A Day in Transit Leaving Thailand: Chiang Mai to George Town

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5:00 am 

The alarm wakes me up abruptly. I now have exactly one hour to hop in the shower, finish packing, and clean up the apartment so that when the maid comes in on Thursday she doesn’t think I’m a complete slob. I am only partially successful with the last task.

6:10 am

Sam and I head down to the lobby ten minutes behind schedule to find that the taxi driver still hasn’t arrived. When he does roll up a few minutes later, he looks even drowsier than we do.

6:35 am 

Arrive at Chiang Mai airport and walk up to the Nok Air ticket counter only to discover that our flight has been cancelled. We won’t be flying straight to Hat Yai today. Surprise!

A Day in Transit Leaving Thailand: Chiang Mai to George Town: A parked rickshaw on the streets of George Town (Penang), Malaysia.

6:50 am 

Head up to the McDonald’s on the second floor of the airport. The walls are hot pink and it looks more like a club than Mickey D’s, so I ask Sam to take a picture of me in this swanky fast food joint. On. On. ON! It looks like I killed my camera’s battery when I left it charging overnight. Hmm, what am I going to do about photos in Penang and Phuket this week?

8:20 am

We begin boarding a flight that is heading to Bangkok instead of Hat Yai.

9:40 am 

We land in Bangkok, pick up our luggage, drop off our luggage, and check-in again for our connecting flight.

11:20 am

It’s time to begin boarding. Why aren’t there any other foreigners on this flight?  

1:15 am 

We land in Hat Yai and pick up our luggage again.

1:40 pm

We find a minivan driver and explain to him that we want to go to the local bus terminal so that we can catch a bus from Hat Yai to Penang. He eagerly nods at everything we say so we purchase two tickets and hop in the van with him. Excellent! We are on our way.

2:25 pm

The bus driver has now been dropping people off all over town for over an hour but it still doesn’t appear to be our turn. We keep chiming in with ‘bus terminal? bus terminal? every few stops, but it soon becomes apparent that our bus driver doesn’t actually speak any English. How did we miss that?

2:40 pm

After an unsuccessful game of charades and using the Lonely Planet dictionary to speak Thai, our driver pulls up to a random travel agency and recruits a local girl who speaks English to save the day. A few moments later we are standing in front of a bus company that has a minivan leaving for George Town, Penang. We make it with 10 minutes to spare.

3:15 pm

Our new driver who is taking us to Penang stops across from a 7 Eleven to wait for another passenger. Sam eyes the convenience store for about a millisecond before he bolts out of the van in search of treats. He emerges victorious with a handful of chocolate bars – the Reese’s Nutrageous bar is his current poison.

5:10 pm

Receive a Thai exit stamp in Sadao, Thailand.

5:20 pm

Receive a Malaysian entry stamp in Bukit Kayu Hitam, Malaysia. The immigration officer doesn’t bother looking at the x-ray machine as my backpack goes through; she’s too engrossed in her novel.

6:15 pm

Pick up 4 more passengers who are standing in the rain on the side of the highway. Who are these people?

6:25 pm

We get pulled over by the Malaysian police… I’m confused.

6:30 pm

Another police officer pulls over a minivan just like ours. They sure know their targets.

7:00 pm

The sun has already set by the time we get on Penang Bridge; the island is almost within reach!

7:35 pm

We get dropped off in a seedy corner of Lebuh Chuliah where we step over mirky puddles while a lady of the night leans against the arches of a colonial building. Well hello again, George Town. You haven’t changed one bit.

Tell me about your longest day in transit.

Join the Conversation


  1. Oh man, I feel like I’ve had so many days like this, I wouldn’t know what to pick! Ha, and I’m glad I’m not the only one struggling with that much-too-short Lonely Planet dictionary in that back of the book. I’ve had so many Russians discover it and run their fingers over the lists of fruits and meats only to look at me in dismay and shrug their shoulders.

  2. says: Nicole @ Green Global Travel

    Very detailed! Not many travels keep a record like that 😛

    You didn’t let us know when you had bathroom breaks hehe

  3. Sounds epic Audrey. One of those days when you’re like JUST GET THERE ALREADY!!!

    My longest day or actually days was a train from Zambia to Tanzania. Took an extra 24 hours than it was supposed to. No idea why, kept stopping everywhere, they ran out of food. I ended up with a few meals of omelette and spaghetti – with no sauce. Weird!

    Another one was the horrendous 24 hour trek from Vientienne to Hanoi on the crap mobile. I will write about that one at some point!

    Happy travels you lovely pair!


  4. says: Heather

    I haven’t had any travel days as dramatic as that, although I was heading to Europe the day the Icelandic volcano erupted a few years ago. Needless to say I didn’t make it.

  5. Whew! That’s a good one.

    My longest day in transit would have to be from Ometepe, Nicaragua to Quepos, Costa Rica. Bus to Bus to Ferry, to Taxi, to bus, to Taxi, ta a 2 hour wait at the border crossing, to a rental car, out of which we got all our shit stolen (5 backpacks in all) while eating dinner, spent 12 hours at the police station over night, crashed in a one bed hotel room and finally arrived a day and a three quarters later.


    1. says: Audrey

      That sounds like an awful day! I mean it’s bad enough with all the transport, but having all your stuff stolen at the very end too?! What a nightmare.

  6. says: Beth

    My longest travel day was when I went from Chicago to Japan….

    It was my first time leaving the country so I thought it would be fun to make a bunch of layovers in new places, so I ended up making 3 stops (Vegas, LA, Hong Kong). All in all the trip took about 32 hours of straight travel to finally arrive in Japan. Never again!

    Now as a more seasoned traveler, I have become much wiser! haha

  7. Oh I feel for you. I get tuk tuk drivers pretending to know where I want to go in Phnom Penh all the time. I usually end up giving them directions with hand signs. It is this whole loosing face thing. Most people in Asia don’t like to admit that they don’t understand you or don’t know the answer to your question. They rather lie to you. I still haven’t got used to that yet, even after 2 years in Asia.

  8. says: Darla

    I would imagine that a very long night of sleep was on the itinerary after that day. Whew, I’m worn out just reading over all the things you had to do, not even DOING all that. Oh well, it seems like the hard times make the best stories after all.

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