My First Night Bus Experience

Our TESOL exam and graduation was on a Thursday, and I was set to leave Hua Hin at 8pm Friday night. The night bus was set to go straight to Songkhla, arriving around 7am Saturday morning. At that point, I thought I was going to be traveling alone to Songkhla.

Checking out of the hotel, I was shocked and relieved to overhear someone else saying they were going to Songkhla. I have major travel anxiety when I go anywhere alone, because I tend to have bad luck; knowing I wasn’t going to be totally alone took a huge weight off my shoulders. Unluckily for her — my bad luck traveled with us (sorry, Kati).

First, our taxi was 30 minutes late. Then when we did get in the taxi, traffic was awful. Our bus was scheduled to leave at 8, and at 7:58 we were nowhere near the bus station. Our driver then proceeded to go down some sketchy backroads with no lights at all, making strange U-Turns, to the point where Kati and I were sure she didn’t know where she was going.

We finally made it to the bus station at 8:15, and the station is essentially a parking lot with a few rows of seating. We were late, but in usual Thai fashion, the bus was later; we didn’t board until around 9:00. The busses are double decker, so there was no cargo space underneath, and of course our luggage was immediately an issue, (*foreshadowing*) but we nonetheless made it on the bus and headed off.

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We made a few stops here and there, picking people up and dropping others off. To my surprise, I was able to quickly fall asleep. I was woken up, however, when we stopped at a rest area (or something like that) around midnight. I honestly have no idea where we were, but it was an open air building with snacks, drinks, and a few stands where you could buy a hot meal.

I got some pad siew and then we went on our way. Despite the man next to me infiltrating my personal space in a big way, I was again able to go to sleep.

The next time I woke up was not as lovely as the rest stop before. I had on an eye mask, so all I heard was a young guy yelling in Thai. I remember thinking that it was just some teenagers causing a scene or being assholes. The lights were on, andΒ I assumed it was another rest area, but not feeling hungry, I put back on my mask and headphones to go back to sleep.

A Thai lady ended up nudging me to wake me up and tell me to get off the bus, but no one spoke any English, so I still had no idea what was going on. I felt scared and confused at this point, so I threw all my stuff together and got off the bus as fast as I could. We were next to a gas station, but other than that it seemed as though we were in the middle of nowhere. I grabbed my luggage and noticed everyone walking to another bus about 50 feet in front of us. Before I walked to the other bus, I noticed Kati was nowhere to be found, so I ran back on the bus and saw she was still asleep. I grabbed her, and after the initial chaos, we were both awake and off the bus with our luggage.

We were the last two to walk up to the new bus, and with everyone around us speakingΒ Thai, all we kept saying was “Songkhla?” and pointing to the bus. The bus drivers essentially ignored us until one looked at us and using hand gestures told us we couldn’t get on the bus. Kati and I just looked at each other terrified as we watched the bus roll away from us.

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Kati and the bus drivers in front of the broken down bus.

Kati and I were literally stranded on the side of the road with three bus drivers who don’t speak a lick of English at 4:30am. We were in full on panic mode, but Kati luckily had the phone number to a Thai lady who works at XploreAsia. She was able to translate for us that our old bus broke down, and another bus would be coming in 20-30 minutes. We still aren’t totally sure why we were the only two who couldn’t get on the first bus, but we are guessing it’s because we had too much luggage (that’s one way to kick my overpacking habits).

So finally, another bus comes and we are able to go to Hat Yai (the biggest city in Songkhla province, about 30 minutes away from the city of Songkhla). Kati’s agent is set to pick both of us up there and bring us to Songkhla.

But that would be too easy, right? As soon as her agent gets to the bus station, he tells me we are going to different places and I’m going to have to take a cab. I’m exhausted and burned out at this point, so I don’t even question him. There are taxis that pretty much all they do is go back and forth from Hat Yai to Songkhla, so I hop in one of those and just wait it out. Of course, I’m asked to pay for 2 passengers because I have so much luggage (God is really drilling in this lesson the hard way). I oblige without question, because I am so ready to get there.

Because the driver wanted to have more passengers, we end up driving around Hat Yai for almost an hour picking up random people. I try to be as friendly as I can, but the irritation is all over my face; needless to say, I didn’t really make any new friends on that trip.

Finally, I did make it to Songkhla by about noon, in case you were wondering. It was a long and hellish journey, but so far I’m extremely happy with where I got placed. My agent is kind and patient, and my school is within walking distance from my new apartment. Moral of the story, when in Thailand, “jai yen yen” or “cool your heart” — it will all work out. Can’t wait to fill y’all in on everything soon!

That's one way to sleep on a night bus.
That’s one way to sleep on a night bus.

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