A day later I boarded the train to the south, very glad to leave Bangkok, especially Kao San Street the tourists there were mostly an embarrassment. I had bought a train ticket to Hat Yai before I had left for Burma, planning to travel from there across to Songhla the ‘city between two seas’, an ancient trading port situated in the narrowest part of the Thai peninsular between the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea. I intended to stay there until it was time to go to Singapore and catch the Buxstar home.
I looked up Songhla on the internet and to my horror found a big red warning from Smart Traveller, the Australian government travel advisory website. It was the fourth and final stage of their warnings.
One is, take usual precautions, two, travel with extreme care, three, travel only if necessary and four in letters of fire DO NOT TRAVEL. I checked other sites. They were all the same. And they included Hat Yai. This area that straddles the Thai/ Malaysian border was formerly an Islamic kingdom called Pattani and this is where the majority of Thailand’s largest religious minority group, Muslims, live. Some of them want an independent state and opt for secession. A radical few want to use insurrection and armed resistance to obtain it. This has led to terrorism, and frequent bombings and shootings occur. A policeman was killed two days afer I crossed the border there.
Where Is Myanmar Located On A Map Photo Gallery
Oh, poo. My ticket to Hat Yai was paid, so I had to go. But Songhla, the city between two seas, would have to wait. I decided that when I reached Hat Yai I would keep moving south to Penang Island in Malaysia. This seemed a nice safe place to spend the ten days I had to wait before going down to Singapore.
My two-berth sleeping compartment on the train was excellent. On arrival at Hat Yai at nine in the morning, only two hours late, a young man took possession of me on the station platform. When I said, ‘Penang’, he said, ‘Mini bus’, and trundled my bag out of the yard, across the road and down the street to an office where I paid twenty dollars to get all the way to the island. There was no need now to go to Butterworth and take a ferry across, like in the old days. Since 1985 there has been a wonderful enormously long bridge.
The five-hour trip was comfortable. I was ferried across town to the mini bus in a lovingly polished, elderly yellow Mercedes driven by an old fellow who clutched the wheel tightly with two fists and drove very slowly, peering through the windscreen intently like a learner. The two immigration posts at the Thai/Malaysian border were painless, but I am extremely careful still at borders after the trouble I’d had previously. I would have been even more cautious if I had known that a policeman would be killed there two days later.