With our Thai visas set to expire we boarded a flight from Chiang Mai to Bangkok (with a connecting route to Hat Yai) with Nok Air and then took a bus the rest of the way to George Town, Penang crossing from Thailand into Malaysia to obtain a new Thai visa.
Our journey started out with a startling surprise at the airport when we went to check in for our flights to Hat Yai. The agent immediately said they were canceled. The look of shock on my face was quickly erased when she expediently let us know they were able to fly us to Bangkok with a connecting flight to Hat Yai. One of my biggest fears as a traveler, is having a flight cancelled or delayed. I tend to leave a country very close to (or on the very day) when my visa expires, leaving me with very little wiggle room.
Although my first impressions with Nok Air, were not generally positive (canceled flight and all) I soon warmed up their service and hospitality. As we waited to board our flight, we were able to connect online using their wifi service by entering our boarding pass numbers. As soon as we were up in the air, the impeccably groomed and dressed Thai air hostesses, provided us with a small goody bag that consisted of two raisin/coconut pastries and an individual plastic water cup. Moreover, the flight was on time, silky smooth in the air (not even a hint of turbulence) and comfortable in terms of leg room.
Our quick layover in Bangkok was spent grabbing a bite to eat and going online for a few minutes (with Nok Air internet) before we boarded our last flight to Hat Yai. Once again, the flight was excellent, the service was splendid and the journey was short. Upon arriving in Hat Yai, it was instantly clear this was not a place many farangs (Thai for foreigners) visit. The services at the airport were somewhat lacking and when we finally got on a shared mini van that would take us into the city, our driver (who couldn’t understand English) had a tough time grasping where we needed to be dropped off. Finally, once we were the last passengers in the van, he took the time to stop at one of the tourist agencies to ask where we needed to go. We were then dropped off at a small Thai tourist booth that hooked us up with a bus going to George Town, Penang.
The journey on the bus was pleasant enough as the highway wasn’t overly crowded and the Thai and Malaysian mannerisms of not honking every other second (which is done in other countries such as India and Vietnam) was certainly a welcome relief. The border crossing was a simple procedure and we ended up arriving at our guest house around 7:30 pm local time.
Overall, the journey was a 13 hour affair considering the time we left our apartment in Chiang Mai to the time we checked into our place in Georgetown. Aside from a few minor hiccups, the trip was quite smooth. For those interested in a similar border run, we suggest looking at discount airline flights (such as with Nok Air or Air Asia) as it can often be cheaper and far more efficient than taking a nearly 24 hour bus or train trip to complete the journey.