31 Dec 2007
Satun, Thailand
100° 4'2.43"E


Happy new year. The Thai's do celebrate new year, and it's a public holiday. Every day's a public holiday to us. We'll be sitting on a bus heading towards Krabi, where hopefully the Scandinavians haven't taken every single room in the area. Can't believe how many of them are over here. We moved on from Trang, having to take a tuk tuk to the bus station. I hadn't realised just how unstable these things are. We did a bit of hasty luggage rearranging after going around the first corner on one and a bit wheels, but it didn't seem to make any difference. I banged my head on the rusty roof - thank heavens for tetanus jabs.

The trip itself was pretty good. We told the driver the hotel we'd kind of picked out, expecting him to drop us off somewhere near - he dropped us at the doorstep which was magnificent. It was throwing it down when the bus stopped and in the 10 seconds or so that it took to get under shelter we were both soaked. An English couple on their way to Langkawi saw us getting off and got off as well in a follow my leader kind of thing - they needed to stay on the bus for an extra 10 minutes, but it was raining so hard and they rushed off before we could get the chance to tell them.

A French man on business also got off and apparently had got off a few kilometers early for the hotel he was booked into at the other end of town. He was giving the poor girls on reception such a hard time, shouting at them and hitting the desk and waving his arms around and carrying on as if it were their fault he'd got off at the wrong stop. The girls, who spoke about a dozen words of English between them, were trying to point out where he needed to be on a map and offering to find a tuk tuk for him. Peter muttered that he was out of order and was moving towards him to tell him to pull his head in when he stormed out. In the rain. Arsehole.

Satun isn't the kind of place people visit. It's the kind of place they pass through. About 5km out of the town is the port, where dozens of boats, ferries and longboats depart daily to Langkawi in Malaysia and to the islands off the coast of Provincial Satun. Usually the only westerners around are those peering out through bus windows, those who get off the bus at the wrong stop, a few expats and the occasional business visitor. We were flavour of the month, getting extra special treatment everywhere we went, whether we wanted it or not. Usually not. The police were really friendly - probably curious as to why two middle aged, well fed westerners were wandering around back streets and poking around in alleyways, but after they'd seen us a couple of times and realised we were staying for more than a couple of hours, a lot of them tried to talk to us. Mostly, they didn't speak English, but it didn't matter. Manchester United was the phrase most of them used. Peter tried to convert them to Middlesborough, but without success. Naturally. One even said "Birmingham" in reference to the 3-0 defeat the night before, which was a bit surprising. Boy, at the magnificent On's restaurant made the same comment. They really are football mad.

Then it was time for the visa run. When you enter Thailand, you get a stamp in your passport entitling you to stay in the kingdom for 30 days. Our time was up. After a bit of deliberation, including considering getting a day trip on the ferry to Langkawi, we decided to hire a motorbike, drive up into the mountains, park up at the border and cross into Malaysia on foot. A bit of a feed, a box of half decent tea bags (you can only get yucky Lipton's in southern Thailand) and back into Thailand with a new 30 day stamp in the passport. Sounds easy eh? And guess what? It was. No tea bags though and definitely no feed - both sides of the border had a small market area which were just opening up. I think there was some kind of competition to see which side could leave the worst impression on anyone passing through. They were absolutely disgusting - piles of rubbish, bricks, concrete blocks, little fires. I think Thailand won the prize for the worst - as we passed through I commented it looked like the Beirut we used to see on TV when we were younger. And the Thai immigration officers got the award for the grumpiest. The Malaysians were great, having a laugh about us having to register in then out of Malaysia approximately 20 seconds later - the time it took to walk around the other side of the immigration booth - just so we could get a Thai stamp in our passports. Thai immigration were just plain old grumpy. Anyway, we're good now until Jan 29th.

So, no New Year revelries for us tonight - we have to be up at the crack of dawn to get a bus at 8am to Krabi.