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Hat Yai - Penang Advice

by Charlie Smith

Update, 19 June 2004

Hat Yai, Thailand: ThB = Thailand Baht, about 40 = USA one dollar

Hat Yai long distance bus station: Across street form buses is a row of many small offices selling mini-bus / van tickets to almost anyplace you want to go. When getting off a bus you will be greeted by a flock of touts asking where you want to go. If you tell them they will follow you across the street to collect their reward from your ticket seller and of course your price will go up.

Bus station country is shyster heaven anyway so check a few before accepting any prices. On recent trip to Penang these guys quoted anywhere from ThB 200 to 450. Prices in town run ThB 180 to 250, usually 200.

I often make trips Phuket to Penang and take the 1st class blue bus to Hat Yai at ThB 280, about 7 hours, then a van to Penang at ThB 180 to 200, about 3 1/2 hours. Last van to Penang is 5 PM, but many outfits send last van at 3:30 & 4:30 PM.

I had never cared or known about a guest house in the bus station area. But this time decided to look for one to break up the return trip but hoped to be near the station to catch early bus to Phuket and found a pleasant discovery. And the place is too new to be on
any Tourist Authority lists & their clients are mostly Thai anyway.

Right in the same row of travel agent offices is a very nice new hotel, “C.K. RESIDENT” The sign is very small and obscure but look for the only newly painted building, light blue. On the corner downstairs is a new Mini Market, their blue & white sign says “Fresh Mart 24 hrs” The hotel entrance is on the side street.

Also on the side street, beside the hotel is one of the very best sidewalk cafes with complementary water on every table and all dishes I have eaten there were ThB 25 per plate or bowl. Have eaten there before but the hotel sign is so obscure I have never noticed it before.

Anyway went into the hotel and she said ThB 450 as all rooms are AC and large TV (but programs are Thai) So, as I was only looking for a cheap flea bag flophouse she immediately said, “I will discount it - 350” I said OK and she gave me a key. After talking a bit she decided she liked me and took back the key, giving me another and saying it was a better room with a front window and balcony. Of course mid June is off season.

On seeing the room it was a very outstanding and nice surprise. Designer linen, nice quilts, and everything new and beautiful, and almost soundproof so no noise from the bus station below.

If department stores and shopping malls can be considered entertainment one of Hat Yai’s largest, the Diana Store, is just a short walk away. Tuk Tuk to downtown now seems to be ThB 30 and 20 for motorcycle taxi. But the sharks at the bus station like to say 20 per person and then don’t want to go until they completely fill the tuk tuk. Tuk tuk fare anyplace within town is ThB 20.

My all time favorite of the low price eateries is still Boat Bakery Café, 7:30 AM ­ 9 PM, at 200/10-11 Niphat Uthit 3 Road, one block north of Sripoovanart Road and across the street from an Esso Station, phone 076 246603. Most there do not speak English but the menu is in English, it is very extensive, almost nothing is more than 25 baht per plate, fruit juices at 12 baht per glass, sandwiches 15-20 baht, hamburger 25 baht. It’s a nice cheerful place and no matter what you order they seem able to get it to you in just about 3 minutes flat!!! They are getting well enough known they have recently added the building next door and quadrupled the seating space.

For light snacks my favorite is still Hi-D Snack, 51 Supasanrungsun Road (NE corner where it intersections with Niphat Uthit 3 Road) 6:30 AM ­ 6 PM, phone 076 244072. They don’t speak English, large assortment of bakery and snack items, pizza slices, etc.

Malaysia: RM = Ringgit Malaysia, about 3.75 ­ 3.77 = USA one dollar

Langkawi:
Mid June, 2004 ­ big uproar in the papers about the ferry companies intending to raise Mainland to Langkawi ferry prices by 7 Ringgit, about 50%! But why go to Langkawi anyway?? Very expensive, long distances to everywhere and no public transport ­ just taxis. They do have some of the most exclusive (and expensive) resort hotels in Malaysia and patrons for those are the type of people they seem to want to attract.

Penang:
White House Hotel is still my favorite, single room ­ meaning one double bed ­ RM 26 with hot shower, new mattresses and pillows, new owner and even better than before as he has given it a complete clean up and new paint. Extremely clean and well managed. 50 rooms and booked full almost every night so phone ahead: 04 263 2385. From outside the country ring: international access code (from Thailand is 001) then, 604 263 2385. They are at 78 Penang road, half block north of Chulia Street. They also have doubles, triples, and dorms.

The 88 café, on the street level below, is no longer open 20 hrs per day. Now open about 8 AM to 8 or 9 PM, whatever the market justifies and closed Wednesdays.

A new long distance and local bus station is being built about half way down the island, between Bukit Jambul and the bridge, to replace the location at Komtar in
Georgetown and ease the congestion there.

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