metallic covering painted in gold, and to the temple’s left sits a white Buddhist stupa, shaped not unlike Bangkok’s iconic temple Wat Arun, just a lot smaller in size.
Further into our trip, roadside stalls sold pineapples that must’ve been exceptionally sweet. The sight of those Queen Group-pineapples tantalized my taste buds. I’d tried them before many times and had never been disappointed. They’re smaller in size and have a thicker, orange-hued skin and are sweeter and crunchier than the pineapple you’re used to. It’s popular for fresh consumption in Southern Thailand; you’ll see those roadside stalls time and again.
Crossing Sarasin bridge that links Phuket to the mainland at 12:25 pm, I marveled at panorama views of green-tinted waters and light-colored sands that are flanked by casuarinas.
Meanwhile, I started to sweat despite the AC’s cool stream of air. It needed improvement; it simply wasn’t cool enough. Just five minutes later, the driver collected some more locals from a bus station in Phang-Nga, not far from the Sarasin bridge.
The next stop was at 1:05 pm at a bus terminal in Phang-Nga. Nobody got on or off the coach, but the driver waited for a few minutes. People could’ve gone to the loo had they wanted to. Ten minutes further into our trip, the first people got off the bus in the middle of nowhere.
The journey from Sarasin bridge to Krabi takes you from endless plains and palm and rubber tree forests to gigantic, jungle-swathed limestone rocks. They tower behind shacks and tin huts on stilts that intermingle with golden dome mosques, jewel-encrusted temples and religious sculptures, painted in gold.
The driver pulled into Krabi’s bus terminal at 2:27 pm, and the moment I got off the coach, some taxi tout accosted me. I walked away because these guys who are waiting for you to get off the bus are usually the ones that rip you off.
He followed me, but when I approached the motorcycle taxi drivers with their bright-orange vests, he gave up. “Mee haa-sib baeht, dai mai kap?” (I’ve got 58 (baht) left, is that okay?) I asked. The guys laughed and nodded.
Driving through Krabi town, I was staggered by cavemen and elephant traffic lights and couldn’t help taking pictures. The city alone epitomized the change of scene I’d been looking for.