Our train arrived in Hat Yai at mid-morning. Our plans were to spend a couple of days in southern Thailand before heading to some island and enjoy the beach, we had already marked on the guide which places we wanted to go in the region, but as soon as we arrived in Hat Yai the atmosphere in the city was so tense that we changed our minds on the same minute.
As it borders Malaysia, southern Thailand is predominantly Muslim, while the (large) majority of the country is Buddhist. Because of this difference, amongst many others, there is a separatist insurgency in southern Thailand. Since 2004 the region has suffered several attacks and the army is on the streets trying to keep it within the realms of Thailand. Besides the heavy energy of the place, we did not feel welcomed, with people trying to take money from us all the time.
At first we tried to wander around the town, but it didn’t work. We hardly left the station. Still there Felipe and Pasqual went after train tickets so we could move on, while Ale and I stayed in a corner taking care of the backpacks. During this time a very annoying guy wouldn’t leave us alone, and as his English was as good as our Thai, it was impossible to send him away.
The boys returned with the tickets, destination Surat Thani, there we’d get a boat to the islands. The lady who sold them the tickets barely spoke English either, but as we had already chosen our route, they just had to point it on the map, there was only one option of train for that day, no use even trying to ask, after all no one could understand each other there… lets get this one! The only thing they understood was that it was a third class train and that the trip would take 6 hours!! The train would leave at 13hs, we didn’t have time to do anything, we headed to stand near the rails, waiting for the train, right next to the army tanks and trucks. The trip to Surat Thani is another chapter that we will tell in the next post. Stay tuned!